top of page
pgm 0601 DPS 7 a.jpg
pgm 0601 DPS 7 b.jpg

6/1/2024        From the Bookshelf:   Summer Reading from the DPS Broadway Book Club




It’s time to recap the First Quarter DPS Book Club Selections.  Especially since 2nd Quarter scripts are here and lingering (hopefully) for my attention.


As a reminder, script publisher Dramatists Play Service offers a book club, where, once a quarter, they will deliver to your doorstep a box of scripts, curated by an established playwright, brimming with talent and creative life force.  I look forward to every shipment as, to put it bluntly, I love reading scripts, even those for plays I know not and may never see brought to life on stage. 


This quarter’s curator is Mfoniso Udofia, whose Ufot Cycle is an ambitious nine-play series of plays about one immigrant Nigerian family.  Her Portmanteau, Number four in the series, was a selection a few quarters back, and was a compelling intro to the cycle.  The first play, Sojourners, is included in this quarter’s selections.  Most of the others have yet to be published, but most have seen initial workshops or even full productions.   As a first-generation American, it seems natural that her selections will reflect the Black American experience and include some unexpected “classic” gems among all the little-known (for now) titles.

Read About the Cycle HERE


So, forthwith are my thoughts on this seventh seven-script set.  As before, life tended to get in the way and delay my picking up some of these scripts, but not long at all to finish each one.  Once I got started!  




By Wole Soyinka


Both first presented by Farris-Belgrave Productions, Greenwich Mews Theatre, New York City, 1967


These two one-acts by (the first African) Nobel Literature Laureate shine a spotlight on Nigerian customs and issues.  “Brother Jero” gives us a self-styled prophet, a man more interested in the quantity of converts than the quality of their faith.  Jero is a compelling creation, a character who talks to the audience as if we are part of his flock, but who reveals the shallowness of his own belief, the dark corners of hypocrisy.  This script is a marvelous blend of humor and drama and character and dialogue.


“The Strong Breed” is a look at a folk tradition in which one person becomes a “carrier” of an entire community’s evil as part of an annual “purification” ritual that will not end well for that carrier.  A compelling and suspenseful piece that shows us an unexpected connection between Nigerian rituals and our own European legends of “sin eaters.”





By Tarell Alvin McCraney *


World Premiere at the McCarter Theatre, Princeton NJ, 2009

Atlanta Production, Actor’s Express, March 2020


This one has a special place in my memory as it was the last play I saw before COVID closed all our theatres (Click HERE to read my review of that production).   Part of McCraney’s triptych of plays connecting Yoruba mythos figures with contemporary Louisiana life, it tells the story of two brothers rebuilding their connection after one is released from prison.   Since music and dance were so central to Actor’s Express’s production, I was worried the reading experience would be “less than,” a feeling I often have when reading the librettos of musicals I’ve never seen.  Fortunately, McCraney’s lyricism and style come off the pages like a dancer’s aerial ballet, and the characters come to full and vivid life.  As usual when writing about these plays, I devoutly wish a local company would take the risk of producing all three in repertory.


*  Now and forever known as Academy Award Winner Tarell Alvin McCraney for his adapted screenplay for Moonlight, based on his play In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue, which, I dare say, is overdue for an Atlanta production.





By José Rivera


Originally Produced by La Jolla Playhouse, La Jolla CA, September 1992

Produced by the New York Shakespeare Festival in Association with the Hartford Stage Company, New York City, May 1993


It’s the end of the universe.  God has gone senile, and the angels are staging a revolution.  Marisol is a white-color worker living in a run-down Hispanic Bronx slum.  It soon becomes apparent that the dangers of the angelic revolution pale in comparison to the dangers of daily life in NYC.  It also soon becomes difficult to separate reality from imagination, urban decay from divine neglect.  Centering it all is the character of Marisol, and I for one, can’t imagine a better companion to navigate the Apocalypse.


I love end-of-the-world speculative fiction, and the religious trappings of this one, despite running counter to my own secular universe-view, are totally believable and compelling.  So, as a warning, when unending fires darken the skies, when the moon disappears for months, when all food tastes like salt, and when you can’t rely on your guardian angel to guide you and can’t rely on your best friend to “have your back,” gird your loins and expect the worst!


This was a fun read that would present numerous production challenges, but it’s nevertheless a show I would love to see.





By Alice Childress


“Mojo” performed by New Heritage Theatre, Harlem NY, November 1970

“String” performed by the Negro Ensemble Company, New York City, 1969


Here are two one-acts by the playwright of Trouble in Mind and the author of  the novel A Hero Aon’t Nothing but a Sandwich, called "the only African-American woman to have written, produced, and published plays for four decades."


“Mojo” is a love story, a two-hander in which an estranged couple come to terms with the woman’s terminal cancer diagnosis.  In a short period of time, the couple comes to terms with their past, their present, and the woman’s lack of future.  Yet, their connection is real, vibrant, and their saving grace.  I’m second to none in my joy in a good love story and this is a VERY good love story.


“String” is a funny and enraging look at privilege and not-so-privilege.  We are at the annual picnic of a neighborhood black association, and it’s “crashed” by Old Joe, a raggedy man surviving on handouts and castoffs.  The fine women who run the association are enraged, and when a wallet goes missing, all eyes are on Joe, because “We saw him picking something up.”  That “something” may have been a piece of string.  A sketched in Bar-B-Cue portrait of an emerging black middle class who can’t stop judging those left behind.


Both these plays would be an asset for any theatre company, and, as usual after reading such good stuff, I want to see them come alive.




By Ngozi Anyanwu


First Produced by Atlantic Theatre Co, New York City, January 2018


Kalechi left Nigeria for the United States at 15 years old.  Now at 30, she has come home to care for her ailing father.  Past and culture collide as Kalechi is forced to reconnect with a community she left behind, with a home and father that treated her cruelly, but which also has a few warm memories and friends.  These are vibrant and compelling characters who come to vivid life, with revelations about Kelechi’s childhood rationed to us slowly and carefully.  It is a compelling reminder that sometimes “Home” is both asylum and prison.  Ngozi Anyanwu writes memorable dialogue and characters who come to full (not always admirable) life.  She has also structured the play so that memory scenes butt against “now” realities in ways that take full advantage of the power of clever juxtaposition.


Not that it matters, but curator Mfoniso Udofia played Kalechi in the original production, which may (just may) account for its inclusion with this group.





By Kate Cortesi


Originally Produced by Marin Theatre Co, Mill Valley CA   March 20


This is a #MeToo play!  Penelope is asked to join a group of women making harassment claims against an NGO Chairman (the organization provides teachers to at-risk elementary kids) with whom she had a relationship, and with whom she was in love.  This play makes a very nuanced statement of the fuzzy line between abuse, harassment, and inconvenience.  Did Penelope know about her boss’s wife?  Yes, but it didn’t matter.  Sure, Otis is charming (not creepy) but his feelings for Penelope were (and are) real, if his relationships with the other women maybe not so much.  Like The Homecoming Queen, this script mixes past and present  in a compelling and memorable manner, creates characters who leap off the pages who make smart and not-so-smart choices.  Above all, it reminds us that Love changes everything.  I’d also love to see this one!





By Mfoniso Udofia


Developed at the 2013 Sundance Institute Theatre Lab

Premiered at The Playwright’s Realm, New York City, 2016

West Coast premiere at the Magic Theatre, 2016


Part One of Ms. Udofia’s Ufot Cycle.  Abasiama is a Nigerian immigrant, who is getting educated so she can return home and be an asset to her countrymen.  She is in an uncomfortable arranged marriage to Ukpong, who is also trying to get a degree before returning home.  Abasiama is many months pregnant with their first child and is working nights and at Gas-and-Food station.  It is 1978, and Ukpong is more interested in drinking Guiness and listening to Motown hits than working on his studies.  We also meet Disciple Ufot (note the last name), another Nigerian studying but frustrated by his inability to get his dissertation started.  And then there’s Moxie, an American hustler, a 'ho who is functionally illiterate, but to whom Abasiama shows kindness, and eventually friendship.


We’ve already met future versions of Abasiama, Disciple, Ukpong, and the unborn daughter in Her Portmanteau, and knowing that play and who they become in 30 years adds a dimension of

poignance to this story, these characters at this time.  And Moxie is such a memorable creation, I can only hope we meet her again in any of the later plays in the cycle.


These characters are all “Sojourners,” temporary Americans with a long-term goal of improving Nigeria (and we already know that Abasiama will remain in America).  Even Moxie is a sojourner in the world of the streets, a woman who deeply wants to improve her lot,  This play gives me hope she will succeed,


I liked this play as much as I liked Her Portmanteau, and really hope the rest of the Ufot Cycle is published sooner rather than later.  And I hope ANY of these plays soon find an Atlanta Performance Home.


NOTE:   Much of this play is foot-noted, with stretches in Igbo, the first language of the Nigerian characters, which will make a nice challenge to actors and directors.



I hope you get a chance to check out any (or all) of these plays and hope you find them as satisfying to read as I did.  Better yet, I hope they create a desire to see them live on stage!   As a preview, here are the titles in the Second Quarter 2024 collection:


(Curated by Bekah Brunstetter – The Cake, and the new Musical Version of The Notebook)


            Nice Girl   (Melissa Ross)

            The Language Archive   (Julia Cho)

            Outside Mullingar   (John Patrick Shanley)

            Danny and the Deep Blue Sea   (John Patrick Shanley)

            Anna in the Tropics   (Nilo Cruz)  

            Five Times in One Night   (Chiara Atik)

            Venus in Fur    (David Ives)


As usual, thank you for indulging my Bibliowallow!   There will be more soon!


    --  Brad Rudy  (



     Order Your Own Subscription HERE

bottom of page