Hear More from Playwright Deborah Zoe Laufer

What inspired you to write ROOTED?
If you search on-line for the scientist, Monica Gagliano, and her experiments with plant consciousness you’ll want to write Rooted too. Like many of my plays, Rooted was born of the same impulse I had rushing home from kindergarten to tell my mother the unbelievable thing that happened that day – my mind was blown by some new revelation, and I needed to tell the world.

I was first developing this story as a series for HBO. When 20 shows about cults came out that year, it became clear that mine was not going to be the 21st . But I couldn’t let the idea go. Then Cincinnati Playhouse commissioned me to write a companion piece for Be Here Now, another story set in the fictionalized version of my childhood home. Moving from human consciousness to plant consciousness seemed like a natural progression? It amused me at first, and then I had to write it.

Emery and Hazel have a loving yet complicated relationship. How did you go about developing who they were individually and then as they interact together?

It is a complicated relationship. Hazel has spent her entire life taking care of Emery, and Emery doesn’t seem to have any understanding or appreciation of it. They’re very much stuck together in a seemingly unsolvable situation. There’s a line in the play about mustard plants – planted side-by-side they will each spread as aggressively as they can to take up space and nutrients.

But if you plant two mustard seed “sisters” together, they‘ll curl away from each other to give her sister a chance to grow and thrive. Neither Hazel or Emery has been able to take up her space with the other in her life.


How did the notion of influencers and the power of social media become a part of the story?

Several years ago, I read an article in the New Yorker about a guru who had predicted that the Messiah was going to appear in the form of an Indian man, living in London, who would make a splash on a late-night talk show. When an Indian economist, living in London, appeared on the Colbert show, the guru’s followers had found their Messiah! And soon they were making pilgrimages to his apartment in London, as he struggled to persuade them that he wasn’t their guy. I’ve always been fascinated by peoples’ hunger for salvation, and their willingness to make great sacrifices and leaps of faith to pursue it. I think this has been compounded by the internet, where an influencer’s advice on applying makeup or choosing napkin holders can become a religion. In Rooted, salvation comes in surprising forms.


What do you hope audiences take away from the production?

I hope audiences laugh. I hope they’re moved. And I hope they have something to discuss about the yearning for meaning and belief, the struggle to be truly present, the power of female friendship, and what happens when you slow down time and allow there to be quiet and connection in the midst of a chaotic, sometimes frightening world. And I hope they laugh.