Meet the Playwright: Roz Sullivan-Lovett

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Tuesday Night’s Bare Essentials reading is Henry Darger Takes a Walk, written by Rosalind Sullivan-Lovett. Read on to learn a little more about Roz and the play we’ll be seeing on Tuesday!

Hi Roz, tell us a little about yourself!

I’m a recent Atlanta transplant from Portland, Oregon, having graduated from Emory two and a half months ago and stayed put. I’ve been writing plays since I was a Sophomore in high school, but “Henry Darger” was my first to be published and my most successful to date, having been read previously in Theater Emory’s Brave New Works series and at the Tennessee Williams Literary festival, where it won first place in the one act play contest. My next project will be taking my solo show, “And God Forbid It Should Be So,” to New York City, where it is set to be performed at the United Solo Theatre Festival.

And what’s this play about?

“Henry Darger Takes a Walk” is in large part about familial grief and the inheritance of trauma. The suicide of a family member is jarring not only for the nature of its suddenness, but also for its sense of history and its brand-mark on the future. Grace’s journey is not so much about grieving as searching for a way to save her remaining family members from a narrative of mental illness that she fears threatens to swallow all of them, including herself.

Wow! What prompted you to tackle this subject?

I wrote this in the wake of my aunt’s suicide, in large part to find a way to link my own experiences with crippling loneliness as a college Freshman with the grief I felt in the wake of her unexpected death. I had, after that grim Freshman year, run into Henry Darger for the first time in Olivia Laing’s excellent book The Lonely City, a half-memoir-half-research piece that spoke to 19-year-old me in a way that nothing else could at the time. I saw in Darger’s isolation both a tie to my own experience and a selfish sense of confusion that a man so utterly alone died of old age, while two of my family members had found themselves incapable of living so long. I had a lot that I needed to come to terms with, and I also had a Sophomore playwriting class that required me to write a lengthy one act that I had no other ideas for. Thanks to my professor, Jim Grimsley, for allowing me to write this so soon after the incident occurred; I would probably have suggested to myself that I shouldn’t.

What, exactly, got you into playwrighting?

From procrastinating on studying for high school midterms: I wrote my first one act in a single weekend out of a refusal to do math.

What is the importance of staged readings in your own creative process and the development of your play?

Voice is so entirely the point of playwriting that I can’t imagine writing a play and considering it complete without having had multiple readings. I discovered so many things about this play from its readings at Emory and the Tennessee Williams Fest, many of them aspects of the middle-aged characters that I, as a young writer, would not have noticed without the contributions of the older actors in those roles. Understanding the shape and energy of a play is impossible without readings.

And what are you hoping to gain from this Bare Essentials experience in particular?

A sense of how the play behaves for another set of eyes and ears—where does it move and drag, what shines and what doesn’t. I’m also so excited to get to work with the Essential Theatre on this, and to have a chance to have work produced in Atlanta’s professional sphere for the first time!

Well thank you – and congratulations! We are definitely looking forward to your reading on Tuesday. Outside of Tuesday’s reading, where else can interested audience find your work?

In New York city at the United Solo Festival! Also hopefully in Atlanta in the coming year or so.

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Henry Darger Takes a Walk will be read at the West End Performing Arts Center on Tuesday, August 6, at 7:30pm. Directed by Natalie Fox. Readers: Genevieve Leopold, Emih Abrahamson, Olivia Dawson, Brad Brooks, Brandon Deen, Joey Davila, Brieanna Haberling.

All readings in the Bare Essentials Play Reading Series are free and open to the public thanks to support from Georgia Humanities, in partnership with the Georgia Department of Economic Development, through funding from the Georgia General Assembly. This series is curated by Essential’s founding Artistic Director, Peter Hardy.