Sarah Ruhl wrote 'For Peter Pan on Her 70th Birthday' for her mom as a hedge against getting old

Saturday, 22 April 2017, 01:13:16 AM. Talking to playwright Sarah Ruhl and mother Kathleen Ruhl about 'For Peter Pan on Her 70th Birthday,' a play written from having known her for a lifetime.
Three generations of women are gathered around a table at the Lucky Platter cafe in Evanston. The daughter, Sarah Ruhl, has written a play for her mother. The mother, Kathleen Ruhl, will star in her daughter's play. And the 11-year-old granddaughter, Anna, will watch the end of the play from the wings later that night. The play, "For Peter Pan on Her 70th Birthday," is about growing up, growing old and flying straight on till morning, and it's set to open in a few hours with Shattered Globe Theatre. The Chicago debut, following the premiere directed by Les Waters at the Actors Theatre of Louisville's Humana Festival and the subsequent run at the Berkeley Repertory Theatre, is directed in a new production by Sarah's longtime collaborator, Jessica Thebus. It is the first production to feature Kathleen playing the role she inspired. "I had been encouraging my students at Yale to write what I called gift plays," says Sarah, a Pulitzer Prize finalist and MacArthur "genius grant" recipient who grew up in Wilmette, on that recent afternoon at the Lucky Platter. "And I had read this book called 'The Gift' by Lewis Hyde, which I thought was really brilliant and affected the way I think about art-making. It's about functioning within a gift economy rather than a capitalist economy." Sarah stepped up to the challenge she presented to her students and decided to give her mom a gift, for her 70th birthday, in the form of a play. She wrote a triptych one-act, moving from a dying father's...Read more
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