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  • Writer's pictureWendy-Marie Marie

Original Thoughts & Sarah Ruhl

Something was made painful clear during the first semester of my PhD studies (last semester which feels like another lifetime but ended only 3 short weeks ago) - having an original thought is tricky. I have so many thoughts racing through my brain all the time, but how many can be backed up by academically accepted research. So we end up with regurgitations of regurgitation and are asked to stop relying on other sources and trust our own thoughts... but back them up with academically approved sources. And the circle continues.

I wrote a paper claiming that Sarah Ruhl's play, Eurydice, was a theatrical symphony and therefore belonged in the echelon of music in the aesthetic hierarchy (A middle finger to Nietzsche and Plato, who claim poetry is below music for various reasons I won't get into here). In the process of creating my defense, I fell madly in love with Sarah Ruhl's writing. the fact that she pricks my heart by the end of nearly everything she writes. That her masterful handling of transformation makes me question the rules of the universe. That I continually fall into the spaces she leaves in her work and experience and entire lifetime between lines forces me to question if there truly are any boundaries on stage.

Photo by Joan Marcus, from Yale Repertory Theater, New Haven, Connecticut in December 2012

So far during winter break I've read, The Clean House (again), The Melancholy Play, To Peter Pan on her 70th Birthday, And this morning I read, Dear Elizabeth - a play in letters from Elizabeth Bishop to Robert Lowell and back again. I've already read Eurydice, Dead Man's Cell Phone and In the Next Room, or the Vibrator Play, but plan to read them again once I've read the rest of her work. So I've got 9 plays to go.

This morning I realized that I could spend the rest of my life reading her plays and thinking about the worlds she creates. I'd like to live in many of her worlds, a fly on the wall... or the protagonist. As my thoughts on her writing tumbled over one another in my mind, I began to wonder what other people had said about her throughout her career. I wanted to collect some of these words here for future reference. I'll keep adding to it as I find new material.

Thoughts on Sarah:

"...celebrated for capitalizing on such ambiguity and for blurring boundaries between myth and reality, poetry and prose and even animal and human." - Ben Brantley, The New York Times Review of How to Transcend A Happy Marriage at Lincoln Center, 2017.

"Ghosts, pets and arguments without outcomes: These are reliable telltales of the work of Sarah Ruhl..." - Jesse Green, The New York Times review of For Peter Pan on her 70th Birthday at Playwright's Horizons, 2017

Illustration by Jillian Tamaki. The New York Times

"Ruhl's ability to craft her plays with almost no exposition or outside world substance and still be able to make her characters act and sound human while experiencing larger-than-life tribulations is perhaps what sets her ahead of other playwrights." - Justin J. Sacramone, Broadwayworld review of The Clean House at the Williamstown Theatre Festival, 2017.

"Ruhl is a lovely writer, capable of witty aphorisms, sophisticated dialogue, humorous set-ups, and a theatrical sense of wonder. She also has a tendency towards the twee." - Jonathan Mandell, New York Theatre review of How to Transcend A Happy Marriage at Lincoln Center, 2017

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