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The Book of Will: About the Playwright

The Book of Will: About the Playwright

By Rachelle Hughes


Compelling protagonists (most of them women), modern retellings of history, and science seem to intrigue playwright, screenwriter, and author Lauren Gunderson, and as she starts to spin out stories for the stage, screen, and page, her plot lines and subject matter have created a movement for her work to flood the storytelling world.

At thirty-six years of age, Lauren Gunderson was touted as the most produced living playwright in America for the 2017-2018 season. With over twenty different produced works, her smart blend of science, history, romance, futurism, and intellectual humor has audiences filling theatres across the nation. American Theatre magazine ranked Gunderson at the top of the list for 2017-2018 based on her twenty-seven productions. (American Theatre excludes any productions of Shakespeare works or of A Christmas Carol from its rankings.)

“The stories of discovery, the unfolding of human knowledge, the democracy of method, and the life of scientists. I find deep and thrilling drama in the course of scientific progress and put it onstage a much as possible,” said Gunderson of her sources of inspiration ( science-rocks)[1] .

Gunderson was born February 5, 1982 [2] in Atlanta, Georgia. While many playwrights fall into their career after a string of other jobs, Gunderson went into her college years fully committed to the writing life. In an interview with The New Yorker, she did refer to a time in her pre-college years when she dreamed of being a physics major; but by the time she enrolled at Emory University she had brought her love of science with her but changed her focus to writing. She earned her bachelor of arts in English/creative writing at Emory University, and her MFA in Dramatic Writing at NYU Tisch, where she was also a Reynolds Fellow in Social Entrepreneurship.

Even before Gunderson earned her BA in 2004, she was receiving attention for her work. Her first produced play, Parts They Call Deep (2001), garnered her the winning slot in the 2002 Young Playwrights National Playwriting Competition and was produced off-Broadway by Young Playwrights Inc. as part of the Young Playwrights Festival at the Cherry Lane Theatre.

From the moment her first play was produced, Gunderson has never lost momentum. The past fourteen years have been prolific for Gunderson as she has continued to earn recognition and accolades for her work and her collaborations. Her most recent awards include the Lanford Wilson Award from the Dramatists Guild of America in 2016 and the prestigious 2014 Steinberg/ATCA New Play Award for her play, I and You (2014). Theatre companies have been keeping her busy with commissions to bring her unique brand of plays to life. She has received commissions from South Coast Repertory (four times), Denver Theatre Company, Crowded Fire Theater, the Alliance Theatre's Collision Project, Marin Theatre Company, Actor's Express, Dad's Garage Theatre, Theatrical Outfit, City University of New York, and Synchronicity.

Gunderson continues to be in demand because she has a style and writes plots that readers and theatre goers find compelling. Her latest three works give a glimpse into the breadth of her subjects. The characters in her plays include the sisters from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice in Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley (2017), coauthored with Margot Melcon; women from the French Revolution in the brutal comedy The Revolutionists (2017); and the wives and daughters of the Bard’s acting troupe in The Book of Will (2017).

Gunderson described her own inspiration for her subject matter in a 2016 interview with The New York Times writer Rob Weinert-Kendt, “I kind of have three veins: plays about history with a kind of feminist understanding or reinvestigation of history and science; wilder, comedic modern plays, sometimes leaning into farce, often with a thread of Shakespeare in them; and the outliers, which I and You certainly is. I don’t do a lot of straight naturalism” ( 01/ 10/ theater/ lauren-gunderson-on-i-and-you-a-play-with-an-explosive-twist.html).

Theatre is not the only venue that has seen Gunderson success. She has worked with MTV, had poetry and scripts published in anthologies and journals, and recently released a children’s book based on her first musical The Amazing Adventures of Dr. Wonderful a[3] nd Her Dog!, titled Dr. Wonderful: Blast Off to the Moon. Highly in demand as a national and international speaker, she covers the “intersection of science, theatre, and arts activism” according to her website, She is currently a playwright in residence at the Playwrights Foundation and a member of Dramatists Guild of America member[4] . She keeps her writing gift honed by contributing to The Huffington Post and The Wall Street Journal. She is also in the process of working on several more plays from her home base in San Francisco where she lives with her husband.

Gunderson’s star is clearly on the rise with no sign of slowing down. Perhaps, that is in part because, as theatre critic Nelson Pressley has said, “Her plays are an education, reveling in knowledge and detail” ( entertainment/theater_dance/ the-book-on-lauren-gunderson-topping-us-theater-charts/ 2017/ 12/ 11/ fea557a2-dcf0-11e7-a841-2066faf731ef_story.html?utm_term=.b718fd7475c9).