have two plays produced at once is surely a playwrights
wont likely happen for many in their lifetime. But it
did for Lauren Gunderson 03C this winter, when she saw
a pair of her plays, Leap and Background, mounted simultaneously
at Theater Emory and Atlantas Essential Theatre.
the daughter of Gary Gunderson, director of Emorys Interfaith
Health Program, seems to have been called to the theater the
way some people are called to the ministry or medicine: the
stage is in her soul. She has watched five of her full-length
plays come to life, as well as a handful of short pieces. The
first, Parts They Call Deepwhich she wrote in high schoolwas
staged at Essential Theatre during her freshman year at Emory;
after winning the theaters Playwrights Prize, it was selected
for New Yorks Young Playwrights Festival and produced
her talent doesnt stop at writing. Gunderson also is an
accomplished actor, appearing most recently in Life Goes On
at Theater Emory. Although she is no stranger to the stage,
she has acted in only two of her own short plays.
always write parts for myself, but no one seems to cast me in
those, she says good-naturedly.
imagines two mysterious, playful sisters who call on a young
Isaac Newton, serving as scientific muses and inspiring some
of his most significant ideas and discoveries. The plot blends
science, history, and fantasy in a way that is already a trademark
of Gundersons work.
offers a glimpse of the overlooked stargazer Ralph Alpher, who
ostensibly came up with the Big Bang theory but
never got the credit.
tend to enjoy interpretations of amazing people at their most
amazing moments or on their way to being amazing, Gunderson
says. Thats what is most exciting to me about theater,
when you take a piece of history or science and elaborate on
it in a fictive way, bending the boundaries of fiction and non-fiction
. . . about personalities that are so intriguing. Elaborating
on the past helps us understand and appreciate the present.
plays earned reviews that almost qualified as an embarrassment
of riches. No doubt Lauren Gunderson was the kind of student
who made her Emory theater professors giddy, wrote Wendell
Brock of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. At twenty-two,
she is an elegant and assured actor, a rigorous researcher,
a precocious and prodigious writer of plays. . . . Theres
no denying that shes one of the most formidably talented
voices to emerge here in years.
came into the program as a writer who knew how to write a play
and tell a story through that, says creative writing program
director and playwright Jim Grimsley, Gundersons honors
thesis adviser. My job was to help her learn to think
about her choices and to rewrite with a vengeance, all of which
Lauren took in easily.
she hopes to continue acting, Gunderson, who majored in English
and creative writing with a minor in theater, says its
writing that is closest to her heart.
writing, I have more comprehensive creativity. I create everything,
so its easy for me to enjoy that part, she says.
become a scientist, historian, anthropologist . . . I love all
the research angles. But part of the wonder of being a writer
for the stage is that when youre done
the play, its barely begun.
many people are involved in the life of the play, its
wonderful to watch all these other amazing artists use their
creativity and vision to finish what Ive started.P.P.P.