Peter Langman

Peter Langman

Peter Langman is a playwright whose works encompass a wide range of times and places—from Native American history, to British Romantic poets, to rural 19th century Scotland, to contemporary issues such as civil rights, eating disorders, the Holocaust, and neo-Nazis. His plays have received recognition in eleven national competitions in eight states (California, Georgia, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York...
Peter Langman is a playwright whose works encompass a wide range of times and places—from Native American history, to British Romantic poets, to rural 19th century Scotland, to contemporary issues such as civil rights, eating disorders, the Holocaust, and neo-Nazis. His plays have received recognition in eleven national competitions in eight states (California, Georgia, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, and South Carolina), including the Lark Play Development Center, Curan Repertory Company One Act Festival, City Attic Theatre Playwriting Contest, Panowski Playwriting Competition, and the Ronald M. Ruble New Play Festival. His work has had readings and productions in New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Ohio, including at Muhlenberg College, Gettysburg College, Bowling Green State University, 13th Street Repertory Theatre, Makor/Steinhardt Center of the 92nd Street Y, and American Theatre of Actors. Three monologues from his play, “Hunger,” have been included in anthologies.

Plays

  • The Destruction of Wilhelm Reich
    Genius or lunatic? This play is based on the true story of the controversial psychoanalyst, Dr. Wilhelm Reich, who claimed he discovered orgone energy—the basic life force. In the 1920s he was Freud’s protégé; in the 1930s, he was considered for a Nobel Prize. Yet, in America in the 1950s, he was hounded by the press, persecuted by multiple organizations, had his laboratory shut down and his books burned, and...
    Genius or lunatic? This play is based on the true story of the controversial psychoanalyst, Dr. Wilhelm Reich, who claimed he discovered orgone energy—the basic life force. In the 1920s he was Freud’s protégé; in the 1930s, he was considered for a Nobel Prize. Yet, in America in the 1950s, he was hounded by the press, persecuted by multiple organizations, had his laboratory shut down and his books burned, and he died in prison.
    Reich clearly had enemies, but was he also paranoid? Was he a genius, or simply grandiose? And why does society crush those who call for radical change? The script portrays Reich’s life in the 1950s, including the campaign against him, his troubled marriage, his relationship with his son, and his evaluation by a prison psychiatrist to determine if he was sane or not.
  • If Sin There Be in Love
    How far can people go sexually in the name of love? "If Sin There Be in Love" explores issues of love and sex through the unconventional lives of Percy Shelley, Mary Shelley, Lord Byron, and others of their circle. Percy Shelley is confident, cocky, and optimistic, but with a fiery temper that occasionally erupts. Byron is cool, sardonic, and self-loathing. Mary is young, beautiful, and brilliant, but...
    How far can people go sexually in the name of love? "If Sin There Be in Love" explores issues of love and sex through the unconventional lives of Percy Shelley, Mary Shelley, Lord Byron, and others of their circle. Percy Shelley is confident, cocky, and optimistic, but with a fiery temper that occasionally erupts. Byron is cool, sardonic, and self-loathing. Mary is young, beautiful, and brilliant, but shadowed by her painful family history. Claire, her stepsister, is young, not so brilliant, moody, and impetuous.

    The story follows Percy Shelley as he falls in love with Mary and runs off with both Mary and Claire, even though he already has a wife and child. Shelley attempts to practice free love with Mary and Claire, but Mary tires of Claire's rivalry, and after being dismissed from the household, Claire seduces Byron. Byron's marriage has just fallen apart amid rumors of adultery, incest, and homosexuality, the latter of which was a capital offense.

    Eventually, Shelley and Byron become friends and share their histories and struggles with women and love. When Shelley’s wife commits suicide, he is devastated and is forced to examine his actions and their impact on others. Byron, hounded by his sense of guilt for his sexual misdeeds with his half-sister, seeks forgiveness and salvation. Mary and Claire, despite their rivalry, maintain their closeness as sisters. By the end, the characters have reached new levels of self-knowledge.
  • M.L.K.
    “M.L.K.” portrays the personal side of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., exploring his spirituality and commitment to nonviolence, as well as his doubts, insecurities, and infidelities. The play traces his development through a combination of monologues by his wife and parents, sermons he preaches, and portrayals of key events such as the Montgomery bus boycott and the campaign to desegregate Birmingham.
    ...
    “M.L.K.” portrays the personal side of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., exploring his spirituality and commitment to nonviolence, as well as his doubts, insecurities, and infidelities. The play traces his development through a combination of monologues by his wife and parents, sermons he preaches, and portrayals of key events such as the Montgomery bus boycott and the campaign to desegregate Birmingham.

    Though Dr. King is the main character, the play is called “M.L.K.” because it is about both Dr. King and his father, Martin Luther King, Sr., who was known as Daddy King. Daddy King was a remarkable man in his own right, and he opens and closes the play with monologues. Along the way, we hear about incidents in his early life and his struggles against overwhelming challenges. In fact, one of the themes of this piece is that of endurance, showing how the King family overcame a multitude of barriers and endured devastating tragedies without losing touch with the values that inspired them.

    We see how Martin, Jr., relied on his wife, Coretta, to be the foundation of his world, and how that relationship was rocked by the demands of Martin’s involvement in civil rights and his unfaithfulness. We see Mama King as Martin’s confidant and support as he faced one struggle after another. Finally, we see father and son as they work together, clash, and argue, but through it all maintain their admiration and love for each other.

    “M.L.K.” explores the dynamics of prejudice, the impact of nonviolence, the split between one’s public persona and personal sense of self, the tendency of the public to raise up and tear down its heroes, and the moral dilemmas inherent in civil disobedience. Through it all we see Martin battle his public enemies and private demons. The play follows the trajectory of Martin from his days of doubting his ability to lead a bus boycott to his grand desire to transform America’s values.
  • Hunger
    “Hunger” is not a traditional narrative play, but rather a combination of monologues, dialogue, and ritualistic, theatrical staging aimed at illuminating the characters’ struggles with food, weight, and eating disorders. The style alternates between realism and surrealism, and the tone shifts from the dramatic to the humorous. The main characters include a professor who has battled with her body all her life,...
    “Hunger” is not a traditional narrative play, but rather a combination of monologues, dialogue, and ritualistic, theatrical staging aimed at illuminating the characters’ struggles with food, weight, and eating disorders. The style alternates between realism and surrealism, and the tone shifts from the dramatic to the humorous. The main characters include a professor who has battled with her body all her life, and four of her students. Among the students are a compulsive over-eater, a bulimic, and two anorexics—one of whom is in touch with her distress, and one who is in denial. The characters explore their relationships with food, the scale, their bodies, pleasure, fear, themselves, their families, and social pressures to be thin, ultimately discovering what it is that they truly hunger for.

    Note: it was written for seven actors, but the cast size can be expanded significantly if so desired, as most of the actors perform multiple roles.
  • Captain Jack: Chief of the Modocs
    California, 1873. Captain Jack, chief of the Modocs, is a man of wisdom who wants only peace. Hooker Jim is a bitter warrior who can never be at peace. The Modocs have left the reservation they were put on and are returning to their homeland. The United States Army has come to take them back, but due to the cold-hearted bigotry and short temper of Major Scott, violence erupts.
    After the soldiers...
    California, 1873. Captain Jack, chief of the Modocs, is a man of wisdom who wants only peace. Hooker Jim is a bitter warrior who can never be at peace. The Modocs have left the reservation they were put on and are returning to their homeland. The United States Army has come to take them back, but due to the cold-hearted bigotry and short temper of Major Scott, violence erupts.
    After the soldiers kill an old woman and a little boy, Hooker Jim goes on a rampage against the white settlers, killing one of Captain Jack's best friends. Captain Jack seethes with fury towards Hooker Jim. He could save the tribe by surrendering Hooker Jim, but cannot bring himself to betray his own men to be hanged.
    Enter General Canby, a self-appointed "man of God" who seeks to civilize the Modocs. Canby's blustering arrogance and broken promises put Captain Jack in one impossible dilemma after another. The peace commissioner, Meacham, is an old friend of the Modocs, and though he tries to advise Captain Jack and advocate for the Modoc cause, General Canby has little use for anyone telling him how to run his campaign.
    Captain Jack tries repeatedly to avoid violence, but the warriors are hungry for blood: “either kill Canby, or we will kill you.” Captain Jack must choose between his integrity and his life as he faces ultimate betrayal.
    The suspense builds through a series of showdowns between Captain Jack, General Canby, Hooker Jim, and a woman who surpasses them all in courage.
  • Out of Ignorance
    “Out of Ignorance" is about the relationship that develops between a young man on the fringe of a neo-Nazi group and an elderly Jewish Holocaust survivor. Wesley “Weasel” Ames is confined to a wheelchair. His old friend, Raymond “Ratbite” Wilson, is indoctrinating him into white supremacist and neo-Nazi ideology. Weasel’s sister, Louise, is a spunky woman who is trying to maintain a traditionally Christian...
    “Out of Ignorance" is about the relationship that develops between a young man on the fringe of a neo-Nazi group and an elderly Jewish Holocaust survivor. Wesley “Weasel” Ames is confined to a wheelchair. His old friend, Raymond “Ratbite” Wilson, is indoctrinating him into white supremacist and neo-Nazi ideology. Weasel’s sister, Louise, is a spunky woman who is trying to maintain a traditionally Christian household despite Weasel’s involvement with Ratbite. When Chaim Rosenthal, a Holocaust survivor, moves into the neighborhood, he crosses paths with Weasel and Louise. His initial encounters with Weasel are hostile and explosive. Over time, however, a relationship develops between them that leads them into new territories. The play explores bigotry, the transforming impact of compassion, and the need to find meaning in life.
  • Mendel of Kotzk
    This play is based on Rebbe Mendel of Kotzk, a fiery, iconoclastic 19th-century Hasidic leader who spent the last twenty years of his life in virtual solitude. Whereas other Hasidic rebbes preached love and kindness, Mendel preached truth in a manner that stripped people of their pretensions and self-deceptions. He alienated many in the Hasidic movement, but drew followers who sought to be in the presence of...
    This play is based on Rebbe Mendel of Kotzk, a fiery, iconoclastic 19th-century Hasidic leader who spent the last twenty years of his life in virtual solitude. Whereas other Hasidic rebbes preached love and kindness, Mendel preached truth in a manner that stripped people of their pretensions and self-deceptions. He alienated many in the Hasidic movement, but drew followers who sought to be in the presence of his tempestuous, uncompromising spirit. The play opens with the mystery of his self-imposed exile, and then proceeds to tell his story in flashback.
  • Apollo Among the Mortals
    The play consists of three scenes. First, Wordsworth meets with Henry Robinson, who is enlisted by Wordsworth as a negotiator to make peace with Coleridge by clearing up the misunderstanding that has interrupted their friendship. Robinson, puzzled by Wordsworth’s cold comments and attitude, seeks to understand Wordsworth’s position. In response, Wordsworth rhapsodizes about his history with Coleridge, and how...
    The play consists of three scenes. First, Wordsworth meets with Henry Robinson, who is enlisted by Wordsworth as a negotiator to make peace with Coleridge by clearing up the misunderstanding that has interrupted their friendship. Robinson, puzzled by Wordsworth’s cold comments and attitude, seeks to understand Wordsworth’s position. In response, Wordsworth rhapsodizes about his history with Coleridge, and how his idealization of his friend disintegrated.

    Robinson then visits Coleridge and presents Wordsworth's case. Coleridge is a maelstrom of emotions—desperate for Wordsworth’s friendship, guilt-ridden for his habits that shattered their relationship, yet angry at Wordsworth for his condescending attitude toward him. He waxes eloquent over the glory of their past friendship and his confusion over how they have sunk so low.

    In the final scene, Robinson reports that he has worked out a document that Coleridge has signed that ostensibly ends the conflict. As Wordsworth is congratulating Robinson, Coleridge unexpectedly arrives. Robinson, against Wordsworth’s wishes, quickly excuses himself. Despite initial efforts to remain cordial, Coleridge and Wordsworth escalate into a heated debate over the many issues that have come between them, with Coleridge descending into self-loathing. Wordsworth, though determined not to be moved by Coleridge’s emotional storms, cannot remain immune to his friend’s plight.
  • Hebrew Holy Man
    This play portrays the meeting of two old men: a rabbi who survived the Holocaust, and a Native American who survived the slaughter at Wounded Knee. Rabbi Morganstern continues the observance of his traditions, but inwardly his faith has been shaken to the core. The Native American, named Ancient Fire, has come seeking a connection with the rabbi, hoping for an insight into the survival of the Jewish people...
    This play portrays the meeting of two old men: a rabbi who survived the Holocaust, and a Native American who survived the slaughter at Wounded Knee. Rabbi Morganstern continues the observance of his traditions, but inwardly his faith has been shaken to the core. The Native American, named Ancient Fire, has come seeking a connection with the rabbi, hoping for an insight into the survival of the Jewish people that will help him to sustain his own people. The two men compare their experiences and those of their peoples, sharing the heartache of loss and a concern for the viability of their ancient cultures in a modern world.
  • Percy Bysshe Shelley: A Rebel Attitude
    This play portrays a classic father-son drama in the context of historical figures. The script presents Percy Shelley, the brilliant British Romantic poet, at the age of nineteen when he is essentially an unknown radical and political activist. He is meeting with his conservative, aristocratic father, Sir Timothy Shelley, in an attempt to arrive at a financial arrangement to his liking. In the course of their...
    This play portrays a classic father-son drama in the context of historical figures. The script presents Percy Shelley, the brilliant British Romantic poet, at the age of nineteen when he is essentially an unknown radical and political activist. He is meeting with his conservative, aristocratic father, Sir Timothy Shelley, in an attempt to arrive at a financial arrangement to his liking. In the course of their conversation, the two men argue about religion, money, work, and morality. At the heart of the matter, however, is Percy's sense that he was never accepted and loved by his father, and Timothy's sense that despite his best efforts, Percy was an impossible child to raise.
  • The Strange Dreams of Rabbi Wechsler
    This script is based on the true story of a 19th century rabbi who had prophetic dreams of events in his daily life. Then he had dreams that told of an inexpressible hatred of Jews that would take root in Germany and spread through Europe in an effort to exterminate the Jews. In this scene, a friend listens to reports of the rabbi’s dreams, but cannot believe that they are messages from God as the rabbi claims...
    This script is based on the true story of a 19th century rabbi who had prophetic dreams of events in his daily life. Then he had dreams that told of an inexpressible hatred of Jews that would take root in Germany and spread through Europe in an effort to exterminate the Jews. In this scene, a friend listens to reports of the rabbi’s dreams, but cannot believe that they are messages from God as the rabbi claims. Despite this, Rabbi Wechsler plans to move with his family to the Holy Land to escape the coming destruction.
  • Morag of the Glen
    This script is adapted from a Scottish folk-tale recorded by William Sharp (the story is in the public domain). Morag is an indomitable young woman with a fierce father. When Morag’s sister becomes pregnant by the son of the English lord who is about to displace the family from its ancestral land, the father erupts in fury. When the sister dies by her own hand, Morag sees that the lord’s son does not escape...
    This script is adapted from a Scottish folk-tale recorded by William Sharp (the story is in the public domain). Morag is an indomitable young woman with a fierce father. When Morag’s sister becomes pregnant by the son of the English lord who is about to displace the family from its ancestral land, the father erupts in fury. When the sister dies by her own hand, Morag sees that the lord’s son does not escape justice. Morag’s mother and father struggle with guilt about their daughter’s death and the darkness that has shadowed their love for each other.
  • The Sin-Eater
    This script is adapted from a Scottish folk-tale recorded by William Sharp (the story is in the public domain). The ritual of sin-eating was a combination of Christian and pagan traditions that was supposed to free a dead person’s soul of its sins. In this tale, the ritual is violated and the sin-eater goes mad and commits a gruesome suicide.
  • Haydon's Rage
    Benjamin Haydon was a nineteenth-century historical painter, and the friend of Keats, Wordsworth, and other luminaries of the age. This script shows him struggling against the shallowness and crassness of the aristocracy who patronize him and the preference of the public for entertainment rather than art that captures humanity’s highest strivings and most noble moments. After devoting his life to the highest...
    Benjamin Haydon was a nineteenth-century historical painter, and the friend of Keats, Wordsworth, and other luminaries of the age. This script shows him struggling against the shallowness and crassness of the aristocracy who patronize him and the preference of the public for entertainment rather than art that captures humanity’s highest strivings and most noble moments. After devoting his life to the highest ideals of art, he finds he can no longer go on.
  • Secret Joy
    This play is based on Scottish folktales involving "silkies." Silkies are magical creatures that can change back and forth from seals to humans.

    The Macphersons have a daughter who is different from other young women. She spends time alone and doesn't mix with her peers. The people in the town are beginning to gossip about her, which has her mother distraught. She convinces her...
    This play is based on Scottish folktales involving "silkies." Silkies are magical creatures that can change back and forth from seals to humans.

    The Macphersons have a daughter who is different from other young women. She spends time alone and doesn't mix with her peers. The people in the town are beginning to gossip about her, which has her mother distraught. She convinces her husband to follow Mary and see what it is she does by herself.

    When Angus reports to his wife that Mary simply plays with a young seal on an island, the wife believes Mary has been bewitched by a silkie; Angus dismisses this as nonsense. They argue, with the woman convincing Angus to get rid of the seal before it turns their daughter into a seal. Angus, against his will, shoots the seal, only to immediately regret this. The play ends with Angus telling his wife how he saw two seals looking him in the eye before they dived, and how he knew Mary was never coming home.
  • Love and the Crushing Hand
    The story takes place in the desolate western isles of Scotland, at a time when paganism and superstition still lingered. The focus is on the Macara brothers and the women in their lives. “Gloom” Macara is selfish, lustful, and evil to the core. He thrives on destroying the hopes, dreams, and loves of other men, especially his brothers, and will not stop at murder. He threatens those who cross him with the...
    The story takes place in the desolate western isles of Scotland, at a time when paganism and superstition still lingered. The focus is on the Macara brothers and the women in their lives. “Gloom” Macara is selfish, lustful, and evil to the core. He thrives on destroying the hopes, dreams, and loves of other men, especially his brothers, and will not stop at murder. He threatens those who cross him with the Crushing Hand of fate. Daniel Macara, “The Anointed Man,” is a kind, gentle visionary who sees the beauty of the world through uncommon eyes. Seumas Macara is a good man who has the "true love" for a woman and will not let Gloom stand in his way.

    Anne Gillespie is frightened of Gloom, but courageous enough to defy him and go off with the man of her choice, but not until one man is killed. Katreen MacArthur is sassy and sexy and desired by Gloom, Seumas, and her cousin Ian. Finally, there is Marsail MacAlpine, quiet and gentle, who is loved by Daniel. She did not accept Daniel, only to find Gloom preying upon her.

    The play presents a series of dramatic encounters on love, lust, fate, and the joy that is sometimes found when love and fate allow it. This script is based on 19th century Scottish tales recorded by William Sharp, who wrote under the name of Fiona MacLeod. The stories are in the public domain.
  • The Misdirections of a Dream
    This play portrays Mary Shelley as a young woman who has recently become a widow when her husband, Percy Shelley drowned. She is visiting Samuel Taylor Coleridge, who is middle-aged. Samuel had been friends with Mary’s father when she was a child. Mary and Samuel reminisce and share their sorrows as Mary realizes the common connection of poetic inspiration between Samuel and Percy.
  • The Virgin Queen
    Queen Elizabeth I was an anomaly in history—a woman who ruled a nation. This play follows two strands of her reign. First, it explores the intersection of love, politics, and her ambivalence about marriage. Second, it portrays her struggles regarding Mary, Queen of Scots. The two queens were cousins who ruled competing kingdoms on the same island. Mary’s ambitions forced Elizabeth to take actions against the...
    Queen Elizabeth I was an anomaly in history—a woman who ruled a nation. This play follows two strands of her reign. First, it explores the intersection of love, politics, and her ambivalence about marriage. Second, it portrays her struggles regarding Mary, Queen of Scots. The two queens were cousins who ruled competing kingdoms on the same island. Mary’s ambitions forced Elizabeth to take actions against the counsel of her advisers, and sometimes against her own judgment, culminating in Mary’s execution for treason.
  • The Lament of the Magic Child
    “The Lament of the Magic Child” portrays Samuel Taylor Coleridge and his grown son, Hartley, as they each reflect on their lives and their broken relationship. Samuel expresses his sense of failure as a father and his guilt for not giving Hartley a proper upbringing, while Hartley combines self-loathing with admiration for his father. The play explores the tragedy of their father-son relationship, with each man...
    “The Lament of the Magic Child” portrays Samuel Taylor Coleridge and his grown son, Hartley, as they each reflect on their lives and their broken relationship. Samuel expresses his sense of failure as a father and his guilt for not giving Hartley a proper upbringing, while Hartley combines self-loathing with admiration for his father. The play explores the tragedy of their father-son relationship, with each man being convinced he has failed the other.
  • Tilbury Town
    “Tilbury Town” is a play with music that combines serious and comic elements. Many of the songs are poems by famous poets that I have set to music, including the work of Dylan Thomas, Edwin Arlington Robinson, A. E. Housman, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Carl Sandburg, Sara Teasdale, William Butler Yeats, and others (the poems are in the public domain, except two that I have obtained permission to use).
    ...
    “Tilbury Town” is a play with music that combines serious and comic elements. Many of the songs are poems by famous poets that I have set to music, including the work of Dylan Thomas, Edwin Arlington Robinson, A. E. Housman, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Carl Sandburg, Sara Teasdale, William Butler Yeats, and others (the poems are in the public domain, except two that I have obtained permission to use).
    The primary setting of the play is Tilbury Town Café, a coffeehouse with folk music and poetry readings, located in a small New England college town in the present. The play is about the people who hang out in the café, with the main characters being Colombia Bob, the owner of the café, and Rona, a woman he hires as a waitress. Colombia Bob is deeply disappointed by his life, and full of sarcastic, barbed comments. Rona, confident and sharp, is more than able to match wits with Colombia Bob. Other characters include a poverty-stricken Holocaust survivor known as “the Captain;” Seneca, an elderly curmudgeon who teaches poetry and is in hot pursuit of Mrs. Randall, a famous but reclusive poet; Hank, an existentialist gay student whose father is a minister; and Bethany, a young, bubbly, naive student who, unlike the others, is not burdened by life’s tragedies. These coffeehouse regulars are joined by Flammonde, a mysterious drifter who shows up, changes their lives, and moves on.