5 Questions with Carey Perloff, Author of Pinter and Stoppard: A Director’s View

May 9, 2022

carey perloff signing books at City Lights Bookstore

Photo of Carey Perloff signing copies of Pinter and Stoppard at City Lights Bookstore by Stacey Lewis.

Carey Perloff is former Artistic Director of the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco, which she led from 1992-2018. At ACT she produced over 100 productions of classical and contemporary plays, including eleven by Tom Stoppard (two American premieres) and six by Harold Pinter (two American premieres). As a playwright,Perloff’s work has been widely produced. Her publications include Beautiful Chaos: A Life in the Theater (City Lights Books, 2015), awarded the One City One Book “Big Read” Award from the City of San Francisco Elektra by Ezra Pound with an introduction by Perloff (New Directions 1989), and essays for numerous collections including Pinter at Sixty (Indiana), Directing Beckett (Michigan) and The Pinter Review. Her newest book is Pinter and Stoppard: A Director’s View published by Bloomsbury / Methuen Drama.

She will be celebrating Pinter and Stoppard: A Directors View, joined by Michael Chabon in our City Lights LIVE! virtual event series on Monday, May 9th, 2022!

Where are you writing to us from?  

I’m writing from rainy Seattle, where I am rehearsing Ibsen’s frighteningly trenchant and amazingly radical Ghosts at Seattle Rep.

What has been most important for you, personally/artistically/habitually, during the pandemic? 

The pandemic isolation, aside from encouraging me to learn to cook again, gave me the time and space to write this book, which I had been wanting to write for years but had never found the time for. I felt such sorrow at being suddenly separated from the theater community I love so much, so living inside of Stoppard and Pinter’s work again was extremely revivifying. I also spent a fair amount of COVID time walking the hills of San Francisco and heading down to City Lights Bookstore to resupply my reading matter and make sure beloved [City Lights Executive Director] Elaine Katzenberger and the whole team was okay!

Which writers, artists, and others influence your work in general, and this book, specifically? 

Obviously Pinter and Stoppard have been huge influences, as well as Beckett, Strindberg, Proust, Brecht, Racine, Lorca. Seeing the Jasper Johns retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art while working on the Pinter chapters of my book was revelatory (those epiphanic props!), and also going to the new Frick Madison and sitting in that perfect Bellini room. I’ve also been reading Primo Levi, Chekhov, Suzan-Lori Parks, Knausgård, some juicy Norwegian novels to prepare me for Ibsen, and a lot of Italian-Jewish history for a commissioned play I’m writing. 

What books are you reading right now and would you recommend any to others? 

The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara by David I Kertzer, Out Stealing Horses by Per Patterson,The Truce by Primo Levi, An Odyssey: A Father, a Son, and an Epic by Daniel Mendelsohn.

If you opened a bookstore, where would it be located, what would it be called, and what would your bestseller be? 

How can you ask this when City Lights is the perfect bookstore perfectly located perfectly named and with nothing but incredible books?! I guess I’d have to say, my bookstore would be called Tiny’s (my husband’s name for me), and it would be tiny, and have an extremely well-curated menu of a few choice items in each category.


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