Karen Ackerman
Eden Prairie, MN
Biography

Karen’s theatrical experience began at the age of 15, when she played Kim MacAfee in a local production of Bye Bye, Birdie. Kim is 16 years old so Karen’s inauguration was precocious even though, at this point, she might be considered a late bloomer. She majored in theater at the University of Minnesota, where she studied under Doc Whiting, and, after graduation, continued acting in local Minneapolis theaters.

When she eventually began writing, Karen turned to fiction for children and young adults but never considered writing for the stage. Her first play, Slow Dance in Cut Time, was born in frustration when an unyielding novel demanded it be revised in the form of a play. Since then, Karen has written six full-length plays and two ten-minute works.

Karen is a past recipient of a Heekin Group Foundation Writing Fellowship and a winner of the of TimeOut/Theatre 503 Urban Scrawl competition for her radio drama Arnos Grove.

Plays

by Karen Ackerman

Every age has its issues.  One of those issues is aging.

Slow Dance in Cut Time begins with a journey, a death, and a careless comment which converge like streams spilling into a river.  The characters of assorted ages and stages of life, clinging to flotsam or fighting against the flow, are all born along by the currents, out of control, tossed in the eddies, washed downstream.

References to Peter Pan — Anna’s physical size and manner of standing, the play of shadows, the talk of flying, the ticking clock reminding us of the approaching Croc, the bedroom window in Quentin’s house in Kent and Anna’s bare-legged silhouette, etc. — run throughout the play as symbols of the fight many of us wage against age.  But the ceaselessly flowing river is also present, drowning us all, eventually.

While Peter Pan may choose not to grow up, nor to grow old, the rest of us have no choice.  Short of an early death, we all grow old.  Growing up — that’s another matter.  We may choose to ignore or excise the sag, fat, and fold.  We may shrug off the weighty residue of experience and memory.  Still we grow old.  That said, mightn’t it be best to grow up as well?

Cast:
4 women; 4 men Anna Cooper: 56 years old; American; married; writer of children’s stories; in London visiting her daughter Leah Alec Newton: 71 years old; British actor; single; known for the numerous young actresses with whom he becomes involved; despite his reputation, a very nice man Quentin Mitchell: 70 years old; British actor; knighted; rich and famous; Alec’s oldest and best friend Nicholas Parker: 41 years old; British actor; Quentin’s lover of seven years Leah Cooper: 23 years old; Anna’s daughter; blonde; working on career as a theatrical designer in London Gillian McDermott: 35 years old; London theatrical designer; Leah’s mentor and friend; single; pregnant Saundra: 24 year old actress; one of Alec’s protégés Mrs. Whitcomb: Quentin’s housekeeper in Kent (may be played by actress playing Gillian) Geraldine Robb: woman in coffee shop; producer; (may be played by actress playing Gillian) Melanie: twenty-something starlet at coffee shop; tall; brunette; beautiful; six-inch heels with six-inch skirt Jessica: twenty-something starlet at coffee shop; tall; beautiful; intense (Melanie and Jessica may be played by actress playing Saundra) Man One/Man Two: acquaintances of Alec at coffee shop (may be played by same actor)
by Karen Ackerman

The threefold responsibility of the artist is: to creation, the individual talent, and to humanity.    Charles Philip Brooks

Edna St. Vincent Millay, deceased, is brought before the Highest Court to answer for her offenses.

The Charge: Crimes against humanity through willful debasement of the artist’s body and mind.

The Problem:Does an artist have the right to destroy her life and hence her particular and unique talent with sex, drugs, alcohol?

Mightn’t it be right and proper to hold artists to a higher standard than we hold more common types of humankind?

What does an artist owe the world of Art in light of the fact that many artists are denied the space, time, support, even physical and mental safety by which they may be allowed to pursue their vision?

What right does an artist have to ruin lives, not her own and not even those who have chosen to participate, but the lives of innocent bystanders?  Should an artist be held responsible for any and all collateral damage?

Cast:
4 women; 2 men Court Clerk Judge Gordon Oliphant Douglas – a grotesque dummy, to be carried on stage by the Court Clerk Prosecutor – a man with guilt to expunge Edna St. Vincent Millay Norma Millay – Edna’s older sister Kathleen Millay – Edna’s younger sister Cora Millay – Edna’s mother Henry MacCracken – President of Vassar College during Edna’s student years Arthur Ficke – Edna’s lifelong friend and lover Mrs. James Lawyer (played by same actress playing Kathleen or Norma) Eugen Boisevain – Edna’s husband Clerk, MacCracken, Ficke, Boisevain may all be played by the same actor, however this will require an actor with significant flexibility.
by Karen Ackerman

Lurking variable (definition) - a variable having an important effect on the relationship between variables in a study but not included among the variables studied.

Stella, having left her husband and her home, withdraws from the world, constructing a reality outside the norm where she begins to discover her range as a painter.  Although others intrude, she is defended and comforted by her companion Matthew, a construct based on a man she met at a gallery opening and whom she does not meet again, in the flesh, until several months later, at the opening of her own work.  In the end, the real Matthew Owen will wrest her from her solitude and the comfortable relationship she had developed with her imagined Matthew. Stella’s choice to go away with the real Matthew should leave the audience discomfited.  Stella, by severing the relationship with her imagined Matthew, may be abandoning that portion of her psyche that keeps her upright, forward-moving; her source of power and confidence. It might be argued that some people are complete in a circle that includes no one but themselves.

Cast:
Four Women; Five men (some actors play several roles) Stella Rosen—a painter, wife, mother, age: early sixties Jasper Rosen—Stella’s husband, successful comedy writer/club owner, age: sixties Tom O’Connor—Jasper’s business partner Mandy O’Connor—his wife Sid Strong—owner of Strong Comedy (chain of comedy clubs) Helen Strong—his wife Adam Rosen—son of Stella/Jasper, curator at the Obelisk Gallery Arts Center Jennifer Clarke—Adam’s girlfriend Matthew Owen (real)—art critic Matthew Owen (imagined)—the First Male Voice realized Eugene Gannon—art critic Dorothy Cuthbert—wealthy patron of the arts George Bush Barbara Bush Voices Guests at the two art exhibits
by Karen Ackerman

Eve Kline is of a particular generation as well as of a particular class.  Raised to be a wife and mother, taught that to ask for more out of life is to be, if not un-natural, then certainly ridiculous, she finds herself nearer the end than the beginning of life, without the education she had longed for, without a fulfilling career, without a partner’s support and relief, without children to provide purpose, and without energy, confidence, or direction. So, to George Elliot’s blithe statement, It is never too late to be what you might have been, Eve’s response might be: Don’t be an ass.  Of course it’s too late. 

Eve has come to Cambridge, to visit her daughter Lily who studies there on a post-graduate scholarship.  This exclusive university town, along with all it represents, amplifies Eve’s feelings of anger and shame.  She realizes that she envies Lily and the realization strikes like a rock to the temple.  Envy, to Eve, is the ugliest of sins, unspeakable, sickening.  And to envy one’s own child is akin to prolicide or, at the very least, the unbearable wish to see Lily brought low.  These unnatural desires throw Eve into a manic state in which she believes she has the ability to fix the world.

Cast:
Cast of 8: 3 men; 5 women In Order of Appearance Adam Eve Lilith Eve Kline –American, age 60-ish Sean McCracken – porter at Queens’ College Lily Kline– Eve’s daughter; attending Cambridge on a fellowship Judith Shakespeare Will Shakespeare Dr. Abdi Bashir – Somali/English, physician Karl - German Ingrid -American Simone Byatt – undergraduate at Clare College, Cambridge Cecily Byatt – Simone’s mother; graduate of Clare College, Cambridge Charles Darwin Emma Darwin Minister Ancient Don Eve’s Mother Eve’s Father Policeman ********** Doubling roles: Eve (original)-Lily Lilith-Ingrid Adam-Karl Will-Karl Judith-Lily Darwin-Sean Emma-Cecily Minister-Abdi Ancient Don-Karl Mother-Ingrid Father-Karl Policeman-Karl
by Karen Ackerman

Our world rotates within an atmosphere of permanent war, so thick and noxious one might assume it was created by the Devil’s exhalations and farts.  But don’t blame the Devil. He’s doing his best to show us the way out or up or through this miasma of self-defeat.  It isn’t his fault that we are weak and cannot bear our own memories.  It isn’t his fault that we are wrong-headed and refuse to listen to the truths and warnings delivered by our poets. It isn’t his fault that more poets must be gleaned in order to shore up his message.  For the Devil never gives up hope.

We, on the other hand, are silly, weak, dangerous creatures, set on self-destruction as much as self-preservation.  And so we march forward with our backs to the front, carrying memories that might inform but which we bind and stow within the deepest recess of our minds for to remember would be suicide.  These are the impossible memories.

We must sublimate to survive.

But for a poet to sublimate is to sin at the most fundamental level.  This act deserves damnation, for a poets’ sole purpose is to remember and remind.  The prudent and common comes from Heaven.  Everything innovative, strange, and poetic thrives in Hell, under the Devil’s influence. All those who dare are damned.

Disclaimer: The playwright is aware that to write a play about war, knowing that this effort will not stop any of the world’s conflicts, guarantees, through this failure, her own damnation.

Cast:
5 men; 1 woman (some roles are doubled) Doc Scutari – medic at firebase Soldiers 1,2,3,and 4 -(played by Owen,Douglas,Mason,Hanson) Stretcher Bearers – (played by Parrish, Hanson) 1st Lieutenant Wilfred Owen – WWI poet, age 25 Captain Keith Douglas – WWII poet, age 24 Captain Steve Mason – Viet Nam War poet, age 65 Captain June Fredrick – nurse, age 28 Lieutenant Colonel Wesley Hanson – infantry, age 44 Brigadier General Jonathan Parrish – deputy commander Satan – played by Parrish Note: Any resemblance on the part of General Parrish to U.S. Brigadier General Jeffry Sinclair could be coincidental.
by Karen Ackerman

Statement of Purpose

Note:

The character of Jonah Hilliard is based, somewhat, on Kalief Browder, a young African American, 16 years old when he was arrested for allegedly stealing a backpack two weeks earlier.  Kalief was sent to Riker’s Island and held, without trial, for three years.  Two of those years, he was restricted to the Central Punitive Segregation Unit or solitary confinement.  Kalief was released in 2013 without a trial.  In 2015, Kalief committed suicide by hanging.

I began this play with a question in mind: What differences are there between solitude and solitary confinement?

Solitude is a state wherein many people feel discomfort.  Human beings are often defined as communal creatures, needing the support of other people in order to live well.  But quite often solitude is touted as a growth medium for creativity, spirituality, insight.

Solitary confinement, on the other hand, is most often defined as torture.  Anders Breivik, who is held in prison under tight security for murdering 77 people in the summer of 2011, recently sued the Norwegian government on the grounds that his punishment was inhumane and won a partial victory.  Yet Breivik’s state of detention might be considered POSH compared to the solitary confinement within U.S. prisons, where inmates, as a result of the deprivations and abuses, are driven mad.

This play, The Depth of Holes, is an imaginative investigation of the various effects of these states of being on my characters, as Darcy assumes a life of solitude and Jonah digs his way into solitary confinement, a.k.a. The Hole.

Cast:
Four men; Three women Ages 18 to 65+ Mr. Smaka – an immigrant from Bosnia; 65+ years old, speaks fluent English with an accent Mrs. Smaka – an immigrant from Bosnia; 65+ years old; speaks English with slight difficulty; both she and Mr. Smaka came to the U.S. 20 years ago Professor Hank Perry – Professor of History at Berkeley; Caucasian male, approximately 45 years old Jonah Hilliard – African American male, 18 years old Caleb – African American male, 22 years old Professor Darcy Perry – Professor of Comparative Literature at Berkeley, Caucasian female, approximately 40 years old Student (voice only; same actor as Caleb) Dean Simmons – (same actor as Mr. Smaka) Defense – (same actor as Hank) Aunt Sally – professional woman, African American female, 50+ years old Witch (same actor as Aunt Sally) Troll (same actor as Caleb) Ronny (same actor as Hank) White (same actor as Caleb) Guard One (same actor as Caleb) Guard Two (same actor as Hank) Warden (same actor as Mr. Smaka)