In this 2015 article from the Samuel French archives, Julia Izumi – who is now a Concord Theatricals playwright – features Samuel D. Hunter’s A Great Wilderness (US/UK), breaking down what’s interesting about the play.
What’s It All About
A play about being lost and found. Walt has devoted his life to counseling teenage boys out of their homosexuality at his remote Idaho wilderness camp. Pressured to accept one last client, his carefully constructed life begins to unravel with the arrival of Daniel. When Daniel disappears, Walt is forced to ask for help — both in finding the missing boy and reconciling his past with the present.
Why You Should Do This Play
One of the many reasons that Samuel D. Hunter is such a stellar playwright is his incredible skill in conveying complicated and beautiful souls through colloquial, simple dialogue. Here, he uses his talent to take an institution that is generally thought of as contemptible — a “gay conversion” camp — and portrays the people behind it with generous humanity. In that way, the play has a potential to broaden an audience’s scope of empathy and understanding, even while disagreeing with the methods. This piece is also a fantastic opportunity for older actors to play meaty roles — the central character, Walt, is a seventy-year-old man with a deeply troubled heart. A Great Wilderness (US/UK) explores homosexuality through a unique and specific lens, but it also speaks volumes on the subject of forgiveness and accepting of self.
3F, 3M, one of which is a teenage boy, all others are adults in their 40s through 70s. Takes place on one interior unit set. Runs about 2 hours with an intermission.
Need To Know
Originally commissioned and produced by Seattle Repertory Theater in January, 2014; separate production in July of 2014 at Williamstown Theatre Festival. Both were well-received. Samuel D. Hunter, in addition to having written other award-winning plays, is the 2014 recipient of the MacArthur Foundation “Genius” Grant.