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Brian James Polak and Amy Quan Barry onstage at the Overture Center in Madison, Wisc. (Photo by Scott Haden)

The Subtext: Live With Amy Quan Barry

In this special episode, recorded live in Madison, Wisc., Brian interviews the poet/playwright who wrote ‘The Mytilenean Debate’ for Forward Theater.

Each month Brian James Polak (he/him) talks to playwrights about the things usually left unsaid. In conversations that dive into life’s muck, we learn what irks, agitates, motivates, inspires and—ultimately—what makes writers tick.

For the first time in its history, The Subtext recorded an episode in front of a live audience. On March 5, Brian interviewed poet, novelist, and playwright Amy Quan Barry onstage at the Overture Center in Madison, Wisc., where Forward Theater is staging Barry’s play The Mytilenean Debate (Feb. 24-March 13).

Born in Saigon and raised on Boston’s North Shore, Barry is the Lorraine Hansberry Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where, in addition to receiving the Vilas, Romnes, Kellett, and WARF research awards, she has also directed both the MFA Program in Creative Writing and the Wisconsin Institute of Creative Writing. Barry is the author of six books of fiction and poetry, including the recent novel We Ride Upon Sticks. Her third novel, When I’m Gone, Look for Me in the East, follows a group of Buddhist monks as they search for a reincarnation in the vast Mongolian landscape; When I’m Gone was published in February by Knopf-Pantheon.

In this free-ranging conversation, Barry talks about how The Mytilenean Debate was the first play she ever wrote over a decade ago. It remained stashed it in a drawer until she saw an opportunity to revisit it when she learned of Forward Theater’s playwriting opportunity for Wisconsin writers.

She also discusses growing up on the North Shore of Massachusetts, her first forays into writing as a poet, and the liberty she gives to her students to write what they want and not allow identify to stifle creativity.

This episode can also be found here.

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