100 Essays

That seems like a lot for one book but that’s exactly what playwright Sarah Ruhl has compiled for her book 100 Essays I Don’t Have Time to Write on Umbrellas and Sword Fights, Parades and Dogs, Fire Alarms, Children, and Theater.

A New York Times Notable Book of the Year, Ms. Ruhl tackles, in erudite morsels, a wide variety of topics and poses many interesting quandaries regarding “theater” and those who make it, those who see it and those who write about it.

It’s a charmingly arresting collection of essays ranging in length from one to three pages (the shortest being literally a tongue-in-cheek single word) that plumb the depths of the creative process and her ability to explore substantive issues with an economy of language is quite impressive.

The book is broken up into four parts: On Writing Plays, On Acting in Plays, On People Who Watch Plays: Audiences and Experts and On Making Plays With Other People: Designers, Dramaturgs, Directors, and Children.

Each section contains around 25 essays in relation to the topic.

She ruminates on such diverse themes as the comfort of seeing umbrellas on stage, her conflict with the notion that a character must always need to “get something” from another character, the enjoyment gleaned from seeing audiences sleep through her plays and why the first day of rehearsal should be joyful and akin to children building a fort, secretive and intimate.

What I most like about the essays is their thought-provoking frankness and direct questioning of why certain conventions in the “theater” are what they are and asking how (or when) we got them to begin with.

For anyone who loves the theater or is curious about an insider’s viewpoint, Sarah Ruhl’s book is a captivating assortment of meditations that shines a loving light on those who make the theater their home, whether on the stage or in the audience.

And for someone who didn’t have time to say a lot, she said plenty!

Special Note: Inside images for this blog post courtesy of Gerd Altman, Succo, Peter Goblyos, Renee Gaudet and David Mark whose work can be found at Pixabay.