Peter Snoad

Peter Snoad

As a British-American playwright, I draw on my experience of two cultures: the U.K., where I was born and raised, and the U.S., where I have lived since 1977 (I’m a dual citizen.) My plays have been staged throughout the U.S., and in Canada, the U.K., Australia and Singapore. Honors include the Stanley Drama Award and the Arthur W. Stone New Play Award for my drama, "Guided Tour", and playwriting...
As a British-American playwright, I draw on my experience of two cultures: the U.K., where I was born and raised, and the U.S., where I have lived since 1977 (I’m a dual citizen.) My plays have been staged throughout the U.S., and in Canada, the U.K., Australia and Singapore. Honors include the Stanley Drama Award and the Arthur W. Stone New Play Award for my drama, "Guided Tour", and playwriting fellowships from the Massachusetts Cultural Council and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. "The Draft", my play based on real-life experiences of the military draft during the Vietnam War, was nominated for Best New Play awards by the Independent Reviewers of New England (IRNE) and ArtsImpulse, and won in the latter's Best Ensemble category. I have twice won the New Play Festival of Centre Stage–South Carolina. In 2013/14 I was the Visiting Playwright at Hibernian Hall, a multicultural performing arts center in Roxbury, MA, that produced four of my full-length plays: "Raising David Walker", "Identity Crisis", "Guided Tour", and "The Draft".

Plays

  • NOW WHAT?
    What do a Black Queen, a Viking warrior who sounds like Greta Thunberg, and a man-eating jaguar have in common? They all live in Tom Galloway’s head. After his wife died, Tom retired after 30 years as an insurance analyst. Now he’s depressed and unsure about what to do with the rest of his life. Fellow members of his book group help him brainstorm possibilities. Tom finds that the climate crisis stirs his...
    What do a Black Queen, a Viking warrior who sounds like Greta Thunberg, and a man-eating jaguar have in common? They all live in Tom Galloway’s head. After his wife died, Tom retired after 30 years as an insurance analyst. Now he’s depressed and unsure about what to do with the rest of his life. Fellow members of his book group help him brainstorm possibilities. Tom finds that the climate crisis stirs his passion, and he volunteers with a local university’s climate research project. Or so he says. In fact, it’s a fiction. He had scheduled an interview but never went – stymied by fear of failure and surreal visions of his own violent death. He receives support and inspiration from Izzy, a college student and climate activist who had joined the book group while in high school at Tom’s invitation. For a nerdy loner who loved reading, the group was a life-saver. And Izzy is determined to repay Tom’s kindness by enabling him to find new meaning in his life – and help save the planet.
  • SEEING VIOLET
    A human skull. A cowrie shell. A manumission paper. These and other items unearthed during renovations at the historic 18th century manse that John Marsh has inherited suggest his ancestors were slaveholders. The freedom paper refers to an enslaved woman called Violet. And when John’s wife, Betsy, “sees” a young Black woman in period servant’s dress in their living room, she concludes it must be Violet. Betsy...
    A human skull. A cowrie shell. A manumission paper. These and other items unearthed during renovations at the historic 18th century manse that John Marsh has inherited suggest his ancestors were slaveholders. The freedom paper refers to an enslaved woman called Violet. And when John’s wife, Betsy, “sees” a young Black woman in period servant’s dress in their living room, she concludes it must be Violet. Betsy becomes obsessed with finding out who Violet was and what happened to her. Her dogged research reveals some unsettling truths: about the Marsh family’s profitable engagement in the slave trade; about local resistance to confronting the community’s hidden history of slavery; and about her husband’s conviction that white people bear no responsibility for addressing slavery’s legacy. The experience causes Betsy to question her marriage, her priorities, and her future.

  • THE GROWING STONE
    As a child, Matt Barnett was sexually abused for five years by his evangelical Christian father. Soon after his father's sudden death, Matt leaves home for a fresh start, and carves out a new life for himself overseas, working as an energy consultant. Now, more than two decades later, he returns to Vermont after learning from his widowed younger brother, Luke, that their dementia-stricken mother is dying....
    As a child, Matt Barnett was sexually abused for five years by his evangelical Christian father. Soon after his father's sudden death, Matt leaves home for a fresh start, and carves out a new life for himself overseas, working as an energy consultant. Now, more than two decades later, he returns to Vermont after learning from his widowed younger brother, Luke, that their dementia-stricken mother is dying. Luke is a teacher who still lives in the local community with his 16-year-old daughter, Enaj. Quietly passionate about Native American rights and culture, Luke is helping to fight a gas pipeline project that threatens an ancient Abenaki burial ground.

    Matt has always believed his mother was complicit in the abuse – and as part his own healing process, he wants to learn the truth before it’s too late. But the conversation never happens: his mother dies soon after his arrival. Luke then reveals that he is fatally sick with cancer and asks Matt to become Enaj’s guardian after his death and to move back to Vermont to be with her. For Matt, that would mean living once again in the community of his traumatized childhood. His love, loyalty and resilience are tested as never before.
  • GOING WILD
    Small-town librarian Meredith Stafford and her husband Beau are losing the struggle for the perfect lawn. Invasive weeds and pesky moles have made an unholy mess of their front yard. Meredith decides to “go wild”, replacing the decimated lawn with a “natural” landscape. When she’s fined for violating a local lawn ordinance, she’s incensed: their son, Johnny, a Marine, gave his life in Iraq to defend their...
    Small-town librarian Meredith Stafford and her husband Beau are losing the struggle for the perfect lawn. Invasive weeds and pesky moles have made an unholy mess of their front yard. Meredith decides to “go wild”, replacing the decimated lawn with a “natural” landscape. When she’s fined for violating a local lawn ordinance, she’s incensed: their son, Johnny, a Marine, gave his life in Iraq to defend their rights and freedoms.

    Meredith decides to challenge the ordinance in court. While she loses the case, she becomes a social media sensation. And that launches her on a bizarre journey that shakes her faith in America as a bastion of freedom, democracy and the rule of law. Unbeknown to Meredith, a multinational corporation allied with corrupt politicians is poised to make millions from marketing a highly toxic new lawn treatment called New Dawn. By spreading the “go wild” gospel, Meredith is seen as a threat – and she becomes the target of an orchestrated smear campaign. She is falsely accused of a terrorist attack on her own home. She loses her job. And she and is shunned by members of her church. But with the aid of an environmental group and sympathetic neighbors, Meredith clears her name and helps expose the New Dawn scam. With the “going wild” movement fast becoming a national phenomenon, Meredith and Beau give their now lush and wild front yard a new name: Johnny’s Garden.
  • THE DRAFT
    Al saw a buddy blown up in front of his eyes by a booby-trap bomb; the image still haunts him more than 40 years later. Tom talked his way out of a lynching by college students who called him a “commie faggot’ for organizing to stop the war. Jay went into self-imposed exile in Canada. Randy went to jail for refusing to cooperate with the draft system. Frank got a medical exemption – with the help of a fake X-...
    Al saw a buddy blown up in front of his eyes by a booby-trap bomb; the image still haunts him more than 40 years later. Tom talked his way out of a lynching by college students who called him a “commie faggot’ for organizing to stop the war. Jay went into self-imposed exile in Canada. Randy went to jail for refusing to cooperate with the draft system. Frank got a medical exemption – with the help of a fake X-ray from a sympathetic family doctor – and became a draft counselor to other working-class kids who had seen friends go “over there” and come home in a box or a wheelchair. Penny saw the suffering and the carnage first-hand as a nurse in a field hospital in Vietnam.

    “The Draft” is an interweaving of the real-life stories of 10 young Americans – eight men and two women – whose lives were shaped and forever changed by the military draft during the Vietnam War (or “The American War”, as the Vietnamese call it.) The play examines the choices they made when confronted with the draft and the personal impact of those choices then and since. With the U.S. embroiled in ongoing military campaigns overseas, “The Draft” asks provocative and relevant questions about moral choice, the meaning of patriotism, and the impacts of war and militarism.

    www.vietnamdraftplay.com


  • IDENTITY CRISIS
    It's a growing phenomenon that no one wants to talk about: White people are turning Black. On the eve of his wedding, Alan Guthrie learns it's about to happen to him. The veteran slacker/stoner is freaked--not least because his prospective father-in-law would do everything in his power to prevent his daughter marrying a black man. Alan's solution? Persuade his identical twin brother, who is gay,...
    It's a growing phenomenon that no one wants to talk about: White people are turning Black. On the eve of his wedding, Alan Guthrie learns it's about to happen to him. The veteran slacker/stoner is freaked--not least because his prospective father-in-law would do everything in his power to prevent his daughter marrying a black man. Alan's solution? Persuade his identical twin brother, who is gay, to impersonate him at the ceremony. The desperate ruse launches Alan and his co-conspirators on a madcap pre-nuptial adventure involving organic vegetables, ventriloquism, a golfing accident--and some serious identity issues.
  • RAISING DAVID WALKER
    Boston, Massachusetts. 1979. The city is racked by racial violence over court-ordered busing to achieve school desegregation. Serena Fox, an African-American college student, takes a class on the history of racism and becomes captivated by the ideas and passion of David Walker, the influential but unheralded 19th century black abolitionist.

    After receiving several "visits" from him --...
    Boston, Massachusetts. 1979. The city is racked by racial violence over court-ordered busing to achieve school desegregation. Serena Fox, an African-American college student, takes a class on the history of racism and becomes captivated by the ideas and passion of David Walker, the influential but unheralded 19th century black abolitionist.

    After receiving several "visits" from him -- "Is this his ghost or am I going crazy?”-- Serena is convinced that Walker, who officially died of lung disease, may have been assassinated by the agents of Southern planters alarmed by his incendiary writings.

    Determined to learn the truth about his death, she leads a campaign to build a memorial at his unmarked gravesite in South Boston – and to exhume his remains. Her controversial quest triggers a media backlash, hate calls, and a rupture in her relationship with her white boyfriend. But Walker’s inspirational example gives her strength and a belief that she has a leadership role to play in the contemporary struggle for racial justice.
  • ORBITING MARS
    The wealthy suburb of Nirvana, California is home to a nuclear weapons production plant as well as the Nirvana Community Players. The local thespians have long dreamed of winning the annual award for the state’s best community theatre production. And this year artistic director Jonathan Sinclair—whose day job is designing missiles—is certain they will finally triumph with Noel Coward’s "Present Laughter...
    The wealthy suburb of Nirvana, California is home to a nuclear weapons production plant as well as the Nirvana Community Players. The local thespians have long dreamed of winning the annual award for the state’s best community theatre production. And this year artistic director Jonathan Sinclair—whose day job is designing missiles—is certain they will finally triumph with Noel Coward’s "Present Laughter". The one problem is the lead role: Jonathan can’t find the right actor to play Garry Essendine, the matinee idol at the center of Coward’s classic comedy.

    Enter a man dressed as Mars, the Roman god of war. He wants to read for the part. And he blackmails Jonathan into casting him as Essendine, threatening to expose him for cheating on his wife and participating in a secret CIA project to provoke America’s next war. Desperate to save his career and his marriage—and to stay out of jail—Jonathan tries to convince the other core members of the theatre company that Mars, always in full regalia and answering to no other name, is perfect for the lead role in Present Laughter. Naturally, it’s a tough sell. Is “Mars” crazy? A terrorist? Or just a harmless eccentric with identity issues?

    But Mars’ charm and personal magnetism are persuasive. He’s soon a local celebrity, inspiring high school students with classes and skits on Roman mythology. The clincher is a movie deal: a major studio decides to film the Nirvana Community Players’ production of "Present Laughter" – or rather an adaptation by Mars called "Present Slaughter" – as “reality theatre”. The new version is set in Roman times and stars Mars as a vain and sexually impotent Caesar obsessed with fighting imperial wars.

    In the dramatic climax of this spoof on militarism and celebrity culture, violence intrudes and the boundaries between myth and reality blur….
  • GUIDED TOUR
    Joe Bell was a celebrity—a popular tour guide at Elmwood Hall, a famous Gilded Age mansion in Rhode Island. But for the last 14 years, Joe has been in jail. The African American guide known for his encyclopedic knowledge and folksy charm was convicted of burning down the historic mansion he once so proudly showed to visitors.

    It’s now 1986, and the world has forgotten about Joe Bell. But not...
    Joe Bell was a celebrity—a popular tour guide at Elmwood Hall, a famous Gilded Age mansion in Rhode Island. But for the last 14 years, Joe has been in jail. The African American guide known for his encyclopedic knowledge and folksy charm was convicted of burning down the historic mansion he once so proudly showed to visitors.

    It’s now 1986, and the world has forgotten about Joe Bell. But not Susanna Hatch. The young white law student believes Joe was framed by the FBI as part of its campaign against black militants in the turbulent Civil Rights era. And she’s determined to prove his innocence. Some basic inconsistencies in the case give her grounds for hope. For one thing, Joe’s motivation for the crime was never adequately explained: he had a passionate—and scandalous—affair with the mansion’s wealthy owner, Lindsay Pettigrew, after she hired him as a tour guide. Why would Joe have destroyed something so precious to his lover? There were no eyewitnesses, and the prosecution’s case rested entirely on forensic evidence that could have been manufactured. Moreover, Susanna doesn’t believe Joe is crazy, as his defense lawyer argued in mitigation at his trial.

    Susanna goes to interview Joe in the prison psychiatric unit where he’s confined. While she wants justice for Joe, she’s also desperate to learn the truth for personal reasons: Lindsay Pettigrew was her grandmother, and she had always idealized Joe and Lindsay as a pure and perfect love union. Plagued by doubts about her own current romantic relationship, Susanna hopes for confirmation that true love can endure and triumph.

    As she discovers, the truth is rarely simple—and sometimes shocking. Joe reveals that he did, indeed, burn down Elmwood Hall and that he and Lindsay planned it together. It was a symbolic act against oppression and exploitation, but one born out of love. They wanted to be together forever, and the mansion, with all its history and associations, stood in their way.