Sunday, November 20, 2011

Excerpt from a new play...SACRIFICE

In case you missed the current issue of The Dramatist - which, I know, you may have, but you would have missed an excerpt of my play. And that would be too bad - so here is the excerpt.

The full play - will be coming soon to a reading or workshop or production near you, contact me if you want to make that happen sooner than later...

SACRIFICE takes place in South-East Iowa. Emmie's been brought from the city to her grandmother's struggling farm by her father, an un-employed truck driver.


EMMIE (16) and MONTGOMERY (14) are target shooting with the rifle. Cans lined up along the fence posts.

Underneath the flat flat flat are downward holes. Mole hills. Filled with ugly. Filled with crazy. Filled with you kill us or we’ll kill you worse.

How’d you get so smart?

I wouldn’t call it smart.

What would you call it?

Wide-eyed and hungry.

I don’t know these things.

You never had crazy in your house. You live with crazy in your house you might end up with the eyes you need to see what’s going on behind things. Under things.

Teach me.

People only learn what they need to learn.


You don’t think so?

EMMIE nails her target.

It’s how it is. You learn cause you need to figure things out to survive. Like if you’re stuck in a house with creepy old dudes wanting to teach you stuff. And most of them you figure out quick – don’t have anything you want to learn. You do anything you can to be away from them. But some of them – well, few and far between, but – some of them are just sad guys who know too much.

I know about that.

You do not. There was this one guy, used to party with my mom. They call it a party but it’s no fun really. Anyways. He wanted to protest the missile silos. He’d camp out on the prairie. Just sit out there with a sign that said ‘no.’ Claimed he was there for a whole year. Some people would bring him food and visit with him, but mostly people threw shit at him and yelled.

What’d he teach you?

Patience. C’mon. We need to practice.

I didn’t get my turn.

You don’t need to know this – you’ve got other things to figure out.

Like what?

Like how far you’ll go. Like whether you’re ready for what I’ve got planned.

What do you have planned?

Figuring it out. So that guy right? Who sat in front of the silos?


Well nothing happened. They still built them. There are still missiles in the ground not far from here with their gyroscopes revolving ready to go. So he didn’t get what he wanted.

They saw him.

As a lame ass loser. Somebody to kick who didn’t kick back.



Who are you fighting against?

That’s what I need to figure out.

Maybe it’s not like that – maybe there’s not really one person, or one thing to fight.

There’s gotta be.

My mom says there isn’t. She says it’s all wrapped up together – fight down one thing and something else grows up.

Like the hydra.

Uh - maybe -

Do they even teach you things here? The hydra. Hercules had to destroy this thing with like seven heads, but each time he cut one two grew in its place.

What’d he do?

Killed it. With the help of his friend. He’d cut off a head and his friend would burn the neck so nothing would grow.

So you need me.

Probably. Probably I do.

EMMIE considers MONTGOMERY for a moment. MONTGOMERY is nervous.


Well -


If there’s no one thing then you’ve got to find out everything you can about what there is, find the weak spots.

My mom says it’s no good to fight.

What do you do then?

Love. Pray. Mostly love. Mostly people need to be loved.

Easier to run.

My mom says you gotta deal with yourself where ever you are. Gotta make where you are right. Running just makes you tired.

That’s a lie. Running makes your heart strong, makes your legs last forever. That’s the kind of thing you need these days. Your mom doesn’t know. Nobody knows. Not really.

EMMIE takes aim at the cans. Hits them all, one by one.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

So I'm working on this collaborative project...

That is described quite finely on HowlRound from the Producers Perspective...

And through the year will also be described from the directors and the playwrights perspective.

We're in the thick of it now.

And its exhilarating.

Saturday, November 5, 2011


I'm also posting at the Coyote Commission Blog.

Writing about starting writing...

click here:

it's a music & reading experience combined.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Dramatist Guild Fellows Event

September 19


Dramatist Guild Fellows Night of Excerpts
Playwright's Horizons


I'll be presenting a scene from THEN AND NOW

Sarah Kate Jackson
Chris Kipiniak

directed by:
Kyle Ancowitz

These other talented folks will also be presenting work:
Masi Asare
Chisa Hutchinson
Anna Jacobs
Peter Lerman
Bill Nelson
Adam Overett
Ayanna Saulsberry
Ken Urban
Stefanie Zadravec

The evening is free and open to all and there is a reception after.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Angels Fall - by Lanford Wilson

Commissioned and presented by The New World Festival, Inc. in Miami Florida in 1982 and then moved intact to NYC in 1983 Angels Fall is a character driven 2-act play that takes place in an isolated mission in the northwest of New Mexico.

The characters assemble there - all except the parish priest on their way to somewhere different - because the roads are closed. Through the first act it is learned that there has been an accident at a near-by uranium mine, though then, as now, it's unclear who is being honest about the extent of the danger.

No, no, it sounds very minor. We're not that close. People all over the country are going to be terribly disappointed. They'd rather have a big gaudy cataclysm. They've been preparing themselves for years.

Each act is a single long scene. Each character carries their own story and these stories at times collide with others in the odd group - other times they burden only themselves. Themes of the divide between rural and urban america, between the university and the 'real' world, between the call to serve and the call to profit snake amidst the characters as they shelter in a tiny church under skies that may or may not be poisoned by radiation.

Reading the play I started listening to Bruce Springsteen's Nebraska also released in 1982. There's something about this time - I was a kid then so my earliest memories are of watching the news from our green & orange canvas couch and trying to make sense of what rising unemployment meant, what was happening in DC with the rise of the homeless population, intercontinental ballistic missles and Reagan smiling reassuringly over all of it. Seems like the rifts and fractures that Wilson captures so elegantly in this sweet breath of a play have only grown over the years, into chasms and canyons so wide that we can barely see the other side.

Tiny lines such as,
I-40. Used to be Route 66. I think they do those things deliberately. Don't want us to get too attached to anything.
are slipped into the simple plot of individuals whose journeys are interrupted by the terrible, and common, disasters of the nuclear age, simply waiting together before they continue on into their disparate lives.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

the four of us - Itamar Moses

I've been away from this. I've been reading, but mostly unpublished scripts. And I've been writing. And the teaching. That's also been happening. But, happily, I started reading plays just to read and the first one I picked up off the piles around the house was this. And dear oh dear am I glad I did. For the play - but also the afterward, which is right up there with the forwards that are included in many of Tennessee Williams collected plays.

The Four of Us is a two character play, David and Benjamin. It follows their friendship from their time at music camp as teens on through their twenties when they are both writers - a novelist and a playwright. It unfolds in nine scenes which move back and forth in time - in one scene different times for each character. Simply, the story is one character sells his first book and starts his professional life with acclaim and cash as the other works, finding some success later with a play written about his friend and their relationship.

I do try in these posts to give a nuts and bolts response. To withhold criticism and praise. There's plenty of that in the world and I'm interested in looking at how the play works, how it's laid out and how the story is told. To be primarily objective.

Being objective with this script is less about description and more about acknowledging the clean economy and simplicity at play in each scene which culminates in a perfect theatrical moment.

(and perhaps the subject matter and the perspective on writing and successes and friends and the frustrations of writing plays is all just hitting its target audience right here at this spot in my heart, but I'm guessing most readers of this blog may share a similar spot.)

Sunday, April 10, 2011

My reading...

April 18, 2011.
Julia Miles Theatre
424 W. 55th Street

You are invited to attend a reading of:

a dystopian romance

Written by
Kristen Palmer

Directed by
Julie Kline

Performed by
Bobby Moreno
Alfredo Narcisco
Chris Stack
Jelena Stupljanin
Sue Jean Kim
Travis York

“This man has no eyes - this man’s heart is broken - and you – you can’t stop us.”

Wine will be available.


We hope to see you there.

Space provided through The Women’s Project Lab.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Seascape with Sharks and Dancer - Don Nigro

A play with a long production history, Seascape with Sharks and Dancer was first done at the Theatre Barn at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst in 1974. It went on to productions at the Denver Center Theatre (1982) and the Oregon Shakespearean Festival (1984). I wonder if plays are allowed to knock around for so long these days, if the original production date is noted and then the play tossed backwards because it is somehow magically stale. But that is a side question.

The play is for two actors, a man and a woman. It takes place in the living room of a beach house. The opening image is a woman, Tracy, wrapped in a towel on the couch, coming out of a dream into Ben's house. She's washed up onto shore and Ben has taken her in. Over the course of 2 acts, with 2 scenes in each act, a relationship evolves, is consummated, and deteriorates into an uncertain detente with a great deal of uncertainty on both sides.

The first scene is getting to know each other, uncovering some of where she might have come from. Tracy evades and tells stories that feel true but unreal. Ben care takes and coaxes her down, and puts up with a lot of abuse from her. By the end she comes to bed with him.

The second scene is the morning after, a relationship is negotiated - with barbs and hesitant offers. Names are exchanged and intimacies and their playing of house is underway.

Act Two opens two months later, same couch, Tracy is breaking the rules and has become a wearer of frumpy nightgowns instead of nothing under towels. Playing house has led to actual difficulties and the remainder of the play is these two flawed, un-moored characters navigating the uncharted waters of intimacy and vulnerability.

It's quite simple really. It's often ugly and occasionally beautiful.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

This Playwright's To Do List

So, elsewhere on the web there have been assertions that playwrights are disconnected from their communities and the nuts and bolts of theater-making. This may be true in some cases, but not amongst the majority of playwrights that I know who work hard to develop and maintain collaborative relationships and embrace opportunities to make locale/company specific theater.

Thinking personally about what I'm up to...

~ Directing/Creating a play with young people at a local youth theater to teach them about all aspects of making theater through a specific project.

~ A commission with an Independent Theater I've collaborated with before.

~ Writing a play for a group of local teenagers to perform as their final senior project with a local youth theater.

~ A play about agricultural policy and the disappearing "middle" in America.

~ A play about delusions, theater and death.

~ A play about Emma Goldman, American Anarchist and Art-lover.

~ Participating in two writing groups and one theater-making group on a regular basis.

~ Teaching Artist work as it comes up.

~ reading scripts for an independent theater company, as a dramaturge for playwrights, and for myself to know what's going on out there on the page.

~ attending 4 - 10 performances a month.

~ a constant stream of applications, queries, updating and staying on the look out for opportunities for the plays already written to find their ways in the world.

And most recently wrote two site-specific plays for Independent Theater companies, attended rehearsals and collaborated with the actors and directors involved.

There are times I've been an actor, a director and a producer - as well as a light board op, sound op, stage manager, assistant stage manager, costume assistant, backstage crew, electrician, grant writer, publicist, etc. etc. But now the title of Playwright focuses my work for myself, and hopefully indicates to others that I create theater - on the page, in the room, and in front of an audience.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Phaedra - Racine, translated into English verse by Richard Wilbur

I am not a scholar of French Theatre, this might actually be my first reading of a classical French work, so please feel free to fill in my gaps and clarify my misunderstandings. My first question after reading this is what was Racine up to - writing this very Greek feeling play after Shakespeare and the Renaissance playwrights had opened up wildly divergent ways of telling a story? Is it an emulation of the Greeks, where this story originated? Or is it the type of play being written in this era? I’ll read more and find out.

Also, after reading this I saw that Adam Bock has a version of the story set in modern times, which I’d love to read next, and also Ted Hughes has a translation.

The story. Phaedra, wife of Theseus, is cursed with an unquenchable desire for her step-son Hippolytus. She resists her lust with every fiber of her being. Before the play opens she’s had him banished and removed from her sight. Theseus, a wandering hero and a philanderer, is off on another adventure and sends Phaedra to the country village where Hippolytus now resides. Phaedra withdraws from society and wastes away from the toxic mix of guilt and desire.

News is received that Theseus has been killed, during a romantic escapade perhaps, and a glimmer of possibility kindles in Phaedra’s mind. Perhaps she and Hippolytus can rule together, perhaps all will be well. But, as Phaedra declares her love to Hippolytus, he announces his love for the banished princess Aricia, whom he plans to make his queen. Phaedra is crushed, in suicidal despair. It turns out Theseus is not dead, he returns to find his house in disarray. To spare her mistress from torment, Phaedra’s servant devises a plan where they will accuse Hippolytus of accosting Phaedra with unwanted advances before he has a chance to humiliate Phaedra. Theseus is enraged, refuses to hear Hippolytus’s protestations of innocence and banishes him. He dies, Phaedra poisons herself and to make some amends for his rashness Theseus forgives Aricia the sins of her fathers and restores her to her rightful throne.

Over five acts through dialogue made up of declarative speeches and monologues delivered by characters to question their own motives and understandings of events, the story unfolds and moves inexorably towards its classically tragic conclusion. Reading it I found my own sense of the romantic to be so ingrained - and my sympathies so with Phaedra - that when Theseus was reported killed I celebrated with her, and believed in the possibility of these two young people to be brought together. This isn’t the outcome, instead, despite Phaedra’s attempts to resist temptation and manage her own impulses she cannot and they lead to her downfall.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

New Design

Hello all,

So I'm re-doing this site to serve as a place to find information about my plays and projects - as well as other people's.

I am feeling pretty remedial at this, so please forward any suggestions or thoughts my way!

Thanks. And yes, I am also planning to get back to reading & writing about plays very soon. I had to take a break to get into my own work for a while.

Now I'm thinking I can handle both again.