Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Susan Rivers

Susan Rivers holds an MFA in Fiction Writing from Queens University of Charlotte in North Carolina, where she was awarded a Regional Artist Grant from the Arts and Sciences Council for her fiction. As a playwright, she received the Julie Harris Playwriting Award and the New York Drama League Award, worked as an NEA Writer-in-Residence in San Francisco, and was a finalist for the Susan Smith Blackburn Award for British and American Women Playwrights. She is a veteran of both the Playwrights Festival at Sundance Institute for the Arts and the Eugene O’Neill Playwrights Conference and has crossed the country, from Seattle to St. Louis, working on professional productions of her plays.

Rivers and her husband currently live in a small town in rural South Carolina. She teaches English at the University of South Carolina Upstate in Spartanburg.

Her new novel is The Second Mrs. Hockaday.

Recently I asked Rivers about what she was reading. Her reply:
I'm about halfway through Arthur and Barbara Gelb's biography of Eugene O'Neill, By Woman Possessed, which is confirming my unscientific theory that all great geniuses are screwed-up human beings incapable of healthy relationships. I've read other material about O'Neill, but nothing that focused so fully on his flawed marriages and his indifference --even cruelty -- toward his children, all stemming from the pathological bond he shared with his morphine-addicted mother.

Years ago, when I was a playwright, I was invited to the Eugene O'Neill Theater Festival in Connecticut. The festival's connection to the dramatist wasn't stressed to any degree, so it was almost by accident that I stumbled on the O'Neill family's cottage in New London. The one volunteer on site that afternoon let me wander through the house on my own, and for a writer who considers Long Day's Journey Into Night to be the most powerfully affecting American play ever written, it was an unforgettable experience. On the porch I watched the fog creeping upwards from the sound, I sat in the parlor with Jamie and Edmund while they wrangled over their parents' shortcomings and their own troubled lives, and I imagined a sleepless Mary Tyrone pacing overhead in the narrow second story corridor, her footsteps pausing at the spare room where her "medicine" was kept. All of this is coming back to me as I read the Gelbs' book, reminding me that O'Neill was not merely obsessive in his relationships with living women but was truly haunted all his life by his doomed family. Many of us can say the same, but very few of us are capable of transforming that legacy into a sublimely cathartic form of art, as O'Neill was.
Visit Susan Rivers's website.

--Marshal Zeringue