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Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The play's the thing

As soon as Rachel May, the artistic director of Atlanta’s Synchronicity Theatre, told me that she was going to produce my new play, Exit, Pursued By A Bear, I was alternately humbled and ecstatic (which makes for a bipolar state of mind indeed).

When May said that Emory alumna Taylor M. Dooley 00Ox 02C (seen in a promo photo, at left, with fellow cast members Nicholas Tacosky and Veronika Duerr) was auditioning for one of the roles, I said, “Put down the phone and cast her now!”

Taylor and I were both in the Rathskellar Improv Troupe as Emory undergrads. She was an incredible actor/comedienne even then. The idea of working with her on one of my new plays was too good to be true. But it was true, as a group of Emory alumni witnessed on March 3 at the first public performance of Bear, starring Taylor, in my hometown of Atlanta. (I live in Northern California now, but traveled to Atlanta to attend the premiere.)

What a powerful homecoming it was--made even more powerful by the support of the Emory Alumni Association (EAA), which hosted a preshow reception. I got to meet more than 20 fellow Emory graduates and thank them for their support of me, this play, Synchronicity Theatre, and Atlanta theater as a whole.

Exit, Pursued By A Bear is a Southern revenge comedy about a young woman’s triumph over abuse. It’s based on a famous Shakespearean stage direction, but takes its real cue from the power of friendship and self-respect to help women out of the traps of violence.

(Read Creative Loafing's feature on Gunderson and the play)

I owe much of my current career as a playwright to my time, education, mentorships, and friendships developed at Emory. Both the theater and creative writing departments (the inestimable Jim Grimsley being my guide) fed me the rich foods of literature and performance.

I experienced a similar humbled/ecstatic feeling when Theater Emory’s artistic director at the time Vinnie Murphy told me that they would produce my play Leap (about a young Isaac Newton) during my junior year.

Emory alumna Megan Monaghan 91C directed the luminous production. It was the first time they’d ever produced a current student’s work on the professional stage, and it gave me a vital and thorough education on the real work and art of making theater.

I can’t thank the EAA and my fellow Emory grads enough for coming out to the show. Quite a meaningful and theatrical homecoming!

-- Lauren Gunderson 03C, playwright, Exit, Pursued By A Bear

Visit Lauren Gunderson's official website ...

Exit, Pursued By A Bear runs through March 27 at 7Stages in Little Five Points. Visit the Synchronicity Theatre's website for ticket information.

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