AMERICAN THEATRE

Samuel D. Hunter The High Tragedy Place

In Samuel D. Hunter’s Greater Clements, Maggie and Joe, a mother and son who run an Idaho mining museum, face its imminent closure as their small town goes through the process of unincorporating. When an old flame of Maggie’s turns up, her chance for a new start runs head on into punishing compromises and existential questions. Tony Kushner spoke to Hunter about the play last month.

TONY KUSHNER: I want to start by talking about Idaho. Your work seems to involve a very strong sense of place. I have sort of an adjacent question, which is whether or not your plays are interconnected. Are they in some ways a cycle?

SAM HUNTER: I think so? But in many ways I’m still figuring that out because I’m still building it. When I first decided I wanted to be a playwright, I was a high school student in Idaho. I only applied to two colleges—the University of Idaho and NYU—because some-body told me that you taught there, which I wasn’t even sure was true.

I did for like three years.

When I got to New York, I was so overwhelmed. I mean, all I knew about New York was from reading Allen Ginsberg, who I was obsessed with when I was a teenager, and , which I saw at the University of Idaho in 1999. I started writing plays set in Idaho as a kind of “write what you know” sort of thing. I have fairly deep roots there—my great-great grandfather was the first postmaster in my hometown, having moved there right after he fought in the Civil War. So I feel deeply connected to that part of the country. In school, I also wrote plays set elsewhere, but the Idaho ones always kind of hit firmer ground for me emotionally.

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