SINK! A Titanic Murder Mystery

I had a mostly new crop of actors this time around. Only two of twelve had worked with me before. After so many years with experienced young collaborators, I had to relearn how to teach my devising process.

I came in open to writing whatever play the process came up with. The kids advocated for a murder mystery. I hesitated. Every high school seems to do these. While fun puzzles, these tend to be stage candy, and I didn’t want to make another version of something that already exists.

Then I thought, well, what happens if the mystery I make is THE MOST MURDER MYSTERY MURDER MYSTERY? The, well, Titanic of murder mysteries. And thus we started to build SINK! A Titanic Murder Mystery.

Set aboard the Titanic and at times seeming to be a parody of the James Cameron film, someone takes advantage of the iceberg distraction. When the ship starts to sink, the stakes are raised – no murderers allowed on the lifeboats, they gotta solve it.

While on the surface, it’s a traditional locked-room mystery, entirely predictable, the project of this play is examine the construction of murder mysteries themselves. We intentionally evoke, reference, call into question, and/or subvert Sherlock Holmes, film noir / The Maltese Falcon, Columbo and Murder She Wrote, Clue, even the true crime media like the Serial Podcast. CSI was also part of the intermission, but we had to scrap that. Literary references are tossed about. Hell, this play even teaches stage etiquette.

And if an audience learns that every actor is either a detective, a murderer, or a murder victim, they may be able to solve the puzzle at intermission.

This is a play that requires designers to do gobs of research, so I was lucky to have a crew of techs who were eager for such things.

Once I do a post-show draft, I’ll create a page for it and post it to the New Play Exchange.

Pictures by me, Ariel, and a student.


Finding the Play that Fits

Youth Theatre Journal has just come out with my newest article, Finding the Play that Fits. In it, I discuss the issues that arise when theatre directors/educators rely on canon work, and how it reifies exclusionary/problematic casting practices and makes certain stories invisible. I offer four solutions so that an educator/producer can always have a play that fits their group of actors.

The title is exactly what it’s about. I went with something didn’t sound terribly academic hoping more teachers would read it.

Not that many will be able to access it.

This process revealed to me that academic publishing is upside down. Rather than pay the writer, they ask the writer to pay to make their work open access. I could not afford the thousands of dollars for this, so I’m afraid that this is behind a paywall.

I’m proud of this article. I’m proud that it was published in a prestigious journal. I am sad that the prestige of the journal makes it harder for my audience to access it.


Well, we kicked off 2023 with the opening of Icarus Livingstone Falls Into the Sea produced by Acme Theatre Company in my hometown. It’s one of the most complicated plays I’ve written, and this company run by teenagers created a beautiful, lyrical production.

Icarus Livingstone is a coming-of-age story built out of the myths of Icarus, Theseus, and the Minotaur. It’s a queer love story as well, a comedy at times, a drama about parent-child relationships. In the five years since I built the current labyrinth of story, this is the first production.

(Photos from Acme)

Over the year I’ve returned to this story many, many times, because every time I’ve played with these myths, I’ve found something most people overlook. Once upon a time, I wrote a monologue from Icarus’s mother’s POV, and then another short piece with many voices as a flock of seagulls; a friend then built a series of gorgeous masks that I then turned into a play, starting a habit of design-driven work that I still use. In both of these, I was interested in the people on the periphery of the story. And yet, as I built this world, I could see a bigger one behind it. Over the centuries, artists (especially painters) focused on the moment of the fall – it’s a tragedy, it’s a punishment for the father’s hubris or about Icarus not listening to adults – but I wasn’t interested in these readings. I was interested in creating a story behind the story.

Then, fall of 2018, I had a large high school crew who joined me in making this play. Many young people are on their own journeys through a labyrinth of identities and wrestling with family expectations and the like, and I think this crew brought something magical into a story built from those themes.

We imagine Icarus and the Minotaur (“Tor”) as childhood more-than-friends. They also know Theseus, who would later kill the Minotaur. And things get… complicated. As the director Emily in her program note put it, “the boys struggle to live past the endings that their fathers dreaded and grow into the hopes that their mothers imagined.”

I had a reading with ACME the summer after the show. And someone in that cast connected with the script, and has advocated for it ever since. And thanks to the advocacy, they produced it. As a playwright and educator, I have a boring life punctuated by strange and special experiences. Writing plays (and representing/marketing myself) means that I spend so much time looking at words on the page or screen, deleting these, and putting different words on the page. Then you get moments like this, when something you love and put time and energy into, something that seems like everyone else overlooks, connects with some kid or kids who then advocate for it, who wish it into production.

They don’t make awards for what I do, but man, we do get some cool things instead.


Other news:

The Odyssey will be getting another update soon. I will re-reimagine the text for a different kind of theatre and audience. More info soon.

The current draft is posted here. This one will continue to be available.

I have focused on showcasing that it fits cafetoriums and alternative spaces, but I think what’s actually more interesting to me is how making it about Odysseus’s growth as a character fundamentally changes the text. After reluctantly killing the suitors at the instructions of Athena, Odysseus is about to be attacked by their upset parents, and he chooses instead to defy the Gods, picking exile over more slaughter.

The Odyssey: Update

I’ll soon be updating NPX with the post-show draft of The Odyssey. We closed our show just over a week ago, and now I’m whittling away at the revision.

Some background: as you may know, I write my plays-for-young-actors with and for my students. I use devising, improv, and what I call kinesthetic dramaturgy to develop the plays before directing the first production over the course of a semester, then I make the play available for licensing.

I knew I wanted to write an adaptation. After Dolcevita, I needed a slightly less intense process; adaptation is easier and takes a fraction of the energy to market. While adaptation does conjure existential angst when we work through our personal relationship with the original IP (I drained a beer or two as I lamented reproducing a story about a man who could be so monstrous), and everyone who knows it will have an opinion they will ABSOLUTELY TELL YOU, the crucial task of converting blank pages to word pages is oh-so-much-simpler than making something from scratch.

It became clear that my actors needed something broad and slapstick and loud, and when we ‘auditioned’ different texts, The Odyssey fit the bill. It was simply the best platform for my energetic crew, who would throw themselves around the stage like they were on boat on a rough sea or explode an imaginary eye without a moment’s hesitation. They needed space to be, well, clowns. And a story so ancient could hold up to our remodel.

When I read the truly phenomenal translation by Dr. Emily Wilson, I was struck by a few opportunities as well as challenges.

That The Odyssey doesn’t follow an Aristotelian structure, nor does it slot easily into the hero’s journey genre surprised me. I figured Odysseus would be called to action and then be set on a journey; instead, we’re near the end of his journey when the story starts, and most of what we know as his epic odyssey consists of stories told at banquets. His son Telemachus gets a call-to-GTFO from a goddess, but his journey isn’t overwhelmingly adventurous.

I thought about the Greek amphitheater, of course, from where we draw so many western traditions. A chorus of Homers was necessary, and given my eleven actors would need to play dozens of named characters, this sets up a flexible world. What intrigued me more was that so much of the metanarrative is told at banquets by a Homer-like storyteller.

I thought about how so much educational theatre makes its home in cafetoriums.

What if, what if I wrote a play that wasn’t at war with a cafetorium, but embraced the place of both meal and theatre? What if, instead of regarding these mixed-use spaces as lackadaisical attempts at efficiency, we viewed them as throwbacks to an ancient tradition of ritual, of breaking bread mixed with storytelling and entertainment?

So the play is a series of banquets. While it can be produced in any theatre, it fits in cafeterias, auditoriums, banquet halls, cafes, outdoor found spaces, or pretty much anywhere else that the audience can be seated at tables.

The play is a comedy until it has to stop being a comedy. After Odysseus starts to lose his men, the play shifts in tone.

I made a number of other changes, of course, beyond the tonal shift and folding elements together to reduce 400+ pages to a slim 100. Odysseus has a character arc and is more active as a protagonist, for example. But much of the structure hews closer to the original, and when we deviate, it’s often pointed out in the text.

Below are some pictures from our show. My actors performed fantastically, and for a tiny budget, check out how spectacular our set was.

Quick Updates


The New Play is also the oldest story: The Odyssey

After two weeks of playing around with different texts and old stories, we’ve decided that the next play will be a slightly immersive adaptation of The Odyssey. I am specifically creating it to be produced in those cafetoriums / gymnatoriums and black box and outdoor spaces. I’ll give a more detailed reason as to why in the future.

There are some spectacular re-imaginings of The Odyssey out there. Nicelle Davis’s Circe is a particularly brilliant collection of poems that focuses on the neglected figure, and I have no doubt that there are versions told from Penelope’s POV. I am more interested in figuring out how to tell the original story in a modern theatrical idiom. My actors have this clownish, campy energy, and they’re attracted to the big fight scenes, and you can feel how that element from The Odyssey is one reason it’s been around so long. We’re going to see how to make this thing our own.

Summer Updates

I just returned from the Spark Festival at Amphibian Stage in Fort Worth, which was full of lovely people and great new plays and a staff full of wizards. A friend compared it to summer camp for theatre. Some of the folks there I knew, some I didn’t but still found connections. Theatre is a small town, and that’s one reason I love it. After two summers of pandemic break, being back in that small town felt like home.


Filmmaker Ryan Hoskins adapted my short play into a film now popping up at festivals. Recently, it appeared at the Dances with Films Festival and Outfest LA. I’ve known Ryan for years, and funny enough, the play drew inspiration from one of his short films. We’re now in the early stages of collaborating on a feature length film.


It’s published. And while Stage Partners most does things digitally, I did get a stack of printed versions. And I know there are performances in the works.


I still can’t believe we pulled it off, y’all.