May 2, 2011

Suzanne Vega writes a play about Carson McCullers


Carson McCullers

New York rock star and icon of 80s- and 90s-era “alternative music” Suzanne Vega has written a play about Carson McCullers that’s about to go up in New York.

“I just felt some connection with the face,” Vega told Alan Light for this piece in the New York Times. “Her face looked like photographs of myself as a young girl.”

McCullers, the southern writer famous for such classics a The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter and The Member of the Wedding, was a bit of a misfit for her time. Her work reflected that, which is also one of the reasons Vega has always been attracted to McCullers…

“I think people understand her more than they might have 30 years ago because of the alternative sensibility, people who tattoo or pierce themselves,” she explained over lunch a few blocks from the Rattlestick in the West Village. McCullers “was sort of an alternative personality before that phrase was coined,” she said. “She had this global vision of human rights for all kinds of people, and we have more of that global consciousness now.

“In one part of ‘Heart Is a Lonely Hunter’ she imagines a tiny radio that could sit in your ear, and I thought, “She’s describing an MP3 player!’ So a lot of this world that she kind of intuited has come to pass.”

The play—titled “Carson McCullers Talks About Love”—is the culmination of thirty years of work on Vega’s part. Vega is the play’s sole performer, and it will utilize her musical chops as well as feature her playing McCullers. The play will be running at the Rattlestick Playwrights Theater through June.

Suzanne Vega

The play represents an opportunity for a second act to Vega’s career. “I’ve been sort of decompressing since 1987,” Vega told Light. “I had that big moment [after her hits “Luka” and “Tom’s Diner”]. And then as each decade has gone by, it wasn’t exactly a crash back to earth, but it has been adjusting and readjusting. And that’s fine.”

After “Carson McCullers Talks About Love,” Vega tells Light she’s considering writing a suite of plays based on “the ideology of women,” which may include plays about Jane Jacobs and Rachel Carson, two other cultural giants of the 20th Century.

“It’s great to feel at this moment in time that I’m beginning something. It’s kind of a miracle at the age of 52 to start over, in some other realm.”