Literary Manager Bobby Kennedy interviews playwright Bathsheba Doran about her deep and personal ties to the narrative of The Mystery of Love & Sex.

Bobby Kennedy: With such a robust theatre scene in Britain, I would think a Hollywood film or TV career would be what draws a playwright to America. What intrigued you about moving here to pursue playwriting? How has the relocation informed who you are as a writer?

Bathsheba Doran: I didn’t move to America to pursue a career. I just wanted to live in New York. I really, really did, and sometimes, even though it’s 17 years later, I still wake up and can’t quite believe that I pulled that off. The relocation has informed the subject matter of some of my plays. I have a play, Kin, that is in part about expatriation, the struggle to find a home. It’s also given me a certain skill set – I can write English and American characters more easily, I suppose, than someone who hasn’t lived in both places, and I am able to see the world from a European and American perspective. But I’ve lived in New York longer than I have lived anywhere else, and it is my home. I don’t feel like an English person in America. I feel like a New Yorker. New Yorkers are from all over. The glory of being one is that it has absolutely nothing to do with where you are from. Common ground is built on a deep love, almost a need, for the city.

“ I don’t feel like an English person in America. I feel like a New Yorker.”

BK: Lincoln Center Theater, where The Mystery of Love & Sex premiered in 2015, commissioned you to write the play. Was there a pitch for the show you had to make to them? Where did the idea for the play come from and what were you trying to speak to with it?

BD: Lincoln Center very kindly commissioned me to write a play—but there were no expectations as to what the play would be about. Usually I have no idea what a play will be about before I start writing. In fact, even if I do have an idea, it usually evolves into something completely different. Where the idea for a play comes from is a hard question. Once a play is completed, I can look back on it and understand that the emotion or dynamic in a particular scene came from a moment in my own history. Sometimes the circumstances are completely the same. Sometimes totally different. But the emotional memory is always mine. When I look back on this play, it’s very clear to me that it is the first play that I wrote as a parent—and that it allowed me to interpret my experience of being a young person completely differently. About half way through writing The Mystery of Love & Sex, I realized that I was articulating some deeply buried emotion that was about more than a moment. And—because it was a painful realization—I did feel consciously that if I finished the story there might be a chance to connect with people who didn’t yet have an emotional vocabulary for what the characters in the play go through—and might be glad to have one.

“Usually I have no idea what a play will be about before I start writing. In fact, even if I do have an idea, it usually evolves into something completely different.”

BK: One of the things that director Marti Lyons has remarked on is that it’s so rare for the central relationship in a play to be a non-romantic friendship between a man and a woman. Was that something you had also realized and were writing about intentionally?

BD: I had not considered that it was rare, although it became increasingly obvious to me after the play was produced because people did comment on that. I was aware that the image in the last scene between Charlotte and Jonny was extremely unusual and arresting; it meant a lot to me. I thought of this image early on and I clung to it. I knew it was where I was headed.

BK: I, for one, feel like the world has changed so much since we first announced in February 2016 that we would be producing your play this season. What excites you about Chicago audiences getting the opportunity to engage with your play in this new frontier of 2017?

BD: Gosh. Yes, it has. You know, the play is in many ways about connections. About seeing ourselves in the other. About understanding how we all affect each other and enlarging our sense of family. That seems particularly important to remember now.

BK: What else have you been working on recently in theatre, TV or beyond that you’d like to tell us about? Or what do you spend time doing when you’re not writing?

“I get up every day and I write and it makes me happy. Even when it makes me furious.”

BD: I am working on a new play. I’m working on a television show called The Looming Tower that premieres on Hulu at the end of 2017. I’m finding that particularly fascinating. It’s about the disconnect between the CIA and the FBI and how that contributed to the tragedy of 9/11. It’s based on a book of the same name by Lawrence Wright. It’s a real privilege to be in a room with him and the other writers and it’s bringing me real joy even though it’s a painful story. I have a few other projects in film and TV bumping around. Essentially, the through line is, I get up every day and I write and it makes me happy. Even when it makes me furious. When I am not writing, I am reading or hanging out with my kids and wife and friends, trying to make sure that my children grow up in a house full of interesting people, laughter and conversation. I’m also trying to persuade my wife to get a dog, but that is going terribly.