George Cadogan Gardner McKay was born in Manhattan, New York City, his early years were spent in France, Connecticut and Kentucky. He attended Cornell University where he edited the humor magazine, wrote a film review column for the paper, was briefly president of his class and rowed on their crew.
At age fifteen, he published his first story. His novel Toyer won critical acclaim upon its release in 1998 and is currently in pre-production for a major motion film.
He has been awarded several prizes for his writing:- The Drama Critics Award for playwriting, The Sydney Carrington Prize. He won three National Endowment for the Arts grants for playwriting. Five of his play have been published by Samuel French Publishing Company, New York, Los Angeles, London: Sea Marks, Masters of the Sea, Toyer, Me, In Order of Appearance. His plays have been, and continue to be, produced in every state in the union and internationally.
Sea Marks won the National Regional Theatre Award in Canada. The Drama Critics Circle Award, best play of the year. And has been produced in NYC in six Off-Broadway productions; the Players Theatre (“Best Off- Broadway Play, Walter Kerr, New York Times) the Manhattan Theatre Club, and other theatres. It has been presented at the Eisenhower Theatre, The Kennedy Center in Washington D. C. The Edinburgh Festival and The Pitlochry Festival, Scotland. It has also been broadcast on B.B.C. Radio Theatre, London.
McKay’s play Toyer was first staged at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. – starring Kathleen Turner and Brad Davis, directed by, Tony Richardson. It has also been produced by Michael White in England – starring Rupert Graves, and later in London’s West End.
Other plays of his – in random order- of various lengths that have been produced are: – Untold Damage (PBS) Written and directed by Mr. McKay for PBS starring Richard Dreyfuss, Geraldine Fitzgerald, tracy Swope, Josh Bryant. It was cited as the best television production by the Television Theatre. Narcissa-Narcissus, Tapes, The Girl Next Door is Screaming, The Suit, The Visitor, Meeting, Silver Eyes, The Honeyman, Yeats/Millay, Becker, The People we Kill, Alligators Have no Choice.
He was Drama critic and Drama editor for the Los Angeles Herald Tribune. During the time he was with the Herald he invented a method of review called the “Triple Review” three brief reviews of the same play by three writers. The lone newspaper’s “Voice of the Critic” was hushed for these reviews and, instead, the review became an argument of the play’s worth on the forum of its pages.
He has taught playwriting at U.C.L.A at his Playwriting Roundtable. Later he taught playwriting and screenwriting at University of Southern California, Juneau Alaska, and the University of Hawaii.
During the ’70 and ‘80s he started a small professional group called the Playwrights’ Exchange. He personally constructed a 50-seat theatre off the kitchen of his L.A. house and every Tuesday playwrights gathered to see new work being read in whole or in fragments by professional actors. The theatre was named The Free Theatre, mainly because no money changed hands; emblematic of playwriting.
From 1995 – until his death in November 2001, Gardner wrote and recorded stories for his weekly radio show “Stories on the Wind” which aired each Sunday.
McKay has also been a sculptor ( several of his works are in the Museum of Modern Art, NYC and the Whitney Museum.) He has been a professional skipper, photographer, actor (Adventures in Paradise, Boots and Saddles), and has raised African lions.