PLAYBILL BRIEF ENCOUNTER With Sharr White, Playwright of Broadway's The Other Place

By Mervyn Rothstein
19 Jan 2013

White and Laure Metcalf
Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN
Let's talk about your background. Where you were born? Where did you grow up? Where did you to school? When did you first become interested in theatre? When did you start writing?
SW: I was born in Frederick, MD, and moved to Southern California when I was small, to Orange County. I went to junior high and high school in Boulder, CO. And after high school I went back to Southern California. I wasn't sure what I wanted to do. I took some time off. I worked in a warehouse for a while. Then I went back to school. I took some biology classes at a junior college in Southern California. I was sort of planning to be a biologist because my father is in science; he's a biophysicist and physiologist. Then I took some acting classes and I got hit with the theatre bug and I moved to San Francisco with the naïve idea that I'll get into A.C.T. [American Conservatory Theatre] because I hear that's a great school. But I was lucky in that I did get into A.C.T., so I went to San Francisco State for a little bit and then I jumped over to A.C.T. and finished the acting program there. I started writing at A.C.T., though they didn't have any writing classes. But we were doing created projects and I started writing for my classmates.

By the time I graduated [with an M.F.A.] in 1993 I thought writing was the thing for me. So I moved to New York. I was doing some auditioning, but mostly I was writing. I knew, several years in, that I should just commit to writing because [when I did so] I stopped not wanting to go on auditions because it would ruin a good writing day. From there it was a long process for me, because I didn't go to grad school for writing, I didn't go to any writing programs, I wasn't formally trained at all. I felt like when I reached a point in beginning to develop I didn't have anyone to turn to, which was pretty isolating. My time in New York has been about writing, writing, writing. I did some self-producing in the '90s. The big break was with Humana Festival in 2006. I was able to start surfacing to people, and I got a couple of commissions. It's been a long process to get here.

What's next for you?
SW: The Snow Geese. I'm developing it right now. And we'll see what happens. You never really know.

One final question. Your first name, Sharr, is unusual. Do you know its origin, how it came into your parents' minds?
SW: I keep asking my parents about this. It's not always clear. They wanted original names for their kids. And so that's what I got. I'm happy with it now, but I was not happy with it when I was in third grade.