Dude Playwrights, Playwrights of the Past

J. Douglas Cook & Edwin Stoker/University of Utah plays part 2 (Edgar Allan Poe Fanfic & A Bizarro Western)

[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.

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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).

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Excuse me, I writhe when I wanna writhe…

Whenn you google “writhe GIF”


Update: Last night I got rejected for an interview because apparently the theatre suffers from phone anxiety and has never heard of Skype. 

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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.

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They made the paper.

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.

The Boomer

Not the American football player. Nor the generation that screwed up America. This “boomer” seems to refer to an itinerant worker, in this case, a wagon train guide. More on that soon.

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.

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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 wooing rapiness, Luke blames Hugh and challeneges him to a gunfight. You’ll have to follow this to see the ending…

Here is bachelor number one:

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And here is our unlucky bachelorette:

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Basically Hugh follows Betty around pitching woo and generally failing. Betty loudly announces she has another chaperone.

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“struck as by a thunderbolt”

Thunderbolt or lightning bolt, it’s all the same to Pikachu.

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“petty defiance” 

That earplugging is impressive.

Close enough.

Looks like we may be interpreting this play through GIFs, kiddos.

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Damn, Hugh. Now I’m embarrassed for EVERYONE.


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Can we learn more about Betty’s “secret amusement”? It’s the most interesting part of this oater so far.


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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.

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Hugh….don’t tell her what to do. Seriously.

Alas, we get our first peek at Black Luke.

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“yet he is attractive”

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“But I knows what’s got under his hide.”

Lonely Luke + Bored Betty = DRAMA!!!

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Aww, Luke’s “been a-hankerin'” and Betty’s been “blocked up here like a fly in a bottle.”

What could happen next?????

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“I’ve been a-watchin’ you” Luke goes full creep.

Millennial Luke.

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“Y’know I ain’t never done this before;” What? Use a semicolon in dialogue? Luke, please.

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Yeah. It’s not really working out.

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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”

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Black Luke: Self-aware villain.

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This isn’t Hugh’s day.

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Says you, Hugh.

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“Insane cry”

This popped up as the GIF for “insane cry.”

Hugh still doesn’t want to fight/shoot/do anything so Luke gets all weird and threatens him with…the lash????

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“resentfully stiffen” Hehehe.

“red tongue of flame”


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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:

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Cherchez la article here.


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.

Why can’t we use the sideburns picture of Poe more often? 1842/3.

Our play has these people hanging out, except for Poe.

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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.

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Everyone gets all judge-y on poor Edgar.

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That’s Mrs. Shelton defending her fiance. And as for Poe’s supposed boozing ways…

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Altree is kind of a jerk.

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But Barton is straight up Douchemeister 3000 material.

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A photo of the author from a 1918 newspaper article about teaching the foxtrot at the University of Utah.

I guess the neat thing is if you’re Edgar Allan Poe, people will actually wait for you if you’re late:

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Oh, snap! I do like that Shelton points out that Poe was a reputed drunkard – the facts are pretty mangled.

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Dude supposedly had a sensitivity to alcohol. I appreciate that the play mentions this.

White decides he knows what’s making Poe late.

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Tell you what…theatres paying playwrights sometimes pretend it’s an act of charity.

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Southern “gentlemen” and their reputations.

I love that here, everyone who was dissing him suddenly wants to be his friend. Don’t fall for it, Ed!

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The author around 1918. He wrote home about his war experiences.

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Oh no!!! He’s shown up plastered. And prays?

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So he’s not drunk after praying? Was it all an act? Or was there divine intervention?

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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 was administrator of Tule Lake after the evacuation order. Here is a photo he took of children there. More research needs to be done on this.

As a side note for those really into theatre, here are some performing artists/showbiz folk who were imprisoned at Tule Lake:

Playwright Hiroshi Kashiwagi

Actor Pat Morita

Yep, the US Government imprisoned Mr. Miyagi from the Karate Kid aka Arnold from Happy Days aka Pat Morita.

Animator Jimmy Murakami

Actor Yuki Shimoda

Actor Sab Shimono

Singer Hana Shimozumi

Light opera singer Hana Shimozumi.

Actor George Takei

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.

Meanwhile, here’s a list of all our playwrights.



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