ArlingTEN Short Works Festival

The Arlington Friends of the Drama are holding a fundraiser in the form of a short play festival on the 20th and 21st of November, and one of the plays will be my own “The Evaluation,” a brand-new play never before performed before an audience. Directing the play is my good friend Vivian Liu-Somers, with whom I have worked in a couple of 24-hour play festivals with the Hovey Players. Other playwrights in the AFD festival include G.L. Horton, Debbie Wiess, Jerry Bisantz, Christopher Lockheardt, Patrick Gabridge, and K.M. Sorenson. Tickets may be reserved by calling (617) 484-3308.

Arlington Friends of the Drama: ArlingTEN Short Works Festival
AFD Theater
22 Academy St.
Arlington, MA 02476
November 20 – 21 2015

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Opening night in Oslo

I’m a bit late in posting about this (the past few weeks have been very busy indeed), but better late than never: Two weeks ago, on September 24, Fravær (as Absence is known in Norwegian) had its opening night at the Oslo Nye Trikkestallen. (This version was translated from the English by Cecilie Enersen. She was in touch with me as she made her translation, so it is faithful in both content and spirit to the original.)

And I was there! I’d made the trip to Oslo (this was my first time in Norway) to see the play’s European debut. The Trikkestallen is a small but lively theater that is generally used by the Oslo Nye Teater for children’s shows. In fact, Fravær is the first play for adults to be performed there.

It was, I have to say (and with the understanding that I might be a wee bit biased) a beautiful production. The director, Birgitte Victoria Svednsen, had assembled a first-rate cast, anchored by Marit Østbye is a lovely, nuanced performance as the aging matriarch Helen. The simple set, simultaneously austere and lovely, was designed by Milja Salovaara.

As the playwright, I was welcomed to the theater with warmth and enthusiasm. Several people expressed astonishment that I’d come so far to see the show. As if I’d miss it! I would recommend to any playwright that s/he should see his or her work in a foreign language. When you are divorced with the words of the play, you become connected with its essence, with the emotional ties that connect the characters to one another. (Also, you don’t find yourself constantly thinking, “Wow, that line’s a clinker. Why didn’t I rewrite that?”)

After the performance, there was a reception with Champagne and merriment. Below are a few pictures of me (feeling rather giddy) with the Oslo Nye Teater folks. (For pictures from the production itself, check out the show’s gallery.)

The play runs through October 23rd. Tickets are available here.

Here are some local reviews (in Norwegian, of course):

Aftenposten (rating 5/6)

Dagbladet (rating 5/6)

VG (rating 5/6)

Fravær Party Photo 1
With Cecilie Enersen (translator)
Fravær Party Photo 2
With Marit Østbye (who plays Helen)
Fravær Party Photo 3
With Siri Løkholm Ramberg (dramaturg)
Fravær Party Photo 4
With Birgitte Victoria Svendsen (director)
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Poster for Fravær

The poster for Fravær (the version of Absence being performed by the Oslo Nye Trikkestallen) is now available! As are tickets, which you can order from this website. Words can not express (yes, I know what a thing for a writer to say) how jazzed up I am that the play will be performed in the Land of Ibsen later this month!

Screen Shot 2015-08-19 at 9.00.09 PM



Oslo Nye Trikkestallen
Oslo, Norway
September 24 – October 17

9/7/15: Bumping post to put it to the top of the page

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The Centipede King: A Staged Reading

In July, I worked with Megan Schy Gleeson (who directed the Boston Playwrights’ Theatre‘s production of Absence) on a workshop of my play The Centipede KingNow, you can see the results by coming to a staged reading of the play at the BPT on Monday, August 31, at 7:30 pm. The reading is free!

The Centipede King
Some things are scarier than monsters. 

Something bad happened when Rachel was a teenager. Now an adult, she relates the story of her little sister Lily, who was haunted by the mysterious and possibly dangerous entity called the Centipede King. But as Rachel’s narrative unwinds, it takes on a life of its own. The limits of truth, storytelling, and memory are all exposed in this tale of the horror that lies within one family.

Directed by Megan Schy Gleeson
Featuring Jen Alison Lewis, Ryan MacPherson, Sally Nutt, and Haven Pereira
Monday, August 31 7:30 pm
Boston Playwrights’ Theatre, 949 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, MA
Free admission
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Return of the Hovey Summer Shorts

For the fourth year in a row, a play of mine will be appearing in the Hovey Players’ Summer Shorts in Waltham, MA. I’m always happy to have my work done at Hovey, as my relationship with the company dates from before I ever wrote my first play, having appeared in their production of J.B. Priestly’s Dangerous Corner back in 2003. This year, the Shorts will be including my play “Objective,” directed by Luke Bruneaux. In the lineup are many other talented playwrights, including Hortense Gerardo, Patrick Gabridge,  Christopher Lockheardt, Deirdre Girard, and Vladimir Zelevinsky. The Shorts run from July 10th through July 18. Tickets may be reserved at 781-893-9171.

Hovey Players: Summer Shorts
Abbott Memorial Theater
9 Spring Street at Joel’s Way
Waltham, MA 02451
July 10 – July 18 2015

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Boston Globe article profiles Absence and other plays dealing with dementia

The Boston Globe features a beautiful article by Don Aucoin on the recent flurry of plays about victims of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. Among the plays he discusses are Bruce Graham’s The Outgoing Tide, Sharr White’s The Other Place, Barney Norris’s Visitors, and my own Absence

Given that Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia envelop their victims in a mental fog, it’s striking that Absence and other dramas depict it as a force for a certain kind of clarity, as the ailing protagonists strive for reconciliation with estranged family members. That impulse is crystallized in a line from Visitors, which will run Sept. 18-Oct. 10 at Martha’s Vineyard Playhouse, by an Alzheimer’s-afflicted woman who says to her son: “What if I died, and I still haven’t managed to have even one conversation with you?”

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Writers at Play Showcase

WAP Poster.5Writers at Play:

2015 Showcase of New Work

Monday, June 22. 7:30pm. FREE

Boston Playwright’s Theatre

I belong to a playwriting group called Writers at Play, all of who members are MFA playwriting alumni of Boston University. The group is launching a playwriting showcase, a sampling of full-length new work ready for development/production.  A the event, each playwright will briefly speak about the play, their voice, and where they are in the development process, then we will present 10-20 minutes of scenes as a reading using the professional actors who support us during our writing season.

After by Peter M. Floyd: Nearly everyone of Earth has vanished without a trace, but those remaining have problems of their own.

Duplex by Deirdre Girard: A light-hearted drama with lots of dogs, sex, and unlikely friendships.

Time Steps by Colleen M. Hughes: A group of women unearth the secrets, jealousies, and teen angst they’d thought they’d left on the dance floor many years ago.

There (But for the Grace) by Michael Towers: Andrew’s idea of ritual cleansing is a bit jarring to his former partner’s sensibilities. And why wouldn’t it be?

A Theatre of Jerks by John Zakrosky, Jr.: Cara and her family must make one last decision in the life of their terminal and beloved son and brother. A comedy!

Monday, June 22 at 7:30 PM
Boston Playwrights’ Theatre
949 Commonwealth Ave., Boston


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Absence Goes to Oslo

My play Absence, winner of the Jean Kennedy Smith Award and nominee for the Elliot Norton and IRNE awards for best new play, will get its European debut this fall at the Oslo Nye Trikkestallen. The play will be performed in Norwegian, and appear under its Norwegian title, Fravær. I have worked with the translator, Cecilie Enersen, to make sure that this version matches the language and spirit of the original.

So, if you happen to be in the land of Ibsen in the fall, I hope that you will find time to see it! The run begins on Thursday, September 24. Tickets may be purchased here.

The production will be directed by Birgitte Victoria Svendsen, and feature Marit Østbye as Helen.

Oslo Nye Trikkestallen
Oslo, Norway

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Format change!

As it’s been over two years since I last made a standard blog entry, I’ve decided to rethink the structure of my website. I originally intended to make this page a regular forum for essays and commentary, but the sad truth is that I just don’t have the time (or maybe the strong opinions) to make that worthwhile. Let’s face it, the last thing the world needs is yet another playwright pontificating about what’s wrong with American theater today. (Though there really are a lot of things wrong with American theater today.) So, what was a blog will now become a newsfeed: my posts will be information about upcoming play productions and readings. And who knows, maybe I will slip in an opinion piece every now and then.

I’m also adding a new page, Upcoming. Well, actually it’s just a revamped version of my old home page, which is now no longer my home page. This will list all upcoming events in a simple, chronological format.

I’m hoping this will make the site easier to read. No, I lie. I’m just hoping it will make the site easier to update.

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Playwriting as Improvisation

[Note: The following post is an expansion of a piece originally written for a newsletter sent to subscribers at the New Repertory Theatre.]

“Sometimes [while writing] I’m going along and I find myself writing ‘C. comes in’ when I didn’t know that he was going to come in; he had to come in at that point, that’s all.” – Harold Pinter

I’ve never been much of a planner when it comes to writing my plays. Some playwrights create outlines or write detailed character sketches before they begin their first drafts, or at least figure out an ending they can aim towards. That never really worked for me.

I don’t say this out of pride in the inability of my creativity to be tamed. Quite honestly, life would be a lot simpler if I could be a more methodical writer. When you go on a trip, it’s much easier if you can say, ” I want to drive to Chicago in three days, and I know I have to stop off for a night in Indianapolis.” If my travel planning were like my writing, it’d be something like, “I wonder where I’ll end up if I start driving and turn onto any road that looks more interesting than the one I’m currently on.”

Take the play that recently wrote for the New Voices program at the New Repertory Theatre. It’s called Protocol, and is set in an interrogation room of some unnamed government agency. I came up with a character to be questioned, and two people to question him. I thought up a few stepping stones, images and bits of dialog, and then plunged in.

And as I wrote, I found myself turning onto more interesting roads. The two interrogators started making references to a third, and I realized I’d have to bring in her as a character, too. New discoveries entailed rewriting previous scenes that didn’t fit the evolving narrative. Sometimes I’d completely dry up, and I’d have to brainstorm; in my case, this involved pulling up a blank Word document and typing out any idea that entered my head, no matter how wild, and made further discoveries. (Wait, those two characters are lovers?)

Then there was the ending. Or endings. I must have come up with at least three or four, each one different. The first one was terrible. Then second not much better. Honestly, I didn’t come up with an ending that didn’t appall me until about a week before the reading was set to happen. Curiously, the moral lesson learned by the protagonist in the original ending is the complete opposite from what it is in the current version (I was going to say final version, but it’s hardly that.) In the first draft, he comes to the conclusion that simply because he cheated on his girlfriend, that doesn’t mean he’s responsible for her death. In the new draft, with no changes in the circumstances of his girlfriend’s demise, he realizes that by cheating on her, he is responsible for her death. Honestly, that’s not a moral I necessarily agree with, but it was nonetheless the right one for the play.

Thus, gradually, the play evolved, and the end result was quite different in subject and tone than my original conception. And I was (mostly) delighted by the unexpected turns it had taken. I can’t really recommend this approach for everyone (or even anyone) but it seems to work for me.

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