Skip to Content


Story/Teller Arts: Playwright Sarah Ruhl and Composer Matthew Aucoin in Conversation

March 16, 2022

Award-winning playwright, poet, and essayist Sarah Ruhl (The Clean House, In the Next Room (or the vibrator play), Smile: The Story of a Face) sat down in conversation with Matthew Aucoin (The Impossible Art: Adventures in Opera), composer, conductor, and writer, to discuss their collaboration in the process of transforming Ruhl’s play, Eurydice—a reimagining of the classic myth of Orpheus through the eyes of its heroine—into a libretto. The process was, as Ruhl wrote in the afterword to the new edition of Eurydice from TCG Books, “one of distillation, with effort and grace.” Eurydice premiered at the Los Angeles Opera in 2020, and played at The Metropolitan Opera from November through December 2021. The Center for Fiction was thrilled to continue its collaboration with TCG for their fourth event, with past events featuring Jackie Sibblies Drury and Claudia Rankine; Annie Baker and Branden Jacobs-Jenkins; and Heidi Schreck and Paula Vogel.

Photos by Kelsie Lynn Bennett


  • Sarah Ruhl_smilecover_credit Gregory Costanzo - William Lyman (1)

    Sarah Ruhl

    Sarah Ruhl

    Sarah Ruhl’s fifteen plays include the Pulitzer Prize finalists The Clean House and In the Next Room (or the vibrator play), also nominated for a Tony Award. Her awards include a MacArthur Fellowship, and her book of essays 100 Essays I Don’t Have Time to Write was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. Eurydice, named one of the 25 best American plays of the past 25 years in 2018 by the New York Times, was developed into an opera with music by Matthew Aucoin, and performed at The Metropolitan Opera in 2021. Her most recent book, Smile: The Story of a Face, was published in 2021 by Simon & Schuster. Ruhl teaches at the Yale School of Drama, and lives in Brooklyn with her family.

    Photo Credit: Gregory Costanzo

  • matthew aucoin headshot - William Lyman

    Matthew Aucoin

    Matthew Aucoin

    Matthew Aucoin is an American composer, conductor, and writer. His opera Eurydice, which premiered in 2020 at the Los Angeles Opera, played at New York’s The Metropolitan Opera in the fall of 2021. He is a cofounder of the American Modern Opera Company (AMOC) and a 2018 MacArthur Fellow.

    Aucoin’s orchestral and chamber music have been commissioned and performed by such artists as Yo-Yo Ma, The Philadelphia Orchestra, Tonhalle Orchestra Zürich, the Brentano Quartet, the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, and the pianist Kirill Gerstein. His two previous operas, Crossing and Second Nature, have been performed across North America, including productions at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the Lyric Opera of Chicago, and the Canadian Opera Company.

    As a conductor, Aucoin has appeared with the Los Angeles Opera, the Chicago Symphony, The Santa Fe Opera, the San Diego Symphony, the Rome Opera Orchestra, the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, and many other ensembles.

    Aucoin is the author of The Impossible Art: Adventures in Opera (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2021), a book of reflections on the art form of opera. He is a regular contributor to leading publications including the New York Review of Books and the Atlantic.