Recommended by John Patrick Bray

  • An Invocation To His Muse
    30 Dec. 2021
    Aly Kantor has offered us a lyrical play for two female actors at the top of their game. The play as written perfectly evokes the haunted loneliness of Hopper’s “Automat” while foregrounding the notion that Jo Hopper herself is absent from our conversations despite her undoubted influence on Edward Hopper’s aesthetic. Words that came to mind while reading: absence, loneliness, but not despair. Hope, certainly. And I miss automat cake. The title reminds me of the Tom Waits song Invitation to the Blues (Waits also borrows from Hopper). I love this play and hope to see it staged.
  • That Goddam Tree
    2 Nov. 2021
    I hate that people like this exist, and I applaud Philip for turning a hateful comment into a piece of found art.
    Edit: that was my first reaction.
    Knowing now that this was written as an exercise I’m speechless. I heard the speaker’s voice so clearly it had to be real. I appreciate how other folks responding talk about the humanity and heartache behind the words. What hit for me was how this speaker jumped in as if he had a place in the story and there was no one to stop him. Uncomfortable and well done.
  • It's Not Blood
    22 Oct. 2021
    I grew up in a small town where the rich kids went to college, the poor kids went to the military (unless they found a way into a community college). This play very much hits home. Kim E. Ruyle has a gift for naturalistic dialogue, weaving in exposition in a very active way, sprinkled with Pulp Fiction references (which premiered when I was a senior). Jimmy and Danny's relationship is visceral and real. Ruyle also has a gift for creating fully realized off-stage characters in the late Billy and the boy's parents. The ending is bittersweet. Read this play!
  • Impressions of Paris (English-all audiences)
    22 Oct. 2021
    "It's not what you see, it's what you make others see." Drawing inspiration from a single painting or even a handful of works by a single painter can be daunting, but creating a play based on the work and words of several is quite a feat! We are guided by a lecturer through periods and paintings as the classroom/lecture hall gives way into a kind of dream. Entertaining and enlightening, Nora Louise Syran's Impressions of Paris can easily be staged in most high school and community theatres while presenting fun challenges for designers and rich opportunities for performers.
  • Home-Style Cooking at the Gateway Cafe
    14 Jun. 2021
    Philip Middleton Williams once again demonstrates that he has a gift for poetic naturalism and an ear for the way folks in small towns talk and live their lives. There’s community. There’s work that needs to be done. And there’s the agreeing as a group to “yes-and” each other’s stories to demonstrate a unified front in the face of a weasel of an authority figure. This play has a couple of truly unexpected turns which gives the place and the people who live, work, and eat there a textured richness that is both magic and believable.
  • Let Maisy Rest in Peace
    14 Jun. 2021
    Margo Hammond demonstrates a gift for writing complex characters leading deceptively simple lives. It’s clear that Hammond loves her characters - because the reader ends up loving them, too; they read like real people leading nuanced lives. The conflict is deceptively simple; yet we understand Walter’s desire to fulfill his late wife’s wishes, just as we understand the concerns of the town. This is a lovely play that I hope to see staged!
  • RAW
    14 Jun. 2021
    My best friend’s family owns an apple orchard - pick your own. The younger generation finally convinced the older to let them start a cider distillery. It worked. The orchard is saved. I read the first ten pages of this play smug in my own experience. But that’s not what this story is about. It is about so much more than pasteurized and unpasteurized milk. It’s about more than a family farm and whose name is on the deed. I am blown away by this play, like one of Caroline’s casualties. Humorous, engaging, and visceral!
  • Trade With Klan: A Play about Choices
    14 Jun. 2021
    I had the pleasure of seeing a reading of this play during Friday Night Footlights - Myrtle Beach years ago. Baker’s play is a haunting reminder that the past has not gone anywhere, and the racism that infected our communities then continue to infect our communities now. There are no easy answers, but perhaps by confronting out past we can begin to imagine and work toward a better future.
  • Helvetica
    28 May. 2021
    Simply stated, Helvetica is one of the most beautiful and nourishing plays I've ever read. When I ran the Rose of Athens No Shame Playreading Series, I was thrilled to be able to host this piece. It is one that I come back to often. My hope is every theatre lover in the US will have the opportunity to experience the world of Helvetica, as described by her faithful friend Myron (a role I would love to play if I ever decide to perform again). It's gorgeous!
  • Sweet Revenge
    24 May. 2021
    I worked as a bagel baker for over six years in upstate, New York. Zaffarano's characters feel like people I knew - in particular, there was someone who worked in the front who was very much in touch with her 1960s/Woodstock sensibilities - she would blast music smoke weed. It was a hoot! This is a long way of saying that reading Sweet Revenge felt like visiting with old friends. The stakes are incredibly high for this independent shop (true for all independent shops), and the characters are nuanced, richly textured people we root for along the way.