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Thursday, November 1, 2012

Harmonious Living

Playwright Richard Schotter
The Sussman Variations has been several years in the making.  When I began working on it, I was interested in writing a play about the complex relationship between a son and his famous father. Not having had a famous father myself, but knowing a few people who had, I was anxious to explore the complex mix of pride and resentment I had witnessed in their interaction.  When I decided that the famous father would be Charlie Sussman, an aging Broadway composer, I realized that music would have to play a major role in the play. That was fine with me, since music had always played a part in my work, from my ten-minute musical Duet for Shy People to Drem, my musical about the Oxford English Dictionary.

As the play developed, I added other members of the family Sussman into the mix, many of whom were musicians as well—Charlie’s daughter-in-law, Deirdre, a concert pianist and Charlie’s granddaughter Miranda, a budding violinist and actress. So, music became not merely an aspect of the play but a metaphor for what the play was about—the ways in which families attempt, but don’t always succeed, in living together harmoniously.

Charlie’s son, Jonathan, is a Shakespeare scholar who’s editing an edition of The Tempest.  As I continued to write, more and more references to The Tempest kept popping into my head, and I realized that the play also dealt with some of the themes and ideas that Shakespeare’s play explored—an enchanted seaside, storms, an autocratic father and a sprightly daughter, themes of captivity and freedom, magic and language.

All of these things, and many more, came together in the writing of The Sussman Variations. What I hope emerged is a lyrical, loving and moving play about families, forgiveness and the power of love and music.
Richard Schotter, Playwright
The Sussman Variations

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