PLAYBILL.COM'S BRIEF ENCOUNTER With David Auburn, on Lost Lake, at the Annual Playwrights Conference

By Sophia Saifi
02 Aug 2013

Playbill.com sits down with Tony and Pulitzer Prize winning playwright David Auburn at the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center's annual National Playwrights Conference. 



Auburn [Proof, The Columnist, The Journals of Mihail Sebastian] was at the Center to develop and workshop his play Lost Lake. The first public reading of the play took place at the O'Neill's Rose Theater Barn July 26-27.

The reading of Lost Lake saw the culmination of the prestigious month-long conference in Waterford, CT.

Directed by Wendy C. Goldberg and starring Frank Wood and Elsa Davis, Lost Lake is a gently unraveling two-character play that revolves around the lives of two strangers whose lives become entangled when a single mother rents a shambled lakeside cabin in upstate New York.

David Auburn sat down with Playbill.com to talk about the importance of deadlines, the themes that tie his writing together, his upcoming work and his experience at the O'Neill.

Question: What is it like being here at the O'Neill?

David Auburn: I have never been here before, which surprises me a little bit. I wound up here this year just because Wendy called me up in the springtime and asked if I would be interested in being the guest artist this summer. It was fortuitous because I had about two thirds of a draft of a new play,

Question: Did it have a name? How much had you worked on it?

Auburn: It didn't have a name, but it is the play that we are doing here. Previous experience has taught me that having a deadline can be a very useful thing and that public presentation is a nice incentive for finishing something. I said I would love to come, [but] I can't send you the play yet, and she said that's fine. 

Question: What did you know of the O'Neill before you got here?

Auburn: The O'Neill is something that every playwright knows about in New York and many of my friends and colleagues have workshopped plays here and been here over the years. It is part of the legend of New York theatre because everyone knows that The House of Blue Leaves was one of the first plays workshopped here and there is a storied history here. O'Neill's house [Monte Cristo Cottage] itself is a kind of a shrine.

Question: What do you think is the importance of regional theatre to American theatre as a whole?

Auburn: I think it is easy to forget this when you are in New York, but regional theatre is where most of American theatre gets made. A vast preponderance of it is out there and there are fine theatres and first-rate theatre artists in almost every American city. It is really striking to go somewhere and be reminded of that. To have a play done in Nashville or Cincinnati and be reminded that there are first-rate directors there and experienced actors and very fine designers. America is so big; our theatre talent is spread across the country.

Question: Lost Lake sees characters unwilling to deal with other people’s problems. Have you ever had an experience where you were thrust into someone else's issues? How did it inform the play?

 Continued...