The Collaborations That Pay Huge Dividends

In working on a new play, I find that one of the questions I frequently get from audiences is whether the production lives up to my expectations. The expected answer is a critique of how the acting and directing have transformed my words into something I never intended.   Often they are surprised to hear […]

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Radium Girls Jr. in Print

One of the ideas I had for starting this blog was having a place to provide updates about my work.   As it often happens there’s a long lull of not much to report followed by a burst of new developments.   Burst number one — the long-awaited one-act version of Radium Girls is now […]

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Life and Afterlife of a Play, Part 2

Some amazing news came to me through Google Alerts a little while ago.   I’d set up a weekly tracker to follow productions of a few published scripts. Most of the time it highlights calendar listings and occasional features about productions I was already aware of, but it’s a nice way to catalogue press coverage. […]

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Untold Stories

“Murderer!”   A week ago I stood outside Studio Theatre on 14th Street in Washington, D.C., with my friend Jacqueline Lawton and endured that accusation—that we were killers of innocents.   Our crimes? Writing four-minute vignettes based on the true stories of women who had abortions. In my case, my scene was inspired by a young woman who […]

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Open Carry Meets Stand Your Ground

I’ve cribbed this photo below from the blog PQED—it depicts a demonstration of Open Carry activists in Texas, claiming their second amendment rights to scare the crap of any thinking person nearby. They’ve made a cause of toting their assault rifles into such dangerous zones as fast food restaurants and discount department stores, all in […]

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Bad Manners and Bullets

A debate, not entirely civil, has erupted on my Facebook page over a heart-wrenching incident in Florida. If you’re a regular reader of CNN online you already know about an argument in a movie theatre that left one man dead, his wife wounded, and a retired police officer in jail without bond for pulling the […]

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Tone-Deaf and Life-Stupid at Metro

The annals of stupid are long and deep, but some of the worst offenses, I think we must agree, occur in the course of trying to sell something—particularly when that something is very transparently a load of bull.   Keep in mind I grew up on Virginia Slims commercials, back in the dark ages of […]

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Life and Afterlife of a Play

Sometimes you hear The Call and are compelled to your destiny.   And sometimes you hear The Call and hang up on it —because the message sounds garbled and the Voice of Destiny bears a strange resemblance to Phyllis Diller the morning after she went through all the cheap champagne alone.   That’s pretty much […]

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Bring Me the Head of Steven Barker

Let’s just get this straight from the top: I have nothing against Steven Barker. From everything I’ve seen he is a perfectly nice person, teaching drama to kids at Camp Lejeune and generally staying out of trouble. Except that he caused me untold misery over the past 10 days by suggesting that if I wrote […]

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Unexpected Impacts, Part II

The Burlington Players of Burlington, Mass., took a trip to the State House in Boston July 26  as guests of the Massachusetts Legislature. The occasion: The community theatre troupe had walked off with the highest prize in its field a month before—Best Show Award at the 2013 American Association for Community Theatre (AACT) annual festival […]

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The Other 9 Percent

Theatre J hosted a town hall meeting for playwrights on Tuesday night (June 25) and the room was bursting with amazing stories of a D.C. theatre scene that is about to break out as a worthy rival to Chicago, Minneapolis and even—yes, they said it—New York.   Among the most interesting reports from the field […]

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The Troublesome 9.7 Percent and the Break-Through Play

Caridad Svich invited me to participate in the Artistic Innovation blog salon that she is curating for the 2013 TCG National Conference: Learn Do Teach in Dallas). The post below is cross-posted from the salon and can be found at the TCG Circle here.   Playwright Caridad Svich asks how a path can be made for innovative theatre artists.   That’s a […]

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Salvation Road at PTNJ

  On March 15, Playwrights Theatre of New Jersey will feature a reading of Salvation Road as part of its ‘Forum Soundings’ series, focused on youth-centered theatre. This is the latest step in an ongoing development process for the play, which originated as a one-act at the Philadelphia Fringe Festival in 2009, was workshopped at New York University and […]

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From STEM to STEAM: Putting the ‘Art’ Back in Science Education

On Saturday Feb. 23 I crossed something off my bucket list–and was a keynote speaker at the 2013 Theatre in Our Schools Mini-Conference in Richmond, a project of the Virginia membership of the American Alliance for Theatre & Education. Organizer Steven Barker invited me to speak on the topic of incorporating the arts into other […]

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The Long Shadow, Part III: A Soldier’s Story

The package that arrived  in my mail in mid-January came as a surprise, not because it was unexpected, but because the contents were so much more revealing than I had imagined possible—nearly 70 pages of Photostats, detailing the movements of my late uncle Jack in the three years he spent in the Army Air Force […]

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The Artist as Activist–Take It to the Street or the Stage?

On Jan. 26, after a month of planning that was kicked off by Arena Stage’s artistic director, Molly Smith, the March on Washington for Gun Control took place—the first major public demonstration since the Sandy Hook shootings to demand a change in our national gun policy. I was in the thick of it, having helped (in […]

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The Metaphor of the Gun

Something happened last night. It got me so fired up I was ready to let fly with both barrels.   So you know it was big.   And that is why I had to step back and think about my choice of words.  How ironic that the first thing to come to me was the […]

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A Man Without a Conscience, or How to Stick it to ‘Big Gun’

When I started this playwright’s blog, I wasn’t interested in whining about the reasons why theatres don’t produce more plays by women in general (or me in particular, let’s be frank) or the politics of production or the reasons the whole industry is at once relentlessly P.C. and yet so damn conservative.  I wanted to […]

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27 Dead in Connecticut: A Call to Action

27 Dead in Connecticut   The headline is too familiar, and yet, despite a culture saturated by gun violence in fiction and fact, we feel absolute revulsion at the senselessness of it all.   Twenty-seven dead in Connecticut, 20 of them children. They were kindergartners, five or first-grade students, six and seven years old. In the world […]

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The Christmas Card from Hell

I got a Christmas card today from the child molester’s wife.   This is not an unusual event. For the past several years, this woman has persisted in sending me birthday cards, Christmas cards, Easter greetings—this despite what should have been a clear directive to her years ago never to contact me again. Yet she […]

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Breaking the Block Part 6: Cooking With Commies

I confess to a panic attack the other day when I realized that not only  am I behind on the promised scene, I cannot tamp down my anxiety to write it. The excuses are piling up—production, yadda, hurricane, yadda, production, yadda, nostalgia tour, yadda, yadda, yadda—and now the latest: a nasty flu, which I soothed […]

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The Importance of Multiple Productions

Having seen the second production of  Salvation Road—third if you count the original one-act at the Philly Fringe in 2009—I have now received the kind of vindication every playwright craves: I know my script stands up.     With two different casts in two radically different incarnations—David Montgomery’s production at New York University featured original […]

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Salvation Road Redux

Salvation Road‘s run at the Steinhardt School of New York University ended abruptly with the arrival of Hurricane Sandy on Oct. 29. Compared to the loss of life, injury, damage to property, chaos and disruption visited upon the good people of Manhattan–one friend I know of is still without heat two weeks later–curtailing the run […]

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Salvation Road Opens Tonight

Salvation Road opens tonight with a cast of thousands ….   It has been a long process developing this play, a comic drama about a boy searching for a sister who has disappeared into a fundamentalist cult.   Originally a one-act for three actors (hated that version) the play underwent a massive rewrite in the […]

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Breaking the Block, Part 5: The Exploratory Scene

We’re back with my series on feeling my way through a draft of a new play. How to break through the block? In this installment, I’m looking at laying the foundations for an exploratory scene that might not necessarily make it into the play. This is my play about a man with an amazing memory, […]

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After a Long Absence …

It’s been a month since I posted last. My apologies for my absence.  It was due in part to a family crisis.  My mother-in-law, who had been ill for several years, took a sudden, unexpected turn for the worst on Sept. 23 and died the following Saturday.   Doreen was a true lady who grew […]

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Now, Who Can’t Relate to This?

Sometimes you just have to open the Jack. Tamara Federici’s production notes show why some playwrights ought to write fiction and be done with it. I particularly liked this one:   Regarding pauses: short pauses are short, three seconds or so, like the time it takes to sneak out a little fart, i.e. Lucia’s line “No, […]

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Breaking the Block Part 4: The Worst Case Scenario

Some years ago I came across a funny yet utterly serious book called “Worst Case Scenario Survival Handbook” by Joshua Piven—a guidebook on how to survive a series of unlikely disasters—from an avalanche to a shark attack to the crash of a jumbo jet. So I immediately bought a copy for  an artistic director who has […]

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Salvation Road at NYU

Salvation Road opens at New York University’s Black Box Theatre on Oct. 26. Tickets are now on sale and can be obtained online at www.nyu.edu/ticketcentral/calendar, or by calling 212-352-3101. Admission is $15 for general admission and $5 for students and seniors. The show runs from Oct. 26 through the following weekend with performances at 8 […]

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Where Does a Song Come From?

While I’m off on a holiday, I get by with a little help from my friends. One is Mike Diehm, a songwriter and poet who accomplishes what I can only dream of—he writes music.  As someone who has no musical talent, I stand amazed by anyone who can pull a few chords together, let alone […]

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Playwriting: Breaking the Block Part 3

Last week I wrote about an exercise from Michael Dixon to help raise the stakes in a scene. And here it is again:   1. Put two characters who share something in common in a place neither can leave. Write a scene in which the obstacles and stakes are high and clearly presented.   Working […]

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Playwriting: Breaking the Block, Part 2

I have a play in my head that has frightened me for a long time because it will require considerable research to write authentically—and the stack of books I’ve accumulated to begin the work is a bit intimidating. Not that I can’t read; I figured that out when I was six, but there is a […]

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Why a Play? Are Some Topics Too Hot for Stage?

An invitation arrives in my email to consider writing a new play about  a topic so current that taking it on at all seems  to be almost irreverent, given the anguish that many of the players still feel.  But I am not about to pass up an opportunity to work with the theatre in question, […]

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Playwrights Interview Playwrights: Me and Jackie

The wonderful Jacqueline E. Lawton has included me in her series on women playwrights in D.C. You can check out the interview here. Thank you Jackie for thinking of me and including me in such illustrious company as  Laura Zam, Karen Zacarias, Renee Calarco, and Jennifer Nelson. And you can check out Jackie  here. And […]

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Playwriting: Breaking the Block, Part I

  Eric Barker asks us to consider whether we are more creative when forced to work – or whether we ought to wait until inspiration strikes.   Citing Daniel Akst’s book Temptation: Finding Self-Control in an Age of Excess, he concludes that pressure to produce actually results in productivity.   No surprise to me—I’ve long known […]

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The Drama in Drink, or Vice Versa

Barking Up a Wrong Tree is one of my favorite blogs and here is why:   Eric Barker routinely compiles fascinating observations about all aspects of human nature and experience, with the stated purpose of learning to live life to its full awesomeness.  But me being me, which means predisposed to moments of dark ruminations, […]

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The Trickster in Your Play

One of the pleasures of stealing away to a theatre conference such as  the American Alliance for Theatre in Education’s (AATE) gathering in Lexington, Ky., last week is meeting theatre artists with a distinctly different view of process.   Such an artist is Steven Barker, who currently teaches at Camp LeJeune High School in North […]

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Playwrights Interview Playwrights: Adam & Me

The prolific Adam Szymkowicz is famously prolific in another way—interviewing other playwrights for his blog–and today he honors me as writer No. 484 on a venerable list that includes, among others–yes I’m bragging, yes I am, so what?–Liz Duffy Adams, Lonnie Carter, Kia Corthron, Julia Jordan, Rajiv Joseph, and of course my lovely and wonderful Jacqueline E. […]

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The Birth of Cute

And now for something completely different. Word origins, always of interest to me, might be of interest to you as well. The Hairpin explains  the birth of cute. Maybe I’ve just been spending too much time thinking about cute guys I used to know ….  

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So Produce a Different Play Already!

In the annals of theatrical chutzpah, this latest missive has to rank fairly high.   A theatre that shall remain nameless booked several performances of Radium Girls for the coming fall. Okay, cool. I’m excited, because this one looks to be a professional company, even though it’s only a single weekend run. Then comes this […]

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The Subject of Study

“The strength of Gregory’s characterization of Judy is that she does not allow disability to become an all-encompassing character trait that merely paints Judy as either bitter or heroic. …  In short, by using disability as a dramaturgical device rather than a metaphor, a stereotype, or an all-encompassing world-view, Gregory has made the play and […]

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Unexpected Impacts

Trolling through Google with coffee in hand is a favored Saturday morning time-waster, but this morning I came across a stunning discovery — Google images, more than 100, of various productions of Radium Girls. To wit: This visually arresting production, directed by Elaine Vaan Hogue at Boston University, was one I had the privilege to […]

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The Long Shadow, Part Two

The death of his mother as a complication of his own birth meant that Jack Collins would be raised by relatives, not all of them vitally interested in his welfare. In his infancy, his care was left largely to his father’s much younger sister, Margaret, then a winsome and cheerful 16-year-old; as he grew older, […]

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The Alchemy of Collaboration

Working on a new play is always a challenge in isolation. After successive drafts, you reach a point where you lose the path forward—or worse, where the path splits into a dozen different trails and there is no clear indication which one is the right one to follow. That is the point, for me, when […]

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Membership in a Lie

In the summer of 1974, over the objections of my parents, my sister G. and her friend D. set off on a long bicycle trip to New England.  Their ambition was adventure and a much needed change of scenery from the dead-end job she had been working in central Pennsylvania.   My parents feared for […]

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The Long Shadow, Part One

Late in September 1920, a notice appeared in the Springfield, Ohio, newspaper that the young wife of Bill Collins had died. The cause was edema, a complication of pregnancy that she might have survived had her caregivers not put her to bed—and thus ensured the onset of the pneumonia that took her life. The fluid […]

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The Soul of the Drama

Plays have to be lived to be written. This much I know.   If a character’s heart is broken, the playwright’s heart must be the first to go.  So be willing to live and relive the struggle and loss and hope that drama is made on, because if you refuse to feel these things, you […]

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I Get Letters

Tempting as it is to believe my labors are all for naught, I am occasionally confronted with a different reality. This time it is a note card from the exhausted but grateful and excited cast and crew of RADIUM GIRLS at The Shea Theater in Turners Falls, Massachusetts. Director  Robert Freedman kindly forwarded  a review […]

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Doors & Windows

Let us consider a simple mystery.   A man at a party lights a cigarette; from ten feet away, at the end of a narrow hallway, a woman observes him. The next room buzzes with talk and laughter, the rattle of glasses over a Patsy Cline record in full croon. But she sees only him. […]

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