David Gaard was born April 4, 1945, in Duluth, Minnesota. He graduated from high school early, just after his 16th birthday. He attended the University of Minnesota; however his participation in Vietnam War protests, a role in a university theater production, and an active social life left little time for his studies. In the autumn, he left school and stayed in Minneapolis, obtaining a role in a community theater production. When the show closed, he convinced his parents of his need to "find himself", and with their blessings he left for Los Angeles.
He found a number of positions through the California State Employment Office, including one with a Hollywood casting agency. Gaard also found bit parts in various stage productions through Minnesotan connections. His work and social life continued to leave little time to complete projects; after leaving a group sales position, Gaard returned to writing. For three months, he focused on writing each afternoon, allowing time in the evening for his social life. By early 1967, he had completed his first play, Lee Foster. After receiving positive feedback from friends, he relocated to New York City to sell his play.
In the city he found a "dark and depressing studio apartment in the bowels of Hells Kitchen", a job, and within a month met his future life companion, M. Sanford Kaplan, a married graduate anthropology student at New York University. While Kaplan sought to overcome his ambivalence about his future, Gaard returned to writing. By the autumn of 1968, Gaard had completed the play, And Puppy Dog Tails, and he and Kaplan were living together. The play previewed in September, only months after the Stonewall riots, and ran successfully through January 1970 in New York, and through that summer in San Francisco. The following year, Bill Murray played a part in a Chicago production.
Off-Off Broadway, with its understanding of the counter culture of which Gaard and Kaplan were a part, was booming. Gaard continued writing and Kaplan continued his graduate work, including a trip to Bali in the early 1970s. They arranged to meet in Nepal; during the trip Gaard purchased a script for Sun Yu's play The Women's Representative. He adapted the play and it was performed in New York. This changed the fortunes of Mr. Sun and led to Gaard's trip to the People's Republic of China a decade later.
In New York City, Gaard's works were been performed at The Old Reliable and The Extension; he adapted works for Richard Schechner's Performance Group and was a founding member of the Nighthouse Company. In 1975, Gaard and Kaplan left New York for Northern California. With the advent of AIDS, "the whimsical world of And Puppy Dog Tails had turned into a vicious frightening mad dog". They sold their telecom business, relocated to Woodstock, New York, and Gaard returned to writing in the early 1990s.
In 1994, the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers (SSDC) selected one of his plays for a reading of new works at Lincoln Center. In the following years Gaard worked with avant-garde troupes such as GAil GAtes et al, Gorilla Repertory Theatre Company, The International WOW, and New York Fringe Festival. The New Jersey Public Library selected his play, Made for Each Other, for their AIDS awareness series in 1996; however, library officials closed the play during the opening night intermission.
Gaard continued with several success productions at the HERE Arts Center. He garnered the Audience Favorite Award for his production of All's Well That Ends Well at the 2000 New York Fringe Festival. Gaard lived in New York, New York with his life companion of 45 years, until his death in March 2012.