Mad Cow Disease in America, Something Special, and Other Plays. Introduced by Michelle Powell. ISBN 1-893598-03-9, 327 pages, published by Enfield Publishing, P.O. Box 699, Enfield, NH 03748 U.S.A, phone 603-632-7377. Book price: 17 U.S. dollars.

Contents
Introduction  
7
Author’s Preface  
17
Dmitri  
19
The Glass Ceiling  
39
Mad Cow Disease in America  
69
The Swimming Pools of Paris  
87
A Family Portrait  
151
Something Special  
169
Read to Me  
271
Betsy Philadelphia  
289


Comments by Michelle Powell, dramaturg, Los Angeles:
 
"Dmitri explores the idea that life is a joke—a bad joke at that. Can reason somehow rescue the depressed Dmitri from suicide? Bizarrely, a joke about a waiter (Dmitri works as a waiter) is at the center of this comedy/drama. Is the Hitman a projection of Dmitri twenty or thirty years on?"
 
"In Tait's three-woman The Glass Ceiling, a rather mundane plot—here, the tale of a woman passed over for promotion—is overrun by the comic and regenerative drama that is instigated by the two over-the-top therapists, Sonia and Tamela.
 
"One of the remarkable effects of Tait's plays is how one often feels strange but exhilarated while encountering them. "Mad Cow Disease in America" is a story of stupidity and disease in the U.S. Society has a lot to account for in this play—and people have some exploring to do in their own heads about what to do about the problem that is Mad Cow Disease.
 
"The Swimming Pools of Paris focuses on two stories at two stages in the bisexual Donald's life. And what hilarious surprises are in store for us in the second half of the play when Donald finds himself in part of an ancient rite that is administered to him in a suburban Paris living room.
 
"In A Family Portrait a liberal family wants their conscious choices for a better life materialized in the new house they plan to build. Unfortunately their skin-head son has other ideas.
 
"Something Special, a full-length play with songs, is a very funny comedy that looks at homo sapiens and the discomfort he has being surrounded by the mysterious cosmos. There are more riddles than answers here. The classic and biblical allusions here are superb.
 
"Read to Me is a reverie in an "other world." Art contents and comforts John, but the prostitute is not contented.
 
"Betsy Philadephia concerns itself with the 2000 presidential election. Alternating between reality and fantasy the outraged and outrageous story warns us that if we avoid politics, we avoid them at our peril. "

An excerpt from Lance Tait’s Author’s Preface:
 
"Theater art is difficult to create, and a play can be difficult for the spectator to take in just one sitting. To insist on easy theater is as foolish as to think one can have an easy life. The primary characters in each of the plays in this book have problems that we can all recognize. Here the problems are often of an existential nature. They deal with our survival on this lovely, but still dangerous and puzzling, planet earth. With my plays I am never even-handed; I try not to be heavy-handed though. When I am partisan, I make some attempt to provide relief through vibrant metaphor (I hope vibrant) and comedy."

 

Edwin Booth: A Play in Two Acts. Introduced by Don Elwell. ISBN 1-893598-02-0, 189 pages, published by Enfield Publishing, P.O. Box 699, Enfield, NH 03748 U.S.A, phone 603-632-7377. Book price: 14 U.S. dollars.

Contents
Introduction  
9
Author’s Preface  
19
Edwin Booth: A Play in Two Acts  
27
Appendix I: Sources, Notes, Music  

177

Appendix II: Plot Summary  
183


Edwin Booth was the most famous actor of his day. His brother, John Wilkes Booth, also an actor, shot President Lincoln. Edwin would go on to establish his own classic theater in New York.
 
This play examines Edwin Booth’s life, celebrates his ideals, and offers a unique look into a forgotten part of history."An extraordinary achievement." –Joseph W. Meeker, author of The Comedy of Survival.
 
Comments by Don Elwell, Ph.D., Greylight Theatre of Southern Illinois:
 
"By the time he reached the age of thirty, the actor Edwin Booth (1833-93) could sell out any large urban theater in America. Eventually he would build his own theater in New York City, where he would appear often. Booth was of a refined artistic temperament; his repertoire was weighted towards Shakespeare. His acting style departed from the bombast of his predecessors and he was able to develop a natural style that was nevertheless poetic. He toured far and wide: not only in North America, but also in England, Germany, and across the Pacific to Hawaii and Australia. Though the word "director" was not used in his day, Edwin Booth was indeed a theater director—in addition to being a theatrical impresario/producer. As a theatrical owner, he built the most technically advanced theater in America of its time. A playhouse named the Booth Theater now stands in the Broadway district of New York. It is not the extraordinary theater that Edwin founded; that theater was unfortunately long ago demolished. Today, Booth is remembered by scholars as a conscientious, hard-working theater practitioner who aimed for high standards in the theater and who believed that good theater has a positive influence upon society.
 
"Edwin Booth’s life was ripped apart when his twenty-six year old brother, John Wilkes Booth, also a famous actor (though less so than Edwin), shot and killed President Abraham Lincoln on Good Friday, 1865, six days after the American Civil War ended. The younger Booth refused to accept the defeat of the Confederacy. He believed that his deed would somehow stop the reabsorption of the Confederate states back into the Union. As can be imagined, life would never again be the same for someone like Edwin.
 
"…Lance Tait’s Edwin Booth is not single-mindedly a character study, in full-length play form, of a fascinating person who survives a personal rendezvous with a national horror. Though the play does include a study of Booth’s character, it ventures well beyond that and manages to locate itself in a national and mythical realm.
 
…"Edwin Booth is obviously attached to Romantic ideals. Tait’s use of poetry, song, Greek chorus, and multiple changing scenes give his drama a freshness that first seizes our attention and then continues to entertain. The playwright’s choice of exactly what events to dramatize is certainly eclectic, and it reminds one of the Romantic predilection for putting individual, subjective perceptions into the service of the universal.
 
"… There is a marked avoidance of tragedy in Tait’s Edwin Booth. This is perhaps what immediately sets it apart from previous works about Booth. Though there is tragedy in the John Wilkes Booth subplot, this is never allowed to overtake Edwin’s progress to his life-affirming goal.
 
…"Edwin Booth is a high drama that speaks to where we have been as a country and a people. It entertains us, it enlightens us. It tells us something about ourselves in such a way that we see ourselves with new eyes."

 

 

  The Babysitter Photos by Mei-hui Lao

Miss Julie, David Mamet Fan Club, and Other Plays. Introduced by Yvonne Shafer and Frank Hoff. ISBN 0-9656184-9-8, 294 pages, published by Enfield Publishing, P.O. Box 699, Enfield, NH 03748 U.S.A, phone 603-632-7377. Book price: 16 U.S. dollars.

Contents
Introduction  
7
Author’s Preface  
17
Miss Julie  
21
The Babysitter/Germany  
69
East Play  
131
David Mamet Fan Club  
149
More, For the Art of It  
181
Remarks Before the Remaining Plays  
185
Jesus and the Monkfish  
193
Behave, My Sorrow  
219
Live Free or Die  
239


From a non-Naturalistic reworking of Strindberg’s Naturalistic classic Miss Julie, to a comic debate on the merits of David Mamet, to Live Free or Die, a border-jumping outdoor play with unpredictable changes in time and location, Lance Tait gives us plays that glory in the freedom of the one-act play form, that reject the limitations upon the imagination so often imposed by notions of realism. In addition to dialogue, poetry, movement and music are integral dramatic elements here. These works are uncompromised by prevailing ideas of what theater is; with style and aplomb they show us what theater can be.

Comments by Yvonne Shafer, St. John’s University, New York:
 
"Strindberg’s Miss Julie was hailed as a masterpiece of Naturalism when it was first written. Tait has taken the main themes and created a version incorporating fantasy and dreamlike scenes. An engrossing aura is created through the use of taped voices that speak and sing, commenting on the action, foreshadowing and intensifying it. The play is a combination of poetry and prose with much of the poetry spoken by a chorus…
 
…"The Babysitter … is a representation of modern society and modern marriage, but not the usual realistic representation seen so often in the theatre…
 
…"In Germany, played immediately after The Babysitter, Tait takes the action to another strange level…, [he] creates a new and unconventional set of characters to be played by the same actors who were in The Babysitter.
 
…"In East Play, Tait makes use of a setting which is simultaneously two quite different places: ‘An Eastside Manhattan apartment and at the same time a prison cell in the Chinese Laogai.’ The playwright uses the setting as a means of teaching the audience about Chinese prison camps and about the extension of business into everyday life in our society. …The language ranges from realistic, to farcical, and to poetic. The mixture of comedy and poignancy leads to a strong conclusion in which the Prisoner relates the events in Tiananmen Square:
 
They gutted the camp in the square.
We ran from that place,
Leaving the opera of youth
Stifled under the groaning sky.
 
"David Mamet Fan Club takes on a provocative subject—the merit of playwright David Mamet. …While the piece is apparently an amusing argument about the merits of a particular playwright, in fact it is a reflection on the whole of modern realistic playwriting."

Comments by Frank Hoff, professor emeritus of the University of Toronto and a specialist in Japanese performing arts:
 
…"The gentle surrealism and the musical qualities of Jesus and the Monkfish disarm the spectator who wants to learn more, in a realistic sense, about the characters of this play. … [Carla's] story … at various junctures the play shows stylistic affinities with Western psychological drama. However, with the otherworldly figure of James, and the barrier-free physical setting of the beach, the music, and the repetitive entrances of the male characters, Jesus and the Monkfish goes its own way in setting up a theatrical world of considerable freedom.
 
…"The playwright credits a production, brought to New York from the countryside of Japan, as having a powerful formal influence upon the writing of Behave, My Sorrow. However rewarding it may have been to see the performances presented by the masters of Awaji Island, Tait, with his good knowledge of theater gained beforehand, certainly brought much himself to his first encounter with ritual puppetry.
 
"With Live Free or Die the dramatist departs from the simplicity, yet technical sophistication of Jesus and the Monkfish and Behave, My Sorrow. At an elementary level, the play has commonalties with the other plays in this volume: an 'open' setting, a disrupted linearity to its storytelling, symbolic characters mixed with a sense of the real, a combination of prose and poetry, etc. …After the prelude, a chorus recites a kind of poetry and sings…
 
…"The enormous power of this play lies in its contrasts, sometimes even violent ones, that focus the spectator’s attention. There is the realistic horror of American prison life, the calm and idealism of Zen…"

An excerpt from Lance Tait’s Author’s Preface:
 
…"Of course, art cannot be truly real, its power lies in the fact that it is glorious fakery. Too often those who advocate realistic drama-making are offering pat answers to the difficulties of telling a story. I want to tell these people that detail is no substitute for depth. And depth is not the winning of predictable responses from the audience, moment by moment throughout an entire piece of theater. Whoever is wont to manufacture all the responses in an audience treats their audience like machines."

 

The Fall of the House of Usher and Other Plays Inspired by Edgar Allan Poe. ISBN 1-893598-05-5. With a preface by Tony McGowan and an introduction by Andrew Sutherland. Published by Enfield Publishing, P.O. Box 699, Enfield, NH 03748 U.S.A, phone 603-632-7377. Book price: 15 U.S. dollars.

Contents
Forward  
vii
Preface  
viii
Introduction  
xiii
The Fall of the House of Usher  
1
The Imp of the Perverse  
33
Landor’s Cottage Revisited  
41
Spectacles  
55
Hop-Frog  
67
The Man of the Crowd  
87
The Power of Words  
103
The Man That Was Used Up  
119
Some Words with a Mummy  
139
The Oval Portrait  
161
Additional Suggestions for the Actor  
172
The Haunted Palace (Song)  
174
Afterword  
176
Acknowledgments  
184

   



“…consider anew what are the capabilities of the drama – not merely what hither to have been its conventional purposes.”
– E.A. Poe “The American Drama” August, 1845

The author’s foreword:
 
“The scripts of my plays inspired by Poe are the chief components of this book. The plays can be read in any order. Each one-act play has before it a performance note; but I would advise the reader to at least read the performance note to the one-act play, The Fall of the House of Usher before starting on any of the scripts.
 
“In addition to the scripts, this book contains various observations and interpretations by others and myself. Some of these will be of interest to actors and theater directors, some will be of interest to general readers, others will be mostly of interest to students, teachers and literary and theater academics. I hope that this book might meet a few more people than it would if it were designed for only one segment of the populace.
 
“Tony McGowan has generously provided a preface that, among other things, speaks to what many Poe fans are concerned with, that is, how do I deal with fear and effect—do I get it right? Andrew Sutherland has been kind to give us a stimulating introduction that helps to equip us for a new journey into the many dimensions that Poe lives in and that I explore. One of these dimensions is comic. Scholars know that Poe wrote comedy, though few others do. Most people associate comedy with fun and laughter and find any writing about it tedious. Composing anything worthwhile about comedy is very difficult; there has been some trouble saved here by passing up the chance to prepare the reader at length for the comedy that is to follow in these pages.
 
“I imagine that if refinements in the acting of these plays are to be made, they should be made along the lines I mention toward the end of the book.”
 
 
 
An excerpt from the preface by Tony McGowan:
 
“On January 18th, 1845, Poe wrote in The Weekly Mirror, ‘While every art has kept pace with the improving and thinking spirit of the age, [drama] alone has remained stationary, prating about Aeshulus [sic] and the Chorus.’ Poe believed the drama of his era to be the least vibrant of all the art forms; he thought it ‘essentially imitative,’ and to Poe this meant,
 
‘less originality—less independence—less thought—less references to principle—less effort to keep up with the general movement of the time—more supineness—more bullet-headedness—more rank and errant conventionality… than in any single thing in existence which aspires to the dignity of art.’
 
“He concluded that theater ‘[did] not deserve support’ until it could ‘burn or bury the old models.’
 
“The idea that drama needed to ‘burn or bury the old models’ is no mere figure of speech for Poe. His slash and burn attitude made him many enemies in literary circles. ‘Regeneration through violence’ (Richard Slotkin’s phrase of some years ago) can be necessary in drama, in literature, in art. Should not the ‘stationary’ drama’s stubbornly defiant rules be made to burn just as the cruel authorities are burned in ‘Hop-Frog?’
 
“But Poe did not fully mean his condemnation of the theater. Rather he wanted to condemn American uninventiveness at the time of his Weekly Mirror article. Taking a broader view of the writer, we see that "old models" and the theater far from bothered him at times...”
 
 
 
An excerpt from the Introduction by Andrew Sutherland:
 
“Edgar Poe was literally born to the theater.
 
“His mother, Elizabeth Arnold Poe, was one of America’s most popular actresses when Poe was born in 1809. The pretty, talented girl first appeared on the American stage in Boston at age nine before going on to play hundreds of roles. Poe’s father, David Poe, Jr., was a handsome young actor who sometimes appeared opposite Elizabeth. As is the case in so many of Poe’s tales, however, the promise of beauty and art succumbed to the complexity of the human heart and to the terrible fact of mortality. David abandoned his pregnant, 22-year old wife and their two young children before Edgar had reached his first year. Benefit performances and well-publicized charity drives were held for Elizabeth in Boston, Richmond, and New York, but she fell ill and died a few weeks before Poe’s third birthday. Poe and his siblings, an older brother and infant sister, were split up and raised by foster families. During a difficult upbringing in the Allan household, the brilliant Poe seems never to have forgotten the excitement of his mother’s world--the world of the theater.
 
“Poe’s only play, Politian, was never finished, but his poetry and short stories are among the best known and best loved in the English language. Their dramatic elements may go far in explaining the popularity of Poe’s work. The strong characters, singular images, and striking scenery tend to impress readers long after an encounter with pieces such as ‘The Raven’ or ‘The Fall of the House of Usher.’ It is the very force of his genius, however, that seems to have prevented modern audiences from appreciating Poe’s depth and range.”