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Writer Samuel D. Hunter digs deep to let loose his truth for ‘The Whale’

Writing “The Whale,” says Samuel D. Hunter, “felt entirely different than my previous plays. It was at once easier to write and more difficult, familiar but scarily vulnerable.” I didn't set out to write a film. At first, I wasn't even sure I was writing a play. Maybe it was something I needed to write for myself, a quiet purgation that I'd keep in the cold, dark storage of my laptop's hard drive forever. Maybe keeping it to myself would allow me to put some stuff on the line that I'd previously been too scared or embarrassed to access in my plays. The stuff that made me feel unworthy of being an erudite New York playwright. All that stuff I had pushed way down about growing up gay in Idaho, attending a fundamentalist Christian school, battling depression, and subsequently self-medicating with food in my late teens and early 20s. Maybe I should write something honest. This was 13 ago. My then-boyfriend-now-husband and I were living in an illegal sublet in Hell's Kitchen and teaching essay writing at a public university in New Jersey to dozens of disaffected college freshmen. I was teaching a kind of writing that felt an aversion to my work as a playwright — I was asking students to depersonalize writing, to stamp out any trace of emotion or personality in service of cold, hard objectivity. But it was better than a 9-to-5. At least it was adjacent to my seemingly unreachable […]

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