Wednesday, April 13, 2022



The Cover of Mamet's new collection of rambling essays, perhaps better titled "Get Off My Lawn!"

David Mamet, who I have long thought became a parody of himself in terms of his work, is now proving to be a parody of a human being with any kind of rational or sane thought. While promoting his new book of old essays, he made comments accusing teachers of being prone to pedophilia (especially male teachers), all in a discussion ultimately geared toward encouraging the "Don't Say Gay" bill (so much for the Free Speech in his book's title). While these comments are indeed flabbergasting and upsetting, I don't really think anyone should be surprised that Mamet made them, nor should they be surprised that he made them with ABSOLUTELY NOTHING in terms of facts to back them up. One should almost have expected it considering that Mamet, since becoming a relic of a playwright, has spent the last 25 years of his career working hard at being a contrarian, who I'm sure would prefer the terms "iconoclast" or "rebel," a blowhard hoping that there is some connection between notoriety and relevance. Sadly, though, the very aspects of Mamet that enables him to shamelessly make such idiotic comments, were given to him by the theater critics and audiences over the years, the ones who built him up and confused much of is bluster with "bravery" and "genius". I am not blameless in this myself. 

It would be a lie if I said I was never a Mamet fan. Like many playwrights (particularly, but not exclusively male) of my generation, I grew up hearing he was the best. The movie adaptation of his play "Glengarry Glen Ross" was electrifying with James Foley's slick direction and a handful of truly wonderful and wonderfully energetic performances by some great actors. I remember buying copies of his plays "Sexual Perversity in Chicago/The Duck Variations" and "Oleanna", and trying to break them down. His Pulitzer-winning "American Buffalo" is perhaps the first example of Mamet being called a master of dialogue, a poet using four-letter words. And indeed, there is no question he has made an impact on American Theatre in a big way--- but it hasn't all been good. In fact, I would say it is arguable that "Glengarry Glen Ross" is his last good play, and that was in 1984.  "Oleanna," though immensely popular for college scene work, is a play that doesn't come from character but from theme. In fact, I would say that the playwright's intentions are like a big fingerprint all over that script, making it more of a diatribe than a play. By the end, both characters feel more like husks that are being moved around. As for plays like "Race"--- well, who really needs another rich white guy talking about how complicated race is, except when seen through his own white lens? 

Mamet has always had a problem with education. His book, "True and False", encourages young actors to not go to college, and his own daughter, actress Zosia Mamet, told Conan O'Brien during an interview that her father encouraged her not to pursue higher education. Much of what Mamet describes as being the job of an actor in "True and False" is to learn their lines and to say them "courageously". He wrote the slim volume in the height of "Look at me! I'm slaughtering sacred cows!" days. And certainly, the silliness of some method acting needs to be taken down more than single peg, and one can't help but argue that was part of Mamet's intentions with the book. Though one should also remember that Mamet himself went to Goddard College, and also studied under famed acting teacher Sanford Meisner--- he is interviewed for a Meisner documentary and blurbs Meisner's acting book--- and said he was one of the great teachers who was telling the truth. One should also remember that "The Practical Handbook for the Actor" (which I bought when I was in high school and highlighted extensively) was written by STUDENTS of David Mamet and his frequent collaborators William H. Macy and Gregory Mosher. Mamet himself wrote the introduction, calling it the "best book on acting written in the last twenty years"---- this, of course, was before "True and False" came out. The Atlantic Theater Company, founded by Mamet, Macy and their ACTING STUDENTS, still teaches classes based Mamet's thoughts on what actors should know. 

So much for a generation of actors who should stay out of school. 

And one must wonder how someone who has spent a good deal of time teaching can make statements about male teachers being especially predatory. I certainly couldn't accuse Mamet of being predatory himself, though he seems to have no problem generalizing about the predatory nature of teachers for an interview on Fox News. 

Still, he has reason to believe that the verbiage he spews on any topic that crosses his mind is sacred, because so many are quick to call him a genius. He used to get off on it when it came from Hollywood liberals, but, after he very publicly rebranded himself as ultra-Conservative (in typical blustery fashion, saying he was no longer a "Braindead liberal"), he is happy to take the label wherever he can get it. This is why he can call Trump a "great President" and even talk about how the election was stolen--- even though, in a rare moment of walking back, he said he "misspoke".  He has propped up by many to be one of the sacred cows he used to enjoy slaughtering so much. One could reasonably guess he prefers actors without training because they make better puppets. One may suggest that he thinks his dialogue, in which people hardly speak in full sentences but are cut off by dashes and ellipses, is realistic because he likely prefers to be the only one talking and not letting anyone else sneak a thought in a conversation. 

If Mamet possessed any self-doubt instead of his brash, encouraged narcissism, he might be mortified by how ignorant and absurd his recent statements about teachers came off. Unfortunately, I've no doubt that his ego is steering him to view the justifiable backlash as "cancel culture", probably going so far as to smugly think how it proves his point. And this is the same narcissism that destroyed his work long before it hindered his reputation. It doesn't seem like coincidence that Mamet stopped being a "Braindead liberal" as soon as he was completely affluent and celebrated by New York critics as being "the greatest living American playwright," a title which, even when I was a fan, I never thought was true. 

When it comes right down to it, David Mamet is just another hypocrite with too large a platform, an overpraised rich white dude, who believes that what "free speech" means for him (and other overpraised rich white dues) is to never be criticized or ostracized for the "brilliant" things he says, no matter whether they are true or not. Cancel culture only exists when it is directed to people of his ilk. Mr. Mamet wants the rest of the world to be cut off by his dashes and ellipses--- because it really only matters if his speech is free of opposing opinions. 

Thursday, October 21, 2021

A GREAT PLAY FOR HALLOWEEN MONTH: I Interview Bradley Walton About Their Play, "Villains and Zombies"


Angry Zombie Nate Feleke, Photo by Sophia Kurzius

Here we are, Halloween Month still marching on to the final big day, and it is time for me to talk about another play that I think is perfect to produce during the scary season. It is called Villains and Zombies, by my playwright pal Bradley Walton. The show is unique in that it takes the idea of super villains, which we are all familiar with in comics and movies and television, and places them on stage. I was completely fascinated at the idea of directing a graphic novel in a theatrical setting, something one does not get the chance to do very often--- add in the horror element with zombies, some philosophical discussions about redemption, and flawed but relatable characters (not to mention the chance for some disgusting zombie makeup), and you have a perfect show that presses all of my geek buttons.

When I first started publishing plays, I reached out to playwrights who were being published in my market for advice and commiseration, not really expecting people to get back to me. I was mistaken--- most of them did write back to me, but Bradley did even better by calling me up, chatting with me for the better part of an hour and giving me advice and telling me about their experience in the business.

Bradley was generous enough to take the time and answer some questions about the writing of Villains and Zombies, comics, and why zombies are so scary.

Playwright Bradley Walton

BOBBY: One of the reasons I wanted to direct Villains and Zombies is because I loved comics growing up, and your rarely see superhero (or in this case, super villain) stories told on the stage. I know you've forgotten more about comics than I will ever know, and I'm curious what inspired you to take a comic book type story like this (or your excellent play Higher Power) and create it specifically for the stage?

BRADLEY: My answer to this is probably going to be horribly disappointing. Basically, I needed to write a play for my school that year (as I do every year) and a comic book-type story is what was rolling around in my head. Ditto for Higher Power. You can tell any genre of story on the stage, you just have to adapt it to fit within your resources and what’s possible in a live performance environment. That can be constraining, but it can also inspire you to get creative. It also forces you to focus on character rather than the fantastical action stuff, which was fine with me because I was much more interested in exploring how having super powers influenced who the characters were as people.  So it was largely a matter of “This is what I’m going to write this year” and it just happened to be a comic book-style story.

BOBBY: One of my favorite special series when I was collecting was Batman Vs. Predator, in large part because it combined my beloved Batman with a horror creature like Predator. I also collected a Dracula comic series and a brief run of Morbius the Vampire. Were there any specific comics with elements of horror that inspired your writing of Villains and Zombies? Why do you think superhero stories tend to blend so well with elements of the horror genre?

BRADLEY: Funny you should mention Dracula. I used to collect sketches of Dracula that I commissioned from artists at comic book conventions. It was something everyone was familiar with and felt free to put their own spin on, so it made for a good subject. But to answer the, not that I’m aware of.  I’m actually not much of a horror fan at all.  (Very much in contrast to my kid.)  I’m pretty sure I was reading The Walking Dead at that point, but I have zero recollection of it rattling around in my head at all as I was working on this.  (In contrast, J. Michael Straczynski’s Supreme Power was definitely rattling around in my head.) The zombies were really just a device to put a group of deeply flawed characters in a desperate situation that would force them to reevaluate themselves and undergo significant personal growth in a very short period of time.  But I do think horror and superheroes blend well, and that’s because they can both involve fantastical elements.  If you can accept that a person has super powers, then using those powers to fight reanimated corpses isn’t a stretch at all.  Ditto for giving those powers to reanimated corpses, which Marvel has done in its Marvel Zombies comics and also recently on the animated What If…? series.

Full Cast photo from Foxcroft Academy's production, 2014

BOBBY: Another reason I loved producing the play with my high school group was that it led to a great deal of interesting discussions and character work. Many heavy and important themes are in this, which, to be honest, surprised a great number of my colleagues who came to see the show. They did not expect a play about villains battling zombies to carry themes such as redemption, the shades of gray between good and evil, loyalty, loss, guilt and even how a marital relationship can strain and break. Can you tell me a bit about how you decided to explore these kinds of themes through this story and these characters?

 BRADLEY:  Aside from the two main characters and their ex-marital relationship that serves as the backbone of play, along with the basic concept, setting, and the ending... everything was made up on the fly as I wrote, and I wrote pretty quickly.  It was kind of amazing.  I’d just reach blindly into my head for the next thing that I needed and there it was.  And very little revision was needed afterwards.  So it really wasn’t a conscious decision to explore those themes, so much as “that’s just what came out.”  As to why that’s what came out, I’d say it was because I was a fan of dark, character-driven superhero comics, so that’s where my brain went.  It probably helped that I knew exactly how the play would end, and I was always writing with that specific direction in mind.

With respect to the divorced couple who are the play’s two main characters...I’m very happily married and have been for 25 years.  When I write about couples in relationships, to some extent I’m always drawing on my relationship with my wife.  The two characters in the play had a marriage that was grounded in causing mayhem together as super villains.  They were forced to go into hiding when something happened that made the world too dangerous to be a super villain, and without the mayhem, their marriage fell apart.  But they still love each other.  I can relate to that.  I can write that.  So I did. 

BOBBY: What do you think it is about zombies that makes them so scary to us, but also so very popular in our entertainment?

BRADLEY:  They’re people.  Or at least, they used to be.  They could be someone we love.  They could be us.  We can easily see a dark reflection of ourselves in them, which is what makes them great metaphors for other things...mindless consumers, mindless followers of some particular ideology, mindless pretty-much-anything-you-can-think-of.  They’re not complicated or difficult to understand.  They can be physically horrific to look at....or not.  Zombies are incredibly versatile.

BOBBY:  And finally: what advice do you have for any school or community theater group out there that is interested in producing Villains and Zombies?  (Note:  As someone who has directed a popular production in my home town, I highly recommend it!)

BRADLEY:  When I did the play with a group of high school students, they had some difficulty relating to the characters.  The super powers had nothing to do with it.  It was the grounded-in-the-real-world stuff...marriage, divorce, reconciling, going into hiding, giving up the thing that gives your life meaning, being a criminal, choosing to be something other than what you’ve been  your entire life...they had very little personal experience to draw on relating to these things.  So if you’re doing this play with younger actors (or even older ones), plan to spend some time working on them getting to know and understand their characters.  

From a purely technical standpoint, there’s some offstage dialogue at the end of the play that’s easy for the audience to miss because there’s a lot going on.  Make sure that dialogue is clear, audible, and try to find appropriate beats in the action to insert it.

Also, if I was writing the play today, I would probably have given the two main characters different super villain names than North and South, because I feel like in the current political climate, those words have become more readily associated with the Civil War. I used those names because I associated them with cold and hot. No Civil War connection is implied or should be inferred.

Leah Word and Gabriel Piquette as Malin and Monstro, respectively

Again, I want to thank Bradley for taking the time to answer my questions, and to highly recommend Villains and Zombies for production. My students had a blast. I produced the play in 2014, and just a few years ago, one of the students from the show made a long post on social media about how lucky and grateful he was to be in a play that combined super villains and zombies while in high school, making the point that it is so rare to be able to portray something so cool in a high school play.

Now that's a positive impression!

If you would like to learn more about Bradley's work, and you are in luck because there is a whole lot of it!, you can do so by clicking the links below:








And if you would like to learn about my spooky comedy for younger audiences, Are We Scared Yet?, you can do so by CLICKING HERE

Please comment below with the titles of your favorite Halloween Month plays!

And feel free to visit my book review blog, "My Only Friends Are Books" by CLICKING HERE

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

PLAYS FOR HALLOWEEN MONTH!: A look at "The Canterville Ghost" by John Vreeke, adapted from the novella by Oscar Wilde


Mariah (as Virginia Otis) and Bob (as the Canterville Ghost) in a production I directed for Lakewood Theater in Madison, Maine. "When a golden girl can win/Prayer from out the lips of sin"

The Canterville Ghost by John Vreeke is a most faithful adaptation of Oscar Wilde's story, as, in fact, it takes much of Wilde's prose and splits it up among the characters. It is a piece, much like readers theater, where the cast simultaneously narrates the story and acts it out, often picking up cues mid-sentence from one another. It was challenging to direct such a piece, and, I daresay, challenging for my actors as well (though I can say with all honesty that they all did a wonderful job). The flow is of utmost importance, and the script is a valuable lesson of looking and listening, so vital for every actor. 

If you are not aware of the story, it involves an American family by the name of Otis moving into a haunted manor house in England in the late 1800s. The house is haunted by Lord Canterville, an actor who murdered his wife in 1587. The house comes with a very serious housekeeper and butler, who warn the American family that they are moving in with a ghost. The family is nonplussed, and, part of the humor in Wilde's story is the fact that our Canterville ghost cannot scare these Americans, not even with the pool of blood that reappears even after it is scrubbed away daily.. It is also very playful in terms of the difference between Americans and the British. Even during his most extreme haunting of the family, the Canterville Ghost must endure the indignity of the family's father telling him to oil his chains, and the young rascal twins (patriotically named Stars and Stripes) hitting him with their pea shooter. 

The ghost being attacked by the family after a failed haunting

The heart of the play is in the relationship between Virginia Otis, around 16, and the Ghost himself. There is a prophecy that goes like this:

"When a golden girl can win
Prayer from out the lips of sin,
When the barren almond tree bears
And a child gives away its tears,
Then shall all the house be still
And peace come to Canterville."

Virginia is sensitive, an artist herself who has some lovely moments with the deceased and hammy actor. Here, the humor shifts into a poignant, lovely examination of death, the type really only Wilde can pull off. "The Ghost is so very tired. And it is Virginia who helps to release him, and bring the aforementioned peace to Canterville--- and not just the estate. 

Again, Mr. Vreeke's adaptation is not without challenges, but it is a rewarding piece that I enjoyed directing immensely.  You can find the rights to it by visiting Concord Theatricals--- simply 

If you're looking for a funny, spooky take on urban legends and ghost stories for younger audiences, check out my play ARE WE SCARED YET? by CLICKING HERE

What are some plays that get you in the Halloween spirit? Comment and let me know!

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

PLAYS FOR HALLOWEEN MONTH!: A Look at "Dracula" adapted for the stage by Steven Dietz


Maggie Kelleher as Lucy, Mark Nadeau as Van Helsing in the middle, and me as Dr. Seward in Lakewood Theater's production of Steven Dietz's Dracula. My character should be relieved Lucy didn't marry him, since she's an undead monster now. 

I love Halloween. I suppose that isn't rare for someone who has spent most of their life in the theater. I imagine most performers  have a soft spot for a holiday all about getting into costume and getting out of yourself for an evening...

I also love horror movies and spooky books. I'm a Maine boy, so I have read a great deal Stephen King's work, because he is our Emperor in these parts. 

I also like spooky and scary plays, or any play with a Halloween vibe, though I sometimes think they are overlooked. That's why I've decided that this month, I will highlight some plays that I think are great for October, or, as I like to call it, Halloween Month. I figured I would start with Dracula by Steven Dietz, based on the novel by Bram Stoker.  I played Dr. Seward in a production at Lakewood Theater, and will share photos along the way...

Me as Dr. Seward, who is facing down madman and Dracula minion, Renfield, played by Bart Shattuck.

I have always loved vampire stories, so, as soon as I was old enough, I read Stoker's novel Dracula, the father of them all. I remember rushing to see Francis Ford Coppola's film adaptation when I was in middle school (probably too R-rated for me at the time, but I had cool parents), and while I loved it (I was like 12--- what wasn't to love?), I also wondered why every adaptation of Stoker's novel seemed to add a love story that just isn't there in the book. 

I was happy to be cast as Dr. Seward in Lakewood's production. Both of my parents had been in a different adaptation of Dracula when I was a boy, and I remember watching it over and over again. So being in my own production felt like a foregone conclusion, and I was happy to be in this particular production with my friends Jak, Maggie, Nick, Hannah, Jen, and everyone else involved. 

Playing Dr. Seward was a special treat, because I particularly like how Dietz treats the character in his adaptation.  Adapting a novel, particularly a longish one like Dracula, is not an easy task. Obviously novels and plays are very different art forms. But Dietz is faithful to the source material, while making a very theatrical play, condensing events and keeping scenes moving quickly from one to the next. 

Maggie (as Lucy) gets a nice necklace from Mark as Van Helsing, while Hannah as Mina and I look on and try not to be bothered by the smell.

Dietz wisely does not dramatize each of Lucy's suitors, though they are all mentioned. Dr. Seward stands in for the rest of them, and Dietz gives him a lovely monologue as he proposes to Lucy. It shouldn't be a spoiler to say that she rejects him, though in the script, he sees the rejection in her face, but continues his speech as a good gentleman should, telling her he will always be there for her when she needs him. From this speech and scene, Dietz continues  the speech as Seward decides to take comfort in his work, and uses this transition to a seamless scene with Renfield. Again, I am fond of how Dietz is able to keep the action moving with transitions like this... with so many scenes, a production can die of boredom unless the script keeps them moving. 

What could be wrong with Lucy? I hope it's not a freakin' Dracula!

I am of the opinion that live theater can actually create a creepier experience with scary stories than movies, due to the fact that it is life, happening in the moment to be shared with the audience. When it's going well, there is a lovely energy in the air. 

And, trust me, don't skimp on the blood. 

Take a bow!

So if you're looking for a good Dracula adaptation, I am a fan of the one by Steven Dietz. Sure, there are probably wilder ones and musical ones, but Dietz is true to the story and has plenty of atmosphere, and, in my experience, can be as simple or as complex to stage as your production will allow. If you are interested in learning more about licensing it, you can visit its page on Dramatists Play Service's website by CLICKING HERE

If you are looking for a fun and funny spooky play for younger audiences, may I suggest my play Are We Scared Yet?  from Elderidge Publishing? It takes some popular spooky stories and urban legends and gives them a fun little twist. You can learn more about that play by CLICKING HERE. 

What is your favorite scary/spooky/Halloweeny play? Let me know in comments!

Sunday, October 3, 2021



Above, you will find a video about Erskine Academy's theater program in my home state of Maine, under the direction of Mr. Nored.  Last year, Mr. Nored and his wonderful group of students presented my play Confession: Kafka in High School for the state high school one-act play competitions. Even though I have lived in Maine for most of my life, my plays are rarely produced in my home state: I can count on one hand the number of productions of my plays in Maine that I haven't directly been a part of myself. So it was exciting for me to see that they were putting on my play, particularly since it is one of my personal favorites.

Time and again, the universe likes to tell us that, as Disney Land says, it's a small world after all, and not only was Erskine Academy putting on my play, but one of the actors, who also served as a student director, was the daughter Heidi Bray (who I knew as Heidi Ryder), a high school friend I was in a number of plays with lo those many years ago! Knowing that the daughter of a friend I had fond memories of going to one-act competitions with was now in a competition play written by me was surprisingly moving for me and gave me an interesting sense of... I don't know.... perhaps symmetry is the best word. 

Heidi is the blonde young lady... I'm the short guy being strangled affectionately

Heidi's daughter is named Lily, who at the time of this writing is a senior and an honor student.  Since I know her Mom and her grandmother, I thought this might be an opportunity for me to connect to an actual student who was recently in one of my plays and get direct feedback about her experience, what she and her cast mates found engaging, and to hear her thoughts about the piece as a whole. Since I no longer teach but still write a great deal for high school students, I felt this would be good for me and good for my writing--- particularly since I have been toying with the idea of writing a companion piece to Confession which would feature the character that Lily portrayed (a character named Miss Delisle, a principal at a high school, who is actually one of my favorite characters I have written in a play for students).  Lily kindly agreed to meet with me via Zoom (how else do people meet nowadays) to chat about her experience. The fact that she was not only a performer in the piece but a student director as well (something I think is a great thing for Mr. Nored to do, giving students these creative leadership roles) gave an extra layer of insight. 

Lily has always been interested in theater. Her middle school only had a theater program for one year when she was there, but she loved it and decided to shadow the drama class at Erskine when she had the chance for a "move up day".  As soon as she was a freshman, she got into her drama class, and through the drama class, got involved with the theater club.

Confession: Kafka in High School was my attempt to make themes explored in works like Kafka's The Trial  relatable to high school students, by having a character named Connor K (or Constance K when performed by someone who identifies by a female, like in Erskine's production) wake up to find himself or herself in a conference room at the the high school, accused by Ms. Delisle of having done something against the rules and being told to confess to his or her crimes. The only problem is, no one will tell Connor or Constance what they are accused of. From here, it leads to some of the issues of the absurd and existentialism, as well as the nature of authority that Kafka (and many others) approach in their classic works. 

Lily tells me that she and her fellow students thought a great deal about the questions of authority and what control (or lack of control) students may have in certain situations. I asked Lily if her portrayal of Miss Delisle, who we agree is very manipulative with her authority over students, was inspired by any real-life experiences. 

"When she is tearing the students apart, that is definitely a real life thing," she told me. "Not all teachers, but some teachers, will use their power to scare you into things.... No teacher has ever done this to me, but I have seen it happen, teachers using their authoritative control. Miss Delisle used her power to get what she wanted in the end."

Lily is rightfully proud of decisions she and her production mates made in terms of the set. One such decision I absolutely loved was adding pet door in the set for a character named Mr. Demetri, Miss Delilse's vice principal and yes-man. It resembles a doggie door, and is used only by this character who acts like lap dog to the character. It is a perfect example of making a choice that is not in the script (largely because I would never have thought of it!) that heightens both the character and some of the more absurd and darkly comedic themes. "We wanted to play up the fact that Mr. Demetri is the complete minion of Miss Delisle," Lily said. "Whatever Miss Delisle has, he has the.. well, the Wal-Mart version, if you will.... and no one else used it but him."

I was very excited to hear some of the other choices the student directors and cast made to heighten the absurdist elements of the play. "In rehearsals we were laughing all the time as things became more and more absurd," she said, which is always good for me to hear. "Every character had an absurdist piece to their costume, and other wacky characteristics." She described a character with a tool belt that hand everything but a tool on it, as well as a teenage girl with a Santa Claus fixation, carrying a Santa bag, and sometimes sneaking in a "ho, ho, ho" on occasion, while she would replace props onstage with cans of Spaghetti-Os (that Lily then later opened up and ate uncooked with her bare hands). 

"I wish you could have seen it," she said more than once, and I wish I could have seen it, too. 

I think the most rewarding thing for me to hear was how Lily and her other student director were very much into collaboration with the rest of the cast. Giving the actors a chance to own their characters is so important, to encourage young actors to make choices and commit to them. That's is one of the most important things to learn as an actor.  And hearing that they engaged with what I was trying to do with my script while also having so much fun meant the world to me. 

Lily tells me that, like myself when I was a student, the one-act play competitions are her favorite part of the theater season. I always loved the bus rides, watching all the other plays from the other schools and meeting other like-minded theater students. My heart has gone out to theater students who haven't been able to have one-act competitions in the way they have always been because of Covid-19, and Lily, like most theater students, has felt the impact of these changes. Still, she is grateful that they found a way to put on a show and compete last winter, and she is all set to act and co-direct the one act play competition this year. 

Near the end of our conversation, I asked her a more general question about the importance of theater and the arts in her school. 

"It's so important," she told me. "Theater club has always felt like a very accepting and very safe space, and I think that's important for the school to see... I love going to theater club because it's like an escape from the rest of my day... you get to release a lot of negative energy by performing and discussing what you're doing. It's completely an awesome time."

That last sentence is also the perfect way to describe my conversation with Lily:  a completely awesome time. Hearing about her experience with her friends and cast mates was a lovely reminder of why I write plays and why I have spent so much of my life working with students. As the title from this post suggests, cliché or not, I learn more from them than I feel they could ever learn from me. It is also a reminder that, in my opinion, theater will never go out of style and will always be meaningful and vital for our culture. 

Thanks for reading my blog. If you want to read Confession: Kafka In High School or license it for a production, you can visit the Playscripts, Inc. website by CLICKING HERE.


Friday, October 1, 2021



If you haven't been following my blog (it's okay, there's a lot of stuff to do in this world of ours), I read 30 plays for the 30 days of September, one a play a day, reading the plays in one sitting to get a good feel of their dramatic arc and structure. I then wrote about each play, giving a basic run down of what it was about, as well as some history of its premiere production and its playwright, and other dramaturgical information, as well as some of my opinions about each play.  The 30 plays were as follows (you can click on each one to go to my post about it) :

1. Lemon Sky by Lanford Wilson
2. Ceremonies in Dark Old Men by Lonne Elder III
3. Painting Churches by Tina Howe
4. The Flies by Jean-Paul Sartre
5. All Over by Edward Albee
6. Other Places by Harold Pinter
7. Marat/Sade by Peter Weiss, Translated by Geoffrey Skelton, Verse Adaptation by Adrian Mitchell
8. for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf by Ntozake Shange
9. Brilliant Traces by Cindy Lou Johnson
10. Titanic by Christopher Durang
11. Sticks and Bones by David Rabe
12. Bosoms and Neglect by John Guare
13. Arcadia by Tom Stoppard 
14. R.U.R. by Karel Čapek
15. Trudy Blue  by Marsha Norman 
16. Morning, Noon, and Night by Israel Horovitz, Terrence McNally, and Leonard Melfi
17. Jack and Jill: A Romance by Jane Martin
18. The Good Doctor by Neil Simon
19. Fences by August Wilson
20. Tea and Sympathy by Robert Anderson
21. One Flea Spare by Naomi Wallace
22. The Taking of Miss Janie by Ed Bullins
23. The Master Builder by Henrik Ibsen
24. I Hate Hamlet by Paul Rudnick 
25. Hunger and Thirst by Eugene Ionesco
26. Summer and Smoke by Tennessee Williams
27. Mary, Mary by Jean Kerr
28. Indians by Arthur Kopit
29. Salomé by Oscar Wilde
30. Little Murders by Jules Feiffer
BONUS PLAYS THROUGHOUT THE MONTH:  This Property is Condemned by Tennessee Williams, Come Down Burning by Kia Corthron, and My Left Breast by Susan Miller

As the title of this post might and the above picture suggests, spending a month focusing on reading a play daily was very good for me, and I think it will be good for you, too. 

But why, Bobby, why?

Here are a few reasons:

- IT REFRESHES YOUR VISUALIZATION:  I found that working my visualization muscles was a real treat. Setting the scene in your mind, hearing the characters in your head, and actually watching the play unfold in your imagination is a valuable tool for any playwright, actor or director. 

- DETECTING STRUCTURE BECOMES ALMOST AUTOMATIC: Especially with well-crafted plays, the reader begins to fully and almost inherently feel the structure of a play, and sense its dramatic arc. Clearly, this is valuable for any one involved in theater. 

-ONE BEGINS TO GLEAN CHARACTER BUILDING TECHNIQUE AND DRAMATIC ACTION: All these things one learns in a script analysis class or an early acting college course can start to be gleaned simply by reading plays, paying attention to how dialogue creates ACTION for character, how the dramatic action builds based on OBJECTIVES and OBSTRUCTIONS. One can find this stuff easily on the page--- it is not hard to find, because as you read, you simply begin to understand it as you let the play build in your imagination. 

- IT IS FUN:  Yes, pure and simple, reading plays is fun. And by fun, I don't just mean with the comedies and laughing, etc. Fun is also being engaged. Fun is feeling something deeply, understanding something in a new way that you have never understood it before. 

-IT IS BOTH HISTORY LESSONS AND EMPATY LESSONS:  I noticed when reading many of these plays, particularly American plays of the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, how even plays that weren't outwardly political had something to say. Mary, Mary example, in many ways, seems like just a fun comedy, and it is that, certainly. But when you think of the time period and a female protagonist taking agency for herself, making the choices based on what she wants, it is a statement. A play like Tea and Sympathy  comments on toxic masculinity before the term existed, and comments on homophobia when it wasn't popular to do so. And plays like Indians, Fences, Come Down Burning, and The Taking of Miss Janie  deal with America's racism in stark and honest and necessary ways. And by presenting all of this as plays, where the reader and the audience is in the character's shoes, hearing their voices, it becomes an easier delivery system for empathy in many ways than other forms of writing (in my opinion... but don't get me wrong... I love pretty much all forms of writing). 

Do I think if you are serious about theater that you should try a similar challenge of reading 30 plays in 30 days?  Yes I do! 

Do I think if you just like reading that you should try a similar challenge of reading 30 plays in 30 days? Yes I do!

Do I think we should normalize reading plays in the same way that we read novels and short stories and poems,etc.? You bet! 

I know I plan to keep reading more and more plays. As a playwright, it has recharged my batteries and inspired me. I hope to read at least one play a week from here on out (on top of all the books and such I want to read, too). 

Don't feel you have to have the same reading list that I did (although I must say it is a pretty good one... I did try to be diverse and wide-ranging). Read any type of play that interests you, and then, please feel free to comment here and tell me about it. 

Thanks for taking the time to read my final thoughts on my 30 day play reading challenge. Go out and have a great month of reading yourselves! 

Shameless plug:  If you want to read any of my plays as part of your challenge, you can learn about them by CLICKING HERE

Thursday, September 30, 2021

30 PLAYS IN 30 DAYS: Play #30 "Little Murders" by Jules Feiffer


The Penguin Edition of the Play, featuring a still from the film adaptation

I can't believe it... September is almost over, and my challenge is officially finished. I have read 30 plays in 30 days. Today, I will do my daily write up of the day's play, but tomorrow, I will write a little bit about the value of this experience, and how reading plays every day has made me feel great, and taught me a great deal, too. In short, I recommend it if you are looking for inspiration. But more on that tomorrow. In the meantime...

Play #30

Little Murders by Jules Feiffer

I have said this about several of the plays I have read this month, but Little Murders, despite being dated in some regards, is honestly just as relevant today, if not more so. I had read the play a number of years ago, probably as a teenager or young adult, but couldn't remember it--- strange, since as I read it today, I realized it was a piece that really hits my sweet spot as a reader and audience member--- a savage and savagely funny satire and dark comedy that brilliantly and forcefully depicts an America where violence, and particularly gun violence, is as American as apple pie (as Clive Barnes wrote)... or, in other words, simply America. Feiffer said he was inspired to write the story after the assassination of JFK (though he was not necessarily a fan), which was quickly followed upon by the assassination of Oswald, and the violence in Vietnam:  "So the motive of the play was the breakdown of all forms of authority--- religion, family, the police. Urban violence was always the metaphor in my mind for something more serious in the country." (Quote from the New York Times)

The play begins in the Newquist family's apartment: the matriarch, Marjorie needs to prepare for dinner, as grown daughter Patsy is bringing her new boyfriend Alfred over to meet her family. Carol, the patriarch (who hates being called by his given name of Carol), figures he will have to booze up the young man to find that he isn't good enough for his daughter. He is adamant that every boyfriend of Patsy's has not been a "real man", and questions their sexuality, all while ignoring his son Kenny, living at home but attending college, who may be closeted. Patsy, a very positive, bright, and strong daughter arrives. She is adored by her father and brother, yet her mother seems somewhat uncomfortable around her. Alfred, her new boyfriend, is a big guy with bruises all over his face--- because of his size, he says that people always want to pick fights with him. He lets them beat on him (as long as they don't touch his cameras--- he is a photographer) until they tire out. This does not sit well with Carol:

CAROL: Christ Jesus, you're not a pacifist?

PATSY: (warning) Daddy...

ALFRED: (slowly shaking his head) An apathist. 

Patsy, in fact, can't pull herself away from Alfred because he is so different--- he won't fight, and because of this, she can't win a fight with him. 

The family and guest sit down for dinner amidst rolling blackouts and gunshots going on at a fairly regular rate outside the window. And this continues all throughout the play, the gunshots, even before the wedding of Alfred and Patsy (after a big to-do because Alfred doesn't want God mentioned in the ceremony) until, ultimately, there are tragic results from the gunshots, leading to the death of a major character (I won't say which one). Bringing about an ending that essentially paints the picture that the American way of dealing with gun violence is by becoming perpetrators of it yourself. 

Jules Feiffer was known as a cartoonist first, at the Village Voice (where he produced the weekly comic strip Feiffer until 1997) before garnering a reputation as a writer and playwright, though as Clive Barnes noted, his cartoons are always monologues from a character, or dialogues.  He wrote the animated short Munro which won an Academy Award. He also wrote a novel called Harry, the Rat With Women in 1963. 

Little Murders  first appeared on Broadway in 1967, featuring Elliot Gould (who would later star in the film adaptation), but it was iced out by critics and closed after seven performances. It fared better in London. But then in 1969, it was staged Off-Broadway, where it probably belonged in the first place, in a production featuring Fred Willard and directed by Alan Arkin (who would helm the film), and received great reviews and ran for 400 performances. 

Feiffer is 92, and, from what I could find, he is still teaching at an MFA program at Stony Brook Southampton. He won a Pultizer for Editorial Cartooning, and is in the Comic Book Hall of Fame. 

I cannot tell you how much I love this play. It is the type of bold, dark comedy that I find both hilarious and poignant and important... the kind of work I like to do myself from time to time. I would love to see it produced a whole bunch--- as I say, it is still very relevant. 

If you are interested in reading it or licensing it for production, you can do so by clicking this link to CONCORD THEATRICALS.

Any thoughts on this play or this film?  What are some other great plays you think I should read and discuss? Please feel free to comment. 

And if you're interested in my work, check out My List of Publications.