The playwright behind Woolly’s next play is that, and much more.
Clare Barron is originally from a town in the center of Washington state, and when you read her play Baby Screams Miracle — a mysterious but also deeply generous work that reverberates with the supernatural wonder of the Pacific Northwest — that makes total sense. But when the clarion call of the East Coast rang for a young Barron, she answered it. She completed her undergraduate studies at Yale before moving to New York (with a few years of traveling and studying Grotowski in Poland in between).
After two up-and-down years of trying to be an actor, she decided to take up writing. Suffice it to say, it worked out: her plays now include the much-celebrated You Got Older (Obie Award for Playwriting, Drama Desk Nomination for Outstanding Play, Kilroys List, and Susan Smith Blackburn finalist); I’ll Never Love Again (New York Times & Time Out Critics’ Picks); and Dance Nation (Relentless Award winner). Barron is now a member of New Dramatists and Youngblood at EST, and is pursuing her MFA at Brooklyn College.
Like anything creative, though, it’s not always easy. From a 2014 interview with the Times:
“For me, it’s harder to be an actor, but there are moments of playwriting that are torturous. What’s so weird about being a writer is you’re writing in this constellation of so many people who have come before you, and also writing at the same time and being interested in similar things that other people are interested in, without really being aware of it. It’s like when everyone in 1982 names their baby Sarah or something.”
Part of what makes writing difficult according to Barron is that these shared interests breed similar plays, and yet the goal is to write something uniquely excellent. Maybe that’s why, with Baby Screams Miracle, Barron is setting the action in a place that seems deeply specific, and not already a hotbed of artistic interest.
That place, on the surface, is Eureka, Washington, a small town along the Columbia River Gorge. But that place is also the people who are Barron’s characters — god-fearing and kind and confused and afraid and unsure of how to speak to one and other. That place is also the scale and scope of the Pacific Northwest itself, its deep wilderness and towering peaks, its staggering beauty and the ruthless cruelty of the elements that make it wild.
It’s a far far cry from Washington, DC, and that’s part of why we love it. The characters of Baby Screams Miracle live lives that that are somewhat different from many of ours at Woolly — they live in the mountains, they talk about Jesus, and who knows, they may even be Trump voters — but over the course of the play, as we get to know them better, we begin to see how similar we really are.
Making the distant seem familiar, bringing the fringes of life closer to our understanding — that’s a big part of what we value in a play here at 641 D Street. When a playwright can pull it off, it’s nothing short of miraculous.
Baby Screams Miracle opens January 30. Get tickets: https://www.woollymammoth.net/event/baby-screams-miracle