Sheila Cowley

Sheila Cowley

Sheila Cowley is a playwright and audio producer based in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Her plays embrace many artforms, creating theatre that celebrates voice, movement, sound, visual art and circus artistry. It’s theatre that asks big questions — about gender roles and family, and tiny daily acts of heroism.

Her plays range from Flying, about women who flew US military planes in...
Sheila Cowley is a playwright and audio producer based in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Her plays embrace many artforms, creating theatre that celebrates voice, movement, sound, visual art and circus artistry. It’s theatre that asks big questions — about gender roles and family, and tiny daily acts of heroism.

Her plays range from Flying, about women who flew US military planes in WWII, to The Burlesque Astronomy Play, exploring femininity with dance, abstract art and onstage science experiments. Her work has been produced around the U.S. and in London, South Korea, Sydney and Dubai.

The St. Petersburg Arts Alliance named her the city’s Literary Muse 2018. She collaborates with actors, dancers, scientists and visual artists on performance works aimed at inspiring audiences to look up, to reach out and embrace this complicated world.

Plays

  • Flying
    Susan flew military planes in WWII, so men could go and fight. Now she’s been ordered to get back to normal, while the town waits for her local hero husband to come home.

    Finalist, Marin Theatre Company's 2018 David Calicchio Emerging American Playwright Prize. Finalist, Theatre Conspiracy New Play Contest 2018. Finalist, Florida Repertory Theatre, PlayLab Festival 2017. Semi-Finalist, Geva...
    Susan flew military planes in WWII, so men could go and fight. Now she’s been ordered to get back to normal, while the town waits for her local hero husband to come home.

    Finalist, Marin Theatre Company's 2018 David Calicchio Emerging American Playwright Prize. Finalist, Theatre Conspiracy New Play Contest 2018. Finalist, Florida Repertory Theatre, PlayLab Festival 2017. Semi-Finalist, Geva Theatre 2016. Semi-Finalist, O'Neill Theater Center 2015 National Playwrights Conference. Semi-Finalist, Ashland New Plays Festival 2015.

    Flying looks at life propelled by stories, as the town tells glory tales of Bob and Susan tries to put away her memories of flying.

    Susan is comfortable in Bob’s shadow. Now she’s using Bob’s legend to keep his family airfield going, since no one would bring an airplane to a woman for repairs. So when Bob is killed in action, it’s easier for Susan to pretend he’s coming home - for as long as she can.

    When Bob’s wounded gunner comes looking for a job, she’s forced to hire him. Fisher struggles with an artificial leg and an airfield run by women, as the stories of the town reveal Susan through what they leave out. 

    Flying is drawn from oral histories and memoirs of women who served in the WASP program. It explores the aftermath of war and the quiet, daily acts of heroism that never earn a medal.

    "Our strongest ever season opening weekend at the box office since we started the company in 2007. Set two records for talkback attendance." - Bill Lelbach, Chenango River Theatre.

    "This show is relevant and timely in so many ways. It gently sears and stays with you." - Robin Gordon, Tampa Repertory Theatre.

    "Interweaving interpersonal relationships, personal identity, a community's economic struggle and loss -- inside of a social and historical context-- inside of memory-- layers the story beautifully. The diverse casting challenges the audience to review the specificity of history, while providing a universal doorway through which we can see ourselves." - Fanni Green, University of South Florida School of Theatre & Dance.
  • The Burlesque Astronomy Play
    The Burlesque Astronomy Play celebrates the shared creative sparks of scientific and artistic exploration with onstage experiments, visual art and burlesque dance. The play explores the compromises working women deal with every day and the struggle for immigrants to find a place that feels like home.

    Aibi’s an astronomer, who’d gladly trade this world for any of a billion others. But NASA turned...
    The Burlesque Astronomy Play celebrates the shared creative sparks of scientific and artistic exploration with onstage experiments, visual art and burlesque dance. The play explores the compromises working women deal with every day and the struggle for immigrants to find a place that feels like home.

    Aibi’s an astronomer, who’d gladly trade this world for any of a billion others. But NASA turned her down, again, because they want somebody who has other interests besides blasting off to space.

    Aibi came to the U.S. as a refugee - and she’s never found a place that feels like home. She went back to Colombia after the fighting stopped, but she couldn’t find her family’s house and nobody remembered her. So she applied to NASA again. And she got turned down again.

    Cal’s an abstract artist, who helped his department get a grant to experiment with burlesque and body image. When Aibi thinks she’s going to a space exhibit and finds strippers, she steps into a world of burlesque tangled up with art and science. And Aibi starts exploring her femininity, using the scientific process.

    Meanwhile, Fiona is stuck teaching Astro 101 because she paused to raise a family. Now her kids love musicals and art - and she’s trying wild experiments to get them interested in science.

    Aibi is applying one more time to NASA, now that she’s got “other interests.” But when she gets pregnant, the biggest mystery is whether motherhood will derail her career.
  • Madness
    * In Development: Madness explores gender stereotypes and gender fluidity, in a theatrical celebration of transformation and the arts. The story tackles love, identity, sacrifice and family in a rollicking and absurd onstage world. 

    Tonight, the annual March 32nd celebration’s underway, a time to give each other good surprises and be grateful bad surprises are all locked away. That was thanks to...
    * In Development: Madness explores gender stereotypes and gender fluidity, in a theatrical celebration of transformation and the arts. The story tackles love, identity, sacrifice and family in a rollicking and absurd onstage world. 

    Tonight, the annual March 32nd celebration’s underway, a time to give each other good surprises and be grateful bad surprises are all locked away. That was thanks to Eleanor, who forgot that she’d put herself out of a job by saving the world.

    When a man transformed into a woman, two women playing men and Penelope, who’s loved March 32nd all her life, get to the party - they find Robin’s found a comfortable balance between male and female, Ollie has misplaced the recipe for perfect lovemaking - and Eleanor’s trying to put the world back like it was.
  • Stay
    An eye surgeon convinces her husband he's been blinded in an accident, to try to keep him from leaving her.

  • Trio
    Every day, Tim bares his chest and Leslie kills him. Leslie’s mom is in the hospital, so she seeks distraction in her dad’s garage, devising a monster play for kids. Tim plays the monster as she wields a wooden sword, while a Trio of silent clowns create a magical world from found objects.

    Trio wrestles with the cycles we all struggle through, as parents die and children have to take their place...
    Every day, Tim bares his chest and Leslie kills him. Leslie’s mom is in the hospital, so she seeks distraction in her dad’s garage, devising a monster play for kids. Tim plays the monster as she wields a wooden sword, while a Trio of silent clowns create a magical world from found objects.

    Trio wrestles with the cycles we all struggle through, as parents die and children have to take their place. 

    When an old college love appears, a three-way romantic triangle takes shape through swords and masks and monsters, and Tim and Leslie forge a way to face the real world, even if you’re only armed with a wooden sword.
  • Teatime
    People under siege are making home and family with who and what they have.

    "Stunningly original play" - Winner of 2018 British Theatre Challenge, Sky Blue Theatre.
  • Hue and Saturation
    Two artists struggle over how far to go for their art, if even outer space isn’t far enough.
  • Rewrite
    A screenwriter has spent her career killing the same actor over and over. Now that actor is asking her to rewrite his wife's very recent - and very real - death.
  • Dance
    A married couple who used to be a man and woman and are now two men, are trying to get used to things as they chaperone an awkward high school dance. 
  • Wintery
    A young woman railing against her first Christmas without her mother, finds help from the nerdy kid she’s always ignored at family celebrations.
  • Starry Night
    An astronomer who feels gravity yanking at her socks when she looks up at the stars, and an artist who's overwhelmed by sounds vibrating off of blue and purple, find their way along an awkward first date on a cloudy night. 
  • Duck
    A couple dig through unseen piles of family heirlooms, and realize they never really listened to their endless family stories - and now nobody's alive to ask.
  • Flowers
    The preacher's wife wrangles with church ladies, her career as a doctor - and mysteries in the graveyard next door, knowing that her dog is stealing flowers from the tombstones.
  • Flicker
    A quantum physicist muses on the routine unpredictability of life and love.
  • Tidal Pulls
    A tidal biologist wading in the shallows feels the pull of distant galaxies.
  • Timing
    A woman meets her boyfriend's father and realizes he's her soulmate, not his son - just 40 years too late. 
  • Elfs
    Two nervous workaday elves wait for Santa to jump into his getaway sleigh, with visible live sound effects performed onstage.

    Commissioned for March Forth Productions' 2015 Krampusnacht celebration in NYC.
  • Bikini Atoll Bombshell
    A beleaguered nurse on a faraway island tries on a bikini for the first time, and has to choose between humiliation and bravado.
  • Love's Labors
    Charlie's done everything his father said would make him a good man - work hard, get married, raise a family. Jack's a doctor and almost a hermit, since his longtime partner left town. When their work lives connect, Charlie has to face fears and desires he's been struggling against all his life. Fathers, sons and masculinity, an exploration of how life resonates throughout a family.
  • Awash
    A couple navigate the storms of a Saturday night, struggling to find the romance they remember - as kids and crashing waves keep sweeping them offstage.