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Arts & Culture

How Growing Up In Idaho Has Shaped 'Genius' Playwright's Work

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Courtesy of the John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation
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The Idaho playwright who was awarded a MacArthur 'genius' grant this week has traveled far from his hometown of Moscow, but continues to revisit the state in much of his work.

Samuel Hunter now lives in New York, and has a play opening this weekend in Chicago.

Hunter's latest play "Rest," which runs for the next three weeks at Chicago's Victory Gardens Theater, takes place in a northern Idaho retirement home. In November, he's opening a play titled "Pocatello" in New York.

But despite the fact that Hunter frequently sets his plays in Idaho, he says there is nothing quintessentially Idaho about them.

“I set these plays in places, very deliberately, that could be anywhere in the country because I don’t want to do something that’s just illuminating the Idaho experience for a larger audience.” Hunter says. “It’s really about non-urban America."

Hunter says growing up in Moscow has shaped his work in a lot of ways. It gave him a typical small-town childhood in some way, but he says having the University of Idaho gave him a window to a larger world. That's especially true for the plays he was able to see at the campus theater.

"Setting them (his plays) in Idaho grounds them for me personally in a way that allows me to invest myself in a really active way. Even though I’ve been in New York my entire adult life, I still feel like my heart and to a certain extent my soul is in Idaho. I still feel deeply, deeply connected to that place.”

Find Adam Cotterell on Twitter @CotterellAdam

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