Reflections

My grandmother would kick her shoe across the room when telling a Polish Cinderella story. My grandfather produced Polish weddings as theatrical events to raise funds for his home village. So, maybe drama is in my blood.

I grew up in my family's Polish bakery in Chicago (the setting for my play FLORIDA aka DREAMING IN POLISH), enacting stories with dolls long after my age-mates went on to worrying about clothes and boys. I think children are natural playwrights--some of us just never grew up.

As a teenager, I had my first publication--"Poem to be Read to the Sound of a Cash Register" which was printed in the Jewel Food Store Newsletter. While at Barnard College, I put a piece of paper in the typewriter to write up a lab report, and instead wrote a play. It was fun, so I started collaborating with my friend, composer Robert deChristopher. We wrote a musical, THE SMOLDERING SEVENTIES, about cigarette prohibition in the 1970s. It never got produced but I like to think it's because we were ahead of our time.

After graduation, I worked at jobs ranging from New York "gallery girl" to Project Director of a race relations study in Seattle. I dabbled a bit at writing poetry and fiction, playing with words. Then, I found out about Folklore and thought it would be the ideal occupation for me since I had such a love for story. Once in grad school, however, I kept wanting to invent instead of collect. I did meet my first husband then, a Classics professor named William Hansen. Soon, my wonderful daughter Inge Hansen was born and started growing up in Bloomington, Indiana. Wanting there to be good theatre for our children, some other Montessori moms (Nancy Hartog and Nancy Hohimer) and I founded Paper Moon Theatre Company. I learned a lot about the craft by writing a new play every six weeks, first for children, and later for a general audience (for example, POCKETS & ZIPPERS, PYRAMID & FRISBEE, THE CIRCUS WISH, REAL LIVE MYTHICAL WOMEN).

I started sending plays out and getting piles of rejection letters, so I asked a friend who worked on the literary staff at Actors Theatre of Louisville for advice. He told me to write about an experience I thought was unique to myself. So, I wrote DEAR JOHN, a one-act play about a woman's relationship with a gay man. This epistolary play won a national competition, received some exposure in New York, and I was encouraged. I expanded DEAR JOHN to 2 Acts and it continues to be performed at small theatres looking for 2-person low-budget plays with captivating characters, humor, drama and lovely language. DEAR JOHN also brought me into contact with Bryan Fonseca, Artistic Director of the Phoenix Theatre, who eventually produced 5 of my plays, including DEAR JOHN, CENTAURS, AND WHEN THE BOUGH BREAKS, FLORIDA, and KEN & BARBIE DO THE NASTY AT LARRY'S LEATHER BAR.

Encouraged by receiving grants, fellowships and residencies as well as being blessed by some stunning reviews ("Cebulska Play Phoenix Theatre's Best Ever!") I sent my play FLORIDA to both the Eugene O'Neill and Sundance competitions and was chosen by both. I attended the O'Neill National Playwrights Conference in 1995, developing my play and finding colleagues who would remain my buddies for years.

Along the way, I got divorced and remarried, this time to historian, Tom Prasch, with whom I now live in Topeka, Kansas (the middle of nowhere or the center of everything?). In my tall Victorian house with its plum-colored doors, I have a study with its own second-story porch. Here I wrote VISIONS OF RIGHT, fueled by my concern with the anti-gay ministry of Reverend Fred Phelps. Here also, I wrote NOW LET ME FLY, a play commissioned for the 50th anniversary of the Brown v. Board decision which ended legalized segregation in this country. NOW LET ME FLY premiered before a wildly enthusiastic audience of 2200 people and has been performed at 63 venues around the country. Okay, I admit it, I'm proud.

In my new home state, I became one of the first playwrights-in-residence (with fellow playwright Colin Denby Swanson) at the William Inge Theatre Festival and I've continued my relationship with the Inge Center for the Arts. In the Spring of 2006, my play TOUCHED, commissioned to tell the story of playwright William Inge, premiered at the Inge Festival to an instant standing ovation. Yay!

Recently, I've also been asked to write film scripts. My first film was a collaboration with visual artist Ronald Markman. Together we wrote the script for EVER SINCE THE BAD THING HAPPENED, a short animated musical based on the world in Markman's paintings. More recently, I wrote the film script for THROUGH MARTHA'S EYES, the story of an African-American enslaved at the Shawnee Mission Indian School. Another film script in progress, in collaboration with Kevin Willmott, is BARBARA ROSE, the story of Barbara Rose Johns who led a strike against her substandard segregated school in 1951.

My deep love of the theatre continues, however, and I have just started a script I've been wanting to write for four years. I was deeply affected by the 2002 freeze in Mexico in which 270 million monarch butterflies perished. I plan to use the butterflies to help tell the story of the demise of a homeless man.

I have been flattered when critics have compared my work to that of Tennessee Williams or Eugene O'Neill. I am drawn to the work of such Classic American playwrights because their plays embody passion and good storytelling. At the same time, I have employed new technology in my recent work, many of my plays incorporating projected images on screens. I am often drawn to subject matter that deals with social and political issues but I always want to tell the stories of the individuals caught in the middle, struggling with the complexities of the moment, alive with longing, and flawed with humanity. I try to write on the edge of humor and hurt. I write to express myself, to communicate, to keep myself sane.

I am blessed by a supportive husband and a cheering squad of good friends and family. I have many more stories to tell.

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