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An Interview with Ruth Wolff

By Gary Wien


The play was originally called The Aviators. I'm guessing you changed it because of the film.
How did you guess that? Beyond Gravity is a better title actually. Everybody kept asking, "who's the aviator?" So this is more philosophical or something like that... more interesting.

The play is really being marketed in a very vague way...
I know. It's because it's a complex play. I can't come up with one sentence but I'll try. It's about an academic couple, it takes place in a college that's nameless, in a house by the sea. They've been married for over 20 years and are facing a personal and professional crisis when a mysterious young woman enters their lives.

The meaning of Beyond Gravity is that gravity is the force that holds you down and going beyond gravity is somehow being able to life up above that. Some things that happened in their past now explode and the way the woman deals with it is through her imagination and the way the husband deals with it is kind of through sarcasm and wit.

It's a play about marriage and that's a subject that I've come back to again and again in a lot of my plays. Marriage is a basic thing and I'm just very interested in that relationship; why some stay together and some break apart. Some marriages that have a lot of challenges manage to stay together. Like the Clintons and the Roosevelts for example. You can name an awful lot of those and there's a lot of drama in that.

Is it more of a drama or a drama with comedic elements?
It's kind of a mixture. I'll be happy to have any laugh I can get! I love to have laughter in the midst of a lot of angst.
How does the play run?
It's four scenes played without intermission.

This is the world premiere, right?
Yes, this is the world premiere. It's also going to be done at the Barter Theatre in September to November. The Barter did my play, "The Second Mrs. Wilson" which is about Woodrow Wilson and his second wife. That play opened the week of September 11th. It was very strange because a lot of the themes in that were very apt.

What does the set look like?
It's an interior. The play takes place in one room and there are elements which keep it less than totally real. I like to do things where people are using their imagination. I've never loved realism. And so I like when the sets have a kind of abstractism to them.

In addition to plays, you have also written a few screenplays. How do you find the difference between writing for film and for the stage?
I happen to love both. I love words, but I also love images.

Your plays have been produced all over the place, yet you hold the traditional playwright's home in New York City. What are your thoughts on regional theatre?
I think it's wonderful. I say this before everyone comes here, of course! I feel protected. I feel nurtured certainly and the Barabas' are wonderful. They just tenderly let every one of their plays grow. They will also be doing a reading of my newest play, "Shakespeare Road" on May 2nd.

What would you like an audience member to leave with?
I hope they are able to both feel and to think. I hope they'll be moved. I am! I'm always like, 'where's my Kleenez!' because the actors are terrific and they get me every time. I know this play. I really know the play, but they're marvelous and they make things very moving and they make me laugh. I would like an audience to feel that way too.



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