Virtual: Sarah Ruhl, "Smile: The Story of a Face"
A gripping story and a profound exploration of the mysteries of illness.
— James Shapiro, author of Shakespeare in a Divided America
Sarah Ruhl will sit in conversation with Roxanne J. Coady, Founder, RJ Julia Booksellers
This is the extraordinary story of one woman’s ten-year medical and metaphysical odyssey that brought her physical, creative, emotional, and spiritual healing, by a MacArthur genius and two-time Pulitzer finalist.
With a play opening on Broadway, and every reason to smile, Sarah Ruhl has just survived a high-risk pregnancy when she discovers the left side of her face is completely paralyzed. She is assured that 90 percent of Bell’s palsy patients see spontaneous improvement and experience a full recovery. Like Ruhl’s own mother. But Sarah is in the unlucky ten percent. And for a woman, wife, mother, and artist working in theater, the paralysis and the disconnect between the interior and exterior brings significant and specific challenges. So Ruhl begins an intense decade-long search for a cure while simultaneously grappling with the reality of her new face — one that, while recognizably her own — is incapable of accurately communicating feelings or intentions.
In a series of piercing, witty, and lucid meditations, Ruhl chronicles her journey as a patient, wife, mother, and artist. She explores the struggle of a body yearning to match its inner landscape, the pain of postpartum depression, the story of a marriage, being a playwright and working mom to three small children, and the desire for a resilient spiritual life in the face of illness.
Brimming with insight, humility, and levity, Smile is a triumph by one of America’s leading playwrights. It is an intimate examination of loss and reconciliation, and above all else, the importance of perseverance and hope in the face of adversity.
Sarah Ruhl is a playwright and writer of other things. Her fifteen plays include In the Next Room (or the Vibrator Play), The Clean House, and Eurydice. She has been a two-time Pulitzer Prize finalist, a Tony Award nominee, and the recipient of the MacArthur “genius” Fellowship. Her plays have been produced on- and off-Broadway, around the country, internationally, and have been translated into many languages. Her book 100 Essays I Don’t Have Time to Write was a New York Times Notable Book. Her other books include Letters from Max, with Max Ritvo, and 44 Poems for You. She has received the Steinberg Playwright Award, the Samuel French Award, Feminist Press Under 40 Award, the National Theater Conference Person of the Year Award, the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, a Whiting Award, a Lily Award, and a PEN/Laura Pels International Foundation for Theater Award for mid-career playwrights. She teaches at the Yale School of Drama, and she lives in Brooklyn with her husband, Tony Charuvastra, who is a child psychiatrist, and her three children. You can read more about her work at SarahRuhlPlaywright.com.
Roxanne J. Coady founded RJ Julia Booksellers in Madison, Connecticut in 1989, creating a business that is recognized as a national leader among independent booksellers. In 2009, Coady founded a personalized book subscription site, Just the Right Book. This site has a national reach and combines the intimacy of an independent bookstore with the digital marketplace.
In addition, Coady hosts a podcast available on iTunes, Just the Right Book, in which she interviews best-selling authors and people in the bookselling and publishing community.