MacArthur Fellows Program

Samuel D. Hunter

Playwright | Class of 2014

Crafting quietly captivating dramas that explore the human capacity for empathy and confront the socially isolating aspects of contemporary life across the American landscape.

Title
Playwright
Location
New York, New York
Age
33 at time of award
Area of Focus
Theatrical Arts
Twitter
@SamuelDHunter

Samuel D. Hunter is a playwright who crafts moving portraits of unlikely protagonists and explores the human capacity for empathy through the prism of his characters’ struggles. Born and raised in a small Idaho town, he sets much of his work in his native region, within the nondescript confines of staff break rooms, cramped apartments, and retirement homes inhabited by ordinary people in search of more meaningful human connections. Despite the stark realism of his settings, Hunter leavens his plays with humor and compassion for the lives he depicts, while juxtaposing the banal circumstances of his characters with literary allusions and larger themes of faith and doubt.

A Bright New Boise (2010) examines the various ways that regret, disappointment, and the longing for some kind of transcendence shape peoples’ actions and concludes with the central character, an evangelical Christian, calling upon the Rapture from a chain store parking lot. In The Whale (2012), one of his most widely produced works to date, Hunter tells the story of Charlie, an expository writing instructor who has been driven by grief to a state of morbid obesity. A writing assignment on Melville’s Moby Dick becomes a leitmotif that resonates throughout the play, as its lonely and adrift characters move toward a deeper understanding of the hopes and motivations that propel one another.

Hunter premiered three new plays during the 2013–2014 season—The Few (2013), Rest (2014), and A Great Wilderness (2014)that continue his interest in the poetry of everyday speech and the aspirations of those seldom celebrated on the stage, from a staff of outcasts who run a newspaper for lonely, long-haul truckers to the octogenarian residents of a rest home days away from shutting down. Eschewing irony and judgment of his characters’ decisions, Hunter’s quietly captivating dramas confront the polarizing and socially isolating aspects of contemporary life across the American landscape.

Samuel D. Hunter received a B.F.A. (2004) from New York University, an M.F.A. (2007) from the University of Iowa, and an Artist Diploma (2009) from Juilliard’s Playwrights Program. He is a resident playwright at New Dramatists, an ensemble playwright at Victory Gardens, and a member of Partial Comfort Productions. His plays have been produced at such venues as Playwrights Horizons, South Coast Repertory, Victory Gardens, Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, Seattle Repertory Theatre, The Old Globe, and Rattlestick Playwrights Theater.

News About this Fellow
September 16, 2016
"I Wrote That? Playwrights Look Back at Their Teenage Work"
The New York Times
Samuel D. Hunter, 2014 MacArthur Fellow
Lynn Nottage, 2007 MacArthur Fellow
April 15, 2016
"Long Wharf’s New Play ‘Lewiston’ a Bumpy, Worthwhile Ride"
New Haven Register
Samuel D. Hunter, 2014 MacArthur Fellow
March 30, 2016
"Sad Truckers and Newspaper Lifers in CoHo Productions' The Few"
The Portland Mercury
Samuel D. Hunter, 2014 MacArthur Fellow
December 16, 2015
"Clarkston at Dallas Theater Center"
Arts and Culture Texas Magazine
Samuel D. Hunter, 2014 MacArthur Fellow
View all news

Photos

Photos are owned by the MacArthur Foundation and licensed under a Creative Commons license: CC-BY.
Credit: John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

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