Zach is a lady, a cowboy, with a sad story to tell and a guitar to help tell it. She’s got a girl she calls Curls who’s not often nearby. Curls comes from a map far, far from Zach’s, but they do overlap (Curls’ and Zach’s maps) and “tango jes fine.” Zach calls her girl “Curls” cause her hair’s all gold coin. Curls calls Zach “Big Z” on account of her size - and the fact her name’s Zach.
This play is Zach’s story. She’s never “known much of knowin,” she’s always sort of just been – been enduring, been avoiding, been committing the odd petty sin. By the time she meets Curls, she’s been enduring and avoiding an awful long time, and she’s ready to settle, explore life with one girl. But something Terrible Happens, and Zach must now find a way to mold meaning, leave all the bullshit behind. She must craft from adversity a new sense of self, must lift anger’s skirt to find emotional wealth.
The Terrible Happening lands Zach in jail, where she meets a Navajo woman named Angie who sees all things, and well. We learn from Angie that Living and Believing, in the Navajo system, have circular structures broken down into fours: Four seasons, four winds, four foundation colors –
So this play’s a circle broken into five sections: Four major movements and one minor twang. (The twang’s in the middle and triggers a change in direction; it, a la Angie, points us back home.) The last scene is the first scene repeated, done with more Light in a different location (a new, improved ranch where Zach now lives with Curls). The many ways this Light manifests is a bit TBD – I just know that it’s bright, that it feels like the start of a happier story.
The circular structure corresponds to the seasons and breaks down like this: The first movement’s autumn, death that in time will fertilize life. The second’s the darkness of winter, all anger and fear. Then there’s the trigger, and a new way of living begins to appear. The third movement brings the soft promise of spring, and the fourth movement’s summer: life that’s been fertilized is set to begin.
Stella Stein: A Parable
It’s Sunday morning, 6AM, and thirty-something Sam is in Wahoo, Nebraska where he moved for work that he once loved and since has come to doubt, and – he’s kind of freaking out. So he calls his ex-girlfriend, Mark. In spite of the countless reasons she has to be upset, Sam manages to keep Mark on the line by offering her: a parable. He conjures up Stella Stein, a former famous fashion model, and Sam 2, an academic, who together travel through South Africa’s Drakensberg. Stella is in search of a departure from her native Western-centric view, and over the course of their drive together a simple but profound transformation occurs. There’s talk of Heidegger and herpes, Coke and post-colonialism, being and seeing, life’s meaning and licorice. Ultimately Stella Stein: A Parable is a play about Perspective. Wanting it, searching for and finally discovering it, often in the most unlikely company.
Stella Stein was initially conceived in response to Gertrude Stein’s essay on Plays. In it she expresses an interest in plays being a series of portraits, essences and, most especially, landscapes. She is not particularly interested in story -
Myself, I am very much interested in story. But I am also interested in portraits and landscapes and what roles they can play in the composition of story and character. And I am preoccupied by the notion of Perspective, particularly in light of our current socio-political realities. The limitations of the Western view so many of us were born into and the implications of living only with that view are subjects I find myself returning to incessantly.
And so Stella Stein was born, and embodies a search I believe many of us are already on, in one form or another.
Stella Stein: A Parable received artistic assistance from New York Theater Workshop this past winter, and was developed over the course of the last year with the support of the Clubbed Thumb Early Career Writers Group, where it received a reading as part of that theater’s Summerworks Festival.
Man for All Mankind
Tolstoy: A man who’d always intended to suffer. Not from some long-standing desire to test the resistance of his will – no. His Intention to Suffer was a despotic one – he intended that his teachings, his preachings, his reachings – all three be - Irresistible and make his message holy in the eyes of man, make himself holy in the eyes of – disgusted Oh but this does not discount the man of the man, the language, the lion, the Sounding Bell of All this World, as our man Gorky will explain – Come, let him explain (or at least like just portray) for us, this Man for All Mankind.
Produced at JACK as part of The Weasel Festival
Just up the road, slightly
Just up the road, slightly is the portrait of a marriage in the midst of political strife. Set on a farm in South Africa’s Western Cape, where Jan and Claire have lived for 47 years. Their daughter was killed in a nearby attack, a political act, and Claire has since joined the cause of the man responsible for that act. Through forgiveness she finds peace, but the toll her peace takes on her husband and marriage is significant.
The Part Where Peter Leaves
The Part Where Peter Leaves is set in JFK’s Terminal A - as well as various Elsewheres (war zones, bedrooms, a bar). Susan sits amidst a pile of airport debris (Styrofoam containers and crappy magazines), debating what which major life step to take. She tells us the story of Peter and Mattie, a journalist and medic, respectively, whose romance personifies the debate between the costs and contributions of the Western hand in other spaces.
John and Ness: A Study in Diffraction
John and Ness: A Study in Diffraction tells the story of a poet and a scientist (both professors at Berkeley) and their divorce and then reunion. Ness studies the ocean and experiences the world through that study’s lens. John is a poet, and struggles to be present outside his verse.