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.
Perhaps it was The Rabbit’s Hole which is about magicians who have died while doing magic – and which I have reviewed on the New Play Exchange and you can too!
You can also view The Rabbit’s Hole in its entirety here:
And there’s a second video here:
Or was it People Are Just Furniture With Emotions which I read and is brilliant and contains the line “I’m not being shy. I just…why would I sit on him?“
I was prepared to review one of those when a very special Ryan Bultrowicz play caught my eye:
It gets even better.
Two-Timing Loaf of Bread
Carol tells bread about a vision she had. Of them being all nice and happy.
Bread, being a typical male, fears commitment like he does a toaster. Carol doesn’t take kindly to this.
Bread is mean to her.
Bread asks her the time. He wants her to leave.
Why could bread want her to….OHHHHH.
There’s this really cheesy Clint Eastwood movie where the clue to catch the killer is literally spelled out “N-O O-N-E” – it’s really sad. This play is like 10x better than that movie.
Bread doesn’t know how to love. If only bread knew about Quora, we could’ve avoided all this mess. There’s even a song about it.
Victimizer playing the victim. Typical.
Well, bread. I have a feeling shee’s not really caring about what you say.
Carol and Sophie are alive. I just hope they ate some of their ex and fed the rest of him to ducks at the park.
If you are anyhwere near Mary Baldwin University, Two-Timing Loaf of Bread will be performed there soon with Marcel AND Three Women and an Onion!!!
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?
What are common themes in your work?
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:
His New Play Exchange page.
His Lindkedin page.
The Rabbit’s Hole production.
The Drowning Star, published at Lazy Bee Scripts.
Extensive interview regarding Marcel.
A Cold Blue Place shortlisted by a UK theatre.
Broadway World review of Marcel.
Gentle Strokes at Mildred’s Umbrella.
Upcoming event featuring Marcel, the Loaf of Bread AND Three Women and an Onion!
Yet another Marcel review.
Interesting entry for Gentle Strokes.
Someone didn’t like Marcel.
Another Dream Date.