Justin Maxwell

Justin Maxwell

Justin Maxwell writes strange, funny, scary plays.

His collection of short plays, A Blinded Horse Dreams of Hippocampi and Other Plays, is available from Alligator Pear Publishing. Many of his longer plays are available here on NPX.

His prose has appeared in the journals Theatre/Practice, Eleven Eleven, The Fourth River, Minnesota Playlist, Contemporary Theatre Review, American...
Justin Maxwell writes strange, funny, scary plays.

His collection of short plays, A Blinded Horse Dreams of Hippocampi and Other Plays, is available from Alligator Pear Publishing. Many of his longer plays are available here on NPX.

His prose has appeared in the journals Theatre/Practice, Eleven Eleven, The Fourth River, Minnesota Playlist, Contemporary Theatre Review, American Theatre Magazine, and others.

He is an associate professor teaching playwriting in the MFA program at the University of New Orleans.

Plays

  • An Outopia for Pigeons
    An Outopia for Pigeons is a comedy about compulsion and salvation. The protagonist, Martha Washington, is the last passenger pigeon, desperately trying to save her species by building a Foucault-inspired outopia (a non-place). After all, hunters can’t find a non-place, so if the passenger pigeons are hiding in one, they’re safe, and can’t be found—at least that’s Martha’s reasoning. Assisting Martha is a sperm...
    An Outopia for Pigeons is a comedy about compulsion and salvation. The protagonist, Martha Washington, is the last passenger pigeon, desperately trying to save her species by building a Foucault-inspired outopia (a non-place). After all, hunters can’t find a non-place, so if the passenger pigeons are hiding in one, they’re safe, and can’t be found—at least that’s Martha’s reasoning. Assisting Martha is a sperm whale named Charles Bronson, a whale so tough they named the toughest actor of all time after him. Their work is complicated by the arrival of Cotton Mather, a 300 hundred year old Puritan minister and witch dealer-with-er, who has problems of his own.
  • The Canopic Jar of My Sins: A Medieval Morality Play for Latter-Day Postmodernists
    The Canopic Jar of My Sins: A Medieval Morality Play for Latter Day Postmodernists is a play about culpability. The narrative follows Ralph Wiley, the scientist who invented plastic, as he fights to survive a show trial held on the massive island of plastic in the North Pacific Ocean. His tribunal consists of an angel, dead bird, and Roger Waters. After the trial, Wiley finds himself on the beach at Easter...
    The Canopic Jar of My Sins: A Medieval Morality Play for Latter Day Postmodernists is a play about culpability. The narrative follows Ralph Wiley, the scientist who invented plastic, as he fights to survive a show trial held on the massive island of plastic in the North Pacific Ocean. His tribunal consists of an angel, dead bird, and Roger Waters. After the trial, Wiley finds himself on the beach at Easter Island, where he meets the last Easter Islander and Robert Oppenheimer. Then the angel shows up, and things get strange.
  • FOUR HELEN
    A single consciousness moves towards death. Are the characters ghosts? Are they the fragments of an elderly consciousness? One person, four bodies, four voices. They slip through time, sometimes experiencing the past as a memory, sometimes experiencing it as a moment of storytelling, sometimes as a trauma survivor in a flashback. They are taking themselves on a tour of their childhood in a pre-war, Ohio Valley...
    A single consciousness moves towards death. Are the characters ghosts? Are they the fragments of an elderly consciousness? One person, four bodies, four voices. They slip through time, sometimes experiencing the past as a memory, sometimes experiencing it as a moment of storytelling, sometimes as a trauma survivor in a flashback. They are taking themselves on a tour of their childhood in a pre-war, Ohio Valley coal town—purging the memories and fragments of a long life. The text uses ritual and repetition to explore the nature of identity and how our sense of self continues even after the stories that constitute a life become fragmented and forgotten. In staging, the play is more akin to a ghost story told from the ghost’s point of view.
  • Your Lithopedion
    In YOUR LITHOPEDION a serial killer attempts to reform and becomes the founder of Serial Killers Anonymous, which totally wrecks his marriage. It’s a comedy about boredom, dysfunction, community … and child murder. You’ll never think of 80’s music in the same way again.

  • Marie Antoinette’s Head
    In this campy comedy we follow Marie Antoinette’s hair dresser, Leonardo, as he pursues Marie’s severed head across time and space. The first panel of the triptych takes Leonardo to the Palace of Versailles, just after the Queen’s execution, where drunken peasants are being harassed by Rousseau while partying with the head. Then the play shifts to California’s Corcoran Prison, in 1994, where the guards were...
    In this campy comedy we follow Marie Antoinette’s hair dresser, Leonardo, as he pursues Marie’s severed head across time and space. The first panel of the triptych takes Leonardo to the Palace of Versailles, just after the Queen’s execution, where drunken peasants are being harassed by Rousseau while partying with the head. Then the play shifts to California’s Corcoran Prison, in 1994, where the guards were staging gladiatorial combats between prisoners. Leonardo finds himself in the prison’s green room, with their combat becoming a game-show, hosted by Charles Darwin, and the head shamefully serving as the consolation prize. And finally Leonardo’s pursuit takes him to a Gnostic semen cult in 1st century Rome, on the day of the great fire. In the Roman catacombs, Nero spies on the cultists’ feast, while Leonardo gets caught swiping the head from their altar. Throughout it all the telephone keeps ringing. It’s Marie calling for Leonardo, and he always hangs up.
  • Exhausted Paint: The Death of Van Gogh
    In EXHAUSTED PAINT a frenetic Vincent Van Gogh takes the audience through a tilt-a-whirl exploration of his life, heart, and legacy.

    The show is built around ideas of disorientation and struggle, often based on Van Gogh's extensive collected letters. These are exemplified by a single set piece. The piece is a wheel that is horizontal on a post and parallel to the stage, mounted on an axle...
    In EXHAUSTED PAINT a frenetic Vincent Van Gogh takes the audience through a tilt-a-whirl exploration of his life, heart, and legacy.

    The show is built around ideas of disorientation and struggle, often based on Van Gogh's extensive collected letters. These are exemplified by a single set piece. The piece is a wheel that is horizontal on a post and parallel to the stage, mounted on an axle so that it can be spun by an actor. From the rim of the wheel hang a series of objects (mobile like), each of which represents something from Van Gogh’s life and a scene of the play. After the initial scene, the actor will spin the wheel and perform the scene appropriate to that object. Consequently, the play doesn’t have a set internal structure, only the introduction and finale are set. The other scenes can happen in any order.
  • Niagara Falls
    Niagara Falls is a broken play for a broken city. A three hundred year old boy (and former British soldier) leaves his home at the bottom of the Niagara River and wanders through the rust belt dereliction of the city, dripping wet and asking everyone: “do you know why there are so many bodies in the whirlpool?” The answers are elliptical, given by a host of foils. The corrupt mayor is more interested in his...
    Niagara Falls is a broken play for a broken city. A three hundred year old boy (and former British soldier) leaves his home at the bottom of the Niagara River and wanders through the rust belt dereliction of the city, dripping wet and asking everyone: “do you know why there are so many bodies in the whirlpool?” The answers are elliptical, given by a host of foils. The corrupt mayor is more interested in his five thousand and five dollars; the mayor’s mistress is obsessed with Canada; the mayor’s wives only care to leave him (and the city by extension), and the owner of a Seneca casino wants a casual revenge. Driven by imagist poetics, it is the city itself that is the protagonist, quickly approaching the end of its dramatic arc. The boy’s question begs the larger question: how, with good resources, location, and one of the seven wonders of the natural world, can an American city die?