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  • Writer's pictureClara Moses

Old Themes Inspire New Activist

Updated: Mar 5, 2019

Did you know that men still write three-quarters of the plays that get produced in America? Despite that, Lauren Gunderson is the country’s most produced living playwright. Just to name a few of her other accomplishments, she has won the Lanford Wilson Award, the Steinberg/ATCA New Play Award, and the Otis Guernsey New Voices Award. At age 37, Gunderson has had more than 20 works produced and she actually manages to make a living writing specifically for stage, which is no easy feat in and of itself. Gunderson’s plays are full of history, politics, women, wit, and of course, drama.

You may have heard her name in the news just last year. For the weekend of April 20, 2018, in honor of the anniversary of Columbine and the day of the National School Walkout, Gunderson waived the royalties for her play “Natural Shocks.” As a result, this piece, which addresses domestic violence and gun violence against women, was read in places all across the country. Plus, these readings raised money for anti-violence organizations.

Even before last year, Gunderson was no stranger to theater activism. In 2016, she licensed “The Taming” for free readings on Inauguration Day. More than 40 places participated, many of which raised money for Planned Parenthood. Gunderson, like many Americans, was not pleased with the way the 2016 presidential election went. She felt the need to write about her divided country, but then realized she already had. “The Taming” premiered at Crowded Fire Theater Company in San Francisco in 2013. It’s about a beauty queen trapping a conservative senator’s aide and a liberal blogger in a hotel room so that they can help her rewrite the U.S. Constitution. The play comments on blunders of America’s Founding Fathers, the disproportionate amount of power that men hold in the country’s systems, and the absurdity of extremism found on both sides of most arguments.

Another common theme found in Gunderson’s plays is Shakespearean inspiration. “Natural Shocks” was a response to Hamlet’s “To be or not to be” soliloquy. How does this theme relate to “The Taming?” Well, just add “of the shrew” and you have your answer. Much like Shakespeare’s original work, “The Taming” proves that debate can be sexy. Sounds wild, right? If you’d like to find out for yourself, this all-female comedy will run at Shaker Bridge Theatre as part of their 2018-2019 season, from March 28 to April 14.

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