Dramatic Writing

staging a reality

When Words Take Center Stage

pages of text don’t speak to everyone

I would rather watch a play than read it, though you must study scripts to understand how they are composed. Plays are written to be seen and experienced. Choosing to write a play instead of a novel or short story is a deliberate, rhetorical choice.

Dialogue as Lecture

Teaching seldom comes easily, to either the student or the teacher. A lecture is sometimes the worst possible method by which to impart knowledge or opinions. While in college studying to be a teacher, I noticed that the most active debates among my friends were not concerned with texts but instead regarded the previous night’s television, the latest movies, or even a play seen on campus. By the time I received my degree I had realized that the best lecture was the dialogue of a favorite character.

Contrary to popular belief, scripts are an active discussion with the audience. People do not merely sit and absorb the dialogue or action. If people paid no attention to movies or stage productions, there would be no discussions, no critics with whom to disagree. By talking about a television show, film, or play, people prove that these are active works of literature. What better way to start discussions about morality and ethical systems?

Those who have read my scripts notice two things: my dry wit and an emphasis on intrinsic ethics. Everything is a choice, especially for the protagonists in my works. I strongly believe that individuals do develop their own ethical systems, even if they accept the rules of others out of mere comfort. See my pages on existentialism for more on personal choice. My goal as a scriptwriter is to have audiences discussing the choices made by characters, if these discussion occur, I am lecturing effectively.

Beyond Dialogue

Samuel Beckett proved that even plays without words are written, literary works. I have experimented with writing mime, but this does leave the writer even more at the mercy of the actor and director than with dialogue. Without words to guide the actor, directions must be precice and the purpose of every movement explained.

Stage Plays

It was the writing of a play while in elementary school, encouraged by a young, energetic teacher (thanks, Mr. B.), that resulted in my eventual pursuit of a writing career. I thought the play was a failure, in particular due to predictable dialogue, but now I consider dialogue my strength as a writer.

My first full-length play written outside school was completed in March, 1997. I had written plays as a student, but nothing intended for the professional stage. By the end of 1997 I had completed three full-length scripts. I did not write during most of 1998, speding most of my time reading about dramatic writing. I still have a lot to learn. I resumed writing in mid-1999. During the summer of 1999 I completed the drafts of two additional plays. I now have piles of folders with scripts in various stages...

Some might question the logic of starting with full-length scripts, but the choice was based upon the stories I found in my mind. If I had "heard" short plays in my thoughts, then those would be on paper... but I tend to wake up one morning with an entire two-hour play in mind. I can see the characters, the sets, and the most minor of details. Getting the script onto paper is the true challenge for me.

Script Log

Scripts, post-college, by status and date. Most current revisions and new scripts are listed first.

The Gospel Singer

Presented by The LAB Project of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. World premier performances August 14–31, 2014

  • Directed by Monteze Freeland
  • Mils “MJ” James as Isaac / Ruthie
  • Michael Young as Donnie
  • Also appearing: M. Kay Reagle (Erica); Charles Timbers, Jr. (Rev. Walker); Ken Lutz (Pastor James); and featuring John Gresh (Hank)

The Gospel Singer was developed with support from the In the Raw Festival at Bricolage Production Company, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The original 2013 workshop concluded with public readings May 19–20, 2013.

  • Directed by Jeffrey Carpenter
  • Dramaturg Annie DiMario
  • Varian Huddleston as Isaac / Ruthie
  • Sean Sears as Donnie
  • also appearing: Sally Randa, Leslie Howard, John Gresh, Mark Conway Thompson, Jimmy Fitzgerald, and Deryck Tines on piano.

A New Death

Presented by Throughline Theatre Company of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. World premier performances July 18–26, 2014.

  • Directed by Kaitlin Kerr
  • Assistant Director, Sarah McPartland
  • Andy Coleman as Regional Death 143
  • Eric Leslie as Harlan Howe
  • Also appearing: Chelsea Faber (Gabriel), Hazel Carr Leroy (Mother, Nun, Lizzie), Tonya Lynn (Receptionist, Nun, Victim), Sarah McPartland (Homeless, Thug, Kid), Jared King Rombold (Azrael, Thug), and John Henry Steelman (Tailor, Dark Messenger, John)

Women Say Fuck, Too!

Presented by The LAB Project of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. World premier performances May 9–11, 2014.

  • Directed by M. Reagle
  • Cassidy Adkins as Kitty
  • Jackie Baker as Stephanie
  • Linda Kanyarusoke as Dani
  • Developed with Cindy “C.J.” Jackson, Hazel Leroy, and Mysti Wyatt
  • Set design and concepts by P. Milo

Under Development

Organic Theater Pittsburgh presented the first staged reading during the annual Greenhouse Project, August 13, 2013. I thank Jaime Slavinsky, Founder and Producing Artistic Director of Organic Theater and Michael Young, Environmental Director.

  • Lyle Seaman as Developer
  • Rebecca Seaman as Young Sam
  • Alexis Cash as College-Age Sam
  • John Gresh as Grandpa Max
  • Cindy Jackson reading narration

The Garden

The Garden was originally presented by The Visalia Community Players at the Ice House Theatre. Productions were staged September 27–29, 2002. (program cover and review)

  • Directed by Sherald Sluka
  • Clint Showalter as the Gardener
  • Debbie Walker as the Widow
  • also appearing: Summer Robinson, Chris Lewis, Tom Nance, Molly Lovelady, James McCoy, and Melissa Romero

This staging was the result of amazing efforts by the director, Mr. Sluka, and the actors. (photo)

Readings

  • The Cat Lady. Public reading 2014.
  • Here Forever. Completed 2001. Public reading 2003.
  • Alone from Myself. Draft 2001. Revised 2002. Public reading 2001.

Unproduced

  • Betting on Love… or Something. Completed 2014.
  • The Mommy Cam. Completed 2014.
  • Super Shrink. Completed 2014.
  • Friends, Soulmates, and Husbands. Completed 2014.
  • Twists of Choice. Completed 2014.
  • Billie’s Girlfriend. Completed 2014.
  • Assisting the Artist. Draft 2014.
  • The Magic Dragon. Draft 2014.
  • I am The Queen. Draft 2002. Revised 2014.
  • The Fertility Dance. Completed 2013.
  • Clown and Mime. Completed 2004. Revised 2013.
  • My Best Friend. Completed 1997.
  • When Things are Good. Draft 2000.
  • Wrapped Up. Draft 2000.
  • Life's a Beach. Draft 2000.
  • Roommates. Completed 1999.
  • Various other ideas are outlined…

Links

Moved by Musicals

I love theatre, from experimental productions without dialogue to extravagant musicals. Watching theatre is like watching a high-wire act: things can go wrong.

I definitely cannot sing or dance. But, if I could write book for a musical, that would be exciting. My music library includes several cast recordings from Broadway and West End productions.