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Playwrights' Perspectives

Playwright’s Perspective: The Thin Place

By Lucas Hnath
September 18, 2019

Portrait of Lucas Hnath by Zack DeZon.

A couple of years ago, director Les Waters and I were in Chicago workshopping a play called Dana H. It’s a play about my mother that tells the story of a disturbing episode in her life, one that builds to an especially horrifying incident. 

I sensed that the play wanted to ‘break’ after that horrifying incident. I wasn’t quite sure how, just that I knew that I wanted to create some kind of theatrical rift, moving the audience from a relatively straightforward recounting of events to something else.

As I was attempting to articulate what that ‘something else’ should be, Les observed, “Well it’s as if we’ve gone into a thin place at this point in the story.”

I asked, “What’s the thin place?”

“Oh you know, it’s the place where the line between this world and some other world is very thin.”

“There was a spot in the middle of a field that was especially thin—were someone to pass through it they could disappear. And there was another spot on a street; trees were said to walk there at night.”

Les went on to explain that in the town where he grew up there were, according to some folks, several thin places. There was a spot in the middle of a field that was especially thin—were someone to pass through it they could disappear. And there was another spot on a street; trees were said to walk there at night.

“You know, Thin Places.”

I wrote down “The Thin Place” on a piece of scrap paper and thought to myself it would make a good title for a play. I didn’t know what would happen in it; I just thought someday I’d like to write that play.

Three years later I’ve written it. And you’re about to watch it. I won’t say more about where the play comes from or what it means. Best to watch it with a blank mind. The less you know, the better.