Letters From Max is emotional, intellectual, abstract and concrete; letters back and forth are a sharing of poetry, words of wisdom and even tidbits of the mundane between a young poet fighting cancer and an accomplished writer and mother of three who is teaching a class at Yale. Some of their exchanges could be categorized as esoteric and very deep, indicating the brilliance of both authors and their own personal explorations of different ideas as they share thoughts with one another. The relationship between Max and Sarah was beautiful to witness and I enjoyed their “conversations” and poems. This book is for poetry lovers, Sarah Ruhl and Max Ritvo fans and for those interested in insights and musings about many topics including religion, creativity and death. An exceptional friendship that expanded both of their worlds (and now ours as readers) feels like a gift from the authors, witnessing a love of words, communication and listening between a student and professor/playwright. What a powerful, wonderfully and mutually beneficial relationship these two brilliant souls enjoyed! I feel grief for Sarah, who lost her friend, but am thankful she had him in her life for the short time; his impact continues and grows.
And head to Off-Broadway to see a version written for the stage! (Only through March 19th, so hurry!)
Sarah Ruhl has adapted the book she wrote with Max (published by Milkweed) into a phenomenal Off Broadway play of the same name. The play, Letters From Max can be seen at Signature Theatre in NYC until March 19th. Jessica Hecht plays Sarah (and soon after will appear with Laura Linney in Manhattan Theatre Club’s Summer 1976) along with Ben Edelman and Zane Pais who are phenomenal and share the role of Max. An overwhelming and beautiful performance with outstanding staging…don’t forget the tissues!
About The Authors
Max Ritvo was born in Los Angeles, CA on December 19, 1990. He began writing poetry at the age of 4. A graduate of Harvard-Westlake School in Los Angeles, Ritvo earned his BA in English from Yale University, where he studied with the poet Louise Glück, and his MFA in Poetry from Columbia University.
In 2014, he was awarded a Poetry Society of America Chapbook Fellowship for his chapbook AEONS. He edited poetry at Parnassus: Poetry in Review and was a teaching fellow at Columbia.
On August 1, 2015, he married Victoria Jackson-Hanen, a Ph.D. candidate in psychology at Princeton University. Glück officiated the ceremony.
Ritvo was diagnosed with Ewing’s sarcoma at age 16 and died from the disease at his home in Los Angeles on August 23, 2016. His survivors include his wife Victoria; his father Edward Ritvo, a psychiatrist and researcher; his mother Riva Ariella Ritvo-Slifka, an autism expert and assistant clinical professor at Yale Child Study Center; and his three siblings, Victoria Black, Skye Oryx, and David Slifka. The investor and philanthropist Alan B. Slifka, who died in 2011, was his stepfather.
Ritvo’s work has appeared in Poetry, The New Yorker, Boston Review, and as a Poem-a-day on Poets.org. He gave numerous written and radio interviews before his death.
Sarah Ruhl (born 1974) is an American playwright. She is the recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship and the PEN/Laura Pels International Foundation for Theater Award for a distinguished American playwright in mid-career.
Originally, she intended to be a poet. However, after she studied under Paula Vogel at Brown University (A.B., 1997; M.F.A., 2001), she was persuaded to switch to playwriting. Her first play was The Dog Play, written in 1995 for one of Vogel’s classes. Her roots in poetry can be seen in the way she uses language in her plays. She also did graduate work at Pembroke College, Oxford.
In September 2006, she received a MacArthur Fellowship. The announcement of that award stated: “Sarah Ruhl, 32, playwright, New York City. Playwright creating vivid and adventurous theatrical works that poignantly juxtapose the mundane aspects of daily life with mythic themes of love and war.”