Sharr White's new play is called "Sunlight" (ROBERT CAPLIN, xx)
White, 37, grew up in Orange County and lives in

New York. "Sunlight," in which a university president turns the world upside down in a single night, will have workshop performances at 7:45 p.m. Friday, 2:30 and 7:45 p.m. Saturday and 2:30 p.m. next Sunday.

"I READ the newspaper incessantly. I'm always clipping, always looking for compelling ideas. The hardest part is sitting down, the daydreaming part. I can't feel like I want to sit down and start on something until I have the architecture of the world intricately woven enough that I can tell the story in the way I want to tell it. What I look for is scene that is inseparable from character and plot. I am looking to put together a world in which every movement of every character affects the movement of every other character. The introductory paragraph for the play will take a number of days because I've got to get all the ducks in a row.

If I haven't explored characters' motivations or feelings, then it starts feeling false. I'll keep reviewing everything I've done. It's three steps forward and three steps back. With each new bit of information I discover I need to make the plot tighter or the characters more alive. A slight change in character is going to change everything you say, from periods and semicolons to how much they curse.

With South Coast, you're in communication every few months. Whenever I'm ready to send some new drafts and scenes, I talk with Megan Monaghan, the literary manager. They are very careful in the manner in which thoughts are given. Megan would front the thoughts of [artistic director Martin Benson, producing artistic director David Emmes and associate artistic director John Glore]. It's always very Socratic. It's left me feeling the play has been mine the whole time.

With any play, the big issue is when you have worn out your welcome. South Coast is such a great place for testing, a place where you can start building the relationship between the play and the audience. You can see where people shift in their seats, where they need to breathe, or have a rest from language or ideas. With 'Sunlight,' I went out and did a small workshop in late November, and it was very helpful to see it and to hear it in the actors' mouths. There was one character that was not quite rounded out for me -- he was more of an argument than a character -- so it was nice to see him in an actor's body. I could take the steps I needed after that."