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April 28, 2020

Some Hopes: Sarah Ruhl on Art in a Time of Crisis


As all of us in the performing arts adjust to a new era, Concord Theatricals reached out to some of our authors for their personal reflections on Art in a Time of Crisis. (For other pieces in this series, click here.)

Award-winning playwright Sarah Ruhl, author of How to Transcend a Happy Marriage, Eurydice, The Oldest Boy, and In the Next Room, or the vibrator play, among many others, responds with heart, insight, trepidation and optimism.

I thought I might share some of my hopes with you.

I hope that my children remember more about the bird-feeders we’ve made out of toilet paper rolls and empty parmesan cheese cartons than they remember about the anxiety and terror of this moment.

I hope when people come back to the theater, they have an even more profound sense of wonder about the alchemy of what happens when people make art in person, together.

I hope that all the furloughed theater workers come back very soon, and in the meantime know that they are held deeply in the ecosystem of the American theater. We can’t, and won’t, do without them.

I hope one day I feel the mental clarity to write another play again, but I hope people stop saying that Shakespeare wrote King Lear during the plague and that we should all be writing our own King Lears, because:

a) He didn’t actually write King Lear during the plague and

b) Sheltering in place and trying to survive is not the same thing as being in the MacDowell colony for three months and

c) He wrote poetry during the plague, so I hope we all find solace in whatever form gives us solace right now, even if it’s short form, or doodling, and that we stop beating up on ourselves about our oh-so American productivity being on pause.

I hope that Mark Blum’s soul and Terrence McNally’s soul are content, and that they are embraced in whatever afterlife they are in by theatrical greats — that Sarah Bernhardt and August Wilson and Eugene O’Neill and Ntozake Shange and Edward Albee and Maria Irene Fornes and all of the great transformers and players are meeting them at the gates.

I hope people stop dying in such large numbers.

I hope that whatever this gestation brings is better than what came before.

I hope people are saying “thank you” to grocery workers and delivery workers in whatever creative ways they can.

I hope that someone produces one of my plays again, and when they do, the actors marvel that they can speak words out loud again, in person, to strangers, and possibly make those strangers laugh, or cry.

I hope we don’t lose a generation of theater-makers to streaming.

I hope we soon paddle again in the great stream of our theatrical becoming, in person, with each other, in the open ether, in the open air.

To read more about Sarah Ruhl and her plays, visit our website. In North America, click here. In the UK and Europe, click here.