Gwydion Suilebhan

Gwydion Suilebhan

GWYDION SUILEBHAN is an American writer, innovator, and arts advocate who serves as the chief architect and evangelist of the New Play Exchange for NNPN. A founding member of The Welders, a Helen Hayes Award-winning playwrights collective in Washington, DC, Suilebhan has served as a Council member of the Dramatists Guild of America since 2017. He was recently appointed as the Executive Director of the PEN/...
GWYDION SUILEBHAN is an American writer, innovator, and arts advocate who serves as the chief architect and evangelist of the New Play Exchange for NNPN. A founding member of The Welders, a Helen Hayes Award-winning playwrights collective in Washington, DC, Suilebhan has served as a Council member of the Dramatists Guild of America since 2017. He was recently appointed as the Executive Director of the PEN/Faulkner Foundation, he served previously as the Director of Brand and Marketing for the Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company.

As a writer, Suilebhan’s work has been noted for its “dexterous theatricality and unexpected pleasure” (Washington Post). He is the author of several plays, including The Butcher, Reals, Abstract Nude, Let X, and the Helen Hayes Award-nominated Transmission, among others. His work has been commissioned, developed, and produced by Centerstage, Ensemble Studio Theatre, Gulfshore Playhouse, Forum Theatre, Theater J, and Theater Alliance, among others. Suilebhan is also the author of Anthem, a short film directed by Hal Hartley, and a forthcoming (2019) web series called All Souls.

Earlier in his career, Suilebhan primarily wrote poetry and non-fiction. He served as the poetry editor of Barrelhouse from 2004 to 2006 and taught creative writing as an adjunct member of the faculty of the Maryland Institute, College of Art. Two of his plays—Abstract Nude and Cracked—have been published by Original Works. Suilebhan has received two Individual Artist Fellowships from the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities, two from the Montgomery County Arts Council, and one from the Maryland State Arts Council. He was also the recipient of a Larry Neal Writers Award from the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities.

Suilebhan earned a Master of Arts in poetry in 1993 from the Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins University, where he studied with Allen Grossman and Peter Sacks. In 1990, he earned his Bachelor of Arts in writing from Northwestern University, where he studied with essayist Joseph Epstein and poets Mary Kinzie and Alan Shapiro.

Plays

  • THE BUTCHER
    In 2006, the butcher and sole proprietor of the Super Halal Market in suburban Springfield, VA ducked into the walk-in freezer to fetch some goat meat for a customer. When he returned moments later, the customer’s severed left hand lay on the floor by the meat saw, and a trail of blood led all the way out of the store. Witnesses said the customer had used the saw to cut off his own hand, proclaiming again and...
    In 2006, the butcher and sole proprietor of the Super Halal Market in suburban Springfield, VA ducked into the walk-in freezer to fetch some goat meat for a customer. When he returned moments later, the customer’s severed left hand lay on the floor by the meat saw, and a trail of blood led all the way out of the store. Witnesses said the customer had used the saw to cut off his own hand, proclaiming again and again that he was “not a terrorist.” He had done it, he professed calmly, “for Allah.” But what exactly had he done? And why? In the ensuing weeks, the butcher, his wife, a reporter, and one innocent family try to make sense of this ultimately bewildering (and all too true) event.

    O'Neill semi-finalist, 2014

    “[A] play that is so good, I suspect it will be picked up by every major regional theater company in the country… [T]he discussions on the way home and late into the week following will say a lot about you and how much you love real theater.” — Sidney B. Simon, Sanibel-Captiva Islander
  • TRANSMISSION
    An immersive, participatory sermon on the viral evolution of culture from the radio age to the present. Devised for an intentionally intimate audience, all seated in 1930s armchairs clustered around period radios, the performance is a sonic mashup of 20th century history and 21st century dangers that’s part jazz, part science lecture, and part ritual invocation. Together, performer and audience investigate what...
    An immersive, participatory sermon on the viral evolution of culture from the radio age to the present. Devised for an intentionally intimate audience, all seated in 1930s armchairs clustered around period radios, the performance is a sonic mashup of 20th century history and 21st century dangers that’s part jazz, part science lecture, and part ritual invocation. Together, performer and audience investigate what it means to be inundated with narratives in our always-connected, always-sharing culture and explore the desperate need for skepticism and inquiry in a landscape of spin, lies, and out-of-control memes. It's an antidote for the excesses of the 21st century.

    "Dares us to reject what we think we believe." — Nelson Pressley, Washington Post

    "Introduces more provocative notions in its 45-minute first half than many theater companies manage in a season." — Chris Klimek, Washington City Paper

    "A Molotov cocktail to the mind." — John Stoltenberg, DC Metro Theater Arts

    "TRANSMISSION... will be a yardstick for me as a critic for years to come when it comes to audience engagement." — Alan Katz, DC Theatre Scene
  • REALS
    Jack has worked hard to develop his “real-life superhero” persona. He works out every day, hones his skills as a former member of the Coast Guard, and devotes endless hours to perfecting his costume. Now, as Nightlife—the man who brings life to the night—he’s ready to start fighting crime. Or at least… he thinks he is. With his partner and confidant, Laney—a reluctant hero named Belt with advanced martial arts...
    Jack has worked hard to develop his “real-life superhero” persona. He works out every day, hones his skills as a former member of the Coast Guard, and devotes endless hours to perfecting his costume. Now, as Nightlife—the man who brings life to the night—he’s ready to start fighting crime. Or at least… he thinks he is. With his partner and confidant, Laney—a reluctant hero named Belt with advanced martial arts training—he’s assembling a team to walk the streets at night and start attacking crime head-on. He has zeal, big muscles, and a superhero code to live up to… but not much more. When Jack and Laney start interviewing potential team members, however, the façade of their crazy ambitions begins to crumble. Deceit, lies, and secrets slowly unravel their trust, until a shocking act of real violence perpetrated by Sensei—the first hero they consider adding to the team—reveals the truth Nightlife has been hiding beneath his suddenly very flimsy mask, cape, and nickname.

    “[A]n admirable engagement of a trope we just can’t seem to leave behind.” — Chris Klimek, Washington City Paper
  • ABSTRACT NUDE
    An enigmatic, erotically-charged portrait seems to reveal more about the people who view it than it reveals about itself. As the painting moves backward in time, it passes from owner to owner, exploding the lives of everyone who encounters it. In one home, the portrait tips the balance in a barely-suppressed power struggle among the members of a well-to-do family. In another, it awakens a great deal of...
    An enigmatic, erotically-charged portrait seems to reveal more about the people who view it than it reveals about itself. As the painting moves backward in time, it passes from owner to owner, exploding the lives of everyone who encounters it. In one home, the portrait tips the balance in a barely-suppressed power struggle among the members of a well-to-do family. In another, it awakens a great deal of confusion—and passion—between two former fraternity brothers. In the home of the portrait’s subject, it inspires nothing but unrequited love and alienation between two dear friends. And finally, back in the moment of its creation, where the story both ends and begins, the painting incites a terrible violence… the tragedy that haunts it wherever it travels, and that cannot be escaped.

    “Dextrous theatricality and unexpected pleasure… bowled over by the suppleness of the writing.” — Peter Marks, Washington Post
  • HOT & COLD
    In the hot zone of a level-four biohazard lab, two quarantined scientists experiment with a deadly pathogen. At the same time, in the cold chill of an ordinary suburban kitchen, an out-of-her-depth Jewish mother prepares a Christmas dinner for her son, his Catholic fiancé, and her gruff father… while they negotiate the terms of the young couple’s interfaith wedding. When the distinct worlds of the lab and the...
    In the hot zone of a level-four biohazard lab, two quarantined scientists experiment with a deadly pathogen. At the same time, in the cold chill of an ordinary suburban kitchen, an out-of-her-depth Jewish mother prepares a Christmas dinner for her son, his Catholic fiancé, and her gruff father… while they negotiate the terms of the young couple’s interfaith wedding. When the distinct worlds of the lab and the kitchen begin bleeding surreally together, however, the deeper and more disturbing truth of what they’re all experiencing begins to infect them all. Is there a cure for being both hot and cold at the same time? (HOT & COLD was an O'Neill semi-finalist in 2013.)
  • VERTICAL CONSTELLATION WITH BOMB
    New York during World War II. A nun, eagerly collecting scrap metal for the war effort, and Alexander Calder, desperate for raw material for a new sculpture, plead with a grieving mother, clutching a crushed tin airplane tightly to her chest. Will she let go? And for what?
  • CRACKED
    Just another episode of a run-of-the-mill cooking show transforms into an intricate, otherworldly grief ritual as the program’s hostess—or is she some kind of middle-class priestess?—devises increasingly elaborate ways in which to defer the simple act of cracking an egg. When it’s finally time for the demonstration, will she actually be able to just… let go?

    “A tonally subversive solo piece… the...
    Just another episode of a run-of-the-mill cooking show transforms into an intricate, otherworldly grief ritual as the program’s hostess—or is she some kind of middle-class priestess?—devises increasingly elaborate ways in which to defer the simple act of cracking an egg. When it’s finally time for the demonstration, will she actually be able to just… let go?

    “A tonally subversive solo piece… the overall effect is beguiling.” — David Ian Lee, NYTheatre.com

    “Gwydion Suilebhan has created a tour de force… A marvelous little structured piece, full of music and nuance.” — Susan Galbraith, DC Theatre Scene
  • INNER HARBOR
    INNER HARBOR is a centuries-spanning love story between one historic ship, the sea she sailed on, and her last and best Captain. In 1860, the USS Constellation captured a slave ship called the Cora off the west coast of Africa and freed 705 enslaved human beings. In 1978, the same ship became the centerpiece in a gentrification controversy in Baltimore's Inner Harbor. (Those stories are true.) And in 2096...
    INNER HARBOR is a centuries-spanning love story between one historic ship, the sea she sailed on, and her last and best Captain. In 1860, the USS Constellation captured a slave ship called the Cora off the west coast of Africa and freed 705 enslaved human beings. In 1978, the same ship became the centerpiece in a gentrification controversy in Baltimore's Inner Harbor. (Those stories are true.) And in 2096, when sea levels have risen so disastrously the city's been abandoned, the government works quickly to load the ship with historical artifacts and sail them off to safety... but the Baltimore Liberation Movement secretly plans to steal the ship and save the last few refugees' lives instead.
  • THE GREAT DISMAL
    Six lives get desperately entangled in the fragile but dangerous ecosystem of the Great Dismal Swamp, where the underground railroad, George Washington’s financial failures, and the complexity theory behind the blinking of fireflies all mysteriously converge. Can an entomologist, his undergraduate assistant, his wife, her "alternative healer," a mathematician, and the dean of a Christian college...
    Six lives get desperately entangled in the fragile but dangerous ecosystem of the Great Dismal Swamp, where the underground railroad, George Washington’s financial failures, and the complexity theory behind the blinking of fireflies all mysteriously converge. Can an entomologist, his undergraduate assistant, his wife, her "alternative healer," a mathematician, and the dean of a Christian college figure out what connects them… before it’s too late?
  • THE MIRACLE OF THE CHUPPAH
    When the chuppah disappears just minutes before the wedding, is it a sign from God? More importantly, what will the poor bride and groom use to keep the warblers from shitting on their heads during the ceremony?