5 Questions with Joe Sutton

The 12th reading in our FORUM “Soundings” series is US by Joe Sutton. This reading will be begin at 7:00pm and will be held at Fairleigh Dickinson University, Dreyfuss Theatre, 285 Madison Avenue, Madison, NJ. Click here for directions. Click here for a printable map of the campus (the Dreyfuss Theatre is located in Building 9).

Matt, Mark and Mary’s college-aged son is going through some difficult times, so much so that his parents pull him out of college and bring him home. What transpires is a drama about a generation of  highly-educated parents, who,  armed with the knowledge of their own college malfeasances and transgressions,  and highly aware of the sins of their parents, still cannot communicate or begin to understand their child.

Joe Sutton’s plays include Voir Dire (nominated for the Pulitzer Prize and the Best Play Award of the American Theatre Critics Association), As It is in Heaven, The Winner,The Third Army, and Restoring the Sun. Joe co-wroteThe Predator’s Ball with Karole Armitage, and saw the piece premiere in Florence, Italy before enjoying a run at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.  Other theatres producing Joe’s plays include New York Theater Workshop, Long Wharf, Arena Stage, the Cleveland Play House, and the Old Globe in San Diego.  After Hurricane Katrina, Joe initiated The Breach, a New Orleans-centered theatre piece co-written with Catherine Filloux and Tarell Alvin McCraney which premiered at New Orleans’ Southern Rep before going on to play at Seattle Rep.  More recently, Joe’s play Complicit opened at London’s Old Vic with Artistic Director Kevin Spacey directing. Joe has also recently been developing a pilot of USA television calledScales of Justice, about an overweight detective in post-Katrina New Orleans. Joe is a recipient of numerous awards and honors, among them fellowships from NYFA, the NEA, and NJ Arts.  When not in rehearsal, Joe teaches playwriting at Dartmouth College.  There he lives with his wife Anne and their son Nicholas.

Joe Sutton

  1. What do you enjoy most about playwriting? 
    THE PUZZLE.  FIGURING IT OUT.  CREATING A WORLD, OFTEN INTUITIVELY, AND THEN GROWING IN MY CONSCIOUS UNDERSTANDING OF IT.
  1. What was the inspiration for this play?
    WELL, OF COURSE, WE HAVE CHILDREN — AND SOME OF THE ISSUES OF THE PLAY CERTAINLY RESEMBLE ISSUES WE FACED AS PARENTS.  BUT IN A LARGER SENSE, I’VE BEEN WONDERING FOR SOME TIME ABOUT OUR GENERATION AND FAMILY-MAKING…WHAT OUR EXPECTATIONS WERE, HOW REACTIVE WE WERE (TO THE PREVIOUS GENERATION), HOW MUCH WE “PRACTICED WHAT WE PREACHED”…AND I WANTED TO EXPLORE ALL THAT.  AND OF COURSE IN THE END I WAS INTERESTED IN AN EVALUATION — JUST HOW DID WE DO?
  1. You teach playwriting at Dartmouth College. What do you hope your students will take away from your class?
    AN APPRECIATION OF THE DISTINCTIONS BETWEEN NARRATIVE AND DRAMATIC WRITING.  I WANT THEM TO UNDERSTAND (AND VALUE) WHAT MAKES A PLAY SPECIAL — WHY IT IS A SPECIAL ART FORM…AND TO LEARN AND APPRECIATE WHAT INGREDIENTS ARE ESSENTIAL TO MAKE A PLAY WORK BEST.
  1. Your play Voir Dire was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. How did you find out about the nomination (did someone call you, did you get a letter in the mail, or did you hear it first on Twitter)?
    THE PRODUCING THEATER, SEATTLE REP, NOTIFIED ME.
  1. When you want to relax, where would we find you a) on the beach with a good book, b) at a sporting event, c) enjoying a nice glass of wine on your porch, d) none of the above, you find me (fill in the blank) 
    ON THE BEACH WORKS.  BUT UNFORTUNATELY THE REAL ANSWER IS IN FRONT OF MY SCREEN.  I AM PROBABLY MOST “RELAXED” WHEN I AM WORKING.  IT IS ONE OF THE PERILS OF BEING A WRITER.  I FEEL COMPELLED TO DO WHAT I DO — AND WHEN I AM DOING IT, I RELAX.

Playwrights Theatre will present these readings free of charge, with an optional donation of $10

♦ A $25 dollar donation will get you a FORUM pass that covers all of the readings.

♦ A $250 donation will get you a rehearsal pass that allows access to all reading rehearsals.

♦ Reservations can be made online at or call (973) 514-1787 X10

Click here to reserve your seat to see US.

You can also find additional information on our website about the entire FORUM reading series.