Playwright Sarah Ruhl Entertains with Big Ideas

Felix Solis and Kelly Brady in 'Passion Play.' Credit: Schott Suchman. i i

hide captionFelix Solis and Kelly Brady in Passion Play at Washington, D.C.'s Arena Stage. Ruhl's plays are filled with big ideas — abou—life, death, the role of religion and of politics.

Scott Suchman
Felix Solis and Kelly Brady in 'Passion Play.' Credit: Schott Suchman.

Felix Solis and Kelly Brady in Passion Play at Washington, D.C.'s Arena Stage. Ruhl's plays are filled with big ideas — abou—life, death, the role of religion and of politics.

Scott Suchman
Playwright Sarah Ruhl. Courtesy of Arena Stage.

hide captionSarah Ruhl studied playwriting at Brown University with Paula Vogel. But she wrote her first play in fourth grade. It was never produced.

Courtesy of Arena Stage
Naomi Jacobson and Sarah Marshall in 'The Clean House.' Credit: Stan Barouh. i i

hide captionNaomi Jacobson (left) and Sarah Marshall play Lane and Virginia, sisters at odds, in a production of the The Clean House by the Wooly Mammoth Theatre Company in Washington, D.C.

Stan Barouh
Naomi Jacobson and Sarah Marshall in 'The Clean House.' Credit: Stan Barouh.

Naomi Jacobson (left) and Sarah Marshall play Lane and Virginia, sisters at odds, in a production of the The Clean House by the Wooly Mammoth Theatre Company in Washington, D.C.

Stan Barouh

At 31, playwright Sarah Ruhl has already been a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. Through her characters and her stories, she tackles big ideas with a voice that entertains and sets her apart from others.

Ruhl's inspiration for her Pulitzer contender, The Clean House, came from a chance remark overheard at a party.

"My cleaning lady is depressed and won't clean my house," a doctor at the party said. "So I took her to the hospital and had her medicated. And she still won't clean!"

From that singular moment, Ruhl spun a tightly written play about laughter and death that somehow manages to avoid pretension. The Clean House was so successful that it has been honored with productions in the United States and Europe.

Now Ruhl is moving beyond that tight construction to an epic trilogy called Passion Play. It sets the story of Christ's crucifixion in three diverse locales: Elizabethan England, Hitler's Germany and Spearfish, S.D., during the Vietnam era.

Passion Play is very much a work in progress. But it reveals the breadth of Ruhl's imagination and represents a big step forward for the young writer.

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