Monologue Monday

Monologue Monday: No Release by Tara Meddaugh

Hello, hello one and all!!! Welcome back my beautiful monologuistas!!!

Today we bring you yet another Tara Meddaugh classic. She’s becoming a favorite of the blog. You can find other Meddaugh monologues here:

March in Line

Ferret Envy

Single Crutch

The Beanstalk

No Release is different than all those monologues in that it is dead serious.

This is how the audience will feel. The monologue is that powerful.

Melinda has moved back home to help her infirm mother. She knows her mother is dying and it brings no release. She feels like a marionette.

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Hopefully not THIS marionette. Damn thing costs 319 dollars.

As always, Ms. Meddaugh is kind enough to allow you to see/download the monologue free from her site, so instead of me copying it here, you can just run over there.

Now let’s see what the old YouTube pulled up:








Hopefully more people will do this emotional monologue.

For more monologues, check here. And for our new theatre horror stories, please check here.

Current Playwrights, Female Playwrights, Unknown playwrights

Martha Patterson

If there is one word to describe unknown playwright Martha Patterson, that word would be versatile. She works in a variety of genres and deals in everything from based-on-fact monologues to fun one-acts as well as full-lengths, covering all sorts of topics.

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Martha Patterson, probably envisioning her next play combining comedy, classical stories and revenge.

Martha kinda has theatre in her blood. Her aunt Elizabeth Patterson had a massive acting career in Chicago, on Broadway and on film and TV. Audiences might remember her from a few episodes of I Love Lucy she appeared on.

Her great-uncle was Sturgis Elleno Leavitt, who was a long-time professor and translator of Spanish, particularly Spanish plays of the Golden Age.

But we’re not here to talk about them. We’re here to talk about Martha and what she’s up to.

She received her BA in Theatre Arts from Mount Holyoke College and an MA in Performing Arts Education from Emerson College.

After several years of acting and teaching, Martha turned to playwriting and hasn’t looked back.

Covering all 140+ plays Martha has written would present it’s own year of blog posts (not that I’m opposed to it, it’s just I wanted to cover her work in a timely manner).

Advert for a Scottish production of Martha’s play A Constant Man, one of over 140 plays she’s written.

The first play we’ll look at is a short parody of Shakespeare’s venerated Hamlet. Basically, Hamlet’s dad’s ghost shows up, but Hamlet can’t be bothered:

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The play is full of jokes like this…

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In addition to being funny, these lines upend the incest motif in Hamlet.

The play itself is 3.5 pages. Let’s take a look at some of the other bits:

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The answer to his dad’s question qould be “With Gertrude, Hamlet’s mom whom he secretly wants to bone.”

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The Ghost is starting to get it. As is the dorky Danish prince –

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Spoiler alert: Hamlet falls for whatever lines his dead dad tells him, just like in the original.

This play is pretty funny and also quite silly, thus making it highly entertaining. And it’s an appropriate shortened alternative to that behemoth Hamlet, which seems to run 3 hours, minimum.

Hamlet’s Revenge has been performed in Korea by The Seoul Players in 2010 and has an upcoming production in the Phoenix area.



The next short play of Martha’s that we’ll take a look at is Richard Gerstl, a serious monologue illuminating the life and sad death of the Viennese artist.

When your self-portraits [the dong-free ones, at least] are this nuts, you know Martha’s gonna write an awesome monologue about you. He’s probably laughing because he was shtupping a famous composer’s wife.
Martha uses a very traditional and classical technique when setting up her plays –

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This certainly gives us a particular moment in time.

Richard introduces himself…in a way.

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Mathilde Schönberg  wasn’t repulsed. Anyways, this is interesting because so much is made of the male gaze, that it’s quite a relief when a different perspective is offered.

For those who don’t know the term, it’s kinda like when you can tell the heterosexual male director of a film is in love with the female star – then extrapolate that to how our culture tells stories. This is still endemic in theatre. You can read more about the male gaze here.

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Sounds like Richard has a bit of the male gaze himself. And he is not the most pleasent character…

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Like this, but on Mathilde Schönberg’s breasts. From here.

Did I mention he’s coiling a noose as he’s talking?

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This is a good play about a difficult topic. I don’t know if the real Richard Gerstl sought help. The play adequately summarizes the conflicts and crises in his short life…now you’re getting a brief lecture. Anytime this blog mentions a work dealing with suicide, we need to mention this…


A former classmate of mine has had 5 (FIVE) of her brothers commit suicide, including 4 (FOUR) since last year. The last one was less than a month ago. She is absolutely one of the nicest people I know. This has brought suicide to the forefront of my mind.

If you’re in the US and are thinking about suicide, the hotline is here. Or simply text CONNECT to 741741.

In the UK the info is here or you can email

In Canada, a database of info is here or you can text 686868.

Every day I think about what my friend is going through.

If those don’t work, you can always message me at this blog. I WILL get back to you as soon as I see it.


Now back to Martha and a very funny play of hers…

Do y’all know steampunk? Our friends at the Oxford Dictionary say: A genre of science fiction that has a historical setting and typically features steam-powered machinery rather than advanced technology.

This is what steampunk looks like and we know this because it’s from a government website explaining steampunk.

This is a very bare-bones definition and for further enlightenment, one should look here.

This is what steampunk looks like onstage, namely in Daniel Guyton‘s Art:Official Intelligence. Photo by Cathy Seith. Actors: Jeremy Clarke and Bob Smith.
And this is what steampunk looks like in my fantasies. Just kidding, your fantasies. Photo by Bryan York. Model: GiGi.

Martha has cooked up a comedic steampunk revenge based around a fairy tale – Cinderella’s Revenge.

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Nice female-to-male ratio. Did you know Shakespeare wrote less than 16% of his roles for little boys women?
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Again, Martha provides us with that classical introduction.

Drizella and Jeremiah carry on like a couple of rich idiots for the first bit of the play.

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This dude sounds cool.

Jeremiah and Drizella argue and bicker until Cindy shows up with Prunella, who takes no guff from hyper-misogynist Jeremiah. Oh, and CIndy had previously married a prince who “ruined” her –

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Let’s analyze this exchange.

  1. Setting up Cindy’s bad treatment earlier in life. Check.
  2. Some down-home misogyny from Jer. Check.
  3. Steampunk sex joke. Check.
  4. Useless male. Check.

This being Steampunk times and all, Jeremiah doesn’t quite approve of Cindy’s choice of life partner. He hectors Cindy and Prunella until something cool happens.

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Spoiler alert: it doesn’t end well for Jerry Douchepunk.

Now we’ll turn to another monologue by Patterson: Amarilis. 

A little background info. Haïti and the Dominican Republic share the same island, Hispaniola. They often do not get along. Vox was kind enough to make an entire video about it:

In 1937, soldiers of the Dominican Republic, under orders from dictator Rafael Trujillo, commited the Parsley Massacre. This was a massacre of thousands of Haitians in the Dominican Republic.

Trujillo used the excuse that Haitians were criminals, which is a tactic certain other leaders are using even now.

It is called the Parsley Massacre in English because the pronunciation of perejil – “parsley” in Spanish – was used to distinguish Dominicans from Haitians.

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Wait, a quality role for a senior???? Good thing I was sitting down when I read this.


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When an elderly person asks “Are you sure you want to hear this?” you must think about it carefully. There’s a reason they ask it.

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That’s your reason, right there.

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Yeah. This.

The play ends with Amarilis focusing again on the present.

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The final play of Martha’s we’ll take a look at is the wondrous and wonderfully horrific short play A Doll’s Life. Let’s see what that’s about:

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This sounds fun.

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Not while her doll is bugging her.

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Because grilled cheese sandwiches totally own evil dolls.



This video could be retitled “How to kill Satanic dolls” – she uses enough butter to kill 13 Satans precisely. Geez.

So dad doesn’t really get it. But Amelia bugs him enough that he decides to inspect the closet, while complaining 100%.

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Womp womp. We’re lucky enough to have a real live production of A Doll’s Life.



Martha was kind enough to take some time out of her busy writing schedule and answer a few questions:

1. How did you start playwriting? 

I’d always been a writer – of stories and poetry, as a kid – but I started writing plays in my late 30s, while in grad school studying Performing Arts Education.  I had thought I’d teach drama to high school students, after being an actress in California and New York, but discovered I didn’t really like teaching.  However, if I hadn’t gone to grad school I probably wouldn’t have become a playwright.  My acting training definitely informs my writing, in terms of characterization and knowing what kinds of parts are fun to play.

2. What are your influences?
In college as a Theatre student, I had to read lots of Shakespeare, Ibsen, Shaw, Chekhov, so I’m influenced by them.  Interestingly, when I started writing plays I wrote lots of long monologues into my scripts, partly because those writers did, but as time’s gone on, I keep my dialogue more clipped.  I’m told that audiences have short attention spans and prefer not to listen to long speeches. 
3. What is your most memorable production and why? 
Of my own work?  Probably a production of my political monologue AMARILIS, about the conflict between Haiti and the Dominican Republic in the early 1900s.  It was produced by the Border of Lights Festival in NYC, and they had an space in a church, served wine and cheese, and had a musician playing before and after the show.  I went to New York to see it and was really glad to meet the producer, who’s still a penpal, and the woman who played the elderly lady I wrote about.  The whole affair was elegant, and I always love being in NYC again. 
Of other people’s work, I really liked Caryl Churchill’s CLOUD NINE, which I saw Off-Broadway.  Clever mixing up of sexes and ages in the cast, and I don’t remember the plot well now – this was years ago – but I certainly enjoyed the play.
4. What is your least memorable production and why? [you can leave out specifics or names]
There was a production of mine in Hawaii and they sent me a DVD of the performance because I couldn’t go, and one of the actors fluffed his lines, and the lighting was too dim, and the show wasn’t very well staged.  I guess that’s my least favorite.
5. What’s your funniest theatre story?  
I started writing my first play in grad school, and the guy I asked to read the man’s part out loud to the class was so good, I kept writing the play and finished it with him in mind.  He wasn’t even really an actor.  I’ve never seen anyone play the role as well as he read it.  He had a quiet, deadpan delivery and it’s funny because it was an accident that I “cast” him.
6. What are your writing habits like?  
I usually have a vodka-and-tonic next to me, even if all the ice melts and it gets watered down before I drink it, and I often write late at night into the wee hours of the morning.  
7. What advice do you have for new playwrights? 
Don’t be afraid to try it, and do have your work read out loud, preferably by people who’ve done some acting.  You’ll find out where the dialogue lags. Share your work with other playwrights – they’ll often give good feedback, which you can take or leave, as you choose, but don’t be defensive – often after thinking about someone’s critique you’ll find they had valid comments.
8. Who are some other writers you feel should get more attention? 
Shakespeare.  (Kidding.)  Actually, among the writers I’m friends with, they’re all doing as well or better than I am, production-wise.  Dan Guyton is a pen-friend from Georgia who’s a really strong writer, has lots of funny plays but also wrote a full-length drama in verse, set in Hell – I don’t know how he managed to complete such a piece of work, all in verse.  Evan Guilford-Blake is another playwright from Georgia – lately he’s focused on fiction, though – but he’s excellent, and I recently read a beautiful, elegiac short story he wrote that he’s trying to get published.  

9. What are common themes in your work? 
Relationships are something I focus on – marriages or families with conflict.  But I also have political plays, and recently wrote one about the workplace, and I have a few plays for youth, and I can’t really say I have themes.  I will tell you I’ve written for themes requested by theatres, and even if they didn’t choose my play, I’ve usually gotten it done elsewhere.  So writing for themes has been very productive for me – it gets my creativity going, when otherwise I’d be at a loss as to what to write about.  AMARILIS was written for a themed event.  I think HAMLET’S REVENGE was, too.

10. What is one thing you wished you knew now, that you didn’t know starting out? 
Keep lots of your lines short, a rapid-fire back-and-forth.  Seems to work for me these days; as I’ve already said, long monologues can be dull.
11. How has the playwriting market changed since your first production in ’97? 
It’s more competitive.  I got three long one-acts produced right off the bat as a writer, Off-Off-Broadway, but this past year has a been deadly – only three productions and a few publications, which is less than my average.  I belong to the Playwrights’ Binge, an international listserv, and I share lots of opportunities with those people, but it’s been suggested to me to be less generous, just because I’m up against so many other authors!  There are 1000s of playwrights out there.
12. Please tell us about the process behind writing Amarilis.
First I had to do research, which I did online by reading brief histories of Haiti and the Dominican.  Then, I had to write the speech.  I came up with the character of a little old lady, I don’t know why, except that she had to be old because she’s recounting the conflict between those nations and it happened decades ago.  I imagined her talking to her neighbor, who is unseen, and the whole thing unfolded from there.
13. You have Hamlet’s Revenge and Cinderella’s Revenge – both comedies. How does one make revenge as hilarious as possible?
By using the unexpected.  I’ve read that there are two reasons why people laugh: 1) because the same thing’s happened to them (like slipping on the proverbial banana peel), or 2) because what happens is unexpected – the audience isn’t anticipating that action or line.  In HAMLET’S REVENGE I have Hamlet idly eating a sandwich while his father chews him out, and Hamlet is very unconcerned about avenging his Dad’s murder.  That’s an innately funny situation and you’re not expecting him to be so blase.
14. Multipart question: Have you faced ageism and/or sexism in your career? If yes, what advice or tips would you give fellow writers coming up against those obstacles?  
No, I don’t think I’ve faced ageism or sexism.  Most of the playwrights I know are over 45 or 50 anyway, and I don’t think it’s a hindrance, except when you find an opportunity to submit that’s only for under-30s, but that’s the theatre’s choice.
Much has been made of the need for gender parity in the theatre, especially among writers, but I’ve gotten my fair share of productions and publications, so I’m not complaining.
15. What is a question you’d like to be asked? Please go ahead and answer that question.
I suppose one question I’d like to be asked – do I attend the theatre often? – has a surprising answer: No, I don’t.  I saw so much theatre in my youth, and appeared as a leading lady in lots of productions, that I don’t feel the need to go very often these days, and it really is an expense.  I probably should get out and see what’s going on in theatre right now.  But often I’d rather read a play than actually see it, which I can do in half the time it takes to watch a performance.  And sometimes when I go to the theatre I get bored and restless.  I’d rather be at home writing!
Thanks so much Martha for sharing your talent and knowledge with us!
For a list of ALL our playwrights, please click here.
Everyone, please check the following links:
Martha’s website with a list of her productions.
The script for A Constant Man.
Listing for Brotherly Love in Texas.
Production of Amirilis.
Video of Girl Before the Mirror, a play about Picasso’s girlfriend.
Monologue Monday

Monologue Monday: Rumor in Henry IV, part 2 (Shakespeare)

Howdy. Yeah, I know, Henry IV having two parts is already kinda dumb since he is the fourth to begin with. BUT on my quest for unisex monologues, Shakespeare has a couple.

For those of you aren’t too familiar with Henry IV, part 2, it follows Richard II and Henry IV, part 1 in Shakespeare’s history plays series. It precedes (naturally) Henry V.

Shakespeare’s most boar-ing play. Har, har, har. Actually this looks pretty badass.

Basically Henry IV, part 1 deals with finishing off a revolt against the king (Henry IV). The comic character of John Falstaff returns and so does Prince Hal, trying to win Dad’s approval.

One interesting thing to note is that, according to the Wiki gods:

Part 2 is generally seen as a less successful play than Part 1. Its structure, in which Falstaff and Hal barely meet, can be criticised as undramatic. Some critics believe that Shakespeare never intended to write a sequel, and that he was hampered by a lack of remaining historical material with the result that the comic scenes come across as mere “filler”. However, the scenes involving Falstaff and Justice Shallow are admired for their touching elegiac comedy, and the scene of Falstaff’s rejection can be extremely powerful onstage.

There is an argument that perhsps Hal wasn’t even the main character originally, but that interpretations since around 1800 have favored him over Ye Olde Falstaff.

But we’re here for that awesome unisex monologue of Rumor, who, according to Shmoop:

In the play’s “Induction” (prologue) a figure wearing a robe “painted full of tongues” steps onto the stage. This figure is not a human character – it’s a personification of rumor or, hearsay – the kinds of stories that are circulated without any confirmation or certainty. In other words, Shakespeare takes an abstract concept, rumor, and gives it human characteristics.

For a fine copy of this prologue/monologue, check out Sparknotes.

Now, let’s see this character in action, though not all actors are wearing a robe covered in tongues…





Who brought it???

For more Shakespeare monologues, there’s  The Two Noble Kinsmen and Titus Andronicus along with Cymbeline.

For ALL monologues on this site, click here.

Join us on Thursday when we discover an interesting American playwright from the 1910s…and next Monday, when we make the monologues happen again.


Current Playwrights, Female Playwrights, Unknown playwrights

Stacey A. Bryan

This week’s playwright became a playwright while standing in line for the bathroom [seriously, check her interview] and her plays reflect that same slice-of-life milieu. Stacey A. Bryan hails from the US Virgin Islands, lives in the US Virgin Islands, loves the US Virgin Islands and writes stellar plays about the US Virgin Islands.

Since the setting for one of the plays is St. Thomas, St. Croix bribed asked me to put some propoganda photos in. This is East Hill. Photo: Mariah Minigan.

Did I mention the US Virgin Islands? For those who don’t know, the Virgin Islands are a US territory of a little over 100,000 people. As such, Virgin Islanders are American citizens but aren’t allowed to vote in presidential elections and their lone representative can’t vote in Congress. This is pretty much the opposite of democracy.

The islands tend to be portrayed like this:

Percent of US Virgin Islanders of African descent: 76%. Percent of US Virgin Islanders of African descent in this video: 0%, making it whiter than Whitetopia. Just saying.

After that St. Thomas video, here are some winsome potted plants on St. Croix. Photo: Mariah Minigan.

That video forgets to mention that the Virgin Islands have the highest homicide rate in the US. Which could be expected since they were exploited by Denmark, who planted a lot of sugar cane and brought in a lot of slaves to work it.

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Lack of democracy and a sky-high homicide rate are a small price to pay for an awesome flag, wielded by choreographer and native Virgin Islander Lynn E. Frederiksen, who happens to be the wife of playwright estraordinaire John Minigan.

One of my favorite parts of the islands’ history is when the slaves rebelled and totally took over the island of St. John in 1733, dramatized below:

Denmark sold the islands to the US in 1917 for $25 million in gold ($531 million or so in 2018 dollars). And with that eventually came tourist exploitation!

St. Croix begging to be exploited. East Hill looking towards Buck Island. Photo: Mariah Minigan.

Despite Denmark ruling forever, the Danish language never caught on. English and Dutch-based creoles emerged. More on this later.

You may also remember that recently the Virgin Islands got trashed by a hurricane.

A hurricane did this.

After said hurricane our Glorious Leader Cheeto-in-chief president claimed to have met “the president of the Virgin Islands”

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Via here. I like Ester.


However, we’re here for theatre! Particularly the Stacey A. Bryan variety.

Stacey A. Bryan, spinning tales straight from the islands.

Bone is for Dog, Meat is for Man follows Layla Joseph, a single mom in her early thirties who must navigate raising an eight year old daughter, her daughter’s father marrying another woman, her paralegal job, her useless mother, her current boyfriend and her future boyfriend. AKA she must navigate the world and her place in it. Her grandmother is close with her and they help each other.

All of this takes place on the island of St. Thomas, adding the island’s unique local color to the play’s milieu.

The final twist is is that Layla is haunted by the spectre of Lalique, her more conventionally attractive alter-ego, Lalique. Did we mention that Layla is (according to the play) “chubby” and “voluptuous” ? Lalique is “beautiful, fit and provocative.” Personality-wise, Lalique is an alpha bitch who belittles Layla every chance she gets, especially about her body and about something from Layla’s past. Fortunately, Lalique lives in the mirror, because apparently Hell is full.

Pictured: Not Hell. Chenay Bay, St. Croix. Photo: Mariah Minigan.

What could easily be a melodrama avoids that by incorporating location and Layla’s inner demons. As the author states in the intro, the daughter’s future is at stake:

“Although Layla is a wonderful mother, she is completely unaware of how Layla’s insecurities and anxieties about her appearance negatively impacts Tory’s growth to womanhood.”

So really, this plays out as a slice-of-life drama and a unique and well-written one at that.

The first strength that stands out is the characterization. Every character is full of life, as evidenced by the author’s descriptions.

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Let’s see how this description bears out in the text…

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Did I say Lalique was the Alpha Bitch? Mom could qualify, too. And that’s no coincidence.

This makes me so much more thankful for my mom, who never threatened to make me swallow my teeth. And these are supposedly two adults…but more like one and 2/7ths.

And then there’s Granny…Layla tries to make her go to the hospital.

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Spoiler alert: Jocelyn wasn’t actually worried.

Sorry that Ice Queen of the Virgin Islands showed up just now. She speaks “coldly” because that’s the only way she knows how.

Perhaps you noticed Granny’s dialect aka Virgin Islands Creole. Called “dialect” on the islands, it is a full-fledged language of its own and supplanted the Dutch-based Negerhollands as early as the first part of the 19th century.

There aren’t a whole lot of videos on Youtube about this unique language, but this video helps give a feel for it…




Again, using dialect adds to the honesty of the writing, much like Chestnutt’s use of it. However, condescending, perjorative or inaccurate/dishonest use of dialect is frowned upon. A good study of this is here.

The old Customs House on St. Croix. Photo: Colin Minigan.

But back to characterization — if that’s how Layla’s own mom treats her, then how about that alter ego?

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So Lalique is really, really, really mean. But since she’s a figment of Layla’s mind, Layla is actually quite self-loathing. And this is one reason the writing is so honest – this is how some people feel about themselves at times.

There is a bit of a reveal at the end which I won’t reveal, but it makes sense and is worth a read.

One final thing I’d like to mention is that Bryan does little touches here and there that set off the play from the pack – the use of bold and/or color in the character names, for example. Also, each scene has a neat little heading, like chapters.

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Come see Government House on St. Croix. Photo: Mariah Minigan.

To conclude, Stacey A. Bryan’s play Bone is for Dog; Meat is for Man is recommendable on several fronts.

  1. Strong characters.
  2. Unique “local color”
  3. Good spin of using a character’s own demons and personifying said demons.
  4. Honest writing.

All of these elements elevate the script, which not surprisingly, headlined a local play festival.

Ad for the show. Note that Bryan’s previous play is highlighted. We’ll talk about that one, too.

And now for Bryan’s second play Sad Mangoes.

This play was produced before Bone is for Dog and though it trods similar territory, it has much to recommend in its own right.

The plot has adult Josephine still feeling guilty over her mother’s death when she was a child (something that wasn’t her fault). Through the course of the play we see Josephine’s struggle to move past this traumatic event and effects it has on her relationships. The reference to mangoes is because mother and daughter loved mangoes together but since her death Josephine abhors mangoes. The mother is seen in flashback.

Cool poster.

We can’t list everything it has to recommend it, but:

  1. Characterization.

The Granny character in this play could easily double as the same in the other play [after interviewing the playwright, this is indeed the case]. This is how a friend (Jasmine) of the main character describes Granny:

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Yep, just hanging out, talking about dudes who blog about unknown playwrights Granny. Pistarckle Theater.

And here is the Granny we meet in the play interacting with the young Josephine:

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This also shows what kind of person Josephine is, perhaps someone too kind for her own good.


Granny does indeed seem to be the bestest grandmother ever. Via Pistarckle Theater.

2. Local color

You’ll note the dialogue involves dialect again (YAY!). This play also has a strong local flavor.

3. Family

Both plays really emphasize family, so this would appeal to someone who wanted to see that universal story of family dynamics play out in a unique setting and a fresher perspective.

The flashbacks to Josephine’s childhood are touching, like this bit where Mommy tells her daughter what really makes Granny tick.

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“Do I frighten you?” Via here.

It’s that revelation when a child learns that a parent/grandparent/adult is actually human and not some superhero.

The mangoes don’t seem THAT sad. Via Pistarckle Theater.

Now, let’s read an entire scene from the play – bear with me, this explains a lot. Mommy was “Ann” to her own mother AKA “Granny.” There are a few levels here, but it works. Julia is Josephine’s sister.

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The innate theatricality and possibilities of the above scene just blow me away. Here we have it all, pretty much…that family dynamic – remembering the past, twice – Josephine is remembering Mommy’s passing, but Mommy is also reverting to Ann. it’s all so intense and wonderful. And that’s pretty much this play in a microcosm.

A moment of drama. Pistarckle Theater.
Dad seems alright. Pistarckle Theater.

And I’m just gonna throw this in here:

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Besides being hilariously insulting, I love how the actual font gets bigger the closer we are to the punchline.

But is Granny’s assessment of Josephine’s man/thing rooted in reality???

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Waiting for the other shoe to…
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…waiting… [note reference to obeah – we need more obeah-based plays]
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“Speaking of Warren, has he banged half the island yet?”

EVERYBODY KNOWS But it could just be hearsay, right????

We have video evidence, too.

At least Warren is good for something. One more scene…

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DROPPED. Warren: if a bag of dicks came to life.


Oh, do you see that Evan feller?? Let’s see what he’s about.

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Seems legit.

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Rough life, EvanPistarckle Theater.

I bet, I bet, I bet —- Jospehine will totally realize Evan is the right dude for her and Warren is a DOG.

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So Evan and Josephine end up going out – Evan coincidentally offers Josephine mangoes, which she can now eat because….

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The ghost of Josephine’s past is finally free – and so is Josephine.  And free of that Warren dude.

Happy times. Pistarckle Theater.

While these circumstances are quite common in our media/literature/pop culture (women dealing with wretched boyfriends, the unrecognized good guy, etc) what differentiates Bryan’s work is the setting, actual manifestation of Josephine’s past and letting go. It’s a pretty smooth tale from the Caribbean.

Pistarckle Theater.

Neither play has been produced outside the US Virgin Islands. Let’s try to change that.

By the way, Pistarckle Theater (which produced the play) was recently featured in American Theatre magazine for their hurricane help.

Stacey kindly answered a few questions about herself and her work.

1. How did you start playwriting?  

I kind of stumbled into it.  It actually happened when I was standing in line for the bathroom at a restaurant. Some very unusual things have happened to me in these lines that I actually wrote a short story about my exploits of standing in line for the bathroom.  I noticed a flyer on the wall looking for submissions to a playwright festival.  I always enjoyed the theater; but, never thought of storytelling in that format.  I had many stories and at the time I thought it would be “easy” to convert my favorite story, Sad Mangoes into a play.  Au contraire.  I quickly found out that writing a story (novel) and a play is so very different.  Writing gives you the freedom to inform your reader exactly what you want them to know in the way you want them to receive it.  Playwriting affords you very little time and words to do the same thing.  There is also a level of trust in playwriting, trust in your director to take your play in the intended direction, trust in the actors to portray your beloved characters and trust your audience to “get it”.  I am by nature very secretive about things I care about and this process put me in a very uncomfortable place; but, it caused me to grow in ways I didn’t expect.

2. What are your influences?

My influences would be my grandmother and great grandmother’s art of oral storytelling.  They had such a great memory for details and they had “to get the story right.”  Many of their stories were real-life situations told with a twinkle in their eyes, respect for the situation and the habit of always giving their own opinion of what happened.

3. What is your most memorable production and why?  

I would have to say Sad Mangoes, as it was truly the only one fully produced.  I guess what made it memorable was the reception I received.  Having a full theater every night roaring in laughter at the right (and sometimes wrong) parts, the deafening silence of the tragic scene, and the enthusiastic applause that seemed to go on for eternity still stays with me.  I guess I didn’t expect it, I couldn’t believe that the accolades I was receiving were for me, just me.

4. What is your least memorable production and why?  

I don’t have a least memorable production; but, I do have a regret I was not able to be part of the Playwright Festival for my Bone is for Dog; Meat is for Man submission.  I had a broken foot and my daughter was very ill that night for the performances.

5. What’s your funniest theatre story?   

During one rehearsal for Sad Mangoes, I tried interjecting my opinion and was quickly dismissed by the director. Ok, I was yelled at by the director.  I slunk down in my chair; but, the beautiful, talented actress of Young Josephine, stood up and pointed at the director and told him she couldn’t believe he would talk to the writer of this play like that! We calmed her down; but, I was secretly vindicated.  Fast forward to a radio interview with some of the cast, the interviewer asked the Young Josephine if there was anything special she wanted to say, and wouldn’t you know it?  She gave everyone ON AIR the rundown of how the director blasted the wonderful playwright and she couldn’t believe it etc.  This time, I almost passed out in my chair.  The director is actually pretty remarkable and amazing.  He got my play to where it needed to be and I am grateful.

6. What are your writing habits like?    

Habits?  Oh gosh, I am all over the place.  I write a lot of random things down on pieces of paper.  I also type weird things in Notes on my iPhone and then struggle to remember what it means.  When I do sit down to write, I write.  I mean my legs are sleeping, my neck hurts and I keep going because I need to finish this feeling.  It is a very cathartic process for me and having used balls of paper towel next to the computer is very normal for me.  I am the person I am writing about, I actually hate the bad guy and I celebrate my character’s victories.  I have actually almost hit the back of a car while driving because I was so involved in my mind about the life of one of my characters.

7. What advice do you have for new playwrights?  

I guess I would tell new playwrights to let go.  My issue has always been letting my story go; but, I forget that the audience is receiving something too.  After the play one night, this woman came up to me and asked if I knew her. I said I didn’t think so and she said that my play was her life and something in her soul was released when she saw it.  I didn’t ask her any questions, but we had a moment and we understood each other.  Sometimes it’s hard to let the world in and be vulnerable. I would suggest to just go for it.

8. Who are some other writers you feel should get more attention? 

Definitely, women and minority writers should get more attention. Their perspective is so valuable because it redefines and represents for a community the same experiences everyone has from a very different viewpoint. Also, there is a whole, delicious and entertaining world in the Caribbean and wonderful tales to be told.

9. What are common themes in your work?  

A common theme in my work would be the love of the underdog.  I love that my characters are flawed and messy.  I like the comedy and drama you can take away from simple conversations.  I like ordinary people with extraordinary experiences.

10. What is one thing you wished you knew now, that you didn’t know starting out? 

One of the things I wished I knew was that as much as I was grateful to be chosen, how much I was in awe of production including the director, as much as I knew my body of work was not perfect, I Deserved to Be There.  I let my gratitude diminish my voice.  This is my work, it belongs to me and it’s alright to defend it.

11. How autobiographical are Bone is for Dog and Sad Mangoes?

I would say that Sad Mangoes is a little more autobiographical than Bone is for Dog; Meat is for Man.  Both protagonists, Josephine and Layla are me in some regard.  Sad Mangoes was the story loosely based on my life.  I wanted to give homage to the women in my life that meant so much to me and it was important that the story was told right.  Definitely, there are true life parts in both plays and the Granny character’s personality, speech and intonation is 100% my own grandmother.

12. Granny is a pretty cool character in both plays. Is she the same character in both?

Yes, she is.  She was the audience’s favorite and the actor that played her was spot on phenomenal. The Granny in these plays is the epitome of Caribbean child rearing. Strong, unyielding, hardworking, relentless, yet your biggest protector and motivator.  I have a list of “Grannyisms” that I carry around and I think you would really have to have some Caribbean experience to truly understand them.  One of my grandmother’s favorite things to say was, “he/she thinks she so smart. He/she is so smart dey backward.”  That would mean that an educated, “smart” person in all other regards would be considered smart; but, in real life experiences, things that matter, their education or intelligence is a hindrance that causes them to make poor choices or decisions.  My grandmother passed away this year in July and I cannot begin to explain how much I miss her.

13.  How do you determine when to use dialect in your plays?

I use dialect in my plays when it is appropriate for the character.  In my first play, I wrote the play almost entirely in dialect and the actors had difficulty reading it, especially Granny.  Everyone that was local was speaking without the dialect even though the script called for it.  I went back and wrote everything in regular English and then strangely everyone started speaking in the dialect correctly. I guess for me dialect represents more than the words, it actually portrays a sentiment along with communication.

14.  How’s the US Virgin Islands theatre scene?

We do have a very limited theatre scene; but, we do have is outstanding.  In the US Virgin Islands, we have Pistarckle Theater, Little Theater at the University of the Virgin Islands in St. Thomas and Caribbean Community Theatre in St. Croix.  There are traveling theater groups that perform in various locations such as the Reichold Center of the Arts.  People enjoy great acts of work just like anywhere else and for small communities, it is difficult to make everyone happy and schedule performances that do not clash with other local events.

15.  What’s a question you’d like to be asked? Go ahead and answer that question. 

Question:  Do I think that Caribbean plays have a place in the domestic United States theatre scene?

Answer:  Yes, I do.  People from the islands such as Dominica, Haiti, St. Lucia, Jamaica, etc. have moved to the continental U.S in great numbers and they enjoy and appreciate seeing a touch of their homelands.  They are very giving audiences and they come out to support their culture.  Also, I believe its very important that people of all walks of life get an opportunity to experience new cultures, new expressions of art and literature.  We are not the center of the universe and its good to travel to other planets!

Government House in Christiansted, St. Croix. Photo: Mariah Minigan.

Here’s a list of our other playwrights.

Link Time!!!

Stacey’s New Play Exchange page.


Bone is for Dog; Meat is for Man

Bunch of photos on FB.

Female Playwrights, Playwrights of the Past, Unknown playwrights

Alice Dunbar-Nelson

  If I had known
Two years ago how drear this life should be,
And crowd upon itself all strangely sad,
Mayhap another song would burst from out my lips,
Overflowing with the happiness of future hopes;
Mayhap another throb than that of joy.
Have stirred my soul into its inmost depths,
           If I had known.

  If I had known,
Two years ago the impotence of love,
The vainness of a kiss, how barren a caress,
Mayhap my soul to higher things have soarn,
Nor clung to earthly loves and tender dreams,
But ever up aloft into the blue empyrean,
And there to master all the world of mind,
            If I had known.

If I Had Known” by Alice Dunbar-Nelson, published at age 20.

Our poet, playwright, novelist, short story writer, journalist, teacher, activist and hero. Via here.

This week’s subject is quite renowned. Many studies of her life have been done and are readily available online.

The purpose of this blog is to highlight unknown playwrights and we’ll look at Mrs. Dunbar-Nelson as a playwright but also in regards to her other work as it seems fit.

She was born Alice Ruth Moore in 1875 in New Orleans. Her mother was a seamstress and former slave and her father was a white sailor. She grew up in the Creole culture of New Orleans.

Because a license plate totally makes up for generations of discrimination. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Moore was able to graduate college in an era when almost no Americans even attended college:

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College graduation rates. Note the close proximity to “zero” in 1900. Dunbar-Nelson graduated from college in 1892 at the age of 16!!!
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People of African descent were pretty close to zero college graduation rate in 1900. Dunbar-Nelson beat the odds into a bloody mangled pulp.

For the record, she graduated from the HBCU Straight University (now part of Dillard University).

She published her first book at age 20. At this time, she moved to New York City where she helped found and worked at the White Rose Mission. From Wikipedia:

“Founded to offer shelter and food to destitute migrants,The White Rose Mission also offered job placement for the new arrivals. As African American workers were relegated to jobs as unskilled laborers, conditions and opportunities for African American female workers in New York City were deplorable. The aim of the employment placement service of the White Rose Mission was to furnish skilled, circumspect domestic workers to middle-class homes. The Mission also offered instruction in aspects of housekeeping, such as: cooking, sewing, expert waiting and laundering. Additionally The Mission provided a clean parlor where women who were dues-paying members could entertain callers.

The White Rose Mission evolved to provide social services unavailable to African Americans in New York City such as enrichment classes, child-rearing instructions and a Penny Provident Bank thrift program. The White Rose Mission also maintained a library of works relevant to the history and accomplishments of African and African American people.”

The mission’s library even included a 1773 edition of Phyllis Wheatley‘s poems. I like to think maybe Dunbar-Nelson made that happen.

By the late 1890s, her poems and stories were being regularly published in America, where they caught the interest of famed poet Paul Lawrence Dunbar. Supposedly he fell in love with her at first poem/photo. They corresponded for two years before finally meeting at which point he proposed to her.

This marriage has been called “tragic” “troubled” – I’ll call a loser a loser. Paul Lawrence Dunbar was a psychopathic rapist and wife beater.

According to the brilliant book about their marriage by Eleanor Alexander ,  Dunbar raped his future wife before the marriage and her physical recovery from that rape took several months. His treatment of her (not surprisingly) remained the same throughout the marriage when he was actually home. He’d leave her home alone for months at a time while he went on recitation tours. The marriage effectively ended when “he beat Alice within an inch of her life.”

In Alice’s own words:

“He came home one night in a beastly condition. I went to him to help him to bed—and he behaved . . . disgracefully. He left that night, and I was ill for weeks with peritonitis brought on by his kicks.”

She never returned to him and only communicated once when she replied “No” to one of many, many letters he sent her begging forgiveness, etc.

Now we must take a time out for a bit.

If you’re in an abusive relationship or even just have questions, please use this site in the US.

In Canada, you can reach out here. And in the UK, here. We love Unknown Playwrghts and despise domestic violence.

In fact, I propose we rename all those high schools named after Paul.  Let’s rename them after his wife…

Though Dunbar-Nelson is chiefly remembered for her exquisite poetry, short stories and journalism, she did write at least three plays.

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“A magazine of cleverness?” More like “You can line the litter box with its smugness.”

The play is so short, you can read it in two pages.


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Mrs. Paul Laurence Dunbar.” She certainly earned that title. Via here.

So the humor is lame corny gentle. I could totally see a modern artistic director rejecting this play for having too many characters in such a short amount of time as well as “We don’t do period pieces.” Then, when being told it’s by the famous Alice Dunbar-Nelson, having a theatregasm and producing it with an era-appropiriate atlas and a prologue explaining the Boer War. Sigh.

It’s doubtful this was ever performed. It seems to be a closet comedy. The magazine, The Smart Set, was on its way to becoming a big deal. It would go on to publish Joyce, Conrad, Yeats, Pound, Strindberg and Fitzgerald.  That Dunbar-Nelson could publish a piece in a magazine targeted at New York City’s elite shows her immense ability.

Between this and her next play, she taught high school, wrote a bunch of short stories and poems which made her relatively famous and she left Dunbar, secretly married Henry Arthur Callis, a prominent doctor and one of the founders of the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity , divorced him and married Robert J. Nelson. And had a few girlfriends.

Among the women Dunbar-Nelson would have relationships with in her life were Edwina B. Kruse, the principal of the high school where she taught, artist Helene London and journalist/activist Fay Jackson Robinson.

Despite her journalism being geared towards black readers, her fiction and poetry largely avoided discussion of race. As the great Gloria T. Hull puts it:

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Please buy/read the entire book here.

I’m pretty sure explicitly racial content in her fiction and poetry would’ve hampered her publication chances for a larger (i.e. white) audience.

This changed around the time of her last marriage where she began to explicitly write about race quite often.

One interesting work she composed was An Hawaiian Idyll, a full-length operetta. This script was never published, but two documents related to it are in her papers at the University of Delaware.

The plot is loosely inspired by the sad fate of Hawaiian Princess Ka’iulani

For those of you not familiar with her story, it’s tied up with Hawaii’s story, namely the monarchy was overthrown by a missionary kid and annexed by the Americans. Then the princess died, of rheumatism.

In the play, the plot is similar, but the setting has been re-imagined to serve Dunbar-Nelson’s purpose: as an allegory for “Africans’ loss of culture and identity in the Americas.”

In the play, “Kaiulani” is sent abraod to be educated, ends up in San Francisco where she learns her mom has been overthrown and rushes home to save the day where she restores Hawaiian sovereignty and the monarchy. None of that happened. Some interesting postmodern alternate history there.

As far as we know, the play was performed only once, at the high school where the author taught. The play would’ve been performed by an all-African American cast.

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Brief snippet via The Crisis. February 1917.The “native instruments” were directed by Conwell Banton who had his own career of awesomeness.

Here is an interesting analysis of what little is known of the operetta.

And thus we move on to 1918 and The Crisis, the magazine put out by the NAACP. Shortly before this this time editor W.E.B. Du Bois was taking the magazine in a radical (for then) direction, even publishing a photo of the lynching of Jesse Washington. WARNING: the Wiki article has some graphic photos. He also opposed African Americans supporting the war effort against Germany, though he may have had personal reasons for doing so….

“Du Bois was so taken with some aspects of German social behavior that he retained certain habits from his student days in Berlin for the rest of his life. Prussian social customs gave him, or at least reinforced in him, a certain distinguished bearing or carriage, an apparent aloofness not uncommon among shy people. This trait, augmented by a clipped manner of speech Du Bois acquired in Germany, was often misunderstood as reserve, distance, even haughtiness, and was to characterize Du Bois for the rest of his life. In his physical appearance Du Bois, described later in life as a mandarin, was just following the fashion set by the Kaiser in his style of trimming his hair and beard, as well as his habitual use of a cane and gloves.”


Exhibit A: Kaiser Wilhelm II with goofy moustache and eagle taking a dump on his head.


Exhibit B: W.E.B. Du Bois with goofy moustache, but no eagle plus a goatee.

So the US government used the Espionage Act to lean on the paper and Du Bois promised to self-censor, which resulted in the magazine actually supporting the war against Germany.

And that is where Dunbar-Nelson’s play  fits into the puzzle of WWI propoganda. She wrote a play with a purpose and that purpose was to encourage African Americans to totally support America fighting a European war.

The plot is pretty straightforward. A family who lost their father in a lynching and now live in the north have a debate when one of the boy’s is drafted. Various ethnic neighbors chime in and an outside social worker also gives her two cents. It’s interesting and definitely a relic of it’s era. This isn’t the first time this blog has profiled a WWI propoganda play.

Highlights of the play:

  1. The play establishes a place and time and one quite different from the comedy.
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The time was…1918.
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“Brown-skinned” was a term used to distinguish from darker skinned people. Aka “Colorism.
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Lucy of the “pathetic” face. Heck, my face is waaay more pathetic than hers. Illustrations for the play were done by Laura Wheeler.

2.  An early written use of the word “not” to negate the previous statement.  

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This trend was popularized by the Bill & Ted movies and Wayne’s World sketches and movies in the 1990s. Further discussion here.


It is pure propoganda, as this exchange about Huns Germans commiting some insane atrocities:

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Man, that brooding character of Chris. He gives zero f*cks about little white babies.

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This Chris is a bit of a badass. And familiar enough with ancient and Biblical history to invoke Moloch.

He even gets to deliver a badass monologue. Warning: archaic racial slur at the end.

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This was such a tough monologue that an actor on Youtube covered it…

See what Dunbar-Nelson did there with the card game metaphor?

And for the ending, which is a relic of its day:

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At least one scholar has suggested Cornelia is the author’s avatar in the story.

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The whole scene, well-illustrated by Laura Wheeler.

Here’s a video of a table read of the play from Chengchi University in Taiwan:


The only known full production happened at the high school Dunbar-Howard taught at, where, according to her niece “She produced her play and  we all took parts. The audience loved it…but nobody would publish it.” That niece, Pauline Young, was her aunt’s student at the time and would go on to do great things.

A formidable part of this play is that it may have been written with white readers/audiences in mind. There’s the criticism of how America treats her minorities but also reassurrances that black soldiers and civilians will do their part to stop the “Hun.” In this manner it may very well be worth reviving, as this is an argument that isn’t going away any time soon.

Dunbar-Nelson left a relatively small (two short plays and a full-length operetta) but highly interesting canon of theatre work that deserves rediscovery.

More could be  (and has been) written about Alice Dunbar-Nelson: her life as an LGBT pioneer and icon, as a Creole woman of the 19th Century, as a prominent poet and as a writer in general.

Before the link dump, here is a video of a young student reciting the Dunbar-Nelson poem/lament “I Sit and See” – a commentary on American women’s plight in her era.


For all our other playwrights, please check here.

The plays:

Mine Eyes Have Seen (slow load, but worth it)

The Smart Set

An Hawaiian Idyll (analysis of two documents).

The woman:

Her life (with MASSIVE list of links)

Another bio

Her diary.

Her works:

Good place to start.

Scholarship regarding Dunbar-Nelson.