Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Prolific Playwright Gunderson Opens the Rep's Studio Season

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Prolific Playwright Gunderson Opens the Rep's Studio Season

Article excerpt

Lauren Gunderson, whose play "I and You" opens the 2015-16 Studio season at the Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, is one of the most prolific young voices in American theater today. At 33, she's the author of nearly 20 plays; many have been performed across the country.

And most of them fall into one of two categories: plays that deal with science, and plays that deal with Shakespeare.

The first group includes "Silent Sky," about pioneering astronomer Henrietta Leavitt, and "Ada and the Memory Engine," about Lord Byron's daughter, the 19th-century mathematician Ada Lovelace. Gunderson loves to tell stories of scientists, particularly of women in science. She is quick to say, however, that she's never been one of them.

Apart from a few weeks in college when she majored in physics (it didn't take), Gunderson instead considers herself "an advocate for science."

"But I married the real thing," she says.

Her husband, noted virologist Nathan Wolfe, is founder and director of Global Viral, which monitors the transmission of disease from animals to humans in an effort to halt their spread. Wolfe's work, which has taken him from sub-Saharan Africa to Southeast Asia to San Francisco (where the couple live with their baby boy), might excite anyone's imagination especially Gunderson's.

"I've always been a fan of stories of scientists and of the dramatic stories of how discovery happens," she says.

Other stories those of William Shakespeare have also inspired her work. "Exit, Pursued by a Bear," a comedy set in Georgia, draws on "The Winter's Tale"; another, "Toil and Trouble," has been described as "an uber capitalist hipster 'Macbeth.'" The two big themes, science and Shakespeare, come together in "We Are Denmark," in which the ground- (or cosmos-) breaking astronomer Tycho Brahe goes to school with his fictional contemporary, Prince Hamlet.

But "I and You" which brought Gunderson the 2014 Harold and Mimi Steinberg/American Theatre Critics Association New Play Award fits neither category neatly. …

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