Sheila Cowley

Sheila Cowley

Sheila Cowley is a playwright whose work embraces 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 play Flying, about women who flew military planes in WWII after they get sent home to get back to normal, was a 2018 Finalist for Marin...
Sheila Cowley is a playwright whose work embraces 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 play Flying, about women who flew military planes in WWII after they get sent home to get back to normal, was a 2018 Finalist for Marin Theatre Company's David Calicchio Emerging American Playwright Prize, Featured Finalist in Chicago’s Blue Ink Festival 2017, part of the Austin Playhouse Festival of New American Plays and the Piccolo Spoleto Festival, with Equity productions in upstate NY and Tampa Bay. In 2018, Trio premiered in Austin with commedia dell’arte performers, her intimate drama Stay was onstage in Charleston SC and the absurdist short Teatime won the British Theatre Challenge and was onstage in NYC, London, Sydney and Dubai.

Sheila’s working now on scripts that combine text and movement, collaborating with dancers and visual artists. The Burlesque Astronomy Play uses burlesque dance, abstract art and onstage experiments to explore the challenges that women face when balancing career and femininity. Currently in development is Madness, a comedy of gender stereotypes and gender fluidity written for actors, dancers, visual artists and an improvised score.

The St. Petersburg Arts Alliance named her the city’s Literary Muse 2018.

Dramatists Guild, Chicago Dramatists Network, New Play Exchange.

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 vibrant interplay between scientific and artistic exploration - with dance, abstract art, astronomy and science magic. It’s focused on the challenges that women face when balancing career and femininity, and the struggle of immigrants to feel at home.

    Andi wants to be an astronaut. All she wants is to explore new worlds - and not get left behind...
    The Burlesque Astronomy Play celebrates the vibrant interplay between scientific and artistic exploration - with dance, abstract art, astronomy and science magic. It’s focused on the challenges that women face when balancing career and femininity, and the struggle of immigrants to feel at home.

    Andi wants to be an astronaut. All she wants is to explore new worlds - and not get left behind because she’s a girl.

    Andi’s family came to the U.S. as refugees when she was six and Andi’s still not sure where home is. She taught herself the constellations, earned two PhDs in Astrophysics and is doing her best to get off this planet. But NASA turned her down, again, because they want people who work well with others - and who have some other interests besides blasting into outer space and never looking back.

    So Andi is marooned on Earth, trapped at a university and getting more frustrated every day. When she sees a poster for an Art department project that’s inspired by astronomy, she decides to experiment - and try and understand a mystery that’s here on Earth.

    But when she meets Cal, an artist, Andi steps into a world of science tangled up with abstract art and burlesque dance. As she and Cal struggle over connections between art and astrophysics, Andi starts exploring her femininity, using the scientific process.

    Her colleague Fiona never got her PhD because she stopped to raise a family. Now Fiona’s kids are into musicals and haiku - so she’s trying wild experiments with household objects, desperate to get them interested in science.

    Andi is applying one more time to NASA, now that she’s got “other interests.” But when Andi finds out that she’s pregnant, it’s clear the biggest mystery is her own femininity - and whether motherhood will derail her career.
  • 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 is a play that inspires adventurous theatremakers. The play wrestles with the cycles we all struggle...
    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 is a play that inspires adventurous theatremakers. The play 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.

    This script was developed using New Vaudeville clowning, commedia and dance. The movement and physicality invite ensembles to explore visual storytelling through a range of ethnic or historical traditions.
  • Stay
    An eye surgeon convinces her husband he's been blinded in an accident, to try to keep him from leaving her.

  • Madness
    * In Development: In a Forest made of ladders, where the Moon is a balloon, Madness is sparking.

    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...
    * In Development: In a Forest made of ladders, where the Moon is a balloon, Madness is sparking.

    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.
  • 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.
  • 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. 
  • 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.
  • 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.

    (Originally part of the dance-theatre-science sequence, Air-Earth-Fire-Water.)
  • Tidal Pulls
    A tidal biologist wading in the shallows feels the pull of distant galaxies.

    (Originally part of the dance-theatre-science sequence, Air-Earth-Fire-Water.)
  • 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.
  • Timing
    A woman meets her boyfriend's father and realizes he's her soulmate, not his son - just 40 years too late. 
  • 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.
  • 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.