Paul Pasulka

Paul Pasulka

Paul Pasulka is a Chicago playwright (paulpasulkaplays.com) and a clinical psychologist (paulpasulka.com) in private practice and on faculty at Northwestern University School of Medicine. His plays have been produced and read throughout Chicago and in New York.

'Skin for Skin' was produced by The Agency Theatre Collective at Rivendell Theatre in Chicago. The play depicts the biblical...
Paul Pasulka is a Chicago playwright (paulpasulkaplays.com) and a clinical psychologist (paulpasulka.com) in private practice and on faculty at Northwestern University School of Medicine. His plays have been produced and read throughout Chicago and in New York.

'Skin for Skin' was produced by The Agency Theatre Collective at Rivendell Theatre in Chicago. The play depicts the biblical Job as an Iraqi-American contractor who is suspected of fostering terrorism, and is imprisoned and tortured in an Abu Ghraib-like ‘black site’.

'La Maestra', the story of Renaissance painter Artemisia Gentileschi, received a staged reading with dance, movement, and song at Chicago DanzTheatre Ensemble in June 2016 and is scheduled for production in the 2017-18 season. 'Gruoch, or Lady Macbeth' was produced by Death and Pretzels in 2015. 'When the Levee Breaks' was produced as part of The Best of the 10's at Chicago Dramatists and Second City Theatre and was selected as a finalist at Secret Theatre in New York. 'Dark Angels' was performed at the American Theatre Company (ATC) and Roberto Clemente High School in ATC’s Bridge Program. He has worked with Adventure Stage Theatre in assisting middle school students in writing plays for Young Playwrights for Change.

He presented "Neuropsychology, Creativity, and Storytelling" at the Steel Pen Creative Writers' Conference in 2015.

He has presented autobiographical stories throughout Chicago, including at Rhinofest and with the GenNarrations Project of The Goodman Theatre, and was invited to read at The International Storytelling Festival in San Miguel Allende, Mexico in 2014. When not dissuaded, he may also act and direct.

Plays

  • La Maestra
    While set in a modern university drama school, 'La Maestra' tells the story of Artemisia Gentileschi, a Seventeenth Century Italian artist known not only for the dramatic brilliance of her work, but also for the notoriety of the Vatican trial of her teacher and rapist, Agostino Tassi. Artemisia was tortured during the trial, ostensibly to determine if she was telling the truth. The transcript from the...
    While set in a modern university drama school, 'La Maestra' tells the story of Artemisia Gentileschi, a Seventeenth Century Italian artist known not only for the dramatic brilliance of her work, but also for the notoriety of the Vatican trial of her teacher and rapist, Agostino Tassi. Artemisia was tortured during the trial, ostensibly to determine if she was telling the truth. The transcript from the trial served as a resource for character, setting and, to some extent, text for Artemisia's story.

    Sadly, the themes addressed in the play remain timely. Jennifer Hartnett, a young drama student, and her instructor, Hal Falcon, enact Artemisia’s story (as a play-within-a play) in preparation for possible production.

    The play progresses with parallel stories of the developing relationships between Artemisia and Agostino, and Jennifer and Hal, culminating in the rapes of both Artemisia and Jennifer. It also depicts the Biblical story of Judith, the subject of Artemisia Gentileschi’s most powerful work.

    The play explores themes of gender inequality, abuse of the role of teacher/mentor; violation of trust; and the importance of courage, creativity, and friendship in overcoming trauma.
  • Skin for Skin
    'Skin for Skin' depicts the Biblical Job as an Iraqi American contractor suspected of abetting terrorism in post-invasion Iraq. He is quickly swallowed by the hellhole of Abu Ghraib Prison. The play depicts the anguish and pain of the detainee - possibly falsely accused - undergoing 'enhanced interrogation'; the moral and ethical angst of the GI's charged with the incarceration and...
    'Skin for Skin' depicts the Biblical Job as an Iraqi American contractor suspected of abetting terrorism in post-invasion Iraq. He is quickly swallowed by the hellhole of Abu Ghraib Prison. The play depicts the anguish and pain of the detainee - possibly falsely accused - undergoing 'enhanced interrogation'; the moral and ethical angst of the GI's charged with the incarceration and interrogation; and one GI's attempt at redemption. The play dramatizes the 'enhanced interrogation' techniques as orchestrated and administered by American psychologists who are to undergo trial for this in September 2017. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2017/06/21/us/100000005177096.mobile.html?mwrsm=Email
  • Gruoch, or Lady Macbeth
    "I have given suck, and know how tender 'tis to love the babe that milks me: I would, while it was smiling in my face, have pluck'd my nipple from his boneless gums, and dash'd the brains out, had I so sworn as you have done to this." With these words Lady Macbeth spurs Macbeth into killing King Duncan.

    So, where’s this babe?

    Indeed, the historical Gruoch...
    "I have given suck, and know how tender 'tis to love the babe that milks me: I would, while it was smiling in my face, have pluck'd my nipple from his boneless gums, and dash'd the brains out, had I so sworn as you have done to this." With these words Lady Macbeth spurs Macbeth into killing King Duncan.

    So, where’s this babe?

    Indeed, the historical Gruoch gave birth to a son, Luloch, when she was 13 years old. Two years later Macbeth killed her husband; she and her child therefore became his property, to keep or to kill.

    Gruoch, or Lady Macbeth opens with Gruoch fleeing the conflagration of her husband, fearing for her and her son's lives. She finds safety in a shelter for homeless families run by three other witches who assist her in becoming Queen of Scotland to use her power to revenge the persecution of witches (a passion of King James I, for whom Macbeth was written, as you may know).

    Romance and betrayal follow. As do dark comedy. And tragedy.

    The play addresses issues of gender inequality, religious intolerance, child sexual abuse, and torture.
  • Anna O.
    Anna O. explores the life of Bertha Pappenheim and birth of psychoanalysis. It depicts the therapeutic relationship of Fraulein Pappenheim with Dr. Josef Breuer, the Viennese general physician who treated her 'hysterical' condition by uncovering her traumatic experiences and repressed memories and emotions, without resorting to the more conventional therapies of 'uterine manipulation',...
    Anna O. explores the life of Bertha Pappenheim and birth of psychoanalysis. It depicts the therapeutic relationship of Fraulein Pappenheim with Dr. Josef Breuer, the Viennese general physician who treated her 'hysterical' condition by uncovering her traumatic experiences and repressed memories and emotions, without resorting to the more conventional therapies of 'uterine manipulation', blood-letting, stimulation with electric eels, and water baths. Breuer discussed this treatment with the younger Freud. Fraulein Pappenheim's story does not end here, however. She subsequently became a major champion of women's and children's rights throughout Europe, until she and her work came under the deadly scrutiny of the Nazi's.
  • Remote
    Remote explores the journeys of a mother and son to overcome trauma and build a relationship of trust and love.

    At opening, Dr. John, an African-American psychiatrist, is visiting his patient, Jamie, a Caucasian child, in a psychiatric hospital. Jamie is being evaluated as a possible victim of abuse by his mother, Deanna who is a barely functioning alcoholic. Jamie is mute. He is holding a...
    Remote explores the journeys of a mother and son to overcome trauma and build a relationship of trust and love.

    At opening, Dr. John, an African-American psychiatrist, is visiting his patient, Jamie, a Caucasian child, in a psychiatric hospital. Jamie is being evaluated as a possible victim of abuse by his mother, Deanna who is a barely functioning alcoholic. Jamie is mute. He is holding a television remote control device, his attachment to David, his recently deceased father. Dr. John comments on how good it would be to “rewind” and replay the past. In the second scene, a flashback, Jamie and David, his father are enthusiastically discussing a dance video. Deanna, Jamie’s mother, enters hung-over. Tension between David and Deanna is revealed, with Jamie unsuccessfully attempting to serve as a bridge between them.

    The play thereafter follows Dr. John’s somewhat unorthodox efforts to overcome Jamie’s withdrawal into silence. He has an unlikely ally in this process in another young patient, Dominique (“like the b-baller, not the singing nun”), an African-American break-dancer and rap poet who engages Jamie through their mutual love of dance. Dominique has been hospitalized after a serious physical encounter with his abusive father.
    .
    On a parallel tracks, Remote shows Deanna’s journey to come to terms with her own traumatic and past, overcome her alcoholism, and free herself from an abusive affair; and Dr. John’s struggle to recover from the guilt and trauma of a parent’s murder of a former patient.

  • The Tempest Within
    Five actors are invited to a desert island for two-week auditions for the world-famous, mysterious, and extremely secretive Mr. Director. Animosities, alliances, and friendships develop through the psychodrama process. Each actor, and Mr. Director, must confront their hidden trials to achieve success on the stage - of life.
  • When the Levee Breaks (Full Length)
    When the Levee Breaks is a full-length comedy about love, intelligent and vengeful automobiles, time and space travel, world domination, and Led Zeppelin.

    Last night Scott, a young, high-powered attorney, met Kate, the girl of his dreams, wailing away to Led Zeppelin at a karaoke bar. This morning they are on the highway outside of LA, hitchhiking to Cleveland, Mississippi - ‘The Crossroads.’...
    When the Levee Breaks is a full-length comedy about love, intelligent and vengeful automobiles, time and space travel, world domination, and Led Zeppelin.

    Last night Scott, a young, high-powered attorney, met Kate, the girl of his dreams, wailing away to Led Zeppelin at a karaoke bar. This morning they are on the highway outside of LA, hitchhiking to Cleveland, Mississippi - ‘The Crossroads.’ His world and the world are about to change.

    On the way they encounter Tori, an AI (artificial intelligence) Police Patrol Vehicle; Cutter, a (human) desert rat; Carlos, a quirky drug dealer; and Li, a BMW 760 sedan - also AI.

    Add to this mix 'shredders' - drugs which allow a person to be in two places at the same time - and it’s not surprising that Catherine the Great of Russia and Led Zeppelin’s infamous mudshark make appearances.

    This madness culminates in the group’s cataclysmic confrontation with Punch, a sadistic California Highway Patrolman. Thankfully, the music of Led Zeppelin survives.
  • Sarah's Story
    This very family friendly play opens when Sarah, an abused and neglected child, is pitched into the snow one night. She is befriended by Marie, a bookseller and storyteller. Marie sets Sarah’s imagination free with the story of Calia, a princess who must rescue her father. When their journeys merge( accompanied by many fabulous characters) they form a bond which ultimately frees each each of them. Sarah’s Story...
    This very family friendly play opens when Sarah, an abused and neglected child, is pitched into the snow one night. She is befriended by Marie, a bookseller and storyteller. Marie sets Sarah’s imagination free with the story of Calia, a princess who must rescue her father. When their journeys merge( accompanied by many fabulous characters) they form a bond which ultimately frees each each of them. Sarah’s Story celebrates the power of love and creativity in overcoming trial and tyranny.

  • Aesop's Fable
    Legend has it that Aesop was an physically challenged slave of African origin who won his freedom through his wit and imagination and lost his life for telling the truth.

    The play opens with a physically disabled, abandoned child telling poorly crafted stories for money on the streets of Delphi. He falls victim to a scam artist and is arrested. A brutish jailer, Nikos, takes the boy as his...
    Legend has it that Aesop was an physically challenged slave of African origin who won his freedom through his wit and imagination and lost his life for telling the truth.

    The play opens with a physically disabled, abandoned child telling poorly crafted stories for money on the streets of Delphi. He falls victim to a scam artist and is arrested. A brutish jailer, Nikos, takes the boy as his slave.

    Aesop, now the ambassador of the King of Samos, is imprisoned, awaiting execution for telling the people what he truly thinks of their kingdom. He engages the jailer and the boy with fables – portrayed by an ensemble of lions, monkeys, fox, bears, etc. – demonstrating the path to freedom through the power of imagination.

    There are three main characters in Aesop’s Fable. These and the fabulous characters can be played by actors and/or puppets.
  • Into the River
    Two men meet on a bridge over a river; one is contemplating suicide. Chance or karma? (60 minutes)
  • When the Levee Breaks (10 minutes)
    Last night Scott, a young, high-powered attorney, met the girl of his dreams wailing away to Led Zeppelin at a karaoke bar. This morning he’s standing on the highway outside of LA, hitchhiking with her to Cleveland, Mississippi, and to his personal ‘Crossroads’.
  • A Dopey Christmas
    Snow White sues Santa Clause for breach of contract. Can Dopey save Christmas?
    A ribald comedy. (10 minutes)
  • Meep-meep!
    Bad judgment begets outlandish consequences in this cartoon comedy of sex, drugs, neuropsychology, and the Road Runner. (10 minutes)
  • When the Wheels Come Off
    A promising friendship develops between a paraplegic psychologist and a building maintenance engineer on 9/11. Sadly, promises cannot always be kept. (10 minutes)
  • Wheel of Fortune
    Jack and Bobby meet in Bobby’s local bar in anticipation of watching the fights. When Jack inadvertently disrespects the panhandler at the door, Bobby takes him to school. (10 minutes)
  • To the Great Egress (10 minutes)
    PT Barnum is confronted by his first 'exhibition' at the gates of heaven.
  • The Sun, the Moon, and Salena
    The story of the love of the sun, the moon, and their daughter, Salena. And of the treacherous, predatory ocean. And the budding love of drama students Jennifer and John as they create of Salena's story. (10 minutes) The story of Salena is original.
  • Home for Christmas
    Roger and Daniel spend Christmas in detention in a military academy in 1954. A first love homage to Rebel Without a Cause. (10 minutes)
  • Community Service
    Donna, a goth teen, is sentenced to community service in a very unusual shelter for homeless families. Their first client is Lady Macbeth and the child to whom she has given suck. (10 minutes)
  • Happy Birthday, Dear Lord (of the Flies)
    Dawn - 15 years old - is spending Christmas with her cousins. When their mother leaves unexpectedly, cruelty and truth come to the fore. A dark Christmas story, 40 minutes in length.
  • Scars
    Two women reveal the history of their scars and overcome their vulnerabilities on their journey to find love.
    (10 minutes)
  • Hunger
    King Midas has been searching for centuries for someone to relieve him of his curse. Tonight, in a subway station, he may have found that lucky someone. (10 minutes)
  • Cue Christmas
    ‘Tis the season for The Sammy Berger Annual Holiday Variety Hour, but there are backstage problems. The star actor, Bill, is late, as usual. His fiancee, Sally, stalwartly defends his reputation until Yvette, his former fiancee, educates her as to the identity of his cousins, known as the Christmas Geese. Jim steps out for antacid and into the path of a car. Joe, the new stagehand, is recruited as a last-minute...
    ‘Tis the season for The Sammy Berger Annual Holiday Variety Hour, but there are backstage problems. The star actor, Bill, is late, as usual. His fiancee, Sally, stalwartly defends his reputation until Yvette, his former fiancee, educates her as to the identity of his cousins, known as the Christmas Geese. Jim steps out for antacid and into the path of a car. Joe, the new stagehand, is recruited as a last-minute replacement. And Sammy’s memory is slipping.

    This is a 20-minute three act comedy written to serve as prologue, entr’acte, and epilogue to an evening of short holiday comedies. It calls for 8 actors (traditionally 4F 4M, although it would play well with gender-neutral casting).