Archives for category: Drama


“I have a one-volume Shakespeare that I have just about worn out carrying around with me.” WILLIAM FAULKNER

William Faulkner stated many times that William Shakespeare served as his single greatest influence. An article entitled A Casebook on Mankind: Faulkner’s Use of Shakespeare” by Robert W. Hamblin explores the connection between the two authors. An excerpt is included below.

Throughout his career William Faulkner acknowledged the influence of many writers upon his work — Twain, Dreiser, Anderson, Keats, Dickens, Conrad, Balzac, Bergson, and Cervantes, to name only a few — but the one writer that he consistently mentioned as a constant and continuing influence was William Shakespeare...In one of his last interviews shortly before his death in 1962, Faulkner said of all writers, ‘We yearn to be as good as Shakespeare.’ 

The parallels in the lives and careers of the two writers are remarkably striking.  Both were born in provincial small towns but found their eventual success in metropolitan cities, Shakespeare in London and Faulkner in New York and Hollywood…Neither received a great deal of formal education.  Both started out as poets but shortly turned to other narrative forms, Faulkner to fiction and Shakespeare to drama…

Each wrote both tragedies and comedies..A number of dominant themes and emphases are common to both writers, including the imaginative use of historical materials, the incorporation of both tragic and comic views of life, and the paradoxical tension between fate (in Faulkner’s case, determinism) and free will.”

Moreover, both writers exhibit a fascination for experimental form and language, flouting conventional rules to create new narrative structures and delighting in neologisms, puns, and other forms of word play.  Finally, both writers were acutely interested in the paradoxical relationship of life and art.”

Read the entire article at this link.


“I don’t have a name and I don’t have a plot. I have the typewriter and I have white paper and I have me, and that should add up to a novel.”

WILLIAM SAROYAN, when asked the name of his next book.


William Saroyan (1908-1981) was an American writer of Armenian descent who grew up in the Fresno, California, area, where many of his stories (plays, novels, short stories) take place. He is best known for his play The Time of Your Life — winner of the 1940 Pulitizer Prize — and his novel The Human Comedy (1943). Saroyan enjoyed a long and prolific career — and was the author of over 25 books, around 30 plays, and numerous short stories. In 1943, he won an Oscar for Best Story for the film version of his novel The Human Comedy

Getting back to the Saroyan quote at the top of this post…this was one writer who could feel confident when he sat down with a typewriter and white paper that he could come up with a story — he had lots of practice doing just that.

PHOTO: William Saroyan and typewriter, awaiting the arrival of some white paper.


“I know some things when I start. I know, let’s say, that the play is going to be a 1970s or a 1930s play, and it’s going to be about a piano, but that’s it. I slowly discover who the characters are as I go along.” AUGUST WILSON (1945-2005)

For writers who make it up as they go along (and I plead guilty), August Wilson‘s comment about his working method makes us feel…well, okay about not knowing where we’re going when we start.


Born on April 27, 1945, Wilson grew up poor in Pittsburgh, dropped out of high school at 16, and educated himself at the Carnegie Library while working a series of menial jobs. In 1965, at age 20, he purchased a used typewriter for 10 dollars and started to compose poetry. A few years later, in 1968, he cofounded the Black Horizon Theatre and began to write and produce plays — starting with Recycling. Wilson went on to author many plays — including the Pulitzer Prize winning Fences (1987) and The Piano Lesson (1990). One of the all-time great American playwrights — with a career that spanned nearly 40 years — Wilson’s work continues to inspire and promote discussion. He passed away at age 60 in 2005, and has been the recipient of many posthumous tributes — including a theater in the New York City Broadway Theater District named in his honor.


Today we celebrate the 1911 birth of Tennessee Williams — who remains, at least in my estimation, the greatest American playwright for his lyricism, characters, originality, honesty, insight, and compassion. Born in Columbus, Mississippi, and raised in St. Louis, Missouri, Williams had no connection to Tennessee — other than the word starting with the same letter as his given name (Thomas). He decided not to call himself “Mississippi” Williams or “Missouri” Williams because he wasn’t fond of the abbreviated version (i.e., Miss Williams).

It’s been 30 years since Williams’ 1983 passing (at age 71), but he will live forever in his unforgettable creations — Blanche DuBois and Stanley Kowalski (Streetcar Named Desire), Maggie the Cat and Big Daddy (Cat on a Hot Tin Roof), Laura and Amanda Wingfield (The Glass Menagerie), and scores of others.

Here is some playwriting advice from the master:

“I believe the way to write a good play is to convince yourself it is easy to do — then go ahead and do it with ease. Don’t maul, don’t suffer, don’t groan till the first draft is finished. A play is a pheonix and it dies a thousand deaths. Usually at night. In the morning it springs up again from its ashes and crows like a happy rooster. It is never as bad as you think, it is never as good. It is somewhere in between, and success or failure depends on which end of your emotional gamut concerning its value it approaches more closely. But it is much more likely to be good if you think it is wonderful while you are writing the first draft. An artist must believe in himself. Your belief is contagious. Others may say he is vain, but they are affected.” TENNESSEE WILLIAMS, as found in his 856-page Notebooks (Yale University Press, 2007) available at



Act One (Excerpt)

by Oscar Wilde

JACK [Nervously]:  Miss Fairfax, ever since I met you I have admired you more than any girl . . . I have ever met since . . . I met you.

GWENDOLEN:  Yes, I am quite well aware of the fact.  And I often wish that in public, at any rate, you had been more demonstrative.  For me you have always had an irresistible fascination.  Even before I met you I was far from indifferent to you.  [Jack looks at her in amazement.]  We live, as I hope you know, Mr. Worthing, in an age of ideals.  The fact is constantly mentioned in the more expensive monthly magazines, and has reached the provincial pulpits, I am told; and my ideal has always been to love some one of the name of Ernest.  There is something in that name that inspires absolute confidence.  The moment Algernon first mentioned to me that he had a friend called Ernest, I knew I was destined to love you.

JACK:  You really love me, Gwendolen?

GWENDOLEN:  Passionately!

JACK:  Darling!  You don’t know how happy you’ve made me.

GWENDOLEN:  My own Ernest!

JACK: But you don’t really mean to say that you couldn’t love me if my name wasn’t Ernest?

GWENDOLEN:  But your name is Ernest.

JACK:  Yes, I know it is.  But supposing it was something else?  Do you mean to say you couldn’t love me then?

GWENDOLEN  [Glibly]:  Ah! that is clearly a metaphysical speculation, and like most metaphysical speculations has very little reference at all to the actual facts of real life, as we know them.

JACK: Personally, darling, to speak quite candidly, I don’t much care about the name of Ernest . . . I don’t think the name suits me at all.

GWENDOLEN:  It suits you perfectly.  It is a divine name.  It has a music of its own.  It produces vibrations.

JACK:  Well, really, Gwendolen, I must say that I think there are lots of other much nicer names.  I think Jack, for instance, a charming name.

GWENDOLEN: Jack? . . . No, there is very little music in the name Jack, if any at all, indeed.  It does not thrill.  It produces absolutely no vibrations . . . I have known several Jacks, and they all, without exception, were more than usually plain.  Besides, Jack is a notorious domesticity for John!  And I pity any woman who is married to a man called John.  She would probably never be allowed to know the entrancing pleasure of a single moment’s solitude.  The only really safe name is Ernest.

JACK:  Gwendolen, I must get christened at once—I mean we must get married at once.  There is no time to be lost.


Read this hilarious classic in its entirety at Project Gutenberg.





Monologue by David Mamet

MAN: In great American cities at l’heure bleue, airborne dust particles cause buildings to appear lightly outlined in black. The people hurry home. They take a taxi or they walk or crush into the elevated trains or subways; or they go into the library where it is open and sit down and read a magazine and wait a bit so that the crush of travelers will dissipate.

This is the Blue Hour.

The sky is blue and people feel blue.

When they look up they will see a light or “powder” blue is in the Western sky where, meanwhile, in the East the sky is midnight blue; and this shade creeps up to the zenith and beyond, and changes powder blue to midnight and, eventually, to black, whereat the buildings lose their outlines and become as stageflats in the glow of incandescent lamps. This is the Blue Hour—the American twilight as it falls today in the cities.

Painting:New York Street with Moon” by Georgia O’Keeffe (1925)


Congratulations to Rachel Carey — whose debut novel DEBT will be available from Silver Birch Press later this month — on the premiere of Phases, a play she wrote and directed that’s featured in the 2012 Thespis Theater Festival in New York City.

The play’s final performance will take place on Saturday, October 13, 2012, at 9 p.m. For more information, visit the Thespis Theater Festival website.

Phases is a comedy about the ways that the memory of past relationships can haunt present relationships — and follows John, a young man who becomes obsessed with running away to Alaska but can’t decide which girl he wants to take with him.

Congratulations to Rachel Carey for an outstanding coast-to-coast October 2012 — premiere of her play Phases in New York and publication of her novel Debt in Los Angeles.


Currently starring in a New York production of Sam Shepard‘s new play Heartless, Lois Smith made her first screen appearance in East of Eden (1955), based on the novel by John Steinbeck. In 1988, Smith created the role of Ma Joad in the Steppenwolf Theatre production of Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath. (She is pictured at right with Gary Sinise, who starred as Tom Joad in the adaptation.) Smith has appeared in over 50 films and scores of theater productions — for which she has won numerous awards, including the Obie and the Drama Desk Award.


Lois Smith made her film debut in East of Eden, based on the John Steinbeck novel, where she shared the screen with James Dean — or more aptly, he shared his sizzling screen presence with her. Warner Brothers released the movie in April 1955, about six months before Dean’s death in a car crash.


Now, 57 years later, Lois Smith is starring in Heartless, the Sam Shepard-penned drama that opened in New York earlier this week, where she plays Mable, a woman who is partially paralyzed because she fell out of a tree while watching East of Eden on a drive-in movie screen. Somehow, this begs the expression “fearful symmetry.” (A nod to William Blake.)

Break a leg, Lois. Wait a minute, let me rephrase that. Have a great run, Lois. No, let me rephrase that. Enjoy the fearful symmetry of your full-circle experience, Lois.