Interview: Playwright, Sharyn Rothstein and RIGHT TO BE FORGOTTEN by American Theater Group

Playwright, Sharyn Rothstein and RIGHT TO BE FORGOTTEN

By: Jun. 07, 2023
Interview: Playwright, Sharyn Rothstein and RIGHT TO BE FORGOTTEN by American Theater Group

American Theater Group (ATG), Central Jersey’s professional regional theater company, is producing Right to Be Forgotten, a searing new drama by Sharyn Rothstein.  The show will run June 8-10th at JCC MetroWest in West Orange, NJ and June 15-18th at the Sieminski Theater in Basking Ridge.

The play takes a powerful look at today’s social media landscape, the drama explores how a young man’s mistake at 17 haunts him online a decade later. Desperate for a normal life, he goes to extraordinary lengths to erase his indiscretion. But freedom of information is a big business, and the tech companies aren’t going down without a fight. Secrets, lies, and political backstabbing abound in this riveting new drama, heralded by New York Magazine technology columnist Kara Swisher as "the best dramatic depiction about tech and its power over our world." 

Broadwayworld had the pleasure of interviewing playwright, Sharyn Rothstein about her career and Right to Be Forgotten that is being produced by American Theater Group

Rothstein's play, A Good Farmer was staged by ATG to wide acclaim in 2018. She is an award-winning playwright and television writer. Her plays have been produced around the country by theaters such as Williamstown Theater Festival, Manhattan Theater Club, Ars Nova, Chicago's Raven Theatre, DC's Arena Stage and others. Her play By The Water was the recipient of the American Theater Critic’s Association prestigious Francesca Primus Prize. Rothstein is currently a writer and Co-Executive Producer on Orphan Black: Echoes, the spin-off of the sci-fi hit Orphan Black, soon to be on AMC. She was a writer/producer for the USA legal drama SUITS for many years. She teaches at NYU's Tisch School of Dramawhere she received an MFA in Dramatic Writing.

Who was the very first person to recognize your talent for writing?

I was one of those incredibly lucky kids that grew up with a supportive family. I subjected my parents to countless, lengthy dramas at holidays and other gatherings, and they always cheered, even if that meant finishing the bottle of wine while waiting for the Great Show to end. Every aspiring artist should be so lucky. I had the further good fortune to be born the daughter of a novelist-- my mother, Marilyn Simon Rothstein, is currently working on her fourth book. So the writing genes were strong.

We'd love to know a little bit about attaining your MFA in Dramatic Writing at Tisch.

I was a proud member of EST's Youngblood straight out of college, and knew how vital it was to find a community of other writers and collaborators to give you honest feedback. I went to NYU to expand that circle of writers (it worked, I even nabbed a talented best friend out of it!), and to learn about writing for other mediums. Although I'll never stop writing plays (it's an addiction), learning about television writing from Charlie Rubin was invaluable.

How does your current teaching complement your writing career?

I love teaching undergraduate TV writers at NYU. The students are passionate, smart and come from an incredible diversity of backgrounds. They're constantly teaching me how television and narrative storytelling is changing. My focus in teaching is to help students become better writers, but also to help prepare them for the financial and professional aspects of the career. Too often, we think that because writing is a passion, we don't also need to treat it like a job. If you're lucky, it's both. 

What are some of the challenges of writing in multiple mediums?

Writing a play and writing for television are very different endeavors. TV is a team sport. You have to know how to pitch, how to be good in a room, how to write fast, and pivot even faster when an idea gets tossed out. With a play, you have only yourself to please, so you can be more indulgent. You've got more time to research, to let your brain wander, to get weird. There's a lot to be learned from both approaches-- TV will make you faster, more entertaining-- but theater is where I return to when I want to think more deeply and explore the gray areas of American society.

How do you like working with the team at American Theater Group?

This is my second production with the American Theater Group. It's an honor to have them staging my work again. ATG is a small but mighty theater company, determined to bring first-class, challenging shows to New Jersey theaters. For a small, new-ish company, they are incredibly professional and creatively inspiring to work with. I wish there were more companies like ATG out there. 

What would you like audiences to know about Right to Be Forgotten?

Despite it's weighty title, there's a lot of comedy in the show. Our main character is desperate to have his past mistakes removed from the internet. And desperation, as we all know, can be as humorous as it can be heartbreaking. 

Why do you think the time is right for this new show?

When I began researching this play, few people in the United States had heard the term "Right to be Forgotten." Today, over 70% of Americans want the ability to remove things about themselves from the internet. I wrote this play to explore what it means for all of us imperfect souls to live in a world with a "perfect memory." I wanted the play to be as complicated as possible, because it's that complexity, that nuance, that is so often missing from our interactions online. 

Performances of Right to Be Forgotten are June 8-10th at JCC MetroWest, West Orange and June 15-18th at Sieminski Theater, Basking Ridge. Website for more information and tickets:

Headshot Photo Credit: Rob Kolb 


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