There’s snow in Austin

School is cancelled.

There’s ice everywhere.

So I spent the day revising Bones in a cafe that smells like Fabuloso.

(You may be Latino if…)



December Update

Well, I missed a month didn’t I?

I’m writing this aboard an American Airlines flight home. The airplane is half empty and bigger than most, and a woman sitting next to me is watching The Martian. We’re flying over Vegas. It seems appropriate.

People who lean back in their seats should have to travel on the wing.23157123_10105681438548461_2353881699932158285_o.jpg

Playwrights Week at the Lark provided me the space and time to revise the play with a new cast, same director. With ten hours of rehearsal, I focused on trimming Act I so the play wouldn’t be so lopsided time-wise. Now I’m chomping at the bit to see this produced. I want to make the play.

I’m still without a production-in-waiting. I worry. If this plane falls from the sky, does my work disappear? Will someone put it out there?

Detached from humanity, Skip says,

“Can you hear me, Earth? I can’t hear you.

I pretend you can. I pretend,

It’s a message in a bottle baby.

What I do out here matters.

It matters to someone out there.

It matters!

I matter!

I matter.”


T’was a hard semester in Skybridge theatrelandia. The high school play was far more ambitious than anything else I’ve made, eclipsing even the JH [a different] Romeo & Juliet. Having only six kids spurred it to another level, and I borrowed from Angels in America and Eurydice to inform the structure. It wants to be something for more mature audiences.  I’ve started re-writes.

My students were ready, mostly, for work that approached adult. We knitted together a story that felt about the now. Much of it takes place in Taco Bell. There’s a boat made of popsicle sticks that takes a sibling to the underworld. 

I detest the person sitting in the seat in front of me. The inability to account for the space you take up is one of the more obnoxious things that people do.

I have a couple projects waiting in the wings. A ten-minute play I wrote for a bake-off feels present – the next major project is to make it live and long- but I will also have to start writing a play for my junior high students in January for performance in May. I’ve been itching to work on The Henchman, which will be about the relationship between a trans activist and a gay aide to a transphobic governor of a major state that rhymes with Lexus.

Playwrights Week at the Lark and…

I return to Mars next week, working on Small Steps at Playwrights Week at the Lark.

That’s the big news I hinted at last time.

Look at this fabulous poster they built for it:


It’s coming upon me/us rapidly. I’m excited that I get to work once again with director Scott Ebersold, though we have a completely different team in NY.

And I did an interview for The Lark. 

Incidentally, I was asked a question about space, and this gave me the opportunity to talk about my father. Time after time, my characters have fraught relationships with parents – or their folks are dead, as is the case for Skip in Small Steps – but my own relationship with my folks is great. So I’m pleased I had the chance to talk about Dad a bit:

LF: I totally don’t get space. I understand it exists, but I don’t understand the fascination. Are you a space person? Can you explain the intense desire to spend billions of dollars on space instead of fixing stuff here? I’d love someone to help me get it.   

BO: Let’s put aside the practical benefits of supporting NASA’s engagement with climate science for a moment. I ask the same question about space science as I do about art. Why do art when there are hungry people? Why make theater in these big buildings when there’s homelessness?

My dad just retired from years and years of public service. He worked for California at the Air Resources Board and then the Energy Commission. He passed good legislation, killed bad bills. And he was good at it. He made California a cleaner place to live, a better place to breathe. I like to think he added a little to humanity’s time on earth, pushed the doomsday clock back a few seconds.

When he was young and still Republican, he met an astronaut, someone who’d told him about looking back at the earth and seeing it entirely. I imagine the scene was like the opening of Carl Sagan’s Cosmos. My dad told me how the astronaut became an environmentalist from seeing the earth so small and whole. That’s it, you know. That little blue marble is what we have.

I also like to think that this meeting was how Dad became an environmentalist.

I think we pursue space science and exploration because it gives us a chance to reach for something great, but I also think it brings a perspective on how small and fragile and human we are.

Five years ago, I went to the Lark with one of my first full-length plays, Halfway, NebraskaI’d been at UT for a year. This was my first time in New York. It feels like I was just there, but half a decade has passed. In those five years, I’ve gotten, well, a couple years older, and I’ve written many, many more plays.


Ground and Field at UC Davis was a dream. I have never hidden my love for the Sacramento area and my deep belief in making work for the people you care about, so returning home to work on a play in a professional capacity scratches off a line from my bucket list. The local paper had an article about it that I was uncomfortable with at first; the headline is “Playwright returns home for UCD production of his work,” and I was worried that people would head into staged reading expecting something far more produced than what stage readings customarily are.

I needn’t have worried. The group of young actors, led by an energetic and awesome director with a team of tech folks, created a miraculous production of a staged reading. Take a look at these pictures.

(All photos by Tom Burmester.)

Again, this is for a staged reading. Granted, the play’s frenetic energy made the theatricality necessary. After all, I could hold a reading in my living room to figure out if a line needs to be punched up; this staging helped me understand the larger shape of the show.

Anywho, more info on The Briars by clicking the title.


Finally, this semester’s high school production is tentatively title Bones of the Saints. In it, a demon cat-fishes a group of young people in a small town.

This semester, I have a very small group of mostly juniors and seniors, so the play is essentially for adults, but with a few words turned from “fuck” to “F” in case we have middle school students see the thing. Future drafts will be tweaked and land more directly in the space of plays for adults.

September Update

I’ve tried to hide away to write my play for the high school students. One thing I notice about being a writer is I only get the most important things and the least important things done when I’m under deadline.

  • Bathing – check
  • Eating – check
  • Grocery shopping – not check
  • Steam cleaning the rugs – check
  • Responding to Mom – not check
  • Updating website – not check
  • Figuring out car insurance before the deadline – not check
  • Figuring out car insurance on the deadline – check
  • Dish-washing – check
  • Emailing a playwright about his work with teens – not check
  • Shaving when I’m going to see people I need to impress – not check
  • Shaving when I’m not going to see people for two days – check
  • Floors sweeping – check
  • Heartburn medication purchasing – not check
  • Lessons planning – check

And so on.

Next week, I’ll be in Davis at the Ground and Field Festival, working on The Briars.

I’ve been trying to Skype into rehearsals when possible.

Screen Shot 2017-09-25 at 10.21.34 PM

If you’re in the area, come on out – next Friday and Saturday (we’re Program B)

Working as a playwright at UC Davis has been a quiet dream I’ve had for many years.  I’ve been explicit about my mission – to be the best damn writer and teacher I can be, and to have a career that allows me to return home to work without having to live there. And so developing a play with folks at UCD is right smack in the center of that goal.

More news soon.

As for that play I’m distracting myself from, well, it’s a tough-as-nails play to write. It stabs. The elevator pitch is, “There’s a group of teenagers in a town getting catfished by a demon.” So, yeah.

Now, B, back to work.