Meet the Playwright
Updated: Aug 10, 2021
Lauren Gunderson is one of the most prevalent contemporary playwrights working in the U.S. today. How prevalent? Since 2015, she is regularly noted as one of the most produced playwrights working; topping that list twice, in between stints in the number two slot. Works that you may have seen—or at least were surely being produced near you—include The Book of Will, I and You, Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley (with Margot Melcon), and of course, Silent Sky.
In addition to theatre organizations being particularly fond of her plays, she has been recognized with an armload of awards for her work. These include the 2016 Dramatists Guild Lanford Wilson Award, two Steinberg/American Theatre Critics Association New Play Awards (2014’s I and You and 2018’s The Book of Will), the 2017 Otis Guernsey New Voices Award, and a few Edgerton Foundation New Play Awards. Most recently, she was included on the Broadway Women’s Fund list of Women to Watch on Broadway. We’ve probably missed a few accolades, but you get the picture: her plays reach people. And Silent Sky reached us too.
Silent Sky is just one of a handful of Lauren’s plays that highlights women in the history of the sciences, many with their voices relatively unheard. In addition to Silent Sky’s tale of Henrietta Leavitt, Emilie: La Marquise du Châtelet Defends Her Life Tonight turned audiences on to the work of the 18th century physicist and philosopher title character. Ada and the Engine introduced audiences to Ada Lovelace who wrote computer algorithms before the existence of actual computers. The Half-Life of Marie Curie explores friendship, as one of science’s most valuable contributors sees her life damaged by gossip and scandal.
Lauren was born a Southerner (Atlanta, Georgia), made her way to New York City to develop her craft at NYU, before finally settling in San Francisco a dozen years ago. Lauren shares her San Francisco home with her two children and the source material for her recent solo piece, The Catastrophist : scientist, virologist, and author, Nathan Wolfe, who is also her husband. The Catastrophist was streamed mid-pandemic in early 2021.
Lauren Gunderson and subject of The Catastrophist, husband Nathan Wolfe.
Cayce Clifford for the New York Times
Gunderson’s move to San Francisco may be directly tied to her prolific success. Unlike many New York-based playwrights who can languish among the grind of readings and workshops and rewrites and new readings, Lauren’s plays were finding their way to actual stages. Her charming, clever, creative, and manageable scripts appeal to producing theatres of all varieties. The proof is in her growing list of production credits.
In addition to her profuse playwriting career, Lauren also regularly teaches playwriting. But crafting new work for the stage, irresistible to regional theatres, is what keeps her kids in shoes and keeps her going; and she shows no signs of slowing down. Her pandemic product, The Catastrophist, attests to that. The aWAKEn project, Wake Forest University Theatre, and its audiences are the distinct beneficiaries of that and we look forward to the creative work the world's designers make from her script. We hope YOU will be among those artists. Register now to join us!