“The play opens on a hot summer night in the desert town of Barstow, California. GABRIELA lies in the grass talking to the MOON, who is depicted as a mysterious violin player perched on top of an old refrigerator. As GABRIELA falls asleep, her dream world materializes before us, in a wonderfully seductive scene between GABRIELA’s pampered house CAT and CAT’s wild suitor, a feral COYOTE. While these characters may be fantastical players in GABRIELA’s dream world, their animalism is rich with humanity. COYOTE shamelessly solicits CAT, swearing to make all nine of her lives orgasm, and CAT ultimately gives in to his wild lust, despite her distaste for the undomesticated.
As they howl in heat, GABRIELA wakes up (or is she still dreaming?) and runs out of her house with a shotgun, paranoid that the cactuses are closing in on her. Her desperation and confusion lead her to tears, and she turns to the MOON for an explanation. Deeply moved by GABRIELA’s sadness, the MOON descends from the sky, shaking the earth with his gravitational force. He and GABRIELA begin to dance, and she is utterly seduced by his celestial being. As they dance, GABRIELA’S perverted 14-year-old neighbor MARTIN appears and declares his love for GABRIELA. He and the MOON enter a duel, and the MOON knocks him unconscious. As GABRIELA comforts MARTIN, the MOON returns to the sky, and the two mortals fall asleep together in the backyard.
The next morning, GABRIELA awakes to find her husband BENITO, standing in her kitchen. He is a soldier in the U.S. Army, and she has not seen him in over two months. They greet each other with strained silence, then exchange a quick kiss. BENITO is immediately aroused by his wife’s heavenly figure, unable to keep his hands off her after having been away for so long. But GABRIELA, feeling like a cheap army whore, shoves him away. The two struggle, each in their own way, to rekindle the romance that once consumed them; GABRIELA aching to crawl inside BENITO’S head and rediscover the man she fell in love with, BENITO longing to reignite their once fiery passion. The army has damaged them both, and they are strangers to each other’s misery. Gabriela’s surrealist dreams elucidate her painful reality.
Rivera seamlessly weaves together GABRIELA’s dream world with her real one, blurring the boundaries between fantasy and reality in a remarkably clever and compelling way. His language is lyrical but unpretentious, described by critics as being both earthy and poetic. He uses magical realism to provide subtle social commentary. Though it touches on issues of war, the play is surprisingly light, witty, and entertaining. REFERENCES TO SALVADOR DALI MAKE ME HOT is a beautiful script, charged with romantic imagery, lyrical wit, and a sexual pulse that never ceases.”
This week we return to living playwrights with the oh-so-prolific Ryan Bultrowicz.
How prolific? The man has 18 plays (and counting) on the New Play Exchange. That’s a few to choose from. So I decided to lead with his comedy-romance-drama-horror I Found Her Ear and She Stole My Heart because…it’s entitled I Found Her Ear and She Stole My Heart.
I Found Her Ear and She Stole My Heart
Part of the genius of the work is that the synopsis is built into the title. Do I really need to tell you what I Found Her Ear and She Stole My Heart is about?
The writing in this play is smooth, smooth, smooth. Let’s explore.
Bringing up shades of Blue Velvet, Edward tells his brother about an ear he found. A woman’s ear.
Tyler is a pimp/low-level criminal and all-around dick. Edward is the nicer of the two. And more romantic, too.
He might just be very, very lonely, too.
Bultrowicz does an amazing job with the exposition. We know one brother is a criminal/jerk-ass and the other can fall in love wth a severed ear.
So Tyler promises Edward he can find the woman, but only if Edward will do him a favor: dump a car in a lake.
That trunk contained one of Tyler’s many enemies.
Edward may have killed someone.
Now look how Bultrowicz sets up this dialogue…it’s like 1-2-3-twist. That twist takes us in a new direction.
Thus Madalyn appears with a bandaged ear, but Edward suspects all is not as it seems.
And in a part I found disturbing, Edward, who thus far has been meek and mild, turns into his brother…kinda.
Edward is being a horrible human being right now.
Tyler of course was outside waiting, like all psychopathic pimps…
He’s not finished.
Sounds like Tyler has made the blackmail official. Again, Bultrowicz throwing us that curve in the dialogue he does so well.
Unsure if this is about the guy Edward supposedly killed or someone in their past, like their father…or a random rodeo clown?
Caroline – the lady following the crow, makes her way to Edward’s room. She’s missing an ear. Edward is certain they were meant to be together.
As long as murderers have a good reason , I guess it’s OK.
And now comes what I feel is a great monologue, for a great character, for any actress:
And that explains a lot!
Edward is still kinda low in the self-esteem department. BUT he’s in love. And he did do something horrible to Madalyn.
Oh that dialogue!!!
Caroline tries to convince Edward to stand up to bad-boy brother Tyler.
Spoiler alert: Tyler doesn’t make it to the end of the play…alive.
Strangled and gutted by a crow. Damn.
Edward and Caroline live happily ever after.
Now, for random fun, here’s a video of Ryan’s play Dream Date:
And some pictures:
Next, we’ll look at Gentle Strokes, a short play that is actually a hilarious stroke of genius.
This has a lot going on. Particularly an indictment of how the male gaze continues to dominate art – and maybe what people can do about it.
Full disclosure: I once pitched a thriller with a female protagonist to a female Hollywood executive who rejected it and told me she “really likes” the male gaze.
The antagonist in Bultrowicz’ play not only likes the male gaze, but likes being a creepy-ass male.
Emily is receiving a painting lesson from Stanley, who first comes off like Bob Ross. A creepy Bob Ross.
Of course once a guy gets going…
Again, Bultrowicz with that punchline. His dialogue is like a four punch combination in boxing. 1-2-3-BAM! Here’s a great link on how to throw an actual 4 punch combo.
Emily asks what is wrong with him. Short answer: everything…
Stanley’s actions make her question her marriage…
Emily agrees to Stanley’s bizarre proposition.
And now I reached a point where I was totally ready to review another short of Ryan’s – maybe it was The Audience Disturbs Marcel’s Bath Time and He Is Very Upset With You All – which is becoming popular. A trailer for that play is below:
We’ll have a photo dump of all the stills from The Audience Disturbs Marcel’s Bath Time and He Is Very Upset With You All at the end of this post.
For those of you who would like a healthy relationship with bread, here is a recipe on how to bake banana bread – because banana bread would never hurt you.
So I basically stole his biography off his New Play Exchange page. I’ll hyperlink and [add emphasis] where necessary.
“Ryan Bultrowicz is a [badass]Mexican-American playwright based out of Washington D.C. and Virginia. He’s interested in creating [hilarious]innovative, experimental, and magical shows. His works have been produced all over the world. He is the author of Dream Date (Queensland University, Australia), The Rabbit’s Hole (Baumholder American School, Germany), Shower Thoughts (Network Theatre, London), The Audience Disturbs Marcel’s Bath Time and He Is Very Upset With You All (Tiny Dynamite, Philadelphia), Three Women and an Onion (MadLab, Ohio) and many more. His acting credits include playing Macbeth (Macbeth), Vincent Cradeau (No Exit), Creon (Antigone), Scoop Rosenbaum (The Heidi Chronicles) and many more.
He is a Communication Studies major with a concentration in Mass Media at Longwood University. He spends his free time there working with the theatre department in numerous ways that include acting and writing. He is passionate about theatre and hopes to create works that will force audiences to question their comforts and beliefs.
I love talking with fellow playwrights, actors, or artists of any kind. Feel free to reach out and start a discussion with me, I’d be thrilled to hear from you. [You should do this. He really is a good guy.]“
Ryan was kind enough to answer some questions for us.
How did you start playwriting?
I’ve been doing theatre since I was in the eighth grade and was writing short sketches everyonce in a while but not taking it very seriously. Eventually, my sophomore year of college, Iwas unsatisfied with the amount of acting opportunities around me. I go to college in a verysmall town and theatre isn’t really a big part of that towns culture. So, there basically weren’tany more ways to get involved with theatre for the year but I still needed it as an outlet.That’s when I started taking playwriting seriously and once I did that I realized what anincredibly freeing art form it can be.
What are your influences?
Sara Ruhl, Martin Mcdonagh, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Jean-Paul Sartre, Albert Camus, William Shakespeare, Arthur Miller.
What is your most memorable production and why?
Recently, I got the chance to go see a professional production of my show “The Audience
Disturbs Marcels Bath Time and He Is Very Upset With You All” in Philadelphia and that
was so amazing. It was also an incredibly unique theatrical experience that even I, the
playwright, had not had before. It was really cool to be able to experience that for the first time with an audience.
What is your least memorable production and why?
I’ll just say…if you choose to produce one of my shows please don’t change the lines and
please don’t break the fourth wall (unless it’s one of my plays where I break the fourth wall) to ad-lib to the audience.
What’s your funniest theatre story?
In February, I actually self-produced a production of “The Audience Disturbs Marcel’s Bath Time and He Is Very Upset With You All” where I played the titular character, Marcel. To really simplify the play, it’s basically about a man trying to take a bath, noticing an audience in his bathroom, and proceeding to yell at them and call them perverts. We were fortunate enough to sell out! The show started, I danced, spotted the audience, and started going in on them, awesome, right? Well, this older couple that randomly stumbled into the theatre that day without knowing anything about the show was clearly not expecting to be directly addressed. After being called perverts by a rabid shirtless man they left almost immediately.
What are your writing habits like?
Ideas can hit me from any direction and I never know when it’s going to happen. Generally, I get the idea and then I think about it for a few days or weeks, and then once it’s been stirring around in my mind I can usually knock out a first draft in another week or two. Then I rewrite it, have some trusted readers go through it with critiques, rewrite it again, prematurely submit it somewhere, rewrite it again, and so on.
What advice do you have for new playwrights?
This is for all artists, but I think it’s especially important for playwrights, if you have the opportunity to go sit in an audience and see a play…GO! Other than that, write every day. I know that sentiment is expressed so often but it’s a good one. Don’t kill yourself doing it but at least try to think about writing everyday, or jot down one line of dialogue, or something. Oh, and if you have an idea for a play or you don’t and you want to write a play anyway…start now! You’ll be glad you did in the future. I know, personally, I’m glad I found playwriting at a young age because I imagine in ten years I’ll have a lot of writing experience under my belt and my work will have really benefited from that.
Who are some other writers you feel should get more attention?
Death, life, love, loss. Anything that scares me or anything that excites me. Who knows
which is which!
What is one thing you wished you knew now, that you didn’t know starting out?
That I didn’t have to try and write plays other people had already written. I’ve had the most success writing the plays that I would want to see myself.
I love looking at vulnerable individuals and putting them in situations controlled by arrogant individuals.
How did you come up with a play about a guy falling in love with a severed ear?
It’s been awhile but I’m almost positive I was inspired by a dream. That’s usually how I find a good starting point for my shows. I let my subconscious mind do the hard work!
Other times I can be inspired by hearing fragments of sentences from strangers, but I really hope I didn’t hear anyone talk about how they’re in love with a severed ear.
I Found Her Ear and She Stole My Heart has some effective magical realism. What advice can you give playwrights who want to infuse their plays with magical realism?
The brilliant thing about the stage is the unsurmountable possibilities for what can be done. As I have fallen deeper and deeper into the craft of playwriting this is an idea I’ve been unyieldingly pursuing. I crave to create those instances that I have felt a few times before in the theatre, watching a fantastic play, becoming so enthralled in its world, and never wanting to leave. For my plays, like I said, a lot of them come from dreams and I think magical realism can be used as a successful way to capture that feeling for an audience. If you’re someone who wants to learn how to do magical realism better then please go see some plays that utilize it or even just read some!
Gentle Strokes is flat-out hilarious (as are many of your other plays). What are some tips you may have for writing comedy?
I owe a lot of my comedic sensibilities to having studied improv comedy since I started
doing theatre. The core principles of improv and especially long-form have really helped me with writing comedy. I think at the core of a successful comedy there should be something honest about the world being exposed. If anyone is interested, there’s a fantastic book called “Truth in Comedy” that is wonderful and can sum this up in a way better way than I can.
What can American theatre do to be more welcoming to playwrights of all backgrounds?
More local theatres need to start getting involved with playwrights! Read their work!
Produce their work! Help enable them to spread the passion!
What’s a question you’d like to be asked? Go ahead and answer it.
This may not ever come to fruition, but I want everyone to know I’m working on a play about a woman who goes to Hell to try and rescue her dead yoga instructor.
I say this because now you will constantly be having to check my NPX page to see if I’ve uploaded it!!!
Wow, Ryan. Thank you so much. I’m sure we’ll never trust a loaf of bread again.
As promised, here are a bunch of pictures from The Audience Disturbs Marcel’s Bath Time and He Is Very Upset With You All – I think a few have our playwright.
And now, links to any and all things related tp Ryan Bultrowicz:
“Pretty Theft is a play about ballerinas, boxes and the dangers of beauty. After losing her father, Allegra falls under the wing of bad girl Suzy, only to find an unexpected friendship with Joe, an autistic savant. When things take a violent turn, Allegra and Suzy escape cross country and befriend Marco, a mysterious thief who claims he cannot be caught.”
Today’s play is brought to us by the Child Health Organization of America which in 1921 published Health plays for school children as developed by teachers and pupils in public schools of Greater New York.
It’s every bit as entertaining as the title implies.
The purpose is good, teaching children to be healthy through drama. However, it lends itself to supreme goofiness, especially considering half of the plays are pushing milk onto little kids.
In fact, there are so many of these milk plays, that today we’re doing a “milk only” special.
Unknown Playwrights: The Milk Edition
The Wizardry of Milk
Our first play, The Wizardry of Milk by Rae Abraham is a doozy.
Today’s word of the day: Farmerette.
And now something for the ladies:
This play is exceedingly basic. The Milk Wizard shows up and telles everyone to drink guess what? And like a bunch of sheeple, they agree.
In the aftermath of the massive bloodletting known as World War I, patriotism was high on milk’s virtues:
At the end the Milk Wizard lectures the audience, because everyone loves self-righteous plays:
Of course oat meal makes one strong. Just look at it.
I just want to throw out there that Milk even makes cameos in the other plays. For example, in Estelle Silverman’s The Carpenters’ Union – milk shows up at the end…and the children are forced to write the word MILK with their bodies like some twisted, calcium-rich version of YMCA.
Isabel H. Huggins can claim the next piece, Our Friend Milk, which is slightly more entertaining than Our Friend Formaldehyde.
A couple of things: That girl dressed like milk is nobody’s friend.
And how often did the poor child have to break their bones until mommy “tired” of it? Like 5? 12?
I wanna throw balls…
Know thy enemy.
Side effect of not drinking milk: Dreams of being chased by a bull.
So the Happy Children confront the Unhappy Children.
Say what??? If the Happy Children are all like this dweeb, no wonder the other children are unhappy.
All the Happy Children use peer pressure.
Milk obtains another innocent child’s soul.
Isabella H. Huggins is listed in the 1920 NYC school teachers’ directory. She graduated from what is now Drexel University in 1900 and in 1904 was listed as a teacher of cookery in NYC. She apparently resigned in 1909.
The Magic Milk Game
Nor nearly as entertaining at The Skin Game, Victoria Heindel’s The Magic Milk Game offers the following:
Well, your name is Fat. Just sayin’.
Dr. Milk Bottle
Minnie H. Niemeier’s Dr. Milk Bottle is a bizarre climax to this little book of plays.
Run, “vitamines” – RUN!!!!
Seriously. This character looks like the offspring of Dr. Giggles and a milk bottle.
Howdy all! Welcome back to our site and welcome back especially to Monologue Monday. This week takes us to legendary playwright David Henry Hwang‘s FOB. The play premiered in 1980 when Hwang was only 22. It featured John Lone and Tzi Ma, among others and was directed by Mako.
“F.O.B. (fresh off the boat) is another of David Henry Hwang’s explorations of what it is like to be Chinese in America. Dale is second-generation Chinese and very Americanized. He introduces the notion of F.O.B. to the audience in a monologue, mocking new Chinese immigrants for their pitiful attempts at assimilation while refusing to give up their traditional ways. Grace, his cousin, is first-generation, although she has been in America for a while. She is more Chinese in that she maintains many traditional customs, unlike Dale. Their relationship is upset by the arrival of Steve, a wealthy, arrogant new immigrant. Dale and Grace both resent his arrogance but react to it differently. Dale becomes competitive with Steve, while Grace uses traditional Chinese culture to win him over. In the end, Steve and Grace leave together, and Dale is alone, still resenting the F.O.B.’s. In the middle section of the play, Hwang has the characters play out their roles through Chinese myth.”
As you can see, Hwang uses culture as conflict, pitting a Chinese American guy (Dale) born and raised in the US against Grace (part of the 1.5 generation) and Steve, someone who just showed up, fresh off the boat.
It might be worth exploring why these three should be in conflict anyways. I guess a play without conflict would be boring.
The play provides strong roles for three Asian American actors.
[Full disclosure: I have suffered several recent soul-crushing theatre defeats, including a playwright who nixed their 4,000 word blog profile I wrote last week as well as giving up a New York City production because the director quit. Oh, and some psycho lit my mom’s truck on fire. It’s been a stressful time, thanks.]
So it’s only fitting that I turn to the nemesis of my youth: The University of Utah. Supposedly the best school in the entire state, the state really doesn’t have that many universities…but UVU is doing a good job. You can even read my review of Shakespeare’s thoroughly dated play here. Still, the University of Utah seems to be considered number one (though not by BYU fans).
I haven’t talked about rejection in this blog, nor much about the business of writing for theatre, but I receive several rejection notices per day. These last two made me laugh. I sent them a play about a teenager who is half-potato and half-flamingo.
Fair enough. Potangoes have a hard time being accepted, but it was followed by the discovery of another play I sent to the same theatre (a Western for seniors).
Excuse me, I writhe when I wanna writhe…
Update: Last night I got rejected for an interview because apparently the theatre suffers from phone anxiety and has never heard of Skype.
I literally lost two NYC opportunities in two days, though actually I’ve lost nothing.
Back to the blog…
In 1928 the accurately titled book University of Utah Plays was published. The book contained the well-crafted plays of Althea Thurston, whom we recently covered. It also contained some other, lesser-crafted plays, written by J. Douglas Cook and Edwin Stoker.
I know this blog tends to feature vibrant female authors of all backgrounds – and we did feature a female University of Utah author from the same book – but every now and again old dead white males wrote awful plays that must be ridiculed. Especially in their college years.
The plays are the western The Boomer and A Man of Temperment, based around Edgar Allan Poe.
Stage Westerns do exist. Maybe the biggest was The Squaw Man. This isn’t The Squaw Man. In fact it’s not much of anything. There is a plot.
Later the play specifically mentions Utah as the location.
The plot basically is this: wuss-boy Hugh loves coquettish Betty, whose tastes run a bit more adventuresome. She teases tough guy/sociopath-in-dialect Black Luke – who makes advances tries to rape her. Frustrated in his rough wooingrapiness, Luke blames Hugh and challeneges him to a gunfight. You’ll have to follow this to see the ending…
Here is bachelor number one:
And here is our unlucky bachelorette:
Basically Hugh follows Betty around pitching woo and generally failing. Betty loudly announces she has another chaperone.
“struck as by a thunderbolt”
That earplugging is impressive.
Looks like we may be interpreting this play through GIFs, kiddos.
Damn, Hugh. Now I’m embarrassed for EVERYONE.
Can we learn more about Betty’s “secret amusement”? It’s the most interesting part of this oater so far.
Sounds like Hugh needs himself a relationship time machine. So glad Betty is smart enough to not fall for the “you would’ve married me a while ago” trick.
Hugh….don’t tell her what to do. Seriously.
Alas, we get our first peek at Black Luke.
“yet he is attractive”
“But I knows what’s got under his hide.”
Lonely Luke + Bored Betty = DRAMA!!!
Aww, Luke’s “been a-hankerin'” and Betty’s been “blocked up here like a fly in a bottle.”
What could happen next?????
“I’ve been a-watchin’ you” Luke goes full creep.
“Y’know I ain’t never done this before;” What? Use a semicolon in dialogue? Luke, please.
Yeah. It’s not really working out.
Is “half-menacingly” really any better than “menacingly”????
Betty freaks out and Hugh scomes to the rescue. He sends Betty away so him and Luke can have some “man talk”
Black Luke: Self-aware villain.
This isn’t Hugh’s day.
Says you, Hugh.
Hugh still doesn’t want to fight/shoot/do anything so Luke gets all weird and threatens him with…the lash????
“resentfully stiffen” Hehehe.
“red tongue of flame”
HUGH IS DEAD.
Don’t kick a man when he’s…oh wait. never mind.
Of course it’s Betty’s fault – as this comtemporary review points out:
Robert Edwin Stoker was born in in Salt Lake City in 1902. His mother was born in Holladay, Utah and his father was from England. They appear to have been Latter-day Saints. He died in 1959 and has two headstones for some reason. I couldn’t find much else out about his life.
A Man of Temperment
This is actually the better play. Mostly because it involves Edgar Allan Poe, who, like so many others, was a failed playwright.
Our play has these people hanging out, except for Poe.
They’re waiting for Poe. Good to know we’re dealing with a “fact-based play” here. Hehe.
Cook sets up the scene….a lot.
Everyone gets all judge-y on poor Edgar.
That’s Mrs. Shelton defending her fiance. And as for Poe’s supposed boozing ways…
Altree is kind of a jerk.
But Barton is straight up Douchemeister 3000 material.
I guess the neat thing is if you’re Edgar Allan Poe, people will actually wait for you if you’re late:
Oh, snap! I do like that Shelton points out that Poe was a reputed drunkard – the facts are pretty mangled.
Oh, he’s getting published! Well hot damn! He’s got a career!
I’m actually unsure if this is a drama or comedy. Dramedy?
J. Douglas Cook was the son of W.L. Cook who was a pioneer court reporter in Utah [dude had an original copy of the John D. Lee trial]. His father was from Ogden and his mother was from Beaver. They were Christian Scientists.
He is also listed as a “research attorney” at times. He did write a radio play out there that was broadcast in 1938. He had an article published in The Saturday Review in 1954 about composers. I don’t know when he died.
Hopefully, he had a lot of time to contemplate his role in the imprisonment of thousands of his fellow Americans.
Next time we’ll bring you a more interesting plays. Thanks for reading!!!!
In the near future you can look forward to Chilean, Indonesian and Pennsylvania German writers.
So…before we line up the monologues, this play has a lot going against it. Basically it’s a game of “How can we abuse the main character Chrissy?” During the play these (and more) happen/are revealed. Chrissy…
Is a victim of incest
Is a victim of physical abuse
Is a failed abortion
Is a stripper
Is used by all her (mostly male) friends
‘s most “normal” female friend is actually a lesbian who wants to use her for sex
Keeps looking for love in some seriously wrong places
Serves as a therapist for broken males especially.
No wonder the great Madeline Kahn was nominated for an Emmy in this role. Imagine the emotional hula hoops on fire one would have to jump through to deliver a good performance.
Final point: Chrissy is indeed a complex character, but is also basically a human ashtray/garbage can/dustbin/whipping girl for all of humanity’s woes.
People could find better monologues these days.
Chrissy monologue 1: Shut up!
There are several monologues in the play. Here is the most common one. Guy keeps talking, Chrissy gets mad – and reveals her insecurities.
Chrissy monologue 2: I should be orderly…
The next monologue details Chrissy’s recollection of abuse at the hands of an older man (probably dear old dad).
Chrissy monologue 3: Listen to me…
By now, Chrissy’s world is imploding and she’s going a little bonkers (which I blame completely on every other character in the play). So we end up with this monologue. One actor did a rehearsal version and a finished version.
Susan monologue: All through my sophomore year…
Susan tells a story about a boy she dated and who also covered her in butter. She shoots him. And I thought I’ve been on some odd dates…
And I have no idea what this is…but it says In the Boom Boom Room