Horton's Here's a Who

See also: Actor resume.

My earliest memories are of the theatre. I saw a Toledo University production of OTHELLO and the Broadway road show of OKLAHOMA when I was around five years old, and these performances are vivid in my memory to this day. By second grade I was herding neighborhood kids together to put on shows in our garage. I wrote dialogue, built scenery, and usually played the wicked witch or stepmother. I took art lessons at the Toledo Museum, discovered Opera in the Museum's listening library and from Greek sculpture branched out to Myth and then Drama. During my thrice weekly trips to the public library I stumbled onto the prefaces and plays of George Bernard Shaw, which I devoured volume by volume. Shaw inspired me to turn from Sophocles to Aristophanes, who became a favorite without the reinforcement of performance: I think I was nearly 40 before I saw my first staging--- one of my least favorites, THE BIRDS. When I was twelve, Grandma took me to see Antioch's Yellow Springs Summer Shakespeare. There, right at the point where Hamlet says he'll "lug the guts into the neighbor room," I had a Revelation: actors are heroes, bigger than life, but the poet of the theater who can shoot an arrow into the heart across four hundred years is Immortal, a Creator who is almost a god. I knew from that moment what I wanted to do. I went home and wrote my first grown-up, "serious" play -- in verse, with fifteen male characters and one rather boring girl. I had already read all Shakespeare's plays, but I began to read Shakespearean criticism and reviews of productions, too. While still in grade school I acquired my life-long habit of reading plays and accounts of productions, and acting and directing them in my imagination.

The following year my parents moved out of the city to a farming town, where I directed the class play and wrote skits for Pep Rally. We still attended the Unitarian Church in Toledo, though, and I managed to act with the community theatre group at the church. I was awe-struck when cast as Laura in GLASS MENAGERIE with accomplished grown-up actors. I bought a copy of Michael Chekhov's TO THE ACTOR, and determined to teach myself acting through the exercises and analysis described in Chekhov's book. I've never worked with people who have studied or teach Chekhov's theories, but I still find them more compatible with my personal way of looking at life and art than the various branches of Stanislavsky I encountered later. At sixteen, bored by high school and eager to begin my Life In Art, I managed to get admitted to the theater department of Ohio University, where I learned some painful Facts: 1) Girls do not grow up to be Great Writers. 2) Most successful acting careers consist of long-running hits of doubtful merit, occasional film bits, and commercials. 3) There's not much work for short round stepmothers or freckled witches, however wicked.

By then a chastened sophomore English major, I married Robert Williams, a graduate student in Electrical Engineering. After my husband got his master's degree I followed him from job to job changing our daughter Robin's diapers, writing poetry, taking courses and acting at the nearest college: Park College (Gertrude, Mrs. Hardcastle), Kent State, Kansas City (Gwendoline, Olivia, THE FANTASTICKS) University of Colorado (where I played Lady Macbeth opposite undergraduate Barry Kraft, a brilliant Shakespearean actor even then, who went on to a distinguished career with The Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Daughter Robin played the Apparition of the Bloody Child in the U of C production, and confessed years afterward that the experience gave her nightmares. She didn't dare tell me about them because she was so proud to be in the play with me and she was afraid she'd have to give it up). While living in Kansas city I joined C.O.R.E, and helped desegregate the downtown restaurants. I also wrote my first produced one-act, THE MATCH, which was published in the University of Kansas' QUIL as well as performed in the outdoor theatre. While in school I edited EYE On THE DENVER SCENE, a homemade literary magazine, out of our tiny two room rented house.

We moved to Boston in 1966, the season of the draft card burnings, when Arlington St. Church made headlines sheltering resisters. I joined the ASC choir and the Worship Committee and did dance services, reader's theater, rituals, and biographies of obscure Unitarian theologians. I put together an adaptation of the medieval Mystery Cycles that was a quarter century Christmas tradition at the church-- a glorious, raucous mummery featuring choir, percussion, Adam and Eve y-bare, the Sunday School kids stocking Noah's Ark, belly dancers, hobby horse knights, and a gruesome performance by the minister as King Herod in THE MASSACRE OF THE INNOCENTS. Daughter Robin rotated through the Cycle's roles as she grew, from a lamb to an Innocent to Mrs Noah to lead dancer. Robin settled on dance as her own art form, and as of the 2000's my daughter is the head DJ of a Barefoot Boogie, teaches Sunday School at the Unitarian church where her husband and I sing in the choir, and has added two grandsons to my life, both of whom are (so far) miraculously willing to dance with Grandma. They don't share my taste in the arts, alas. Mortal Kombat and Nine Inch Nails are more their speed.

In 1971 I collaborated with composer Ross Dabrusin on a children's musical based on the fairy tale "One Eye, Two Eyes, Three Eyes", THE GOLDEN APPLE TREE. We garnered wonderful reviews and lost what seemed to me to be a lot of money. The stage manager of APPLE TREE decided that she wanted to direct some one-acts at Harvard, and commissioned her writer friends to provide scripts to order. Christopher Durang's 'DENTITY CRISIS and my CAST SPELL were the results. 'DENTITY went on to Yale and glory. CAST SPELL rested in my bottom drawer until 1998 when I dusted it off and put it with my other one acts on my spiffy new Web Site. Within a year, this early play finally had a second production-- and then a third, and by now about one a month. SPELL seems to be a favorite with student directors in Catholic high schools!

In the late 60's I began to work with David Wheeler's Theater Company of Boston. When cast in a staged reading of HENRY'S WAR ON WOMEN that Wheeler was directing, I met the playwright, Eliza Wyatt, whose work I very much admired. I later directed a science-fiction script of hers for the Theater Company and her ASSASSINATION OF RFK at Harvard's Loeb Ex. Eliza encouraged my writing, and by 1973 I had finished a one-act "about" my grandmother, WHAT KIND OF A LIFE IS THAT, which was put on by community theaters in '75, '78, and '81, was part of the Women In Theater Festival in NYC April of '83, and toured Boston area libraries in '86. I thought I ought to enroll in the graduate play writing program at Brandeis, but by now I was separated from Robin's father, whose engineering jobs had taken him to Taiwan and Saudi Arabia, and the program seemed out of reach financially as well as demanding more time than a working mother could spare. However, I showed my work to Don Patterson, who was writer in residence at Brandeis that year, and he invited me to become an auditor in his class, kindly scribbling "brilliant!" on my assignments.

Eliza Wyatt and I both became active in the developmental group, Playwrights' Platform, shortly after it was founded in 1972. For more than thirty years I have acted in readings of works-in-progress, led discussions, and served as lighting technician or producer for many of the Platform's annual One Act Festivals. Having a home base where I can have a reading of almost any short piece and a workshop production of the ones that please my colleagues is a wonderful spur to inspiration. Most of the scripts on this web site were written for the Platform festivals, and most of what I've written for the Festivals has gone on to subsequent productions elsewhere. REGENCY ROMANCE (1981) was in the Quaigh Dramathon, and after being selected as "critics choice" at the Off-Off B'way Short Play Festival was performed at the San Francisco Center Dramarama, Actor's Collaborative, Vokes Theater, St. Peter's Lunchtime, Medford Arts, Hyde Park Library, Women In Theatre, and Chain Lightning . PARTNERS, (1982) my "divorce play", evolved into a full length done by WIT's Spotlight series, Onstage Atlanta, Theater In Process, and it was also read by Playwright's Preview. CONVENTIONAL BEHAVIOR (1986) was for a while a kind of staple at science fiction conventions, and since making its appearance on STAGEPAGE.ORG has proven popular with high schools and college directing students. RULING PASSION (1983), a feminist satire, was at MIT and Women In Performance, and has been recorded for the blind. SACRED SPACE, (1984) exploring the issue of Sanctuary for refugees, was produced by four churches and videotaped. DEUS EX MACHINA (1991) was done Off-Off B'way, at Northwest College, Drama West in L.A., and most fittingly, in its historic setting of Athens, Greece during the International Women Playwrights Conference in 2000.

I worked as production assistant for Sarah Caldwell at the Opera Company of Boston in 1971-73, while maintaining a day job as an aide at English High School. In 1975, I entered the graduate program at Goddard College's branch in Cambridge, MA. I came out of the program in 1977 with an advanced degree, an historical play, SPIRIT AND FLESH, that was my thesis project (an epic drama about Victoria Woodhull, the Spiritualist clairvoyant and mesmeric orator who ran for president of the USA in 1872 on a platform of Equal Rights and Free Love) plus eight notebooks full of other "material". Some of that material eventually became AMAZONS, a women-take-over-the-world "poetic farce" based on my adventures with the Radical Separatist Witches in the program at Goddard. AMAZONS may even be my own favorite among my scripts, but in spite of a couple of bang up staged readings by powerful actresses like Annette Miller, it has elicited no interest among theatres whatsoever--- one prospective producer's rejection letter said "it could set the cause of women's rights back 100 years! (In 2005 a professor in Pakistan said that he is considering a production at his university-- I can't imagine how the satire would play in a society so different from the time and place the script targets, but it couldn't really set women back, could it...?)

In 1977 I had a shiny new M.A. in Women's Studies/ sub category Feminist Spirituality, but I seemed to have no prospect of employment. As a kind of joke, I entered my name in the Mass Bay Transportation Association job lottery - and won.

It was rather frightening to be the first woman bus driver on Blue Hill Avenue in the Roxbury ghetto, but for once in my life I had a union job with health insurance, paid leave, and a pension fund, and I was earning enough money over a bare living that I could put half into a nest egg that was to become my "trust fund" and support me while I devoted myself to Art full time-- as soon as I could afford to quit. Working nights and weekends forced me to give up acting and concentrate on my writing. The T SHOW: BREAKING IN AT THE T (1980) a series of sketches with music, again by Ross Dabrusin, is based on my pioneer experience driving trolleys. It had a critical and financial success at the local People's Theater-- probably on the basis of the publicity surrounding the novelty: not only the first female MBTA employee, but one who is going to Tell All-- singing and dancing, too! The T SHOW toured the state with a professional cast, but when the promised grant support didn't come through, the cost of that professional tour, every performance of which cost more than People's was paid for presenting it, drove the 40 year old amateur company into bankruptcy. That script was included in the American Place WOMEN'S PROJECT Play Bank, along with the play about VICTORIA WOODHULL. VICKY had a staged reading at The Next Move and was part of the WIT Spotlight series in '83. In 1994 VICKY underwent major revision-- from an eighteen character 2 1/2 hour epic to a leaner, meaner seven actor version called SPIRIT AND FLESH. That version was presented script-in-hand by the Win Atkins Theatre Project in Hoboken, New Jersey in March of 1996, and by a woman's theatre in London 1999, but neither company took it on to production.

After six years accumulating a nest egg out of which I could pay for my own health insurance for the next decade or so, I left the MBTA job in 1984 to teach study skills to freshmen at Northeastern University. The ten years I spent at N.U. as an adjunct instructor meant that I could return to active involvement with the stage: singing Buttercup in PINAFORE and Celia in IOLANTHE and Tessa in GONDOLIERS and Dame Hannah in RUDDIGORE; performing Madame Arcati in BLYTHE SPIRIT and Juno in JUNO AND THE PAYCOCK, Bessie Berger in AWAKE AND SING and Lola in COME BACK LITTLE SHEBA. Beginning in the 1990's with Carmel O'Reilly's Sugan Theatre, devoted to American premieres of contemporary Irish and Scottish writers, I played Nora in Rona Munroe's BOLD GIRLS, Maggie Mae in Marina Carr's PORTIA COUGHLIN, and Alice Inglis in Liz Lochhead's PERFECT DAYS. In March of 2006 I'll be in another Sugan premiere: Robin Soans' London prize winner, TALKING TO TERRORISTS. In 1989, I traveled with the solo drama MARTHA MITCHELL (written for me by my talented friend Rosanna Yamagiwa Alfaro) to the Edinburgh Fringe and got a rave review from THE SCOTSMAN; played the female lead in a "British-style" TV sitcom pilot set in a crematorium and scripted and produced by Eliza Wyatt for Newton Community Access cable; and once again worked at directing plays and musicals. In 1996 Northeastern decided it could get along without my instructional services, setting me "at liberty" to write and perform full time-- or to look around for temporary Day Jobs.

Negative responses to the 120 query letters I sent out describing CHOICES, my 1988 all-woman script set in the besieged Brookline abortion clinic that in December of 1994 would become the site of John Salvi's murderous rampage, inspired me to get together with Eliza Wyatt and Amy Ansara to form UNIT II, doing shoestring stagings of our socially conscious plays and staged readings of other work by women. We were committed to multiracial productions, and we lasted for three seasons before we ran out of steam. Once UNIT II supplied me with favorable reviews to send along with the script, CHOICES had staged readings at Wisdom Bridge, the Potomac Theater, S.F. Dramarama, Rhode Island Playwrights, Performers At Work, and a student production at the University of Nebraska. CHOICES was in development at Sundance Lab in July of 1990 (along with ANGELS IN AMERICA and THE KENTUCKY CYCLE-- a lot of notice the rest of us got that summer!) Burbage Ensemble scheduled an L.A. premiere of CHOICES, but the production closed in previews as one after another of its fourteen actresses abandoned the cast to accept work in movies or TV: each preview had an understudy on book in one of the parts. Even so, it was a thrilling production, and I continue to believe that the honesty and empathy and courage portrayed in this script will eventually move audiences. Early on, CHOICES was renamed UNDER SIEGE after I noticed that there were several other contemporary scripts titled "Choices" making the rounds. The script has yet to have a full professional production, although there was a flurry of renewed interest in it after the mid-nineties outbreak of bombings and sniper murders of doctors. A NYC production fell apart when the interested ensemble company was unable to put together an integrated cast. Our UNIT II did a benefit reading for Planned Parenthood in April of 1995, and subsequently Out Loud Theatre invited UNDER SIEGE to fill a guest slot at The Middle East performance center. The National School of the Arts in Johannesburg S.A. did a full scale student production during the 2000 season. Monologues from the play have been published in several anthologies and are available on this web site, and are frequently performed by high school and college students-- several students have proposed directing productions at their schools, but so far none of these projects have come to fruition. Now that the Supreme Court has been packed with conservatives who believe Roe v Wade is bad law and worse morality, my play is timely again. Early in 2006 the Women Artists Association will send out a mailing that lists my play as a resource in the fight to retain reproductive rights-- which are also bedrock human rights. I hope UNDER SIEGE will be read and performed at conferences and fund-raisers, and I'll be happy to donate the script to the Cause.

Thanks to playwright/lit mgr. Linda Eisenstein, Cleveland Public Theater did my anti-imperialism play TALKING POLITICS in 1991 (this script was later revised as PLAYING IN THE BUSH LEAGUE) and the CPT 1992 New Work Festival featured INTERCOURSE, OHIO-- my comic though also rather autobiographical account of coed life at a state college circa 1959.

UNBINDING OUR LIVES, three monologues of Chinese-American immigrant women of the Gold Rush era, was commissioned by the Asian-American Theater Project in 1992, and Christina Chan, the actress for whom it was written, has been touring the piece sporadically to schools and cultural organizations ever since. Words Across Cultures included part of UNBINDING in their Los Angeles Immigrant Theatre Project.  There was production in Japan in 1997, and several L.A. stagings for Women's History projects in 1998-2000. As of 2002 there was a video project in the works, helmed by Anita Noble and featuring three actresses rather than a single performer.

My as yet unproduced full lengths include THE PROPHET FREEMAN, which was workshopped by UNIT II and was a finalist at Midwest Playlabs and for the Texas Aggie contest before it was featured as a Dark Night reading at Centastage in May of 1996. It is about an armed millennial cult in the rural Midwest. MODIFIED RAPTURE, a May-December romantic musical comedy, set in an amateur Gilbert and Sullivan society, and NO SECRETS, NO LIES, a spy thriller dealing with Open Source code and touching on the BCCI-Octopus scandal, its hero based on a legendary MIT computer whiz I met at a science fiction convention, have generated enthusiasm at staged readings.

The science fiction interest is one I share with my present husband David Meyer and his artist daughter Katrina and my two thirtyish computer whiz stepsons, Mike and Erik. "The guys" have guided me through the wonders of Word Processing, and on to email and the Internet. For the last eight years I have been focusing on the Net as a possible path through the barriers erected against unagented scripts, and as a way of communicating with stage struck young people as well as theatre artists around the world. I  have done occasional reviewing over the years--- for the Brighton Journal, the Brookline Citizen, and the Cambridge Chronicle, and from June 1992 until it folded, as the regular drama critic for the weekly woman's paper, SHE.  In August of 1995 I became the Boston area reviewer for AisleSay, a World Wide Web magazine devoted to the theatre, and in 1997 a sometime contributor to Larry Stark's Boston Web magazine, The Theater Mirror. I have since put reviewing on the back burner, but I continue to be fascinated by the idea of being cyberlinked, and spend a frightening amount of time on newsgroups and email lists. My current project is to Web Publish my full drawer full of scripts, both here on my Site and in the electronic archives being set up at several "virtual" locations.  I've also been cultivating round-the-world connections through the International Center for Women Playwrights, attending the ICWP triennial conferences in Buffalo and Toronto, and in Galway, Ireland, June of 1997, where my ghost play INQUEST was part of the program, and Athens, Greece, 2000, where DEUS EX MACHINA was read-- and in Athens I got to act in some other women writers' plays, hurrah! After all these years, there I was again, playing a Wicked Stepmother! I really enjoy the opportunity to talk shop with sister-wrights from all over the world, both face-to-face at ICWP mini-conferences such as the 2001 event in Portland OR and the Boston/Cambridge Hur-Rah! performances and panels local ICWP writers and I put together at the cambridge Public Library and Wheelock College in the fall of 2004, and through the wonderful International Centre for Women Playwrights listserve.

When her son Darvish went off to study art at the Sloan School in London, my old friend Eliza Wyatt decided to return to her native England, where even obscure playwrights seem get a bit more respect and encouragement than is the case in the USA. In May of 1998, while visiting with her, I had a staged reading of my GOOD BLOOD AND HIGH STANDARDS at the Brighton Arts Festival. Eliza's house in Brighton is close enough to London that on my annual visits I can combine the pleasure of her company and the inspiration of her work with day trips to The Theatre Capitol of the English Speaking World for orgies of theatre-going. Returning on the last commuter rail train from one of these Day Trips inspired my one act monodrama, THE 12:22 BRIGHTON FROM LONDON/VICTORIA, which Larry Stark of the Theater Mirror, seeing it performed for a second time by Birgit Huppuch at the Hovey Players, pronounced "... a bloody masterpiece". Two more London Train one acts joined the first, adding up to a full evening. THE 10:04-- IN LOVE AND WAR is a monologue for a cosmopolitan beauty of a certain age who wants a writer to turn her exciting life into a film script for Julia Roberts. A third, THE 11:08--THE OLDEST ESTABLISHED PERMANENT ROLLING CAST PARTY is about an American theatre buff who is picked up by a pair of backstage crew members who work in London's West End theatres, who impress her with stories of the notorious Party Train that typified London theatre's Golden Age. This play was picked for development at the Last Frontier Theatre conference in Valdez, Alaska in the summer of 2005, and got a brilliant reading there.

Eliza and I exchange emails of the MS we are each working on between visits, and if either of us sees an opportunity that seems right for one of the plays written by the other, we try to make the connection. In 2001, Eliza arranged for a reading of my one act THE GENDER AGENDA by the same New Venture Theatre cast that was doing her play FAN TAIL DOVES. When that play was produced at the West Gloucester Theatre (MA) in 2004 as GODS AND GODDESSES, I did costumes for the production-- as for her new FLOWERS OF RED at the Boston Playwrights Theatre in January of 2006.

Either writing criticism has shortened my attention span, or I have become spoiled by how easy it is to get a production of a ten minute play as compared to longer ones. For the last several years I have completed mostly short pieces, and I've even stopped sending out submissions of my longer works to contests and theatres in the hopes of production. I know, now, that the chances that one of my full lengths will be staged are about a thousand to one-- while the odds that one of my ten minute plays will be staged by the first theatre I send it to are nearly fifty-fifty! Though I really don't like ten minute plays, I've a drawer full of them, and I've posted about twenty of them here on STAGEPAGE. Fresh off the keyboard in the fall of 2005 are CHRISTMAS AT GRANDMA'S: WHAT BIG TEETH YOU HAVE and SHOWTIME, a slice of local theatrical life in which two members of the audience steal the show in a theatre lobby-- and local playwrights vie to exploit the material. These short things have a comparatively long life, too: Most theatres that are interested in "new" full length plays really do want new ones, scripts finished just yesterday by the hot young talent who will be a household name tomorrow. But every week that STAGEPAGE is on line and attracting browsers I get multiple emails from young students requesting permission to perform one of my old one acts or ten minute plays-- for them, the play's the thing.

But it wasn't to be a crafter of entertaining little scenes that I dedicated my life in my long ago childhood, but to the creation of worlds as wide and deep and complex and colorful as the ones I saw when the curtain went up back then on the works of Sophocles or Shaw or Shakespeare. Brevity may be the soul of wit, modesty the very pinnacle of feminine virtue-- but they are not really my cup of tea. I buckled down in 2005 and completed 2 of the full length plays that I'd been stuck in the middle of an early draft for years: BOSTON'S BROTHERS IN LIBERTY, an historical play about the run-up to the Boston Massacre; and HAUNTING HAWTHORNES, about a poet/professor who is writing a libretto for an opera about Nathaniel Hawthorne and his wife Sophia. Both these scripts are plays in which music plays a major role, and they await a composer's collaboration to be brought to completion. But at least they are finished in so far as they have a preliminary shape, story and characters. BOSTON will be read at Playwright's Platform in May 2006.

Lately, my acting work seems to be picking up again. In 2004 I had major roles in 3 of the Platform's Festival plays, one of which won an award (My own Festival entry, SPEED DATING WITH THE DIVORCE LAWYER was propelled to the Best Play award by Jerry Bizants' spot-on comic timing. Later I played the central role in my own puppet&players piece UNDER COVER, about the emotional cost of a well-intentioned activist's wearing of the Muslim hijab, producted in a set of political plays title CLOUDS OF SUSPICION. UNDER COVER play was picked for inclusion at the Mid-America Theatre Conference in Kansas City, March of 2005, and I had very good time visiting with academics and practioners in a city I remembered fondly from my youth. 2005 ending with the original creative team from MARTHA MITCHELL reviving the show, its tale of White House Dirty Tricks timely once again as we have another Administration deeply into spying, lying, war and corruption. As the year turns to 2006 I find myself with the prospect of juggling 4 different on-stage accents simultaneously this spring: Martha's Arkansas, plus 3 English women of separate classes and localities and an Irish bar maid for Sugan's TALKING TO TERRORISTS. I'll need to keep my wits about me!

So to those of you who have read this far--Horton thanks you for your inexplicable and immoderate interest in who I am, and what I've done so far. I hope you'll find plays worth your attention here, but if not--- well, I intend to get right to work writing better-- and also bigger-- ones. I note, however, that the two I'm working on currently are about death and loss, and that the third that seems to be forming in my mind threatens to be a dark political satire. No wonder acting looks so attractive to me these days!


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