Philip Vassallo

Philip Vassallo

Philip Vassallo has written numerous produced plays, including What Do You Charge for Cure?, How Silent Do I Sound?, Do I Bleed in the Dark?, Isn’t This the Way You Wanted Me?, How You Get to Main Street?, The Spelling Bee, Ask Me, Everything Means Something Else, The Phoenix, The Community Service, Family Secrets, The AFI’s Top 10 Movie Quotes, Waiting, and So What If Life Is a Cliché?. His licensed plays are...
Philip Vassallo has written numerous produced plays, including What Do You Charge for Cure?, How Silent Do I Sound?, Do I Bleed in the Dark?, Isn’t This the Way You Wanted Me?, How You Get to Main Street?, The Spelling Bee, Ask Me, Everything Means Something Else, The Phoenix, The Community Service, Family Secrets, The AFI’s Top 10 Movie Quotes, Waiting, and So What If Life Is a Cliché?. His licensed plays are The Spelling Bee (Samuel French), Everything Means Something Else, The Phoenix, and So What If Life Is a Cliché? (Brooklyn Publishers); Family Secrets and What Are You Running For? (Hit Plays); and The Eye Begins to See, The Author Makes No Difference, Every Day’s a Holiday, and Hurry Hurry: Twelve Dramatic and Comedic Sketches (Green Room Press). Other published plays include Questions Asked of Dying Dreams and A Case-by-Case Basis: Four Short Plays (Mgarr Publishing). He is also the author of three instructional books (How to Write Fast Under Pressure, The Art of E-mail Writing, and The Art of On-the-Job Writing), two essay collections (Person to Person: Essays from Two Centuries and The Inwardness of the Outward Gaze: Learning and Teaching through Philosophy), and two volumes of poetry (Like the Day I Was Born: 40 Poems, 40 Places, 40 Days and American Haiku). He has received several honors: New Jersey State Council on the Art playwriting grant; Critic’s Choice, Samuel French Off-Off Broadway Short Play Festival; Gettysburg College One-Act Play Festival Award; Finalist, Morton R. Sarett Playwriting Award, Ruby Lloyd Aspey Playwriting Competition, and White-Willis Theatre New Playwrights Contest; and Semifinalist, Park Avenue Methodist United Church Playwriting Festival, Albert Panowski New Play Award, and Strawberry One-Act Festival.

Plays

  • The American Film Institute's Top Ten Movie Quotes (In No Particular Order)
    DeMille and Toto are lovers in for a bumpy ride in this farcical curtain raiser as they cite the AFI’s top ten movie quotes as the situation dictates. (2 minutes)
  • Ask Me
    Two 13-year-old eighth graders commit suicide because their parents forbid them from seeing each other. The action unfolds in reverse to the moment they first meet in order to offer a glimpse into the intensity of discovery and anxiety of passion that accompanies experience for adolescents emerging from childhood yet still dependent on parental and school authorities. (25 minutes)
  • The Author Makes No Difference
    When a young woman is not ready for her double date, she explains to her girlfriend that she is writing a letter to the editor of a local newspaper. Her letter contains six notes left by a mysterious guest of a motel where she works as a chambermaid. His notes include apocalyptic passages from six major religions. After she says that she is writing the letter at the stranger’s request, her girlfriend attacks...
    When a young woman is not ready for her double date, she explains to her girlfriend that she is writing a letter to the editor of a local newspaper. Her letter contains six notes left by a mysterious guest of a motel where she works as a chambermaid. His notes include apocalyptic passages from six major religions. After she says that she is writing the letter at the stranger’s request, her girlfriend attacks her common sense before slowly unraveling in doubt and longing to believe in something as much as her friend does. (10 minutes)
  • A Case-by-Case Basis
    “A Case-by-Case Basis” offers an extraordinary evening of theater: four short plays spotlighting front-page issues such as teen suicide, homelessness, law enforcement, justice, language, race relations, immigration and parenting. These penetrating two-character studies, all previously produced Off-Off-Broadway, touch a nerve, hold suspense, and resolve unexpectedly. “Ask Me” (20 minutes) tells the story of two...
    “A Case-by-Case Basis” offers an extraordinary evening of theater: four short plays spotlighting front-page issues such as teen suicide, homelessness, law enforcement, justice, language, race relations, immigration and parenting. These penetrating two-character studies, all previously produced Off-Off-Broadway, touch a nerve, hold suspense, and resolve unexpectedly. “Ask Me” (20 minutes) tells the story of two middle schoolers whose love is doomed when their parents disapprove of their relationship. By inverting the plot and staging a punk band to contribute to the narrative, Vassallo sheds unexpected light on the inexplicable intensity of youthful passion. In “How You Get to Main Street” (30 minutes), a lawyer stands up to his suburban town by defending a homeless man’s right to wander the streets of his community. He loses the hard-earned respect he had gained from his neighbors, and what he hoped to gain, an ideal kind of justice, is equally shattered by his client, who burglarizes his home. “The Community Service” (25 minutes) bends identities to examine cultural perspectives and focus on communication barriers between two people, a resolute candy store owner who recently lost her husband in a race riot, and an unemployed, radical community member estranged from his family. “The Spelling Bee” (35 minutes) thrusts onstage two young men, one black and the other white, each victimized in different ways by the same crime, each living on opposite ends of the same Bronx avenue that separates residents by their race, class, and culture. The New York Times said of this play, “Mr. Vassallo has taken an interesting approach. … There is some refreshingly honest talk from both characters—no political correctness here.” (120 minutes)
  • The Community Service
    This experimental play bends identities to examine cultural perspectives and communication barriers between two races. A Black man, appearing drunk, threateningly enters a Chinese woman’s candy store before business hours. While his behavior seems menacing, the woman stands fast against him. She and her husband, now deceased, left behind in China an unwanted child, a decision the woman regrets. And the man,...
    This experimental play bends identities to examine cultural perspectives and communication barriers between two races. A Black man, appearing drunk, threateningly enters a Chinese woman’s candy store before business hours. While his behavior seems menacing, the woman stands fast against him. She and her husband, now deceased, left behind in China an unwanted child, a decision the woman regrets. And the man, once a police officer, pulled the trigger that inadvertently killed woman’s husband a year ago. They are actually meeting to make sense of the last year: the man down on his luck, out of a job, and estranges from his family, and the woman, apparently stuck in a candy store she has no desire to own and operate. (20 minutes)
  • Do I Bleed in the Dark?
    A homeless ex-boxer on the verge of death holds the fate of the man who shot him in his hands as he contemplates his last chance to make meaning of his harsh life. In his dying moments, he sees his life passing before him and recognizes that his assailant is the same person who did not give him a promised break twenty years earlier. Revenge or forgiveness? (25 minutes)
  • Every Day's a Holiday
    The lives of six teenagers, all close friends who call themselves the Scheme Team, unfold in 10 scenes set on the core theme of 10 federal holidays. The action takes place at the end of their junior year and beginning of their senior year in high school.

    ACT ONE: Scene One: “Resolution” (New Year’s Day) – Sunday, January 4, shopping mall. Scene Two: “Tolerance” (Martin Luther King’s Birthday) –...
    The lives of six teenagers, all close friends who call themselves the Scheme Team, unfold in 10 scenes set on the core theme of 10 federal holidays. The action takes place at the end of their junior year and beginning of their senior year in high school.

    ACT ONE: Scene One: “Resolution” (New Year’s Day) – Sunday, January 4, shopping mall. Scene Two: “Tolerance” (Martin Luther King’s Birthday) – Friday, January 16, high school English class. Scene Three: “Leadership” (George Washington’s Birthday) – Monday, February 16, hospital. Scene Four: “Remembrance” (Memorial Day) – Tuesday, May 26, high school English class. Scene Five: “Freedom” (Independence Day) – Saturday, July 4, town park. ACT TWO: Scene One: “Work” (Labor Day) – Wednesday, September 9, pharmacy.
    Scene Two: “Discovery” (Columbus Day) – Monday, October 12, museum. Scene Three: “Honor” (Veterans Day) – Thursday, November 11, high school auditorium. Scene Four: “Gratitude” (Thanksgiving Day) – Wednesday, November 25, high school soccer field. Scene Five: “Birth” (Christmas Day) – Friday, December 25, den of of one of the girls’ house. (90 minutes)
  • Everything Means Something Else
    This alternately comic and tragic duet features a a teenage brother and sister at the wake of their father, a renowned linguist but negligent parent. In trying to assess their father’s professional achievement, brother and sister, masters of language in their own right, show they have inherited their father’s gift of communication—and realize they share his sense of isolation. (10 minutes)
  • The Eye Begins to See
    This is a story of misplaced affection, professional conflicts, identity crises, and personal longing. A renowned psychologist treats a teenage girl for narcolepsy and sleep apnea while studying the girls remarkable ability of recall. Meanwhile, the doctor confronts challenges brought on by the girl’s mother and evades personal problems in dealing with her own estranged teenage daughter. These divergent...
    This is a story of misplaced affection, professional conflicts, identity crises, and personal longing. A renowned psychologist treats a teenage girl for narcolepsy and sleep apnea while studying the girls remarkable ability of recall. Meanwhile, the doctor confronts challenges brought on by the girl’s mother and evades personal problems in dealing with her own estranged teenage daughter. These divergent situation culminate in the characters establishing unusual relationships and unexpected alliances. (45 minutes)
  • Family Secrets
    A hospital patient on her death bed, a convict on death row, and an Iraqi captive speak to the audience. They are unaware of each other’s presence and of their blood relationship to each other. Through their monologues, we see the limitations of language, the richness of emotional energy on the face of death, and the nature of blood relationships. (10 minutes)
  • The Five Stages of Grief
    Whether it’s love or business, breaking up is hard to do, yet the language is the same. (3 minutes)
  • The Head's Up
    A tourist in a remote cafe is at the end of his obsessive solo European vacation when he realizes just how estranged he is from his self-made world. (6 minutes)
  • Hooked Up
    Two diametrically opposed women in the waiting room of a doctor’s office turn from bitter enemies to old friends in a matter of minutes. (7 minutes)
  • How Silent Do I Sound?
    An aging, bigoted moving man returns from vacation to work with gripes against the world. He meets his new work partner, a deaf man of uncertain ethnic origin who is young enough to be his son. The little respect the older man shows for the younger one leads to his precarious destiny. (15 minutes)
  • How You Get to Main Street?
    When a lawyer, Frank, decides to stand up to his suburban town by defending a homeless man’s right to wander the streets of his community, he realizes that he will lose the hard-earned respect he has gained from his neighbors. What he hoped to gain, at least, was justice for the homeless man, Da-oo. The first thing Da-oo does when he wins his case is burglarize Frank’s home. The play begins with an outraged,...
    When a lawyer, Frank, decides to stand up to his suburban town by defending a homeless man’s right to wander the streets of his community, he realizes that he will lose the hard-earned respect he has gained from his neighbors. What he hoped to gain, at least, was justice for the homeless man, Da-oo. The first thing Da-oo does when he wins his case is burglarize Frank’s home. The play begins with an outraged, knife-wielding Frank stalking an indifferent Da-oo. Frank immediately recovers his stolen property. Then why doesn’t he take his belongings and leave Da-oo alone in his sleeping hole behind the shopping mall? Things that Da-oo says trigger Frank’s imagination as the scene flashes back to courtroom scenes that ultimately prove Da-oo’s brute force is feeble in contrast to Frank’s “lawyer words.” (30 minutes)
  • Hurry Hurry: Twelve Dramatic and Comedic Sketches
    Issues of art, pop culture, creating, travel, theology, betrayal, loyalty, loneliness, and friendship collide in this 12-sketch, 30-role production of 6 comedies and 6 dramas. Actors looking for diverse tour de force challenges can each play up to 6 roles, or the production can include up to 30 actors with any number in between. Each scene change requires no more than 1 minute preparation time.

    ...
    Issues of art, pop culture, creating, travel, theology, betrayal, loyalty, loneliness, and friendship collide in this 12-sketch, 30-role production of 6 comedies and 6 dramas. Actors looking for diverse tour de force challenges can each play up to 6 roles, or the production can include up to 30 actors with any number in between. Each scene change requires no more than 1 minute preparation time.

    NOTE: These 12 plays can be staged individually, partially, or collectively, and in any order that the production company deems appropriate.

    (Running Time: 120 minutes)

    ACT ONE (48 minutes)

    1. The American Film Institute’s Top Ten Movie Quotes (In No Particular Order) – Lovers in a car cite the AFI’s top ten movie quotes as the situation dictates. (2 minutes, comedy)

    2. The Legacy Poems – A renowned poet finds himself defending his work and his worldview as he meets a new editor and the publisher he thought he knew about his latest manuscript. (17 minutes, drama)

    3. Take Me to the Darkest Light – A blind man confronts an anxious young working woman on a train platform, willing to pay her for light. (3 minutes, drama)

    4. The Head’s Up – A tourist in a European cafe is on a long distance call with his wife in the USA as he endlessly awaits service and encounters the futility of visiting 27 European Union countries in an 80-day whirlwind tour. (6 minutes, drama)

    5. Waiting – Two desperate people, a woman about to give birth and a man at a supermarket checkout counter, can use the same language. (3 minutes, comedy)

    6. The Meaning of the Blues – Emily Dickinson, Duke Ellington, and Frida Kahlo meet for a walk through the Hermitage, Rijksmuseum, Louvre, Apostolic Palace, Prado, National Gallery, and Metropolitan Museum of Art as they share their art, philosophy, and affection. (12 minutes, drama)

    ACT TWO (52 minutes)

    7. The Five Stages of Grief – Whether it’s a couple breaking up their relationship or a boss terminating an employee, the five stages of grief will surely surface. (3 minutes, comedy)

    8. Who, What, Where, When, Why, How – An artist silently sketches a grieving jogger near Ground Zero as he recalls his feelings of September 11, 2001, precisely seven years before. (6 minutes, drama)

    9. This Is Your Life – A female and her subconscious age from 6 to 66 as the history American sitcoms unfold. (16 minutes, comedy)

    10. Hooked Up – Two strangers in the waiting room of a doctor’s office become bitter enemies until they realize they were high school friends 11 years earlier. (7 minutes, comedy)

    11. What If I Said – A veteran now employed by Homeland Security grapples with guilt, anger, and despair as his conscience alternately warns and mocks him about impeding security threats. (10 minutes, drama)

    12. Writer’s Blockhead – The creative right brain and analytical left brain of a writer spar, frustrating her as she tries to complete a story. (5 minutes, comedy)
  • Isn't This the Way You Wanted Me?
    Before going to bed, a woman understandably complains to her drunk husband about all that he has lost: his manners, physique, sex drive, and consciousness. When he wakes up in the middle of the night a completely changed man, just the man she once fell in love with, she realizes that some things cannot—and should not—change. (25 minutes)
  • The Legacy Poems
    A seasoned, discontented, and defensive poet expecting a contract meeting with his publisher encounters an unexpected revelation about the value of his work and life when he runs into a young editorial assistant. (17 minutes)
  • Mass
    Mary, 18, and Joe, 26, are strangers who find themselves in the dilapidated Aurora Borealis Hotel as they discover their identities, connection to each other, and place in the world. (12 minutes)
  • The Meaning of the Blues
    What would Emily Dickinson, Duke Ellington, and Frida Kahlo talk about if they walked through the Hermitage, Rijksmuseum, Louvre, Apostolic Palace, Prado, National Gallery, and Metropolitan Museum of Art? (12 minutes)
  • The Phoenix
    Fifteen months after a woman’s only child, a college student, was killed in the World Trade Center, she lapses into one of her many bouts with depression, living vicariously through her image of her daughter’s life. A girl, who cannot be seen or heard by the woman, exists to the audience as the daughter’s spirit, trying unsuccessfully to reach her mother. Feelings of maternal guilt and youthful anxiety surface...
    Fifteen months after a woman’s only child, a college student, was killed in the World Trade Center, she lapses into one of her many bouts with depression, living vicariously through her image of her daughter’s life. A girl, who cannot be seen or heard by the woman, exists to the audience as the daughter’s spirit, trying unsuccessfully to reach her mother. Feelings of maternal guilt and youthful anxiety surface, but the girl struggles to release her mother so that they can both move on with their lives–one in the flesh and one in spirit. (20 minutes)
  • Questions Asked of Dying Dreams
    Questions Asked of Dying Dreams is the umbrella title for four related one-acts: "What Do You Charge for a Cure?" (35 minutes), about a director of a clinical program for developmentally disabled individuals who confronts her professional and personal doubts as she deals with one of her clients and a new intake; "How Silent Do I Sound?" (15 minutes), about a bigoted, aging moving man who...
    Questions Asked of Dying Dreams is the umbrella title for four related one-acts: "What Do You Charge for a Cure?" (35 minutes), about a director of a clinical program for developmentally disabled individuals who confronts her professional and personal doubts as she deals with one of her clients and a new intake; "How Silent Do I Sound?" (15 minutes), about a bigoted, aging moving man who unexpectedly meets his new coworker and his own destiny; "Do I Bleed in the Dark" (25 minutes), about a homeless ex-boxer who has a final chance to make something meaningful of his life in his dying moments; and "Isn't This the Way You Wanted Me?" (25 minutes), about an embittered, frustrated wife who reassesses her marriage and life in light of her husband's remarkable transformation."Questions Asked of Dying Dreams adds up to a rousing maiden voyage for new playwright Vassallo and a challenging and enjoyable evening of theater. ... Cynical, sarcastic, funny, or angry, all four playlets are insightful and engaging--no mean feat--and each takes a hard look at life, their characters always questioning its meaning." -- Bob Coyne, Asbury Park Press. (120 minutes)
  • So What If Life's a Cliche?
    The two speakers are neither here nor there but everywhere, our contemplative conscience that accompanies all our experiences as we stride toward desires, steer clear of fears, and escape from inevitable realities. They are not contrasting characters but complementary ones, completing each other’s thoughts always with certainty but sometimes with profound sadness or satisfaction or strength. They represent the...
    The two speakers are neither here nor there but everywhere, our contemplative conscience that accompanies all our experiences as we stride toward desires, steer clear of fears, and escape from inevitable realities. They are not contrasting characters but complementary ones, completing each other’s thoughts always with certainty but sometimes with profound sadness or satisfaction or strength. They represent the conscious choices we make, knowing full well we may regret them yet resigning ourselves to our human fate of exercising our free will. (10 minutes)
  • The Spelling Bee
    Two young men, one black and one white, have been victimized by the same crime. Each tells his story while the other grudgingly plays supporting roles to embellish the narrative. The black man assails everyone he sees in the white world: neighborhood greasers, sociology professors, and sleazy businessmen. At the core of the white man’s tale are reverse discrimination, black-on-white crime, and an impotent...
    Two young men, one black and one white, have been victimized by the same crime. Each tells his story while the other grudgingly plays supporting roles to embellish the narrative. The black man assails everyone he sees in the white world: neighborhood greasers, sociology professors, and sleazy businessmen. At the core of the white man’s tale are reverse discrimination, black-on-white crime, and an impotent justice system. Their tirades culminate in an explosive confrontation.


    “Vassallo orchestrates an intricate duel of wits between two embittered men struggling to validate their own bigotry.” – Steven Boone, Show Business.

    “Mr. Vassallo has taken an interesting approach. … There is some refreshingly honest talk from both characters—no political correctness here.” – Neil Genzlinger, New York Times.

    "The strength of Vassallo’s 1995 playlet is that he balances griefs. Nothing … is black-and-white. Intolerance, the playwright observes, can sometimes grow from understandable resentments—but the problem with rational gripes is that they don't often lead to attempts at reconciliation. – David Finkle, Theater Mania.

    “A bitter sampling of bigotry and racial epithets … Most blatantly challenging and angry …hints at social conventions, political correctness in universities, and the genesis of bigotry among the average folks on the street… offers some poignant moments of heated exchange.” – Kessa De Santis, Electronic Link.

    “A highly theatrical exploration of ongoing racial grudges in the Bronx.” – Mark Dundas Wood, Backstage.

    (40 minutes)
  • Take Me to the Darkest Light
    A young woman confronted by a blind man and a beggar on a subway platform experiences fear in a different light. (3 minutes)
  • This Is Your Life
    The history a woman from age 6 to 66 unfolds as played by two characters, one who lives an idealized life through watching sitcoms and the other who deals with life as it really is.(16 minutes)
  • Waiting
    Whose urgency is greater, a woman about to give birth in a delivery room or an impatient man waiting to check out his groceries in a supermarket? (3 minutes)
  • What Are You Running For?
    As a high school boy prepares for his student council campaign speech, he struggles with two daunting tasks: overcoming the popularity of his more self-assured opponent, and living up to the success of his father’s career. As he suffers the relentless teasing of his younger sister and listens to the wise counsel of one of his classmates, he learns an important lesson about keeping things real. (30 minutes)
  • What Do You Charge for a Cure?
    A director of a clinical program for developmentally disabled individuals confronts her personal and professional doubts as she counsels a problematic client and interviews a brain-injured man ill-suited for her program. (35 minutes)
  • What If I Said
    A veteran working in national security is torn between his commitment to his country and the limitations his job puts on him in fulfilling his obligations. (10 minutes)
  • Who, What, Where, When, Why, How
    A jogger converges on an artist a few blocks from Ground Zero tries to find closure in the terrorist incident that changed his life seven years after the September 11, 2001. (6 minutes)
  • Writer's Blockhead
    A writer is conflicted by how to write a love scene: her right brain calling for no holds barred and her left brain demanding restraint. (5 minutes)