PLAYBILL BRIEF ENCOUNTER With Sharr White, Playwright of Broadway's The Other Place

By Mervyn Rothstein
19 Jan 2013

Zoe Perry in The Other Place.
Photo by Joan Marcus
It's certainly hard to make a living as a playwright. I understand you haven't been a full-time playwright, that you have a day job. Would you tell me about your job?
SW: I am working in fashion advertising as a copywriter. It's a career I've developed over the course of the last 13 years. It's providing a steady life for my family, which I need. And also a real stability for me to be able to write. I've got a lot of friends who are making a living as writers, and it can be tough. It's a tough life. It's essentially a freelance life. And right now I treasure the stability my job brings.

Is your day job the kind that helps or hinders your playwriting?
SW: I think it's helped my playwriting on a number of levels. When I first entered the corporate world, because that's really what this was, I had been waiting tables for eight years. Something had started happening to me in the middle of that life, which is that I couldn't find a way out. I think that that negatively impacted my writing, for one thing. And for another thing, I think I am working with language all day long, just on a different level. It's taught me on a very technical level how to work with language, how to sharpen a sentence or how to soften it. It sounds nerdy, but what a front fricative will do versus a dental. Language has sounds that bring emotional impact, and I think what I've learned from copywriting is how to wield that more effectively.

Tell me about your family.
SW: My wife, Evelyn, and I have two sons, ages 6 and 7, and we live up in Cold Spring, NY, in the Hudson Valley. It's beautiful there.

Do you have a writing schedule on a typical workday?
SW: I get up really early and write, and I get on the train and write on the train coming down to work, and then I work, and then I write on the train back up, and I'm usually home just in time to put the boys to bed. It's a pretty tightly scheduled life. But we're making it work. Or my wife is really making it work.

Do you write on weekends?
SW: I usually write on weekends. It depends on what state I'm in with a new play. If I'm actively writing something and I'm under deadline then I'll get up on Saturdays and Sundays too, really early before the boys do, and get an hour and a half in and usually take a nap in the afternoon. I generally try to write every single day.