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

Posted in Absence | Comments Off on Poster for Fravær

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
Posted in The Centipede King | Comments Off on The Centipede King: A Staged Reading

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

Posted in Objective | Comments Off on Return of the Hovey Summer Shorts

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?”

Posted in Absence | Comments Off on Boston Globe article profiles Absence and other plays dealing with dementia

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


Posted in After | Comments Off on Writers at Play Showcase

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

Posted in Absence | Comments Off on Absence Goes to Oslo

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.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Format change!

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.

Posted in Protocol | Comments Off on Playwriting as Improvisation

Fun (and Terror) at the NNPN MFA Playwrights’ Workshop

I spent the last week of July in sunny Washington, D.C. attending the MFA Playwrights’ Workshop at the Kennedy Center. Sponsored by the National New Play Network, the Workshop was an opportunity for a half-dozen selected playwrights to work with professional directors, dramaturgs, and actors over a period of five days, culminating in semi-staged readings.

Back in the beginning of the year, when I had an opportunity to submit a proposed play for the Workshop, I decided (somewhat rashly) to send in a proposal for The Centipede King, a horror play I’d just started working on. It was structured a bit like The Glass Menagerie, with the protagonist inviting the audience to step into the story she is telling, except that (a) the story is about weird insectoid monsters rather than overbearing mothers, and more significantly, (b) the story our heroine tells begins to spiral out of control, as truths that she is not willing to face begin to slip out. I was excited about the piece, because I’d seen precious few horror plays on stage. Plus, it gave me a chance to work out my feelings about centipedes. Let’s face it, no one likes centipedes.

What made this proposal rash was that at the time I made it, back in January, I had about two scenes written… and I wasn’t entirely sure where it was going. As a playwright, I tend to do very little pre-planning. I’ve learned from experience that if I try to bend my writing towards a certain goal, it comes out forced and false. Instead, I make my discoveries in the process of writing, and I’m often surprised, usually pleased, and occasionally dismayed by what my characters do. This isn’t the easiest way to write, and it sometimes means that I get twenty or thirty pages into a play before realizing that it’s going nowhere and have to give it up. Life would be easier if I could proceed like, say, Edward Albee, who (allegedly) has everything in his plays fixed in his mind before beginning to set pen to paper. But that’s the way it goes.

So, knowing that the play could come to nothing, I had feelings of trepidation about submitting Centipede to the Workshop. But I did it. I sent in a rough outline of the play, and sent in the scenes I’d written plus a couple of new ones I quickly scribbled down. It was all a bit of a gamble, but I consoled myself with the thought that it was hardly likely to be accepted.

And then the joke was on me: Gregg Henry of the Kennedy Center called me up to say that Centipede was accepted into the workshop. Oh, no!

Okay, obviously I did not say (or even think), “Oh no!” It’s safe to say that I felt more delighted than terrified; at a guess, I’d say the delight to terror ratio was about 75/25. The fact that the NNPN and Kennedy Center were willing to sponsor the piece meant it had some potential, and I appreciated the validation.

But it did mean I had to write the damn thing, and that’s what I did over the spring. Having a deadline (I needed to send Gregg a draft by June 1) helped me put the proverbial nose to the grindstone, which is always a good thing as I am a painfully slow writer. I did a lot of working out as I wrote, and the story as I developed it was considerably different from how I’d originally planned (I’d explain more, but it would involve serious spoilers), meaning that I ended up not a couple of scenes I’d sent with my original proposal. However, the play was turning out more interesting than I’d originally planned, which is always a bonus.

In order to keep this post to a reasonable length (Ha! Too late.) I will jump forward to the last week in July when, clutching a copy of a complete draft of The Centipede King in my hot little hands, I flew from Boston to the wilds of Washington, D.C. for the workshop. (Artistic license has been activated here; naturally I did not carry a copy of the script on the flight; rather, I e-mailed the draft to Gregg in order to the Kennedy Center to make copies.)

At the KC I met my team; the folks who’d be developing the King with me over the following week. Reading a list of names can be a drag, but too bad because I’m going to pay my respects to everyone involved. My director was Stefan Brün of the Prop Thtr, Chicago, and my dramaturg was Gavin Witt of Centerstage, Baltimore. We had an assistant director, Robert Wighs, and two assistant dramaturgs, Georgia Young and Heather Sell. Also on hand was Christopher Baine, a sound designer. The lovely and talented cast of four were all local DC actors: Kimberly Gilbert, Rana Kay, Lee Mikeska Gardner and Alexander Strain. I cannot praise these people enough. They were all enthusiastic about the play (always gratifying for the playwright) and worked their collective tails off during the week. Each of them provided a wealth of insights and observations that helped to shape the play into a stronger piece.

From Monday the 23rd through Friday the 27th, we had a four-hour rehearsal from 2:30 to 6:30. We’d always start with a reading of the current draft, and then Gavin would lead a discussion about the play in its current version, and we’d have the actors work through some of the scenes that I wasn’t happy with. When the proverbial whistle blew at 6:30, I’d amble back to my Georgetown hotel with Stefan and Gavin (we were all at the same place), talking as we went — sometimes about the play, sometimes not. I’d get dinner somewhere, and retire to my room to do battle with my current draft.

This was always a challenge. As noted, I am not a fast writer, and sometimes it’d take me all night just to make a few cosmetic changes. I was lucky that the play did not require major revising. (A couple of the other playwrights at the workshop had actually brought plays that were only half-written, and had to do much work to get a complete draft in time for the end-of-week readings. If I’d been in that position, the pressure would have caused me to spontaneously combust.)

In the morning, I’d continue revising, but I had to send my current draft off to Gregg by 11:00 in order to have copies for rehearsal. Then I’d have a little time to breathe before going off to the KC for the daily lunch with the other playwrights at 12:30. These were all hosted by Jason Loewith of the NNPN, and gave us a chance to meet the directors and dramaturgs who were working on the other plays. Then I’d go to rehearsal, and the whole cycle would start again.

Yes, it was a lot of work. But it was exhilarating to see my play slowly come to life, like a Monarch butterfly emerging from its cocoon, wings still wet, almost ready to fly.

The presentations came at the end of the week. All of the involved playwrights presented readings of their plays in various degrees of stagedness. The other playwrights in the program (Crap, he’s not going to give us another list of names, is he? Why, yes, he is.) were Chris Weikel, Amelia Roper, Nathan Davis, Johnna Adams, and Andrew Hindracker. We were joined by three other playwrights, Daniel Sauermilch (a selected undergraduate), Mike Lew (winner of the Kendeda Award), and Jennifer Fawcett (who was there as an alumnus playwrights, having been in the MFA Workshop several years previously). I went to all of the presentations but Mike’s, which was at the same time as on of my rehearsals. (I’ll get to see it in October in New York, when it will get a reading along with the Kendeda runner-ups, which just happen to include my play Absence.) And I can say that this was a talented bunch of playwrights. Each of the plays was a knockout; there was not a ragged dog among them. (Even the ones that had only been half-written a week previously!) One hates to play favorites, but I do want to particularly single out Andrew’s Colossal, the story of a football player crippled in a game; the play was structured like an actual football game, played out in four quarters with a clock ticking down, and complete with halftime entertainment; and also Johnna’s Skinless, the other psychological horror story on the roster, albeit one very different from The Centipede King — Johnna’s use of language was just beautiful. But, really, all of these playwrights are up-and-comers. Check back here in five years, and I’ll bet you that they’ll all be names by then.

As for The Centipede King, that had its reading on Saturday afternoon, the last of four straight readings. Quite frankly, I was a bit of a wreck beforehand. I am always anxious before the first presentation of any play of mine, and in this case I was afraid that people just weren’t going to get it.

But I needn’t have worried. Kim, Rana, Lee, and Alexander were all magnificent, and were able to carry the audience away in their pockets. They were assisted by Chris’s eerie sound effects (including the scuttling of centipede feet) which wonderfully established a mood of danger and unsettlement. Robert read stage directions crisply and efficiently. After a few minutes, I could just relax and enjoy the play.

After the reading, Gavin led the Q&A session that followed. The first thing we asked was what people thought actually happened in the play, and as we expected we got a number of different answers. Did I mention the play was imbued with ambiguity and uncertainty? Fortunately, this was a crowd that loved ambiguity, and they responded to the intellectual and emotional challenges of the play. Whew!

I returned to Boston the next day, feeling gratified. I was — and am — confident that The Centipede King has a future, though there are still many revisions to be made before it’s fully ready for production. But more than that, upon my return for the workshop, I felt as if my batteries had been recharged; I was more stoked about being a playwright than I’d been in quite a while. Being at the Kennedy Center not only jazzed my play, it jazzed me as well. And for that I can only be deeply thankful for all of those who were involved in the program.

All of which goes to show that sometimes taking stupid risks actually does pay off.

Posted in The Centipede King | Comments Off on Fun (and Terror) at the NNPN MFA Playwrights’ Workshop

Running the Marathon

These days, you can’t spit without hitting a short play festival. On any given weekend, check out the play listings in the Globe or Phoenix, and you’re guaranteed to find some community or fringe theater putting on a set of ten- to fifteen-minute plays. For the fledgeling playwright, these are a godsend — essentially all of produced work, apart from readings, has been in such fests.

There are a lot of great festivals in the Boston area, from the regular instances of SlamBoston to the SWAN Day event for women playwrights to the late lamented Dragonfly Festival, which used to grace the Factory Theater. But the top, the ne plus ultra, the Mercedes-Benz of ten-minute play fests is without doubt the Boston Theater Marathon, run for the past fourteen years by Kate Snodgrass and the Boston Playwrights’ Theatre. The latest running of the Marathon took place last weekend (May 20), and I was honored to have my play “Love, Billy Bunny” be a part of it.

It’s a great event, quite literally: ten hours of theater, fifty plays of ten minutes each (it was actually 53 this year, for reasons unclear to me), with each play sponsored by a different theater company. Not everyone sits through the whole thing, though gluttons for punishment like me try to catch as much as we can (and this year I managed to watch the entirety, from noon to 10:00).

For a playwright, getting into the Marathon can be a challenge, given that pretty much every dramatist in New England is submitting. I’ve applied every year since 2006, and this year’s Marathon is the third one I’ve been accepted into. (I seem to be on a three year cycle: I first got into the Marathon in 2006 with “Possibilities”, followed up in 2009 with “Perspective”, and now 2012 with “Billy Bunny”.)

This year, I worked with Emerson Stage. My director, Anna Trachtman, and actors, Ryan Wenke and Melissa Jenner, are undergrads at Emerson. Yeah, they’re just kids! But they did a brilliant job with the piece, bringing out both the humor and the horror of the eternal triangle of man, woman, and stuffed bunny. It’s great to be watching a play you wrote, and see it unfold almost exactly how you pictured it. I honestly couldn’t have been more pleased with how it turned out.

On the whole, I thought this was a particularly good Marathon. For a good roundup of the event, you should check out Patrick Gabridge’s blog. I’m not linking to it just because he has nice things to say about “Billy Bunny”. Well… maybe I am. But aside from that, he highlights many of the plays that I particularly liked, including John Shanahan’s “Hot Water”, Walt McGough’s “The Dinosaurs Have a Request” and William Donnelly’s “Animal Boat”. In the interests of logrolling (or blogrolling) I should also single out Patrick’s “Second Look”, a street encounter between two old acquaintances, now in different circumstances. The final exchange between the two characters was devastating.

The post-show party was pretty excellent, too.

Posted in Love Billy Bunny | Comments Off on Running the Marathon