• Nov 4, 2016

Lauren Gunderson: A Chronology of Selected Works

Lauren Gunderson: A Chronology of Selected Works

2001—Parts They Call Deep
World premiere: Essential Theatre, Atlanta GA

In response to a series of personal crises, Sarah takes her daughter, Emma, and mother, Bea, on a spontaneous road trip to Florida. Not wanting to leave her life forever, but enjoying her new freedom, Sarah is oblivious to Emma’s confusion and anger concerning her parents’ separation. Bea—who suffers from both high blood pressure and a broken heart after the loss of her husband—is also thrown into the journey. Along the way, Bea’s health plummets; Emma tries to contact her father from the road; and Sarah keeps driving. Traveling further and further from reality, Alex plays all of the men in the three women’s lives—Emma’s admirer, Bea’s late husband, Sarah’s late brother, and, finally, a stirring mix of all three—contacting parts of the women that even they didn’t know existed. 

World premiere: Theatre Emory at Emory University, Atlanta GA

In Leap, two mysterious, playful sisters call on a young Cambridge student, Isaac Newton; they come to serve as his scientific muses and inspire some of his most significant ideas and discoveries. Based on scientific and historical fact, Leap infuses myth, biography, and science into a new story about one of Western culture’s greatest minds.


World premiere: Essential Theatre, Atlanta GA
Published: Isotope: A Journal of Literary Nature and Science Writing

Based on the true story of cosmologist Dr. Ralph Alpher, Background moves backward through the life of this forgotten and unaccredited scientist, who provided the mathematical proof of the existence of Cosmic Background Radiation decades before technology could detect it. Twenty years later, two other scientists will accidentally “discover” the radiation and receive Nobel Prizes; Ralph will suffer a heart attack from the stress of being snubbed. It is from this moment that he begins to trace backwards through his life and, ultimately, to the beginning of time. This play delivers a striking look at the science of humanity—and vice versa.


2006—A Short History of Nearly Everything
World premiere: Actor’s Express Theatre, Atlanta GA

Adapted from Bill Bryson’s award-winning science book, this 45-minute play depicts a funny, fast, bumbling race for knowledge. Einstein, Newton, Curie, and Darwin lead you through a little bit of everything to prove that science—whether atomic or cosmic, flora or fauna, mineral or movie star—is really all about you.


2009—Emilie: La Marquise du Châtelet Defends Her Life Tonight
Published: Samuel French, Inc.

Eighteenth-century Parisian noblewoman Émilie du Châtelet: Passionate. Independent. A great beauty. A prodigious scientific intellect. In this highly theatrical rediscovery of one of history’s most intriguing women—and her lifelong affair with the Enlightenment-era superstar, Voltaire—Émilie must defend her life by tallying her achievements in love and philosophy, searching for a formula that will convince the world of her worth. 


2011 (Apr)—Silent Sky
World premiere: South Coast Repertory Theatre, Costa Mesa CA
Published: Dramatists Play Service, Inc.

When the brilliant Henrietta Leavitt begins work at the Harvard Observatory in the early 1900s, she isn’t allowed to touch a telescope…or express an original idea. Instead, she joins a group of “computers”—women staffers charting the stars and doing calculations for a renowned male astronomer. As Henrietta attempts to measure the light and distance of stars, she must also take measure of her life on Earth, trying to balance her dedication to science with family obligations and the possibility of love. This true story explores women’s place in society during a time of immense scientific discoveries, when their ideas were dismissed until men claimed credit for them, and proves how the dedication of Henrietta Leavitt and her female peers changed the way we understand both the heavens and Earth.


2011 (Aug)—Exit, Pursued by a Bear
Rolling world premiere: Crowded Fire Theater, San Francisco & Synchronicity Theatre, Atlanta GA
Published: Playscripts, Inc.

Nan has decided to teach her abusive husband, Kyle, a lesson. With the help of her friend, Simon (acting as her emotional—and actual—cheerleader) and a stripper named “Sweetheart,” this Jimmy Carter fangirl and animal lover duct-tapes Kyle to a chair and forces him to watch as her squad reenacts scenes from their painful past. For the pièce de resistance, they plan to cover Kyle in meat and honey and leave him to be mauled by a bear. In this smart, dark revenge comedy, a night of emotional trials and ridiculous theatrics serve to free Nan from her past. And as for Kyle? Well…


2011 (Oct)—The Amazing Adventures of Dr. Wonderful and her Dog!
World premiere: Kennedy Center

There are no puzzles in space, right? Wrong! Space is one giant puzzle waiting to be put together by physicists, astronomers…and a brainy girl who goes by the name of “Dr. Wonderful.” Fly through the solar system with Dr. Wonderful and her amazing adventure team of Newton (the dog) and Ben (the human) in this all-new musical! Saving a super star from disappearing is no small task, especially when the star is 1.3 million times the size of Earth and 93 million miles away—but when Dr. Wonderful receives the call, her team leaps into action. Girl-detective-noir meets science-geek-chic in this super-cool astronomical event! Dr. Wonderful is becoming a series of children’s books published by Amazon.


2012 (May)—By and By
World premiere: Shotgun Players, Berkeley CA

Pioneering biologist and single dad Steven has a secret: his teenage daughter, Denise—the spitting image of her mother, who died in an automobile accident—is actually her clone. Devastated and grieving, Steven created Denise, and then took her into hiding, to shield her from both the knowledge of her origins and the curiosity of the scientific world…but no secret keeps forever. This play frames a thoughtful exploration of love, loss, and the possibilities (positive and otherwise) of scientific progress within a compelling and modern coming-of-age story.


2012 (Nov)—Toil and Trouble
World premiere: Impact Theatre, Berkeley CA
Published: Playscripts, Inc.

Three overeducated and underemployed San Franciscans are desperate to beat the recession. Adam has a lot of ideas, but most of them involve inventing some kind of robot. Then he hits upon a foolproof plan: take over a tiny South American island nation and shear its population of rare miniature vicuñas of their ridiculously soft wool, which can fetch a fortune on the black market. He enlists the help of Matt, his roommate, and their friend, Beth, for whom both Adam and Matt have the hots. Alliances form, friendships are tested, and someone dies. Did we mention this was a comedy?


2013 (Oct)—The Taming
Rolling world premiere: Crowded Fire Theater, San Francisco & ArtsWest, Seattle WA
Published: Playscripts, Inc.

“Tweetering,” pandashrews, and a fangirl’s giddiness for James Madison—what else could you expect to find at a Miss America pageant? In this hilarious, raucous, all-female “power-play” inspired by Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew, whip-smart contestant Katherine has political aspirations as lofty as her beauty pageant dreams. All she needs to revolutionize the American government is the help of one ultra-conservative senator’s aide on the cusp of a career breakthrough, and one bleeding-heart liberal blogger who will do literally anything for her cause. Well, that—and a semi-historically-accurate ether trip. Here’s lookin’ at you, America!


2013 (also Oct)—I and You
World premiere: Marin Theatre Company
Published: Playscripts, Inc. 

One afternoon, Anthony arrives unexpectedly at classmate Caroline’s door bearing a beat-up copy of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass and an urgent assignment from their English teacher. Homebound due to illness, Caroline hasn’t been to school in months, but she is as quick and sardonic as Anthony is athletic, sensitive, and popular. As these two let down their guard and share their secrets, a seemingly mundane poetry project unlocks the much deeper mystery that has brought them together. I and You is an ode to youth, life, love, and the strange beauty of human connectedness.


2014 (Mar)—Bauer
World premiere: The San Francisco Playhouse
Published: Dramatists Play Service, Inc.

Love. Art. Defiance. Bauer is the visceral and visual true story of forgotten modern artist Rudolf Bauer, struggling with his fading place in the history of art as his paintings are removed from the walls of the Guggenheim Museum. Imprisoned by the Nazis, he had sketched on scraps. His fiery love affair with Guggenheim curator Hilla Rebay lasted a lifetime. The Guggenheim was built to house his work. Why did the genius that survived all that suddenly stop painting?


2015—Ada and the Memory Engine
World premiere: Central Works, Berkeley CA

Ada Lovelace (1815-1852): countess, metaphysician. . .computer programmer! Estranged daughter of the flamboyant and notorious leader of the Romantic Movement, Lord Byron, young Ada only knows her father through his poetry-nothing more than a haunting memory from the past. But Ada sees the future in the “analytic engines” of her friend and soul-mate, Charles Babbage, inventor of the first mechanical computer. A gifted mathematician in her own right, Ada alone foresees the boundless creative potential of Babbage’s engine. As she writes the first computer program, Ada envisions a whole new world where art and information converge-a world she will not live to see.


2016 (Feb)—The Revolutionists
World premiere: Cincinnati Playhouse in the Park    

True story? Total fiction? You’ll have so much fun deciding! Four beautiful, badass women lose their heads in this irreverent, girl-powered comedy set during—yep—the French Revolution. At the height of the Reign of Terror, playwright Olympe de Gouges, assassin Charlotte Corday, activist Angelle Oge and former queen Marie Antoinette hang out, plot murder, and try to beat back extremist insanity in Paris. This comic fantasia considers creativity, collaboration, patriotism, and how one actually goes about changing the world.


2016 (Nov)—Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley
Rolling world premiere: Marin Theatre Company; Northlight Theatre Company, Chicago IL; Round House Theatre, Bethesda, MD


2017 (Jan)—The Book of Will
World premiere: Denver Center for the Performing Arts

Without William Shakespeare, we wouldn’t have literary masterpieces like Romeo and Juliet. But without Henry Condell and John Heminges, we would have lost many of Shakespeare’s plays forever! After the death of their friend and mentor, Henry and John become determined to compile the first folio of Will’s works and preserve the words that shaped their lives. They’ll just have to borrow, beg and band together to get it done. The Book of Will is a hilarious and heartfelt story inspired by the true events behind Shakespeare’s First Folio.


2017 (TBD)—The Heath
World premiere: Synchronicity Theatre, Atlanta GA

This intimate theatrical experience traces the life and lineage of playwright Gunderson’s WWII veteran grandfather—who battled dementia—alongside the myth of King Lear—who grew old, went mad, and wandered out onto the heath. Performed by the playwright with a banjo, this moving original work is part play, part personal essay, part banjo musical. The Heath, a living piece of theatre, grapples with birth and death, madness and regret, while celebrating family, connection, music, and the power of a good story.