Judy Klass

Judy Klass

Seven of my full-length plays have been produced, four of them in Manhattan. Another one, CELL, was in a Kentucky mystery festival, got nominated for an Edgar and is published by Samuel French. Thirty-five of my short plays have gone up all over the US, many with multiple productions. A few have gone up in England and Ireland. Several are published as stand-alone scripts by Brooklyn Publishers. Others have...
Seven of my full-length plays have been produced, four of them in Manhattan. Another one, CELL, was in a Kentucky mystery festival, got nominated for an Edgar and is published by Samuel French. Thirty-five of my short plays have gone up all over the US, many with multiple productions. A few have gone up in England and Ireland. Several are published as stand-alone scripts by Brooklyn Publishers. Others have appeared in magazines and anthologies like The Best Ten-Minute Plays of 2012 and The Art of the One-Act. I co-wrote the Showtime cable film version of Julia Alvarez's novel In the Time of the Butterflies. I started out in New York and New Jersey, went to Sarah Lawrence College, spent some years at Oxford University, spent more time in NYC and Brooklyn, then moved to Nashville because I am also a songwriter.

Plays

  • Kimberly in Overdrive
    Meredith is a college student who has had fantasies since childhood about an alter ego/imaginary friend named Kimberly. Kimberly is fierce and fabulous, whereas Meredith sees herself as wussy and bleah. Meredith's parents are leaning on her to go to law school, but she wants to be a writer. She decides to write a script about Kimberly that will sell for a lot of money and help her avoid law school. The...
    Meredith is a college student who has had fantasies since childhood about an alter ego/imaginary friend named Kimberly. Kimberly is fierce and fabulous, whereas Meredith sees herself as wussy and bleah. Meredith's parents are leaning on her to go to law school, but she wants to be a writer. She decides to write a script about Kimberly that will sell for a lot of money and help her avoid law school. The various Kimberly scenarios she comes up with, for stage plays and movies, get acted out elsewhere on stage. In some scenes, Kimberly has an adoring friend/sidekick named Mouse who represents Meredith. Meredith's suite mate Lauren tries to help her, as does Lauren's ex-boyfriend Josh who comes by the suite to hang out. But Kimberly cannot be controlled by anyone, including Meredith, and Kimberly turns on her creator at times to tell her off ... suggesting, among other things, that Josh may like Meredith, and that maybe Meredith, especially if she wants to be a writer, should try to live more in the real world and leave the fantasy worlds behind.
  • Hallway House
    Michael, Dianne and Emily have been best friends since their freshman year at Applegate College. They lived together on Hallway B and became best friends. Senior year, they lived off campus in a house together. They called it Hallway House, to emphasize that they had not gotten past their freshman need to cohabitate. When their personal lives crash and burn, they take refuge in each other’s company, though...
    Michael, Dianne and Emily have been best friends since their freshman year at Applegate College. They lived together on Hallway B and became best friends. Senior year, they lived off campus in a house together. They called it Hallway House, to emphasize that they had not gotten past their freshman need to cohabitate. When their personal lives crash and burn, they take refuge in each other’s company, though Michael and Emily worry that their attachment to each other can endanger their relationships with other, "normal" people.

    They are all now in a house owned by Dianne: the current iteration of Hallway House. Dianne is a shut-in, who spends time by herself on the top floor with her three cats. She makes good money writing steamy romance novels – and yet she has little interest in sex, or romantic relationships. She is from a family of ruthless wits who lived in Hollywood. They wrote for film and television. Her parents divorced, and went off and did drugs – and she was raised by aunts and uncles. But they wielded their tongues like Zorro wielded his sword. They’d cut her up into little pieces. Their repartee was sparkling, and it was exciting and fun, but she was not really accepted as one of them, and it took a toll on her self-esteem. It was like being raised by the Algonquin Round Table. Yet in some ways, she wants to re-create that kind of experience. She sees herself as Alexander Woollcott, in her group.

    Emily has just left her husband Brett, who was cheating on her. She has only lived in Hallway House a week. She finds her old friend Michael stand-offish toward her; he has been there for two years and was hurt that she was no help when a long-term relationship ended for him. Michael has brought a younger guy named Connor back to the house. They are thinking of collaborating on a cabaret show for Connor. They might use the living room of Hallway House for rehearsals. Emily engages with Connor; she wants to know more about him. She talks about Dorothy Parker and the Algonquinites. Michael finds it upsetting when her questioning reveals that Connor has not heard of a lot of people their group admires.

    After she leaves, Connor and Michael acknowledge a mutual attraction, but also face the fact that Michael is freaked out by the prospect of getting involved with a younger guy who does not get a lot of the references that Michael and his friends make. Connor is willing to learn new things, but resents Michael’s attitude and leaves. Dianne pops up – she’s been eavesdropping – and talks to Michael about his situation. She tells him to enjoy the role of older mentor: to see himself as George S. Kaufman and Connor as Moss Hart. But Michael loves the book Act One; he sees himself as Hart ... After Michael leaves, Dianne talks to Emily about a lousy college shrink they both saw briefly at Applegate. Emily had thought she was the only one to talk to this shrink. Dianne reveals a bit more of her personal history than ever before. And she tells Emily that drinking all that red wine and identifying with Dorothy Parker is bad for her liver.

    Brett comes to see Emily. Dianne gives him a hard time, Emily tells him off, and she does not accept a non-apology/apology from him. Michael comes in and also expresses contempt for Brett. As Brett leaves, Connor comes back – he left his jacket when he visited the house earlier. Perhaps Michael, Emily and Dianne can change how welcome he feels in Hallway House. The play references screwball comedies by Kaufman and Hart, and perhaps it has a touch of the pace and feel of plays like You Can’t Take It With You and The Man Who Came To Dinner.
  • Garden Party
    Callie has moved home to her small town in Tennessee, after going to Vassar. She is engaged to be married and is trying to get psyched up for her bridal shower, which will be in the big garden of Miss Valerie, a librarian who befriended Callie when she was little. The garden is one of Callie's favorite places, and Miss Valerie has prepared a lot of good food she has grown herself. Callie's college...
    Callie has moved home to her small town in Tennessee, after going to Vassar. She is engaged to be married and is trying to get psyched up for her bridal shower, which will be in the big garden of Miss Valerie, a librarian who befriended Callie when she was little. The garden is one of Callie's favorite places, and Miss Valerie has prepared a lot of good food she has grown herself. Callie's college friend Erin has flown in, and Callie confides in her. Callie is worried about her childhood friends Roxie and Leeza, who are hanging out inside the house. They went to a technical college with her for two years, and she got back in touch when she moved home. Leeza is Callie's Maid of Honor, and Roxie and Leeza supposedly planned this shower with Miss Valerie. But they both have been acting odd. Leeza has been drinking a lot. And Callie's relationship with her fiancé has gotten strained. Her almost-famous much older half-sister, who has been a model, an actress and a singer, has flown in for the shower, and she's being sunny and supportive, but she has definite ideas about what brides should wear, and how showers and weddings should be, and she and Callie have a complicated relationship and history. As everyone comes outside for the shower, Miss Valerie gives a speech about bugs and mulch and being a citizen scientist and building a pollinators' garden, since Callie has asked her to. Everyone else gives a toast. As things get ugly and weird, Callie's real friends try quietly to give her support.
  • We Gather Together
    Barbara Davenport has convinced her whole family to come together for Thanksgiving in 2018. Karen and Abigail, the grown daughters of Barbara and Karl, are both visiting their parents in the house where they grew up. The family have made it through the meal without conflict, and have headed into the living room. But the fact that Abigail unfriended her sister Karen and her father Karl on Facebook during and...
    Barbara Davenport has convinced her whole family to come together for Thanksgiving in 2018. Karen and Abigail, the grown daughters of Barbara and Karl, are both visiting their parents in the house where they grew up. The family have made it through the meal without conflict, and have headed into the living room. But the fact that Abigail unfriended her sister Karen and her father Karl on Facebook during and after the 2016 presidential election causes some strain. At first, Barbara tries to steer everyone clear of political topics. The atmosphere remains tense and toxic, so Barbara suggests they air their grievances. Abigail talks about why it is so problematic, for her, that her father voted for Donald Trump and her sister supported Bernie, then voted for Jill Stein. Barbara, as a loving mom, says that something as trivial and foolish as politics cannot break up a strong family like theirs, but that might not be the case. And Barbara does not seem to want to answer Abigail's questions about who Barbara voted for in 2016. Abigail may not be able to stay in the house, even to get through this one evening.
  • Cozy Murder
    People involved in a mystery play festival are staying at Althorpe House – a bed and breakfast in a small town called Althorpe, in Maine. Foster Connelly, an actor/director/producer who mostly lives in NYC but puts on the festival every summer, has a theatrical, overbearing manner. Morris King is an actor, and Foster’s old friend, and Morris smooths things over with people who find Foster difficult. Emma Taylor...
    People involved in a mystery play festival are staying at Althorpe House – a bed and breakfast in a small town called Althorpe, in Maine. Foster Connelly, an actor/director/producer who mostly lives in NYC but puts on the festival every summer, has a theatrical, overbearing manner. Morris King is an actor, and Foster’s old friend, and Morris smooths things over with people who find Foster difficult. Emma Taylor is having a play produced in the festival; she is not crazy about changes Foster is suggesting for her script, as he urges her to “dumb it down” for the locals. She thinks the audience could get her play as written.

    Geraldine Wilcox is an older actress staying at the B&B; Foster is not pleased to see her, and he is angry to learn she is writing a piece about his #MeToo-related bad behavior toward her, years earlier. Morris is also upset about this, as over the years he has served as a kind of “clean up” guy for Foster; he is afraid he may be presented in a harsh light in Geraldine's article, his reputation compromised by Foster's behavior. He grouses about these things to Emma.

    Rowena Althorpe, who runs the B&B, and who is descended from the town's founder, is mild-mannered when Foster is rude to her, but her daughter Lily who now lives in Bangor stops by, and has critical things to say about Foster’s behavior in earlier years; Emma is curious about what both Lily and Geraldine have to say. Lily is cynical about tourists who come from “away” during the summer and treat her hometown as quaint and kitschy. Sandy Hickenlooper, a tourist from Atlanta who loves mysteries, thinks Foster is charming, and she is badly freaked out when Foster turns up dead. The local cop is confident, before there is an autopsy, that Foster has died of natural causes. Others are not so sure, since a number of people had a motive to kill Foster, and since the body was found with a tea cozy on its face. So, if Foster was murdered – who did it, how, and why?
  • After Tartuffe
    Full-length Play In Verse: This is a re-imagining of the Moliere play Tartuffe, set in a post-apocalyptic future America that has become a Christian Fundamentalist state. (The play was written several years before the 2016 election -- but it feels right for the current dystopian moment.) In the world of this play, the population of our country has been decimated by the super-strain of the Avian Flu – stolen...
    Full-length Play In Verse: This is a re-imagining of the Moliere play Tartuffe, set in a post-apocalyptic future America that has become a Christian Fundamentalist state. (The play was written several years before the 2016 election -- but it feels right for the current dystopian moment.) In the world of this play, the population of our country has been decimated by the super-strain of the Avian Flu – stolen from a lab, probably by Fundamentalists. We’re now ruled by Baptist Fundamentalists out of Selma, Alabama.

    Oral, a prosperous businessman, opens his home to a former megachurch pastor who has been disgraced in sex scandals: the Reverend Chadwick Pusser. Oral’s son Daniel cannot feel free with Tyler, the guy he loves, with Pusser around, probably planting hidden cameras around the house. Daniel reads SF and alternate histories and suspects that his world is an aberration – a false history. He asks a website called oracle.net for the lost original draft of Moliere’s play Tartuffe – the one that was banned, before Moliere watered the play down. Daniel thinks if he can get a pdf of the original, the universe will shift back to what it should be.

    Tyler’s older brother Vaughn is engaged to Daniel’s younger sister Mary-Anne – but Oral decides to force Mary-Anne to marry Reverend Pusser, which horrifies the teenaged girl. Pusser advises Oral about how to control women in his family; he cites Lot – who threw his daughters outside to be gang-raped, whose wife was turned into a pillar of salt for caring about her city, and who had sex with his daughters and fathered their children – as an example of the kind of upright man the Lord smiles on. Doreen, the outspoken housekeeper, and Oral’s second wife, Alma, express themselves very differently, but both of them try to help Mary-Anne avoid the horrendous impending marriage.

    Oral won’t listen to Daniel when he speaks up after Reverend Pusser makes a pass at Alma, or to Doreen, who denounces Pusser and tries to get Mary-Anne to stand up for herself. Mary-Anne surreptitiously listens to old rock music from our era, but she is timid – not the rock rebel she wants to be. Alma indulges in old Rodgers and Hammerstein movie musicals, and Doreen is partial to old sitcoms; they use these ancient, forbidden texts to help them interpret their world, as Daniel uses the things he reads on-line.

    Daniel himself rejects a pass from Pusser, and tells Oral about it. Pusser claims to have taped footage of Daniel and Tyler having sex, but says he erased it – too painful for Oral to watch. Daniel says Pusser is lying, but comes out to his father, and Oral throws him out of the house. Alma convinces Oral to hide under a table and listen as she pretends to be interested in Pusser. Soon, Pusser’s all over her. Oral confronts him at last. Pusser tells Oral the house is Pusser’s now; Oral has given the preacher Oral’s on-line banking password, and Pusser has dirt on the family. Things don’t go quite as Daniel hopes, in terms of the Oracle, and thwarting Pusser in the way that Moliere’s Tartuffe is thwarted ... Yet ultimately, Daniel is not without hope or a sense of purpose, and in some ways the whole family may be better off.

    Since the play is set among a racist white upper-class, I think of the characters as white. But when it was produced in the Fresh Fruit Festival in NYC, people in the cast were from all different backgrounds, and it worked fine.
  • Missionaries
    Sylvia, an older secular Jewish woman from NYC, has traveled down South for the funeral of an old college friend. In a terrible rainstorm, as the buses are not running, she takes refuge in the diner of Mandy, a southern woman who is around the same age. Mandy has been getting ready to close up her diner and go to her Bible study group. She invites Sylvia along to the meeting, and then, when she finds out that...
    Sylvia, an older secular Jewish woman from NYC, has traveled down South for the funeral of an old college friend. In a terrible rainstorm, as the buses are not running, she takes refuge in the diner of Mandy, a southern woman who is around the same age. Mandy has been getting ready to close up her diner and go to her Bible study group. She invites Sylvia along to the meeting, and then, when she finds out that Sylvia is Jewish, invites her to have a conversation about religion there and then. Sylvia bristles at both suggestions and tries to explain why she is so hostile to “missionaries,” as she calls it – to the whole missionary impulse. She warns Mandy that if they have this “conversation” Mandy wants, Sylvia is not going to hold back. As the two women talk, and argue, political, cultural and religious divides in our country rear up – but the two women surprise themselves and each other with moments of connection, and perhaps some things in common.
  • Other Habits
    Viridian and Teal are therapists in a future society in which almost all people are non-binary: no longer exclusively male or female. Fetuses are treated in utero with genes from hermaphroditic fish, and now children grow up without a fixed gender. In adolescence, they explore their ability to express in different ways along a gender spectrum, or to be asexual. Viridian and Teal must evaluate a couple that...
    Viridian and Teal are therapists in a future society in which almost all people are non-binary: no longer exclusively male or female. Fetuses are treated in utero with genes from hermaphroditic fish, and now children grow up without a fixed gender. In adolescence, they explore their ability to express in different ways along a gender spectrum, or to be asexual. Viridian and Teal must evaluate a couple that wants the fish genes removed; one feels completely feminine, the other completely masculine, they have lived in male and female roles for years, and wish to be “frozen” in those roles. Viridian and Teal must determine, for the state, if the couple is sane and should be allowed to proceed. The couple have the names Amaranth and Cerulean, but prefer to be called Saffron and Topaz and by the pronouns "she" and "he." They seem freakish in their society. They have been together seven years. They do not feel the therapists or the government have a right to judge them or their relationship, but cooperate with the therapy to win civil rights for other binary couples.

    Viridian cannot understand why anyone would want to go back to the Dark Ages before gender fluidity, when there was so much more crime, messed-up relationships, mental illness, addiction ... And what if this couple is sanctioned by the state, and chooses to have children, and denies them the fish gene therapy? Viridian loves Umber, who urges Viridian to be less judgmental; this peculiar couple makes people ask questions, Umber says, and that can’t be bad. Umber has stress at work, also, directing a production of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night on the main stage of a big theater, but Hibiscus, who gave Umber that job, wants to impose certain interpretations on the production. To keep Hibiscus busy (at least in part) Umber writes a play for the theater to present in its black box: a play in which Elizabethan actors playing Viola and Olivia are really girls disguised as boys (or, in the case of Viola, a girl playing a boy playing a girl playing a boy) and fall in love with each other. Umber writes in a role for Hibiscus as Shakespeare, watching them rehearse, moved by their androgyny as Shakespeare was moved by the young man in the sonnets. Umber wants the Viola and Olivia characters to escape the binary universe, but thinks Shakespeare may be too old to go with them ... Viridian teases Umber about Umber's fixation on "fluidity virgins," discovering it for the first time. Teal loves Fennel, who thinks the binary couple is kinky – pornographic, almost. Teal is bemused by Fennel’s reaction, but later worries that their relationship is too frivolous. By the end of the play, Viridian and Teal do make a judgement about the binary couple they have been talking to.
  • Triangle
    Harry interviews Luke about possibly working with Harry and Nora on a documentary film Harry is making called Triangle. Harry warns Luke that it’s a thankless job – the dreary re-synching Luke must do of old interviews another film-maker collected for a new transfer, and the subject of the film itself: the persecution of gay men during the Holocaust – even persecution in some cases by other people in the camps...
    Harry interviews Luke about possibly working with Harry and Nora on a documentary film Harry is making called Triangle. Harry warns Luke that it’s a thankless job – the dreary re-synching Luke must do of old interviews another film-maker collected for a new transfer, and the subject of the film itself: the persecution of gay men during the Holocaust – even persecution in some cases by other people in the camps. Harry says the film may make them hated. Nora says: Or so Harry dearly hopes … Harry asks if Luke is uncomfortable with the gay themes, since he went to a Southern Baptist college. Luke says no. Harry says they may be accused of making an anti-Semitic film, a film somehow justifying or cheapening the Holocaust. Luke asks how that is possible – aren’t Harry and Nora Jewish? They are, though Harry is half-Jewish, and bi, Harry says; he’s always a double agent, playing for both teams …

    Nora works on getting permission from people around the world to use old photographs of people interviewed, and pictures showing gay life in Berlin. It’s particularly crucial to have visuals for the interviews for which there is audio but no film. Luke asks her about herself, and remarks that she always seems to praise Harry and defer to Harry. She talks a bit about the “Other,” and what we project onto the Other. Luke’s intense scrutiny of Nora makes her uncomfortable. He doesn’t get a lot of her references, and she gently suggests they may not have a lot in common. He insists he wants to learn from her, and asks her to tell him something remarkable about herself, leaving Harry out of it. She tells him she’s a good writer. She’s been working on a play called Triangle, but since the documentary will have that title, she’s looking for a new one. She’s interested in the idea of a love triangle that is self-contained, each person pursuing the next, everyone frustrated …

    When Luke turns in some footage and he’s done a good job, the three of them celebrate with Jack Daniels. Harry baits Luke and quizzes him on his family back in Georgia who voted for Trump, and Nora goes after Harry for not voting at all. (It turns out Luke did not vote either, for different reasons.) She accuses Harry of being indifferent to women’s issues. When she and Harry are alone, he asks if she is interested in Luke. She’s not, and she can tell Harry is, but she says she hopes Harry has no luck with him – she doesn’t think it would be good for “the kid” to get involved with Harry. Luke comes in one morning when Harry is ostensibly out at breakfast, and tells Nora of a psychic friend of his who says someone where he works is in trouble; he is sure it’s Nora, who is damaged by Harry, and he asks her to come away with him, once they finish the project. She demurs. Harry emerges from the room in the suite where he works and currently lives; he returned from breakfast earlier and Nora did not hear him. The three of them confront the fact that Nora is not interested in Luke and Luke is not interested in Harry.

    After each scene in Act One, one of the characters faces the audience and talks about something personal. After the first scene in Act Two, all three of them face the audience and talk, in turn, about personal concerns. Nora in her monologues talks about her friendship with Harry that started in grade school and briefly turned sexual in high school. Luke talks about a long-term friendship with an androgynous girl that had a similarly powerful effect on his life. Harry talks about Heinrich Heine, for whom he was named, and about Heine’s great-grand-nephew Lorenz Hart of Rodgers and Hart.
  • I Heard a Rumor
    This is a play that is in conversation with Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing, to some extent, and it is also an adaptation of that play, set on a modern US college campus. Bea and Ben are smart, quirky juniors who bait and diss each other with such ferocity, their friends suspect a mutual attraction. The friends stage conversations for them to overhear, and fool them both into acknowledging how they...
    This is a play that is in conversation with Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing, to some extent, and it is also an adaptation of that play, set on a modern US college campus. Bea and Ben are smart, quirky juniors who bait and diss each other with such ferocity, their friends suspect a mutual attraction. The friends stage conversations for them to overhear, and fool them both into acknowledging how they feel. Meanwhile, a much nastier "practical joke" targets Bea's shy freshman cousin Hiroko. (Bea is Japanese-American; Hiroko spent much of her childhood in Japan.) A coked-out creep semi-stalks Hiroko, and has a science nerd morph another kid's sex tape so that Hiroko appears to be the girl in the tape. The creep shows the tape to Hiroko's boyfriend, who publicly rejects her, and bits of the tape wind up online. Heartbroken and humiliated, Hiroko will not leave her room and is ready to drop out. Bea demands that Ben prove his love by helping to fight back.
  • The Politics of Fabulousness
    Gary hopes to re-connect with his estranged older sister Kay, who is visiting Kansas City, where Gary now lives, for an academic conference. Gary lives with Eytan, who was Kay’s high school best friend; now Eytan and Kay hate each other. Eytan and Gary write humorous songs which Gary sings as a character called Ovaria Strange. Kay considers drag to be misogynist: a caricature of women – a kind of minstrel show...
    Gary hopes to re-connect with his estranged older sister Kay, who is visiting Kansas City, where Gary now lives, for an academic conference. Gary lives with Eytan, who was Kay’s high school best friend; now Eytan and Kay hate each other. Eytan and Gary write humorous songs which Gary sings as a character called Ovaria Strange. Kay considers drag to be misogynist: a caricature of women – a kind of minstrel show. Eytan considers Kay a humorless feminist spouting tiresome theory and jargon, ridiculously teaching African-American studies when she’s white, (which is also a kind of minstrel show, he argues), though Kay is married to Curtis, who’s black, and Eytan has a problem with Kay teaching Women & Gender Studies when (he contends) she’s too uptight and homophobic to talk to college kids about gender.

    Gary and Curtis cannot stop Eytan and Kay’s infighting. Gary offers Kay money their mother left; she refuses – their mother left it to Gary, and Kay does not want any part of it. Eytan sees Curtis as a “Magical Negro” devoting his life to caring for a high-maintenence white person (Kay). Kay gives a conference paper on Harlem Renaissance writers, mainly Zora Neale Hurston and Langston Hughes and their famous, mysterious falling out; Gary and Eytan don’t come to hear it. (Each character also faces the audience and speaks about himself/herself directly at some point – Curtis says some things in a monologue toward the end about his first wife, from Japan, that may cause the audience to see him in a different light.) Kay and Curtis see Gary perform in drag in a club.

    Curtis is offended by Gary’s musical numbers mocking religious Christian women – like the women in Curtis's family. Eytan bristles at the possible implication that he, a Jew, can’t engage in satire/write certain songs. He sees this as rooted in certain anti-Semitic charges that date back to Wagner's essay about Jews in music lacking “authenticity.” Eytan thinks Kay’s hostility to Eytan and Gary comes from Eytan’s metaphorical romantic rejection of her when they were teenagers; in the middle of the night before they head home, Kay tells Curtis the real problem is she can’t deal with her brother Gary because of the primal pain of her mother loving only Gary, not her. This visit may not get Gary the close-knit family he has dreamed of. In terms of the issues that the characters debate, everybody’s right and everybody’s wrong.
  • Deliberate Fools
    This is a play in conversation with The Merchant of Venice. Debbie is a middle-aged woman who teaches courses for English Department and the Jewish Studies Program at a small college. She’s teaching a Shakespeare course this term (the Spring of 2019), a Jewish Science Fiction course, and a Jewish Humor course. She talks about texts she teaches with Ray, a guy who has driven trucks and who drives vans for the...
    This is a play in conversation with The Merchant of Venice. Debbie is a middle-aged woman who teaches courses for English Department and the Jewish Studies Program at a small college. She’s teaching a Shakespeare course this term (the Spring of 2019), a Jewish Science Fiction course, and a Jewish Humor course. She talks about texts she teaches with Ray, a guy who has driven trucks and who drives vans for the college. She has recently asked him to move in with her. He’s in mid-life, like her, and his undiagnosed dysgraphia caused him not to do well in school. She finds it exotic that he’s a trucker, and he finds her Jewishness exotic.

    They talk about The Merchant of Venice, and Shylock, and Shylock’s daughter Jessica who runs off with Lorenzo, and whether the Converso woman Amelia Bassano was the Dark Lady of the Sonnets. They talk about situations Debbie is handling in her Jewish Studies classes. Jewish Humor is particularly tricky to teach this term. A lot of Jewish comedians in the early 1900s wore blackface, and politicians are being exposed and disgraced with old blackface pictures in yearbooks. And Debbie teaches works by Woody Allen and spends time in the class on former Senator Al Franken, recommending his 1990s book Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot: And Other Observations as a term paper book. She suggests to her class that those two men, Allen and Franken, may not be sexual predators, and has sent the class links to bolster that assertion.

    Debbie talks to some classes in the course of the play, parts of her lectures presented as monologues, and she meets with some students in conference. At the end of the term, she reads her student evaluations and finds that a smart female student in Jewish Humor who hated Woody Allen’s Play It Again, Sam and Allen's films has taken Debbie to task for defending and promoting predators, and assigning their work, and creating an uncomfortable classroom atmosphere for women who have been through traumatic sexual experiences. Debbie is called in for a meeting with the student and the dean. She sees some parallels to the trial at the end of The Merchant of Venice, involving Portia and Shylock, feels a bit like both of them, and feels badly for the student who found her class upsetting. The play’s title comes from The Merchant of Venice – Debbie uses it to comment on herself, the administration and academics who think too much as they shape policy: “O these deliberate fools! When they do choose, They have the wisdom by their wit to lose.”
  • Transatlantic
    Bernie comes to London with a chip on his shoulder because of American-bashing he encountered years earlier as a Rhodes Scholar. His wife Lori tries to soothe him. Bernie's small indie film company is interested in producing Fiona's period piece screenplay about John Stuart Mill and Harriet Taylor. Fiona hates US cultural imperialism, and the need to get Yank funding for her film. Her husband Nick...
    Bernie comes to London with a chip on his shoulder because of American-bashing he encountered years earlier as a Rhodes Scholar. His wife Lori tries to soothe him. Bernie's small indie film company is interested in producing Fiona's period piece screenplay about John Stuart Mill and Harriet Taylor. Fiona hates US cultural imperialism, and the need to get Yank funding for her film. Her husband Nick tries to soothe her. When the couples meet, some cultural stereotypes are confirmed and there are many awkward moments. Fiona is appalled by how Bernie wants to re-write the script. Later, their drunken arguing one on one leads to almost absurdist bashing of each other's countries -- and then to a pass. Act Two takes place in NYC, as Bernie and Fiona's affair continues. Nick and Lori are thrown together as they try to deal with it -- and they find more strength and good humor between them than they might have thought possible.
  • Country Fried Murder
    A group of people gather for a songwriters' retreat in the Rocky Mountains in the mid-2000s. Their "mentor" is an abrasive, charismatic country singer/songwriter named Kyle Samperson. He humiliates some for their songwriting, personally offends some and clashes about politics with others. By the time Kyle turns up dead in Act Two, everyone has a motive for killing him. Snowed in, without internet...
    A group of people gather for a songwriters' retreat in the Rocky Mountains in the mid-2000s. Their "mentor" is an abrasive, charismatic country singer/songwriter named Kyle Samperson. He humiliates some for their songwriting, personally offends some and clashes about politics with others. By the time Kyle turns up dead in Act Two, everyone has a motive for killing him. Snowed in, without internet or phone, the other characters size each other up and wonder whodunit.
  • Stop Me If You've Heard This One ...
    Alan flies from NYC to Florida to talk his father Murray out of surgery ... and learns surgery was not really imminent, but as long as you're here, why not stay for the Passover seder? He resents his family manipulating him and trying to set him up with his sister's au pair girl -- though he learns something about Lisa, the au pair girl, the rest of the family does not know. This a gentle family...
    Alan flies from NYC to Florida to talk his father Murray out of surgery ... and learns surgery was not really imminent, but as long as you're here, why not stay for the Passover seder? He resents his family manipulating him and trying to set him up with his sister's au pair girl -- though he learns something about Lisa, the au pair girl, the rest of the family does not know. This a gentle family comedy in which people make points, argue and make peace through humor -- often long, odd and shaggy Jewish jokes.
  • Crowded House
    This play takes place in the summer of 2001, just before 9/11. John is a downwardly mobile 20-something schoolteacher, trapped in Roommate Hell. He's attracted to Claire who is smart but a little prickly and shares his cramped apartment -- but what if John makes a pass and she doesn't reciprocate his interest? How horrible and awkward would that be? They both get bullied and baited by Ed, their...
    This play takes place in the summer of 2001, just before 9/11. John is a downwardly mobile 20-something schoolteacher, trapped in Roommate Hell. He's attracted to Claire who is smart but a little prickly and shares his cramped apartment -- but what if John makes a pass and she doesn't reciprocate his interest? How horrible and awkward would that be? They both get bullied and baited by Ed, their defiantly working-class third roommate. Though Ed's girlfriend Annette is rich and has her own place, Ed and Annette spend all their time in this cramped apartment, all over each other, and speculate about John and Claire. John's old friends from Yale Lyle and Dianne come to visit him and are horrified by how he now lives. They all get trapped in the apartment with Sal, a pizza deliveryman who speaks little English, when the front door gets stuck. The heat has come on, in August, and in this dawn of cell phones, no one has a way to call for help. As tensions rise, John finally stands up to Lyle and to Ed -- and goes for broke with Claire.
  • Damage Control
    This play follows a Senate race in a southern state, between Carl Sharp, a hard-working, brilliant, self-made African-American Democrat in Congress whose family were poor share-croppers – and Bradley LeBland III, from an old New England family gone southern, who has dabbled in business but mostly trades on his family name.

    Carl’s adviser is Deborah Kaufman, a transplanted New Yorker, and Brad’s...
    This play follows a Senate race in a southern state, between Carl Sharp, a hard-working, brilliant, self-made African-American Democrat in Congress whose family were poor share-croppers – and Bradley LeBland III, from an old New England family gone southern, who has dabbled in business but mostly trades on his family name.

    Carl’s adviser is Deborah Kaufman, a transplanted New Yorker, and Brad’s adviser is Haley Vincent Gaines, whose father advised Brad’s father. Haley is attracted to Debbie; she is wary of him. Haley must attempt to cover for Brad’s inarticulateness and ignorance – while Debbie tries to cover for Carl’s tendency to wind up in personal scandals. Though married, he at times appears to flirt with her. And just before he debates Brad on state television, he tells Debbie about a short-lived fling involving himself and the rich, vapid, now Born Again Brad, when they were young men at Princeton – which gives the subsequent debate a strange feel.

    After the debate, Haley, on a quasi-date, lets Debbie know that a Democratic campaign staffer has come over to the other side with a tidbit of information: Carl may soon be at the center of a sex scandal involving a young male campaign staffer. Debbie threatens Haley with the information Carl gave her about him and Brad at college. Haley confronts his candidate about his hypocrisy, and she confronts hers about his need to live dangerously, in ways that baffle her. The rumor-spreading mechanism is taking on a life of its own; there may be no way to avert the looming Mutually Assured Destruction scenario.

    Other characters include a wily old retiring right-wing senator, keen on helping Brad by destroying his Democrat opponent, and two media talking heads on state television, one male and one female, who take us through several spin cycles of the campaign.

    Full-length Play: This play was produced once, just before the 2004 election, in a festival of plays about politics. The Carl Sharp character at that time was white, though still a self-made man from a family of sharecroppers. I now have a version of the play in which that character is black; I think either version can work well. This character owes more to Bill Clinton than to Barack Obama, but the play is not about any one politician on either side; it’s about patterns in our national politics and media.
  • Bug Rescuing
    Joan sits poolside (the edge of the stage) and Michael comes to find her. She says it was a mistake for her to have come to this Caribbean resort with him for his business conference. She's a quirky, moody artist, she wants to be home doing work, and she hates this place. She's rescuing semi-dead bugs from the water, as she did when she was a little nerd. Michael argues that they're different but...
    Joan sits poolside (the edge of the stage) and Michael comes to find her. She says it was a mistake for her to have come to this Caribbean resort with him for his business conference. She's a quirky, moody artist, she wants to be home doing work, and she hates this place. She's rescuing semi-dead bugs from the water, as she did when she was a little nerd. Michael argues that they're different but their relationship can still work, and asks to be introduced to the bugs she has pulled out of the pool.
  • Untethered
    Haley is in shock -- as her relationship has just ended. She has turned up at the home of Jessica, an old friend she has not seen in a long time. She says she's come untethered: funny in the head. Jessica talks about a relationship she, herself, found it almost impossible to get over, but gently suggests Haley may get past the place where it hurts so much she can barely breathe -- and Haley may re-discover...
    Haley is in shock -- as her relationship has just ended. She has turned up at the home of Jessica, an old friend she has not seen in a long time. She says she's come untethered: funny in the head. Jessica talks about a relationship she, herself, found it almost impossible to get over, but gently suggests Haley may get past the place where it hurts so much she can barely breathe -- and Haley may re-discover a bunch of things she's lost, including old friends her boyfriend disapproved of.
  • Book of Life
    In a bleak dystopian future, a woman goes to the library to take out a young adult volume -- a life of a teen that she would like to live. A helpful librarian answers the woman's questions.
  • Face to Face with the Enemy
    Dierdre has arranged to confront Kristine, the young woman her husband Douglas has been sleeping with. In a restaurant, as a dour, nosy waiter wanders in and out, Dierdre gets ready to tear Kristine apart, and is startled to find Kristine is genuinely upset to learn Douglas is married and wants to know more about Dierdre's situation. It's been a long time since Dierdre has had a good talk with anyone...
    Dierdre has arranged to confront Kristine, the young woman her husband Douglas has been sleeping with. In a restaurant, as a dour, nosy waiter wanders in and out, Dierdre gets ready to tear Kristine apart, and is startled to find Kristine is genuinely upset to learn Douglas is married and wants to know more about Dierdre's situation. It's been a long time since Dierdre has had a good talk with anyone, and the two women do have some things in common ...
  • Timeshare
    Rob and Nancy run into each other at their favorite bar at an odd hour. Since their breakup, it's been awkward for them and for friends when they are both there. They work out a "timeshare" arrangement so that they can go to the bar on alternate nights ... but as they talk, old feelings start to assert themselves.
  • What's Held Back
    In a bleak cyberpunk future, rich young Brandon Prince is angry at Lottie, the poor girl he's grown up with, who serves as his "comforter." He says she's so warm and kind to him it has made him weak, and that's why he let his uncle humiliate him at a family company board meeting. Brandon goads Lottie to say what she really thinks of him, menacing her with talk of dark things happening...
    In a bleak cyberpunk future, rich young Brandon Prince is angry at Lottie, the poor girl he's grown up with, who serves as his "comforter." He says she's so warm and kind to him it has made him weak, and that's why he let his uncle humiliate him at a family company board meeting. Brandon goads Lottie to say what she really thinks of him, menacing her with talk of dark things happening to her family outside the protective bubble of good living. But when he pushes too far, he gets more than he bargained for.
  • Assertiveness Training
    Midge and Tina are two chronically wussy women who have signed up for an assertiveness training course. Their two instructors are Zora and Georgia who try to show them how to navigate situations with guys harassing them, and to stop apologizing when they're called on constantly apologizing for themselves. Zora and Georgia give Midge and Tina "tough love" -- goading them to the point where they...
    Midge and Tina are two chronically wussy women who have signed up for an assertiveness training course. Their two instructors are Zora and Georgia who try to show them how to navigate situations with guys harassing them, and to stop apologizing when they're called on constantly apologizing for themselves. Zora and Georgia give Midge and Tina "tough love" -- goading them to the point where they stand up for themselves and each other.
  • The Emperor's Interview
    A Trumpian parable: the Emperor gives an interview to Emperor TV, bragging about his new clothes -- as he sits there in underpants. A reporter pretends to see the clothes, a surrogate for the Emperor scolds the reporter, and a reporter leaving the station talks about how the Emperor has no clothes.
  • Getting Played
    Bobby tells Autumn how he can launch her music career. But he has strong ideas about how to re-make her image, and he seems to be hitting on her ... Bobby is offended when the tables seem to turn.
  • Hard to Get
    Steve comes back to visit the office where he used to work, hoping to pick up some work on the side. Only Mark is there -- warmly welcoming him back and asking for advice on how to hit on the woman who replaced Steve. Mark is not bi-curious, but he's aware, on some level, of Steve's crush, and enjoys power and attention. One reason Steve left the office was to get away from Mark's mind games --...
    Steve comes back to visit the office where he used to work, hoping to pick up some work on the side. Only Mark is there -- warmly welcoming him back and asking for advice on how to hit on the woman who replaced Steve. Mark is not bi-curious, but he's aware, on some level, of Steve's crush, and enjoys power and attention. One reason Steve left the office was to get away from Mark's mind games -- and this "reunion" leads to a confrontation.
  • Unending Drama
    Two women on a soap have a cat-fight -- but when the cameras aren't rolling, the women playing them talk about writers, humor, and how the guy playing a character their characters crave has snaked another woman in the cast. This makes it hard to act opposite him, once cameras roll again and he enters the scene.
  • The Other Woman
    Trent decides to introduce the two women he's been sleeping with to each other. It unnerves him to find that Lisa and Danielle don't fight over him -- instead, they turn out to be old friends from college, more interested in catching up with each other than in dealing with Trent.
  • Wooing Olivia
    A girl disguised as a boy disguised as a girl and a girl disguised as a boy disguised as a girl disguised as a boy rehearse Olivia/Viola scenes from Twelfth Night at the Globe Theatre in Elizabethan England. Each is fighting and concealing an attraction to the other, about whose gender identity she is confused. Will Shakespeare wanders in and watches, thinks of the young man he has written sonnets to, and muses...
    A girl disguised as a boy disguised as a girl and a girl disguised as a boy disguised as a girl disguised as a boy rehearse Olivia/Viola scenes from Twelfth Night at the Globe Theatre in Elizabethan England. Each is fighting and concealing an attraction to the other, about whose gender identity she is confused. Will Shakespeare wanders in and watches, thinks of the young man he has written sonnets to, and muses on how compelling androgynous young people can be.
  • Catching Up With Joan of Arc
    Three GenX women show up at their 30th high school reunion, feeling very differently about it. Joan has been in rock bands and is seen as a cool, minor celebrity, but she was teased in high school and is puzzled by the friendliness the other two now show her; she's only here to try to raise money for a film she wants to make. She's indifferent to Sandra's efforts to apologize for past cruelty...
    Three GenX women show up at their 30th high school reunion, feeling very differently about it. Joan has been in rock bands and is seen as a cool, minor celebrity, but she was teased in high school and is puzzled by the friendliness the other two now show her; she's only here to try to raise money for a film she wants to make. She's indifferent to Sandra's efforts to apologize for past cruelty ... and Debbie gets more of a sense of why her old friend Sandra has dropped out of touch.
  • The Poe-ster
    Ten-Minue Play in Verse: A college student who focuses on literature is up late, studying for exams, telling himself that he's over his ex-girlfriend and ready to move on, when his Edgar Allan Poe poster starts talking to him. He's upset by how it keeps saying "nevermore" as he tries to think positive. He yells at it.
  • Fluidity Challenged
    In a future in which almost everyone is gender fluid, a couple announce that one of them wants to be male and the other wants to be female -- permanently. Several therapists talk to the couple, to gauge their state of mind, and to determine, officially, if they are sane.
  • The Child Is the Mother of the Woman
    Margaret talks to teenager Meg about why she sent her to her room and the tension between them -- replacing years of closeness. They are very alike in some ways, but it develops that this is not the case of mother/child conflict it appears to be on the surface; it's a situation complicated by cloning.
  • Night of the Living Relatives
    John and Sally, a married couple, bicker, while Rose, John's undead zombie wife, serves food. Rose grows quite hostile, and Sally is upset that John does not have a gun on hand to shoot Rose in the head, if necessary, as he promised -- and also by how many of their neighbors seem to have turned into flesh-eating zombies ...
  • Between Lives
    An older woman, and a young woman who may be dropping out of college are unhappy with their lives, as they stay in a hotel near the highway. They find dealing with their families stressful, but a middle-aged woman they encounter in the hotel lobby is eerily detached from her emotions, and from everyone else.
  • Pulverized!
    Two little boys are playing, and the girl who lives next door to one is interested in what they are doing. When the kids discover a gun in a parent's dresser drawer, things get scary.
  • Performance Art
    Kiley and Erica go to the new art "installation" by Kiley's friend Hecuba Rosenblatt, a piece called Performance Art. As far as they can tell, a bunch of people have been paid to sit in rows and act like an audience at a play. They peer at them, and wonder what Hecuba means by this piece. Kiley thinks it's exciting, but Erica thinks it's pretentious -- and is Hecuba manipulating...
    Kiley and Erica go to the new art "installation" by Kiley's friend Hecuba Rosenblatt, a piece called Performance Art. As far as they can tell, a bunch of people have been paid to sit in rows and act like an audience at a play. They peer at them, and wonder what Hecuba means by this piece. Kiley thinks it's exciting, but Erica thinks it's pretentious -- and is Hecuba manipulating everybody? Maybe the people sitting in rows think they're really watching a play -- and Kiley and Erica are in it ...
  • Talk to Me
    Trevor tries to get Maggie to talk to him the morning after a fight. He is charming, funny, conciliatory, poignant and irritated, by turns, at her for giving him the silent treatment. But as he goes on talking about what happened, we learn that Maggie may have a number of reasons for pulling into herself ... and may have a big choice she has to make about this marriage.
  • Interpreting a Dream
    Bi-Lingual Ten-Minute Play: Ariel has been called to the principal's office to interpret for Ivania, who has been in this country for a while but refuses to learn English. Ariel tries to tactfully translate back and forth between English and Spanish -- some dull and pompous things Mr. Miller says and some things Ivania says about how she dislikes English and the US. What Ariel and Mr. Miller don't...
    Bi-Lingual Ten-Minute Play: Ariel has been called to the principal's office to interpret for Ivania, who has been in this country for a while but refuses to learn English. Ariel tries to tactfully translate back and forth between English and Spanish -- some dull and pompous things Mr. Miller says and some things Ivania says about how she dislikes English and the US. What Ariel and Mr. Miller don't understand is that Ivania is still mentally living in the world she has been forced to leave, and she does not want to give it up.
  • We're Being Watched
    Cory and Janice sit in the park ... and Janice has an uneasy feeling that they are being watched. Perhaps she senses the audience watching them? Cory tries to be patient, but he finds many things about her behavior objectionable -- and this leads to a discussion of what has gone wrong during their engagement.
  • Likewise
    Andy and Marsha are trying to have a civil exchange, post-breakup. But there are underlying issues and goals for both of them, including cat custody issues -- and these come to the surface.
  • Star Trek: The Next Regurgitation
    Silly things happen on a new Star Trek show that mixes up qualities and characters seen on Star Trek shows in the past.
  • What We Cast Off, What We Keep
    Janet is hanging out with Molly, a friend she has not seen in decades. Molly's marriage has ended in the midst of her husband's mid-life crisis. Janet wants to help her, and is willing to be friends again, but feels hurt at how Molly allowed her husband to cut Molly's old friends, including Janet, out of Molly's life. They compare notes on people they know, (and Janet has lost other friends...
    Janet is hanging out with Molly, a friend she has not seen in decades. Molly's marriage has ended in the midst of her husband's mid-life crisis. Janet wants to help her, and is willing to be friends again, but feels hurt at how Molly allowed her husband to cut Molly's old friends, including Janet, out of Molly's life. They compare notes on people they know, (and Janet has lost other friends when the friends coupled up) and talk of their grown children. Janet shows Molly the terrarium in which she is raising Monarch butterflies; some of the caterpillars have turned into chrysalises on its roof. Janet's husband Stanley wanders in several times, talking about an article he's reading about nebulae formed from gases sloughed off of dying stars. Janet tries to use both the butterfly metaphor for change and the nebula metaphor to get Molly psyched about it. Molly says change sucks; she just wants a drink.