Sharr White is the author of The Other Place, which opened on Broadway earlier this month at Manhattan Theatre Club's Samuel J. Friedman Theatre to critical praise for the play and its star, Laurie Metcalf.
White's drama was first presented Off-Broadway in 2011 by MCC Theater, where it was nominated for two Outer Critics Circle Awards, a Drama League Award and three Lucille Lortel Awards. Metcalf won an Obie Award and a Lucille Lortel Award for her portrayal of Juliana Smithton, a successful neurologist with an increasingly troubled life. Joe Mantello, a two-time Tony winner (Take Me Out and Assassins) directed the drama for both MCC and now MTC. The Broadway cast includes Daniel Stern, Zoe Perry (Metcalf's real-life daughter) and John Schiappa.
White, 42, has been writing plays since the 1990s. They've been presented around the country, including at South Coast Repertory, Actors Theatre of Louisville, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Lincoln Center Theatre's Directors Lab and Key West Theatre Festival. But when The Other Place played MCC, it marked his first major New York appearance, and now it is his first Broadway show.
We contacted White to talk about The Other Place, the kinds of plays he prefers to write, his day job and his long and winding road to Broadway.
How do characterize The Other Place, for those readers who haven't seen it?
Sharr White: I often say that it's about the smartest woman on Earth, who discovers that nothing is what she thinks it is. It is a bit of a mystery in the way the play unfolds. It's a story that's told very closely through her perspective. It's really about Juliana being a reliable narrator, and we stay with her as she begins to understand that her world is not what she thinks it is.
What's the genesis of the play? Where did the idea come from and how did it come into being? And how did you get Laurie Metcalf — a three-time Emmy winner for "Roseanne" — to star in it?
SW: I had a friend who challenged me to write a play on this subject matter. I was resistant at first. I didn't think it could work. But he was very insistent. And the more I started looking into the structure of building a play in the way this play is built the more excited I became. And the more personal the story became too.
Laurie's involvement was really fortunate. When I was developing the play at MCC Theater they had several readings, and the third reading they had was with Laurie, and I assume it was just because they loved her and she was in town at the time. And it was after that reading that MCC committed to it, and soon thereafter Laurie committed to the play as well.
How do you feel about Laurie Metcalf in the role, her incarnation of your character?
SW: She's taken it beyond where I thought it would go. What's been so great about working with Laurie is that because she was involved so early, I began shaping the role toward her. The role has co-evolved along with her. It's been a supreme pleasure to be able to work with her like that. Because she's the best.
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