Lauren Gunderson’s new play ‘Bauer’ tackles art and history 

San Francisco-based playwright Lauren Gunderson, who has had eight of her works produced in the Bay Area in the past several years, laughs when a reporter calls her a publicist’s dream.

She quickly comments, “It’s a credit to this city that has an appetite for new work and is loyal to the arts and artists.”

The most recent in the series, opening Saturday, is “Bauer,” a commission for San Francisco Playhouse based on abstract artist (and Holocaust survivor) Rudolf Bauer, whose work was championed by Solomon Guggenheim.

“I really loved the subject,” says Gunderson, upon learning about Bauer (“a German who happened to be at a crux where art and world politics met”) and his work from art gallery owner Roland Weinstein, a patron and board member of SF Playhouse.

“I’m a fan of that kind of modern art, and it became an easy play to write,” says Gunderson, who has become popular for what she calls “biographical plays with a twist.”

While she was thrilled to have the Bauer archive literally at her fingertips, she says the three-person play — about Bauer, his wife, Louise, and his lifelong love Hilla Rebay — is among her most actor- and character-driven works to date.

“These are three really interesting, poised and passionate people to let loose in a room — and shut the door. It’s good drama,” she says, and sometimes funny.

Gunderson sees parallels between the lives of the artists in this play, and those of female scientists, who have been the subject of her earlier works. Both are known for creativity and drive.

And she points to how her own career trajectory has, somehow not surprisingly, evolved from the first play she wrote, about Southern women and their family life (not unlike her own, growing up in Atlanta) and the second, about Isaac Newton.

She attributes her success in part to the South, with its history of great women writers as well as its richness and complexity, saying it’s a “place to learn about how good and how bad people can be.”

She also got a lot out of living and going to school in New York, a “mecca” she says, that “also teaches you about the business of theater.”

But today she is thrilled to be in the Bay Area, experiencing “extra joy” at being part of a real community and developing great conversations with great artists over the course of years.

Next up — although there are no firm plans, only “baby ideas” — Gunderson says she wants to do a “badass musical — something with real edge.”

IF YOU GO

Bauer

Presented by San Francisco Playhouse

Where: 450 Post St., second floor, S.F.

When: 7 p.m. Tuesdays-Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays, 3 and 8 p.m. Saturdays, 2 p.m. select Sundays; closes April 19

Tickets: $30 to $100

Contact: (415) 677-9596, www.sfplayhouse.org

About The Author

Leslie Katz

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