Larry Eckerle is many things: a father, a husband, a communications whiz, and a playwright to boot. “I’ve always had a dream of writing for the stage,” said Eckerle. He mostly writes comedies. “I think humor is a great way to disarm people and maybe engage them. Right now, that matters.”
He began his career in advertising and marketing, but his comedic sensibilities always shined through. “Humor would creep into my corporate work, and depending on the client, it was either a great fit or an uncomfortable one,” said Eckerle. “It wasn’t that they were terrible places to work; I just often felt terribly out of place working there.”
So Larry started Zero Gravity Group in 2002. His focus was helping employees connect to their company mission and find more value in what they do day to day. “I used many tactics I learned in corporate advertising, marketing, as guiding principles for the employee engagement work I do,” said Eckerle.
Eckerle and his wife have three sons, one of whom recently produced a film that won top honors at the 2022 South by Southwest film festival. “I draw a lot of strength and inspiration from my family,” said Eckerle. His wife Andrea is a renowned speech-language pathologist. “Communication runs through the entire family,” said Eckerle.
He took a chance a few years back and reached out to his hero and fellow Bronx native, playwright Neil Simon. To Eckerle’s shock, Simon responded, and they corresponded for a while, with Simon giving Eckerle the encouragement he needed to chase his playwriting dream. Then came a chance encounter with Broadway and film producer Julian Schlossberg. Julian helped Larry develop his play, The Sake of Appearances (about two ghosts trapped in an old, historic tavern in New York City, and a brand new employee who can see them). Julian even arranged a table read with several well known Broadway actors.
“It was one of the most unnerving, yet surprisingly comfortable experiences of my life,” said Eckerle. He was mesmerized and humbled as the veteran actors performed his dialogue and laughed at the lines he had written. The play was gaining steady momentum until March of 2020, when Broadway, like everything else, closed its doors.
But Eckerle persevered. He submitted other plays he’d written to national playwriting festivals, winning Semi-Finalist recognition in the Ashland Play Festival and Garry Marshall New Works Festival; and his one-act comedy, Gary Goodman’s Goodbye, was produced by the Brewster Theater Company last September. All in all, not a bad year.
As COVID hopefully wanes, Eckerle is optimistic about his play, The Sake of Appearances, getting produced. Through his rollercoaster ride of trying to get his work on stage, Eckerle has crossed paths with many wonderfully generous people including Neil Simon, Elaine May and Woody Allen. Eckerle remembered asking May her suggestions for overcoming writer’s block. She gave great advice for every writer: “You just keep going. It’s the process. The ideas will come. Just keep writing.”
That’s exactly what Eckerle plans to do.