Don Cummings

Don Cummings

DON CUMMINGS is a playwright, author and essayist. His plays have been produced on both coasts: The Water Tribe, A Good Smoke, The Fat of the Land, American Air, What Do Men Live By?, Stark Raving Mad, The Winner, Piss Play is About Minorities So It's Really Important, Feed the Children! and Loose Joints. The Fat of the Land was a semifinalist for the Kaufman & Hart Award for New American Comedy and...
DON CUMMINGS is a playwright, author and essayist. His plays have been produced on both coasts: The Water Tribe, A Good Smoke, The Fat of the Land, American Air, What Do Men Live By?, Stark Raving Mad, The Winner, Piss Play is About Minorities So It's Really Important, Feed the Children! and Loose Joints. The Fat of the Land was a semifinalist for the Kaufman & Hart Award for New American Comedy and was published in The Coachella Review. A Good Smoke was a semifinalist for the Eugene O'Neill Playwrights Conference, had a reading at The Public Theater, directed by Pam MacKinnon, with Meryl Streep, Henry Wolfe, Grace Gummer and Debra Monk, and was optioned for Broadway. Piss Play was produced as part of The New York Cringe Festival where it received the Golden Pineapple Award for best play. The Winner was a finalist for The Heideman Award at the Actors Theater of Louisville and was published in Post Road Magazine. His essays and short stories have been published in Epiphany, Rain Taxi and Cagibi. Box, a short film written by Don Cummings, was presented at The Dam Short Film Festival, the Toronto Independent Film Festival, among others, and was distributed by Shorts International. His love-sex-and-health memoir, Bent But not Broken (Heliotrope Books), launched in spring, 2019.

Plays

  • Exit Plan
    Stuck inside during a pandemic, an abused person reaches out to a video call center to escape their abuser. All characters are adults of any gender, race or ability.
  • The Water Tribe
    Claudia is young, parentless, minimally employed, and almost without family or friends but she remains upbeat about her future and confident in her quest to form a personal tribe for herself and her boyfriend Johnny. But Johnny has problems of his own. He has launched into adulthood but still struggles to cut the cord from his concerned mother while searching for a connection to his long-absent father. As the...
    Claudia is young, parentless, minimally employed, and almost without family or friends but she remains upbeat about her future and confident in her quest to form a personal tribe for herself and her boyfriend Johnny. But Johnny has problems of his own. He has launched into adulthood but still struggles to cut the cord from his concerned mother while searching for a connection to his long-absent father. As the few people Claudia has in her life begin to fall away and the problems in her relationship are laid bare, she teeters on the brink of catastrophe in this searing, darkly funny tragicomedy about the
    critical importance of community, identity, and home.
  • A Good Smoke
    Dave flies across America to save his addicted family but they will have none of it. He is quickly fogged in by their den of alcohol, drugs and tobacco. Doing everything he can think of to find clarity, he only manages shrill doses of blame. As his marriage is falling apart on the west coast, his birth family wafts through its own toxic cloud in the east. His mother, Joyce, dropped her meds - cold-turkey - the...
    Dave flies across America to save his addicted family but they will have none of it. He is quickly fogged in by their den of alcohol, drugs and tobacco. Doing everything he can think of to find clarity, he only manages shrill doses of blame. As his marriage is falling apart on the west coast, his birth family wafts through its own toxic cloud in the east. His mother, Joyce, dropped her meds - cold-turkey - the day her daughter gave birth, resulting in severe drug withdrawal. As Dave’s sister Susan was wheeled into delivery, Joyce was hauled off to the psych ward. David Sr. and brother Joe do everything they can to keep the family from ever changing, while Susan’s baby is failing to thrive. This family is functioning at its worst when it should be at its best. Who saves the baby is what this story is about. Who saves Dave is something he has to figure out. A good fight to the smoldering finish ignites the bright sparks of inescapable truth that burn into this dark comedy to make - A GOOD SMOKE (Read by Meryl Streep at The Public Theater)
  • The Fat of the Land
    Six people. Six problems. Two houses side by side in upstate New York on a bucolic autumn hillside that is slowly being turned into subdivisions. In one house lives a married couple who long to have children but who are not physiologically able. They are religious, rural and traditional. Beverly once taught school but has stopped since, "Children don't really understand Christ." In the other...
    Six people. Six problems. Two houses side by side in upstate New York on a bucolic autumn hillside that is slowly being turned into subdivisions. In one house lives a married couple who long to have children but who are not physiologically able. They are religious, rural and traditional. Beverly once taught school but has stopped since, "Children don't really understand Christ." In the other house lives a hip musician, James, and his even hipper artist best friend, Martha. They are weekenders from New York City who just want to make their marks on earth as artists. James is gay. Martha is busy getting ready for the opening of her huge art show of sculptures hewn from lard. They are atheist, urban and very modern. Certainly, they don't think too much of their townie neighbors. But the neighbors keep coming over looking to James for the very thing they need in order for them to have a baby. Will the sperm fly? And will the stress of sperm gathering cause a conflagration? A loving transsexual named Claudia and a bright-eyed, narcissistic dancer round out the cast in this thoughtful drama with plenty of comedy about who gets to inherit the earth.
  • Live Work Space
    LIVE WORK SPACE yields two couples into their futures. One couple makes it. The other one?...Set in a new loft building in downtown Los Angeles, there is restlessness, reflecting our shifting urban times. Satisfactory levels of commitment, sex and intimacy are all in question. Especially after so much recent death in the lives of a few of the main characters’ extended families. Frances, an executive at the...
    LIVE WORK SPACE yields two couples into their futures. One couple makes it. The other one?...Set in a new loft building in downtown Los Angeles, there is restlessness, reflecting our shifting urban times. Satisfactory levels of commitment, sex and intimacy are all in question. Especially after so much recent death in the lives of a few of the main characters’ extended families. Frances, an executive at the height of her catalogue career, is married to Tad. Frances is exceptionally powerful and craves strong, physical love. Tad, an inventor, is grieving his dead pothead brother and grabs at the past and the future at once, missing the present entirely. Next door are Alan and Drake, a writer of questionable sociological nonfiction and a mid-level television executive who likes to cook, with their enticing open relationship as a possible model for connubial modernity. But this path only gets everyone into trouble. Gus, an actor who aims to please and Michelle, Drake’s oldest, clinging friend, want what they want, too. Career fulfillment, human warmth, something.

    By the end of the play, the walls clear out and the finale sits atop of the building with an annoying, useless helicopter flying overhead, offering no escape. Disney Hall gleams in the distance. And some very important things do fall apart while some lesser ones remain. It is sad and funny, like a marriage that survives and a marriage that does not, in a chronic culture where closeness is desired but very difficult to achieve.

    Live Work Space shows us the new Los Angeles, the one where not everyone works in the entertainment industry (though some do), where not everyone is self involved (though some are), where love is sex is love is maybe nothing more than a reliably grilled steak with your man at home or a night out trawling for sex with some stranger in a sterile corporate clam bar.

    Live Work Space has had readings at The Road Theatre Company and West Coast Ensemble in Los Angeles. It premiers this season in Los Angeles.
  • Stark Raving Mad
    In this modern farce, the Kendoos, a media family, live in Westchester County. Like their neighbors, each day they read the New York Times and watch the evening news. The world is growing more violent. Things are spinning out of control. In the middle of their Independence Day barbecue gunshots are heard. Murder has taken place right next door. All the guests disburse except for Stark, an ambitious reporter....
    In this modern farce, the Kendoos, a media family, live in Westchester County. Like their neighbors, each day they read the New York Times and watch the evening news. The world is growing more violent. Things are spinning out of control. In the middle of their Independence Day barbecue gunshots are heard. Murder has taken place right next door. All the guests disburse except for Stark, an ambitious reporter. Bob Kendoo and his three grown Kendoo children would like to find out who committed these murders, but they have problems of their own. Loyalty Kendoo, escaping her abusive husband, has just flown in from Oregon to celebrate with her family only to be covered with barbecue sauce. Discipline Kendoo pines to give up being a pro football player. He wants to let the world know that he is bisexual and needs to be free and whimsical. Patience Kendoo has to eat, and she doesn't know why. Bob Kendoo is answering phone calls. Someone is offering him bribe money to keep his mouth shut about a heinous crime.

    Detective Kechejian shows up to solve the murders. She is Armenian and wants the world to know the horror and the suffering of the Armenian people. While Discipline tries to make it with Stark, and Loyalty complains about her bad marriage, and Patience decides to hide in the upstairs closet for fear of murder, things reach a fevered pitch until Loyalty passes out, Discipline is completely rejected by Stark, and as a total surprise to Patience, she gives birth to a baby.

    In act two Paul shows up, a statistician who is trying to change his life from math to love.
    He desires Loyalty and wants to bring her up to his house in New Hampshire. Patience overhears the phone calls to her father. She discovers he is being offered bribes as hush money to keep him quiet. Patience has been raped by a very powerful man who silenced the media with cash, and now her own father may be part of a male dominated cover-up. She sets out to kill her father and confronts her whole family as she pines for her frozen placenta. During all this, Stark is collecting information and sending it to the magazine office through his virtual reality mask. Patience is finally let in on the game that has been played once the reporter has left. The murders weren't real. They were invented to keep the reporter around snooping. The phone calls were a ruse to expose the man who raped Patience. Discipline is exposing his bisexuality in order to get good coverage in the press, thereby increasing his trading price and giving him the money for the family's move to a new place. Loyalty realizes that, "Maybe the things that are unattractive about me really are unattractive," and decides to leave her husband and run North with Paul. It turns out that Detective Kechejian is not really a detective at all, "I can't find my shoes in the middle of the living room with the lights on." She is Bob Kendoo's girlfriend, Reneé, who has a passion for truth and old world humor. Everyone gets what they need and they all move to New Hampshire where things will be better. As soon as Patience files a police report about her rape, they will move to New Hampshire and raise this new baby in a new world. Discipline declares as they prepare to leave, "Oh how they’ll fear the feminization of America--when all conflict is over and your only worry is to decide what beautiful thing you are going to create." A calmness settles over this modern family.
  • Piss Play is About Minorities So It's Really Important
    The Arts Council must pick one lucky recipient to win the big funding prize! Who will it be? This farce of urinary proportions sends up the ridiculous nature of arts funding and who actually gets the cash. Run by two self-involved nuts that put three applicants through the paces for the booty, only one hopeful has the courage to steel his nerve and give what is greatly desired: The streaming shame of what it...
    The Arts Council must pick one lucky recipient to win the big funding prize! Who will it be? This farce of urinary proportions sends up the ridiculous nature of arts funding and who actually gets the cash. Run by two self-involved nuts that put three applicants through the paces for the booty, only one hopeful has the courage to steel his nerve and give what is greatly desired: The streaming shame of what it means to be "less than" in society. This nasty farce, with its heart in its kidneys, is sure to tickle even the most politically correct.
  • American Air (One Person Play)
    American Air is a one-person play that focuses on a few days in the life of eleven characters leading up to five of the characters' journeys on ill-fated flight 911 from Chicago to Denver. It is completely fictional and mostly comedic. The play has a strong story line. The series of events are in chronological order. The weather is bad.

    The play begins with Clark, a failed musician with a...
    American Air is a one-person play that focuses on a few days in the life of eleven characters leading up to five of the characters' journeys on ill-fated flight 911 from Chicago to Denver. It is completely fictional and mostly comedic. The play has a strong story line. The series of events are in chronological order. The weather is bad.

    The play begins with Clark, a failed musician with a broken marriage, who flees Boston to start over as a short-order cook at The Flying Burger at O'Hare Airport. His problems with women, money and public image send him ultimately to an old friend's house in Oregon where he hopes to start his life over. He feels no one listens to him.

    Gus has a recently deceased mother. He is forced to play Go Fish and Parcheesi for the family wealth in the basement of his childhood home in Brooklyn with his overbearing brother, Gus' Brother. He too has marriage troubles and needs to learn how to assert himself.

    Gus' Brother wants to stay young forever. He is a complete bully and orders around Gus and their sister Stacie to do exactly what he says.

    While Clark and Gus are battling with their own problems, James, a well-to-do young man from Chicago, speaks out against his therapist and group therapy mates as to why he no longer needs to be there. His alienation and pompous self-importance mask his deeper need for the affection he has never received. He is charming and scary. He leaves therapy and travels to Aspen for a typical weekend getaway on flight 911 where he meets Clark, Gus and David.

    David is a Triple-A agent living in New York City who has abandonment issues with his lover. He is Jewish and hyper-active. David is very warm and full of good humor even though he torments himself with paranoid ideas of the loss of his lover, Mark, to younger men. He accepts an offer to join his flight attendant friend, Marie-Françoise, on a ski weekend trip to Utah.

    Marie-Françoise is a Codependent-No-More wanna-be. She is lonely, from France, and is accident prone.

    Marie-Françoise works with The Captain, the pilot of flight 911, who is a recovering alcoholic. He has wild flights of fancy and enjoys being very candid with his passengers over the jet sound system.

    Collette is a failed dancer with an eating disorder who wants to advance her career by moving out West. She is in James' group therapy and is attracted to him. She is dramatic and spews hackneyed epithets. She spends a good deal of time in the snowy parking lot of O'Hare Airport never being able to board a plane.

    Collette meets, The Man, a fellow worker of Clark's from The Flying Burger. The Man is from Louisiana. He has mistakenly murdered his wife on a hunting trip. He is confused about meat and feels we should all eat it.

    Collette is very supported by her widowed mother, Collette's Mother, who tells Collette the story of how Collette was adopted. Collette's mother wants her to stay in Chicago. She is from a simpler, heart-felt generation.

    Collette's Boyfriend is on his way to pick up Collette at LAX not knowing that she never gets on a plane. He is a professional plant-waterer on a cellular phone who speaks to the audience on the disadvantages of living in Los Angeles. If he ever has a daughter he is going to name her Yorba Linda.

    All these characters come into contact with each other and are transformed. Clark, Gus, James and David meet on flight 911. The plane almost crashes and they reevaluate aspects of their lives. Collette faces her food problems when she meets The Man as he is carrying a hamburger. She returns home to her mother to complete her growing up. Collette's boyfriend continues his solitary existence, which is what he needs. Marie-Françoise learns she must make a life for herself. The Captain realizes the strength of humanity in the face of danger. Clark realizes in order for people to listen to him he has to slow down. David learns to trust Mark. Gus goes back to his wife in Denver. James considers his feelings for the first time and lets himself be vulnerable with Collette.

    American Air is an intricately woven story of eleven characters and a study of these characters as they attempt to move forward in bad climate.
  • The Winner
    The last surviving married couple, Lydia and Jeffrey, also happen to be the largest oil barons who have ever lived. It is 2309. The world is ruined by the burning of fossil fuels. Lydia and Jeffrey fight it out, along with their servant, Matilda, for the last breathable canister of oxygen on earth.
  • The Horse Latitudes
    Inspired by a real relationship between a famous singer and her father, three drug dealers are stranded on a boat in the middle of The Horse Latitudes, off the southern coast of the U.S. Tate, the captain of the ship, does not want anything to change. His daughter, Crystal, is a drug addict with an easy-going attitude. Maura, the third wheel in this business relationship, tries to help Crystal see other...
    Inspired by a real relationship between a famous singer and her father, three drug dealers are stranded on a boat in the middle of The Horse Latitudes, off the southern coast of the U.S. Tate, the captain of the ship, does not want anything to change. His daughter, Crystal, is a drug addict with an easy-going attitude. Maura, the third wheel in this business relationship, tries to help Crystal see other possibilities for her life than being the receptacle of her father's ego and power. But Crystal and Tate have other plans. A dark comedy, with a Greek chorus of one flounder-man singing original background music, consensual familial sex is revealed for what it is. Though Maura does not have the full effect she desires, she does give Crystal a glimpse into the possibility of choice and sovereignty.
  • Don't Touch the Orangutan
    Will and Girly, a middle-aged couple, play Blackjack at a casino. Granted, the card dealer, keeps calm as Will clears a mountain of cash from the game. But be careful what you wish for, because fate will do everything it can to bring you right back to exactly who you are. On a winning spree, Will gets greedy, while Girly tries to get Will to really see her for what she is. An unlucky orangutan in a wheelchair...
    Will and Girly, a middle-aged couple, play Blackjack at a casino. Granted, the card dealer, keeps calm as Will clears a mountain of cash from the game. But be careful what you wish for, because fate will do everything it can to bring you right back to exactly who you are. On a winning spree, Will gets greedy, while Girly tries to get Will to really see her for what she is. An unlucky orangutan in a wheelchair shows up. Granted insists the ape is a bad luck charm, but Girly believes the opposite. She touches him. By the end of the play, Will loses everything they own, finding himself dead inside. Girly, very much alive, playing songs on a Casio Keyboard, singing about reality, accepts her inner need to get back out to working the streets for trade. A person is who a person is. Girly sings, "Might as well be losing if you're wanting, 'Cause if you're wanting, you're a loser anyhow..."
  • Fags in Hell
    Timothy, gay, freshly dead, and sentenced to gay hell by American evangelicals, is escorted by Fred, gay hell gate keeper, into his new home forever. He meets Karl and Bruce, long-time prisoners in gay hell. Karl and Bruce teach him the ways of living in the underworld, but Timothy cannot accept this. Meanwhile, Fred's heart has been warming up and he has been taking clear action to help others. This...
    Timothy, gay, freshly dead, and sentenced to gay hell by American evangelicals, is escorted by Fred, gay hell gate keeper, into his new home forever. He meets Karl and Bruce, long-time prisoners in gay hell. Karl and Bruce teach him the ways of living in the underworld, but Timothy cannot accept this. Meanwhile, Fred's heart has been warming up and he has been taking clear action to help others. This encourages a surprise visit from Hercules. Hercules, vain and self-involved, is moved by this act of love and rescues these innocent gay men from the clutches of evil and brings them back to earth, more specifically, Germany, where Fred is reunited with his lover, Paul.
  • Solid Joints
    Larry, a young man driving back to his college classes, stops to visit his father, Sam, at a construction site and confronts Sam about his infidelities after his mother leaves the family.
  • Feed the Children
    In this ten-minute play, Feed the Children, two past-their-prime dancers and a mute dressed like Nijinsky duke it out for a solo spot on the teacup stage at the North Hollywood fundraiser, FEED THE CHILDREN! Fighting like cats, not ready for prime time, they are replaced by Libby, the one flipper seal. With dancing, sparring and suicide, there is something for everyone.