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The Difficulty of Crossing a Field

The Difficulty of Crossing a Field: Nine New Plays

Mac Wellman
Foreword by Helen Shaw
Copyright Date: 2008
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 360
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  • Book Info
    The Difficulty of Crossing a Field
    Book Description:

    Known for his verbal invention and radical experimentation, Mac Wellman is one of America’s most original dramatists. In this new book, Wellman brings together nine recent plays. With their feisty heroines, crisp dialogue, and noir influences, the works in The Difficulty of Crossing a Field reveal a playwright at the peak of his powers, and the collection concludes with Speculations, Wellman’s bold theatrical vision presented as lyrical prose.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-6653-9
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. FOREWORD: Mac Wellman and Things of the Devil
    (pp. vii-xii)
    Helen Shaw

    InQ’s Q, a mischievous, behind-the-scenes lampoon à clef, a regional theater’s artistic director meets a gruesome end. The chief suspect is, of course, a playwright. Driven insane by the endless development process (and already a little lupine around the edges), the poor writer gets hairier and scarier . . . until he changes into his true form. A werewolf. Readers, be alert. This is the closest Mac Wellman ever gets to autobiographical confessionalism.

    While Wellman may walk among us disguised as a mild-mannered, bespectacled dramatist (even sporting, on occasion, a straw boater), his true self is as the wolf-in-professor’s-clothing,...

  4. Infrared
    (pp. 1-50)

    Infrared(a collaboration with artist and puppeteer Janie Geiser) was first presented at New York University in 1996 under the direction of Travis Preston. Subsequently, the play was presented by Fancy Pants at Dance Theater Workshop in 1999.

    Our narrator, an ungainly self in search of itself

    cathy x, a young woman with a shocking dual identity

    Cathy x’s shadow, a spooky temporal disturbance with a mind of its own

    wow, her dog and trusted confidante

    Various passersby, criminals, disciples of cathy x, and assorted

    Holes and Shadows, including that of the Flatiron Building

    Infraredtakes place in contemporary New...

  5. Jennie Richee; or, Eating Jalooka Fruit before It’s Ripe
    (pp. 51-104)

    Jennie Richee(based on the life and work of Henry Darger) was first presented in 2000 by the Ridge Theater in New York at St. Ann’s under the direction of Bob McGrath and Laurie Olinder, through generous grants from the Rockefeller and Greenwall Foundations.

    Henry darger, in several incarnations, that is, on his deathbed, as various generals and heroes, as the bumbling private, and as the aspiring artist, penrod

    The seven vivian girls, notably violet, who sings all the songs

    Various glandelinian and abbeinian officers, flunkeys, and factotums

    And lastly, various blengiglomenean creatures (or blengins), both in their serpent and...

  6. Antigone
    (pp. 105-120)

    Antigonewas first presented in 2000 by Big Dance Theater under the direction of Paul Lazar and with choreography of Annie-B Parson at Classic Stage Company, and in 2002 at Dance Theater Workshop.

    All parts are played by the three fates, also three facts, on their way to becoming the three graces; with the exception of !∃. the shriek operator (pronounced “E shriek”), an unknown god of unknown origin who is named for the special symbol of logical notation as described in the appendix ofThe Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy(1999 edition). The traditional parts are creon, ismene (antigone’s sister),...

  7. The Fez
    (pp. 121-122)

    The Fezwas commissioned by the Actors Theatre of Louisville as a T-shirt play in 1998. It was read at the Little Theater at Tonic in 2002.

    The Fez,a play, begins with twenty-two minutes from the top of any of the better class of contemporary classic American or British play, a play properly inflated with moral updraft of a clear and paraphraseable kind. After the initial twenty-two minutes, Something Strange happens: the actors drop out of their roles and are astounded to find themselves on stage; some try to ignore the fact that the charmed spell of the theater...

  8. The Difficulty of Crossing a Field
    (pp. 123-170)

    The Difficulty of Crossing a Field, based on the story by Ambrose Bierce, with music by David Lang, was commissioned by Carey Perloff and the American Conservatory Theater (ACT) in San Francisco in 1994 through the National Theatre Artist Residency Program. It was first performed at ACT under the direction of Carey Perloff in 2002; the East Coas t premiere was the Ridge Theater production at Montclair State University in 2006 under the direction of Bob McGrath.

    armour wren, a Selma planter, williamson’s neighbor; a presiding magistrate, at the inquest regarding the strange disappearance of williamson, a Selma planter; his...

  9. Bitter Bierce; or, The Friction We Call Grief
    (pp. 171-226)

    Bitter Bierce(based on the life and writing of Ambrose Bierce) premiered at P.S. 122 in 2003 under the author’s direction.

    A large open room, things arranged as for a public lecture.

    We see ambrose bierce—a tall, elegant, and very capable looking man—alone, standing behind a wooden table; there is something a little apparitional about his good looks (and why does not the apparition of a suit of clothes sometimes walk abroad without a ghost in it?); on the table is a cabbage—an elegant, very capable looking and quite green—cabbage.

    Reality, noun.

    The dream of a...

  10. Psychology; or, Bring a Weasel and a Pint of Your Own Blood
    (pp. 227-248)

    Psychologywas commissioned by Stuck Pigs Squealing of Melbourne, Australia (artistic director, Chris Kohn), and received a workshop production at Stanford University under the direction of Matt Moore in 2006.

    This demented play is for the three Lemurvians: Erin Courtney, Karinne Keithley, and Kate Ryan.

    The occasional appearance of an asterisk in the middle of a speech indicates that the next speech begins to overlap at that point. The overlapping speeches are all clearly marked in the text.


    candle in the dark.


    girl face appears in a small window quite high above, a window within a golden frame...

  11. A Morphology of Small Errors, and Catalogue of the Cahoonery of Moths and Spiders
    (pp. 249-260)

    A Morphology of Small Errorsis a libretto in development at the Theater of a Two-Headed Calf, with music by Brendan Connelly.

    A location as such; a place set as so; a place beginning to be one of the, after the; a place beginning to be one after another of these; dubious: a house in the woods.


    An awful spider. A person

    Lara. Laura. Moira.

    The Moron of errors appears and not to.

    A spider is tempted, too.

    Lara and Laura are an in between the.

    An a; an o.


    Seventy-three small mortgaged suitcases may come to to...

  12. The Invention of Tragedy
    (pp. 261-292)

    The Invention of Tragedyhas been in several workshops since 2005, all under the direction of Ken Rus Schmoll, at New York University’s Write Act program and at Classic Stage Company. Thanks to the Corporation of Yaddo and the MacDowell Colony. Thanks also to the Write Act program at NYU and to the Classic Stage Company, Brian Kulick, artistic director.

    The occasional appearance of an asterisk in the middle of a speech indicates that the next speech begins to overlap at that point. The overlapping speeches are all clearly marked in the text.

    The Invention of Tradegyby the chorus...

  13. Speculations: An Essay on the Theater
    (pp. 293-342)

    This version of “Speculations” is excerpted from a more complete one (albeit still a work in progress) that is available on the author's Web site at

    The STRUCTURE of a play ought not be viewed as a fixed thing, but as a mutable one.

    I mean, the structure of a play conceived of as a moving point:

    passing over—or through—time, from inception to end point; so that what it is relation of part to who(o)le (Oh, Mereology!) changes continuously and continually;

    changes because space is filled with invisible lines—astheatron. (Da Vinci) This is why vertical...

  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 343-343)