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KAM: Tell us a little about The Sussman Variations.
RS: I imagined The Sussman Variations as a combination of a serious family play, a comedy and a play infused with music. Music is something that always seems to appear in my plays and I’m not speaking here of the musicals, but in straight plays as well. I wanted this play to be saturated with music. The main character of the play, Charlie Sussman, is an aging musical theatre composer, his daughter-in-law, Deirdre, is a concert pianist, his grand daughter, Miranda, plays the cello. So music links them but also divides them. I suppose the play is about the the way families misunderstand one another and how, sometimes, those misunderstandings can’t quite be resolved. Everyone comes together in an old house on the Connecticut coast to celebrate Charlie’s s seventy-fifth birthday, but things don’t go exactly as planned.
KAM: You’ve been working on this piece for a while. Are there any significant changes or discoveries you’ve made along the way that you’d like to share?
RS: It has been a while and I have tried, consistently, to raise the stakes in this family and to make their conflicts less reconcilable than I wished they could be. Instinctively, I like to make nice-nice emotionally, so I had to hold myself back in this play. Also, Brett Marks, who’s directing this reading, wisely suggested way back that I eliminate a character who was very funny but who was outside of the family and whose presence was not organic to the action. It was painful to “kill my darling,” but it helped the play enormously. I have also tried to weave more and more music into the fabric of the play and I’m extremely fortunate that, in this reading, we will incorporate original music by Phil Schroeder.
KAM: How would you describe your writing to people who are unfamiliar with your work?
RS: That’s hard. I suppose there’s always a kind of warmth to the plays and humor.
KAM: What is the least likely thing you've gained inspiration from?
RS: That’s a very interesting question. And here’s a strange answer. I’d say, bluegrass music, which always makes me happy and gives me a sense of how intricate strands can be woven together. Kind of like what you have to do in a play.
KAM: What words of advice do you have for emerging playwrights?
RS: Never listen to the people who say no. Put your heard down and charge!!
KAM: What’s next for you?
RS: I’m working on a political play set in academia which is new material for me and very exciting.