My interests as a writer have always had an international focus, and my plays, musicals and screenplays have often used theatrical conventions and forms from around the world to explore contemporary American subjects.
For example, I have written a Japanese Noh Drama about Elvis Presley (Blue Moon Over Memphis); a musical comedy inspired by world mythologies and Saturday morning cartoons (Coyote Goes Salmon Fishing); and a contemporary drama about the aftermath of terrorism written in the form of a Greek tragedy (The Women of Lockerbie). My play, Into the Fire, draws on the methods of magic realism from Latin American novels to dramatize life in an Alaskan fishing town.
This eclecticism informs my teaching. I try to expose my students to conventions and techniques found the world over in order to build a flexible tool kit that will help them create works that can speak to our global community.
I take a “mechanics” approach in my teaching as well. I like to rip apart plays and movies to see how they work technically and I encourage my students to do the same. I believe that there are no limits to what you can do on the stage, screen or page.
I also believe that the audience is quite adventurous. This comes from producing theater in Alaska for 15 years. I was one of the original company members and the producing director of the Perseverance Theatre, where I learned over and over that audiences will follow you just about any place you want to go provided you prepare them through your craft for the journey.
Recent works include: The Poetry of Pizza, a comedy about love, which is currently being produced in regional theatres around the US; The Blue-Sky Boys, about NASA's Apollo engineers, which will premiere at the Barter Theatre in Virginia in 2010, after winning first place in their annual new play festival; The Velvet Weapon, a backstage farce about the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia , written with a grant from CEC ArtsLink and a playwriting fellowship from the NJ Council on the Arts.
I am currently working on three new projects: Crossing Over, a hip hop musical set in Amish country with composer Stephanie Salzman; an opera based on Edgar Allan Poe stories, with composer Patrick Soluri, which has been commissioned by the American Lyric Theatre; and a new play about military families commissioned by Virginia Stage Company in Norfolk, VA.
Previous plays include: The Women of Lockerbie, published by Dramatists Play Service. It was originally produced off-Broadway after winning the silver medal in the Onassis International Playwriting competition and the Kennedy Center Fund for New American Plays award. It is translated and published in numerous languages and is produced each year around the US and internationally. Blue Moon Over Memphis is published in Japanese by Musashino University and in the U.S. by Applause Books in The Best Short Plays of 2004. Signs of Life won the Jane Chambers award and was a Pinter Review Prize for Drama gold medalist. It is published by Samuel French, as is Into the Fire, which won the Weissberger Award.
Screenplays: Covered Dishes, written with a commission from Fox Searchlight and Goat Cay productions; and Mexico in Alaska.
Musical works: Coyote Goes Salmon Fishing, with composer Scott Richards, winner of the 2001 Frederick Loewe Award. King Island Christmas, an oratorio written with composer David Friedman, also the winner of the Frederick Loewe Award, which is regularly produced around the U.S. and was recorded in a cast album by 12-time Grammy winner Thomas Z. Shepard; and Goodbye My Island, also with David Friedman.