On Friday September 8th, at noon, I’ll be giving talk about Robert Smalls and his courageous adventures during the Civil War at the National Museum of the U.S. Navy.
If you’re in the area, I hope you’ll come check it out!
Robert Smalls: From Slave to American Hero
September 8, 12 P.M.-1 P.M.
Cold War Gallery, Building 70, Washington Navy Yard, DC
In May 1862, Robert Smalls, a slave and ship’s pilot in Charleston, South Carolina, crafts a daring plan to steal the steamship Planter and deliver it along with the crew and their families to the Union blockade. After risking his life to escape slavery, Robert faces an even more difficult challenge: convincing Abraham Lincoln to enlist black troops. Patrick Gabridge, author of the novel Steering to Freedom, will share this powerful and inspirational true story of a young man who becomes the first black captain of a US military ship, while struggling to navigate a path to freedom for himself, his family, and his people.
I’m pleased to announce that two of my more popular short plays, Quack and will/did/is, are now officially published by Brooklyn Publishers. Brooklyn has been a long-time supporter of my work–they now publish 36 of my short plays, plus two collections of my shorter work. Thanks to publication by Brooklyn, my plays have have been used by tens of thousands of students all across the world in competition and performance.
Quack (order from Brooklyn)
10 minutes. Drama. 1m, 1 w
Abigail is an impressionable young duck who is not aware of her limitations until they are pointed out to her by the man she loves. Winner of SlamBoston, Heideman Award Finalist, with festival appearances at the Edinburgh Fringe, Outlaws Finland, AND Festival Incheon, South Korea, and InspiraTO in Toronto.
will/did/is (order from Brooklyn)
10 minutes. Romantic comedy. 1m,1w
Mindy meets the time traveler for whom she’s spent years obsessively waiting. A time-crossed encounter of hearts and minds. will/did/is premiered with the T Plays in Boston, and has also appeared in the 10 by 10 Festival in North Carolina and in South Korea.
Some big news to share: starting September 1, I will be the new Dramatists Guild Regional Rep for New England. This will be a chance for serve my fellow playwrights and meet a lot of new people over the next few years. I’ve been a DG member for more than 20 years (probably a lot longer) and continue to be grateful to this organization for all it does to help protect and guide playwrights.
As regional rep, I will be involved with helping set up events that are useful to member playwrights, writing articles about new plays and playwrights in our region for The Dramatist, and helping exchange vital information about the world of new plays between the writers in New England that the leadership and other reps at the Dramatists Guild.
I had a great chat the other day with Ken Weene for It Matters Radio about my various historical plays. He and I talked a while back about Robert Smalls and my novel Steering to Freedom, and he was a big fan of the book. I’m always excited to have a chance to talk about researching and crafting historical work. I hope you’ll check it out:
Matt Ryan as John Hancock and Craig Ciampa as Samuel Adams
After 59 performances, the 2017 run of Blood on the Snow at the Old State House in Boston is finally over. This is the longest any of my shows has ever run, and that’s not even counting the initial 4-week run last year. For the second time, we basically sold out the entire run, which was very exciting. It’s a small house (56 seats), which makes for an intimate, immersive theatrical experience. We had more than 3,000 audience members over the course of the run. (Interesting stat–22% of the first year’s audience returned to see the show a second time this season.)
Most of our cast returned for the second run, and we were very fortunate to pick up extremely talented replacements and understudies. Our production team of producer/museum liaison Peter Meacham, stage manager Jeremiah Mullane, and director Courtney O’Connor managed a complex casting calendar–with a cast of 10 over 12 weeks, with various scheduled absences–and kept the show running at a high level, seamlessly for the entire run.
I still have a lot to process from the whole experience (and will write about it eventually), but one of the more interesting aspects of such a long run was watching the performances deepen and mature over time. This is a play set in 1770, in a Boston that had a population of only 15,000 and everyone knew everyone. Especially the men in this room. After 3 months of a run (and for some of the actors, 2 years of performing together), there were glances and gestures between these people that really felt like they’d known each other for a long time. The level of detail of performance just kept getting richer and richer, with each passing week.
I’m already missing the cast and crew for this show. It’s common to experience a bit of post-partum depression at the end of a run, and this project is one that I’d been working on since 2013. (I’m doing carpentry on my house to keep me from moping around too much.) There’s a strong chance that the show will come back again, and I’ve always got new projects coming up. This production will always be close to my heart.
In case you want to hear a bit about the show, here’s a video of me and Nat Sheidley (Executive Director of the Bostonian Society) at History Camp Boston this spring, talking about the 2016 production.
My quantum physics play, Both/And, has closed its run at the MIT Museum (though I harbor hopes it might be back someday. But even if you missed the show, you can get the gist of it and the experiment by listening to this really fun radio story by Ari Daniel that ran on PRI’s The World:
and if you go view the story on their website, it has some pretty nifty diagrams that help make the whole idea of quantum entanglement a little bit clearer.
Santa Doesn’t Live Here Anymore continues to hit the stages around the world. This time it will be produced by the Studio Players in Lexington, Kentucky, from August 10-14, as part of their annual ten-minute play festival. If you’re in the area, I hope you’ll check it out! This is the 17th production and reading for this play so far, in 3 countries and 8 states.
Matt Ryan as John Hancock, and Craig Ciampa as Samuel Adams. Photo by Justin Saglio
Blood on the Snow has now finished the first 8 weeks of its 12-week run at the Old State House in Boston. The response from audiences and critics has continued to be enthusiastic, night after night. Which has led to sold out houses every night, and we’re actually sold out for the rest of the run!
It is still possible to see the show–sometimes reserved tickets get put back into the pool, and we’ll put out announcements via social media. And there is also a waiting list every night that opens at 6:30pm (the show starts at 7pm). There are almost always a few seats available, so if you get there right at 6:30, I think you’ve got a decent shot.
Scot Colford as Mr. Baker, photo by Nile Hawver/Nile Scott Shots
There are just four performances left of Both/And, the play about quantum entanglement that I was commissioned to write by the Central Square Theater and the MIT Museum. August 5 and 6 at 1:30pm and 3pm. It was a particularly challenging play to write because the topic and concept of quantum entanglement is so difficult to comprehend. Which is what made it all the more fun to create.
Here’s a short video that the MIT Museum put together about the project:
I’m still catching up on some past productions. In this case, one the actors from last August’s AND Theatre Festival contacted me about doing a reading of Santa Doesn’t Live Here Anymore in a coffee shop at Christmastime in Seoul. Gwangho Kim is a super nice guy and an actor with a lot of positive energy. And after my great adventure in Korea last year, I was eager to have more of my work done there. (I’m getting my wish, several times over.)
But I didn’t hear anything for a while. Turns out e-mails got lost in the ether, and while I was gone in Idaho, I finally heard from heard from Gwangho–turns out the reading was a lot of fun, and he sent me some great photos. I just wish I could have been there!