Artists I admire: Sarah Ruhl

My first experience with playwright Sarah Ruhl's work came with Eurydice produced by Second Stage in NYC. My friend Jenni Werner had an extra ticket, and she brought me along. I remember a number of different visual moments from the play, but more importantly, I remember not being able to get out of my seat for a long time after it was done. I think it was the summer of 2007, which would have been less than a year after the death of my first partner, and I think my inability to move came from the fact that Sarah Ruhl had captured something incredibly poignant and real about loss and grief through her writing in the play. Honestly, I have not gone back and read the play. The memory of how it affected me is so clear, and I don't want to distort that.

Fast forward to earlier this year when my former student, now friend and colleague, Jess Honovich gave me a copy of Sarah Ruhl's 100 Essays I Don't Have Time to Write.  This book of essays contains any number of excellent pieces of advice, astute observations about the theatrical process, and very funny reflections on being human. I admire Sarah Ruhl for her honesty and transparency in these essays; I've dogearred many pages, as I know I will need to revisit her wisdom in the future. Case in point, here's a great nugget:

"Be suspicious of an expert who tells you to cut a seemingly unnecessary moment out of your play. The soul of your play might reside there, quietly, inconspicuously, glorying in its unnecessariness, shining forth in its lack of necessity to be. The word 'expert' was invented after the Renaissance, a time when plays sallied forth in all their beautiful ignorance."

Because of her profound understanding of grief and the gift that she gave me with Eurydice and because she has continues to produce important plays and essays while being a mom and a teacher of young writers, I highlight Sarah Ruhl as the artist I admire this week.