Philip Vassallo

Playwright

Philip Vassallo has written numerous produced plays, including What Do You Charge for Cure?, How Silent Do I Sound?, Do I Bleed in the Dark?, Isn’t This the Way You Wanted Me?, How You Get to Main Street?, The Spelling Bee, Ask Me, Everything Means Something Else, The Phoenix, The Community Service, Family Secrets, The AFI’s Top 10 Movie Quotes, Waiting, and So What If Life Is a Cliché?. His licensed plays are The Spelling Bee (Samuel French), Everything Means Something Else, The Phoenix, and So What If Life Is a Cliché? (Brooklyn Publishers); Family Secrets and What Are You Running For? (Hit Plays); and The Eye Begins to See, The Author Makes No Difference, Every Day’s a Holiday, and Hurry Hurry: Twelve Dramatic and Comedic Sketches (Green Room Press). Other published plays include Questions Asked of Dying Dreams and A Case-by-Case Basis: Four Short Plays (Mgarr Publishing). He is also the author of three instructional books (How to Write Fast Under Pressure, The Art of E-mail Writing, and The Art of On-the-Job Writing), two essay collections (Person to Person: Essays from Two Centuries and The Inwardness of the Outward Gaze: Learning and Teaching through Philosophy), and two volumes of poetry (Like the Day I Was Born: 40 Poems, 40 Places, 40 Days and American Haiku). He has received several honors: New Jersey State Council on the Art playwriting grant; Critic’s Choice, Samuel French Off-Off Broadway Short Play Festival; Gettysburg College One-Act Play Festival Award; Finalist, Morton R. Sarett Playwriting Award, Ruby Lloyd Aspey Playwriting Competition, and White-Willis Theatre New Playwrights Contest; and Semifinalist, Park Avenue Methodist United Church Playwriting Festival, Albert Panowski New Play Award, and Strawberry One-Act Festival.

Highlights

Ask Me

Licensed: Mgarr Publishing Genre: Drama Type: One Act Running: 25 minutes Themes: young love, teen suicide, education Time: Present Premiere: April 18, 1999, Harold Clurman Theater, New York City Characters: 1 female, 1 male,  both age 13; 3 punk band members, gender and age flexible Setting: suburban town Requirements: guitar, bass, drum kit, voiceover Synopsis: Two 13-year-old eighth graders commit suicide because their parents forbid them from seeing each other. The action unfolds in reverse to the moment they first meet in order to offer a glimpse into the intensity of discovery and anxiety of passion that accompanies experience for adolescents emerging from childhood yet still dependent on parental and school authorities. Kudos: Selected, Samuel French Off-Off Broadway Play Festival

  The Author Makes No Difference

Licensed: Green Room Press Genre: Drama Type: One Act Running: 10 minutes Themes: self-identity, religion, relationships Time: Present Premiere: Unproduced Characters: 2 females,  both 19 Setting: studio apartment Requirements: minimal Synopsis: When a young woman is not ready for her double date, she explains to her girlfriend that she is writing a letter to the editor of a local newspaper.  Her letter contains six notes left by a mysterious guest of a motel where she works as a chambermaid. His notes include apocalyptic passages from six major religions. After she says that she is writing the letter at the stranger's request, her girlfriend attacks her common sense before slowly unraveling in doubt and longing to believe in something as much as her friend does.

  The Community Service

Licensing: Mgarr Publishing Genre: Drama Type: One Act Running: 20 minutes Themes: race relations, immigration, poverty Time: Present Premiere: February 14, 2004, Producer's Club, New York City Characters: 1 female, Chinese; 1 male, Black; both late-thirties Setting: candy store, New York City Requirements: minimal Synopsis: This experimental play bends identities to examine cultural perspectives and communication barriers between two races. A Black man, appearing drunk, threateningly enters a Chinese woman's candy store before business hours. While his behavior seems menacing, the woman stands fast against him. She and her husband, now deceased, left behind in China an unwanted child, a decision the woman regrets. And the man, once a police officer, pulled the trigger that inadvertently killed woman's husband a year ago. They are actually meeting to make sense of the last year: the man down on his luck, out of a job, and estranges from his family, and the woman, apparently stuck in a candy store she has no desire to own and operate. Kudos: Selected, Strawberry One-Act Festival

  Do I Bleed in the Dark?

Licensing: Mgarr Publishing Genre: Drama Type: One Act Running: 25 minutes Themes: homelessness, loyalty, friendship, existence Time: 1990s Premiere: January 30, 1992, Amandla Theater, Howell, New Jersey, as part of Questions Asked of Dying Dreams Characters: 1 female, late thirties; 3 males, 2 early forties and 1 late teens Setting: an alleyway between two tenements Requirements: minimal Synopsis: A homeless ex-boxer on the verge of death holds the fate of the man who shot him in his hands as he contemplates his last chance to make meaning of his harsh life. In his dying moments, he sees his life passing before him and recognizes that his assailant is the same person who did not give him a promised break twenty years earlier. Revenge or forgiveness? Kudos: New Jersey Council on the Arts Playwriting Festival, as part of Questions Asked of Dying Dreams

  Every Day's a Holiday

Licensing: Green Room Press Genre: Drama Type: Two Act Running: 90 minutes Themes: adolescence, teen friendship, high school, tolerance Time: 2009 Premiere: Unproduced Characters: 3 females, 3 males, all 18 years old Setting: In an around a suburban town 20 miles from a major American city Requirements: numerous props and sets Synopsis: The lives of six teenagers, all close friends who call themselves the Scheme Team, unfold in 10 scenes set on the core theme of 10 federal holidays. The action takes place at the end of their junior year and beginning of their senior year in high school. ACT ONE Scene One: “Resolution” (New Year’s Day) – Sunday, January 4,  shopping mall Scene Two: “Tolerance” (Martin Luther King’s Birthday) – Friday, January 16, high school English class Scene Three: “Leadership” (George Washington’s Birthday) – Monday, February 16, hospital Scene Four: “Remembrance” (Memorial Day) – Tuesday, May 26, high school English class Scene Five: “Freedom” (Independence Day) – Saturday, July 4, town park ACT TWO Scene One: “Work” (Labor Day) – Wednesday, September 9, pharmacy Scene Two: “Discovery” (Columbus Day) – Monday, October 12, museum Scene Three: “Honor” (Veterans Day) – Thursday, November 11, high school auditorium Scene Four: “Gratitude” (Thanksgiving Day) – Wednesday, November 25, high school soccer field Scene Five: “Birth” (Christmas Day) – Friday, December 25, den of of one of the girls' house

  Everything Means Something Else

Licensed: Brooklyn Publishers Genre: Drama Type: One Act Running: 10 minutes Theme: communication, death, parent-child relationships Time: Present Premiere: April 19, 2003, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey Characters: 1 female, 17; 1 male, 18 Setting: funeral parlor Requirements: minimal Synopsis: This alternately comic and tragic duet features a a teenage brother and sister at the wake of their father, a renowned linguist but negligent parent. In trying to assess their father's professional achievement, brother and sister, masters of language in their own right, show they have inherited their father's gift of communication—and realize they share his sense of isolation.

  The Eye Begins to See

Licensed: Green Room Press Genre: Drama Type: Short Play Running: 45 minutes Themes: mother-daughter relationships,  puberty, counseling services, ethical practice Time: Present Premiere: (reading)  October 4, 2003, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, New Jersey Characters: 4 females, age 40, 36, 14, 14 Setting: a psychologist's office, two apartments Requirements: home and office furniture, office equipment Synopsis: This is a story of misplaced affection, professional conflicts, identity crises, and personal longing. A renowned psychologist treats a teenage girl for narcolepsy and sleep apnea while studying the girls remarkable ability of recall. Meanwhile, the doctor confronts challenges brought on by the girl's mother and evades personal problems in dealing with her own estranged teenage daughter. These divergent situation culminate in the characters establishing unusual relationships and unexpected alliances.

  Family Secrets

Licensed: Hit Plays Genre: Drama Type: One Act Running: 10 minutes Themes: familial relationship, medical care, war, criminal justice Time: 2006 Premiere: February 23, 2005, City Theater Short Cuts tour, Miami, Florida Characters: 2 females, 43 and 19; 1 male, 21 Setting: a hospital room, an Iraqi bunker, a prison execution room Requirements: minimal Synopsis: A hospital patient on her death bed, a convict on death row, and an Iraqi captive speak to the audience. They are unaware of each other's presence and of their blood relationship to each other. Through their monologues, we see the limitations of language, the richness of emotional energy on the face of death, and the nature of blood relationships. Kudos: Selected, City Theater Tour, Miami, Florida

  How Silent Do I Sound?

Licensing: Mgarr Publishing Genre: Drama Type: One Act Running: 15 minutes Themes: disabilities, bigotry, loyalty, communication, existence Time: Present Premiere: January 30, 1992, Amandla Theater, Howell, New Jersey, as part of Questions Asked of Dying Dreams Characters: 2 males, mid-fifties and 25 Setting: an empty floor of an office building, New Brunswick, New Jersey Requirements: minimal Synopsis: An aging, bigoted moving man  returns from vacation to work with gripes against the world. He  meets his new work partner, a deaf man of uncertain ethnic origin who is young enough to be his son. The little respect the older man shows for the younger one leads to his precarious destiny. Kudos: New Jersey Council on the Arts Playwriting Festival, as part of Questions Asked of Dying Dreams

  How You Get to Main Street?

Licensed: Mgarr Publishing Genre: Drama Type: One Act Running: 30 minutes Themes: homelessness, legal system, community service Time: Present Premiere: May 10, 1993, Courtyard Playhouse, New York City Characters: 2 males, mid-thirties Setting: An alleyway behind a suburban department store Requirements: minimal Synopsis: When a lawyer, Frank, decides to stand up to his suburban town by defending a homeless man's right to wander the streets of his community, he realizes that he will lose the hard-earned respect he has gained from his neighbors. What he hoped to gain, at least, was justice for the homeless man, Da-oo. The first thing Da-oo does when he wins his case is burglarize Frank's home. The play begins with an outraged, knife-wielding Frank stalking an indifferent Da-oo. Frank immediately recovers his stolen property. Then why doesn't he take his belongings and leave Da-oo alone in his sleeping hole behind the shopping mall? Things that Da-oo says trigger Frank's imagination as the scene flashes back to courtroom scenes that ultimately prove Da-oo's brute force is feeble in contrast to Frank's "lawyer words." Kudos: Selected, Samuel French Off-Off Broadway Play Festival

  Hurry Hurry: Twelve Dramatic and Comedic Sketches

LicensedGreen Room Press Genre: existential drama, absurdist comedy Type: One-Act Collection Running: 120 minutes Themes: cinema, literature, legacy, creativity, communication, isolation, psychology, art, music,  existence, television, social behavior, conscience Time: Present Premiere: 2015, New Orleans Military and Maritime Academy Characters: 30 roles (18 female, 12 male), minimum 3 females and 2 males, ages 20-50 . Some gender-flexible roles Setting: various Requirements: various but minimal sound, video, props Synopsis: Issues of art, pop culture, creating, travel, theology, betrayal, loyalty, loneliness, and friendship collide in this 12-sketch, 30-role production of 6 comedies and 6 dramas. Actors looking for diverse tour de force challenges can each play up to 6 roles, or the production can include up to 30 actors with any number in between. Each scene change requires no more than 1 minute preparation time. NOTE: These 12 plays can be staged individually, partially, or collectively, and in any order that the production company deems appropriate. ACT ONE (48 minutes) 1. The American Film Institute’s Top Ten Movie Quotes (In No Particular Order) – Lovers in a car cite the AFI's top ten movie quotes as the situation dictates. (2 minutes, comedy) 2. The Legacy Poems – A renowned poet finds himself defending his work and his worldview as he meets a new editor and the publisher he thought he knew about his latest manuscript. (17 minutes, drama) 3. Take Me to the Darkest Light – A blind man confronts an anxious young working woman on a train platform, willing to pay her for light. (3 minutes, drama) 4. The Head's Up – A tourist in a European cafe is on a long distance call with his wife in the USA as he endlessly awaits service and encounters the futility of visiting 27 European Union countries in an 80-day whirlwind tour. (6 minutes, drama) 5. Waiting – Two desperate people, a woman about to give birth and a man at a supermarket checkout counter,  can use the same language. (3 minutes, comedy) 6. The Meaning of the Blues – Emily Dickinson, Duke Ellington, and Frida Kahlo meet for a walk through the Hermitage, Rijksmuseum, Louvre, Apostolic Palace, Prado, National Gallery, and Metropolitan Museum of Art as they share their art, philosophy, and affection. (12 minutes, drama) ACT TWO (52 minutes) 7. The Five Stages of Grief – Whether it's a couple breaking up their relationship or a boss terminating an employee, the five stages of grief will surely surface. (3 minutes, comedy) 8. Who, What, Where, When, Why, How – An artist silently sketches a grieving jogger near Ground Zero as he recalls his feelings of September 11, 2001, precisely seven years before. (6 minutes, drama) 9. This Is Your Life – A female and her subconscious age from 6 to 66 as the history American sitcoms unfold. (16 minutes, comedy) 10. Hooked Up –  Two strangers in the waiting room of a doctor's office become bitter enemies until they realize they were high school friends 11 years earlier.  (7 minutes, comedy) 11. What If I Said – A veteran now employed by Homeland Security grapples with guilt, anger, and despair as his conscience alternately warns and mocks him about impeding security threats.  (10 minutes, drama) 12. Writer's Blockhead –  The creative right brain and analytical left brain of a writer spar, frustrating her as she tries to complete a story.  (5 minutes, comedy)

  Isn't This the Way You Wanted Me?

Licensing: Mgarr Publishing Genre: Comedy Type: One Act Running: 25 minutes Themes: marriage, desire, aging, existence Time: Present Premiere: January 30, 1992, Amandla Theater, Howell, New Jersey, as part of Questions Asked of Dying Dreams Characters: 1 female, 45; 1 male, 45 Setting: a bedroom Requirements: a bed with a nightstand and lamp Synopsis: Before going to bed, a woman understandably complains to her drunk husband about all that he has lost: his manners, physique, sex drive, and consciousness. When he wakes up in the middle of the night a completely changed man, just the man she once fell in love with, she realizes that some things cannot—and should not—change. Kudos: New Jersey Council on the Arts Playwriting Festival, as part of Questions Asked of Dying Dreams

  The Phoenix

Licensed: Brooklyn Publishers Genre: Drama Type: One Act Running: 20 minutes Themes: 9/11, mother-daughter relationships, depression Time: December 11, 2002 Premiere: July 29, 2003, Chernuchin Theater, New York City Characters: 2 females, one 51 and one 18 Setting: empty stage Requirements: minimal set and props Synopsis: Fifteen months after a woman's only child, a college student, was killed in the World Trade Center, she lapses into one of her many bouts with depression, living vicariously through her image of her daughter's life. A girl, who cannot be seen or heard by the woman, exists to the audience as the daughter's spirit, trying unsuccessfully to reach her mother. Feelings of maternal guilt and youthful anxiety surface, but the girl struggles to release her mother so that they can both move on with their lives–one in the flesh and one in spirit. Kudos: Finalist, Strawberry On-Act Festival

  So What If Life's a Cliche?

Licensed:Brooklyn Publishers Genre: Drama Type: One Act Running: 10 minutes Themes: relationships, memory, life lessons Time: Present Premiere: February 25, 2011, Trinity Church, Englewood, New Jersey Characters: 2, gender and age flexible Setting: An stage with two folding chairs Requirements: minimal Synopsis: The two speakers are neither here nor there but everywhere, our contemplative conscience that accompanies all our experiences as we stride toward desires, steer clear of fears, and escape from inevitable realities. They are not contrasting characters but complementary ones, completing each other's thoughts always with certainty but sometimes with profound sadness or satisfaction or strength. They represent the conscious choices we make, knowing full well we may regret them yet resigning ourselves to our human fate of exercising our free will.

  The Spelling Bee

Licensed: Samuel French Genre: Drama Type: One Act Running: 40 minutes Themes: race relations, criminal justice, educational equity Time: Present Premiere: December 12, 1993, Village Gate, New York City Characters: 2 males in their thirties, one black, one white Setting: empty stage Requirements: minimal Synopsis: Two young men, one black and one white, have been victimized by the same crime. Each tells his story while the other grudgingly plays supporting roles to embellish the narrative. The black man assails everyone he sees in the white world: neighborhood greasers, sociology professors, and sleazy businessmen. At the core of the white man's tale are reverse discrimination, black-on-white crime, and an impotent justice system. Their tirades culminate in an explosive confrontation. Kudos: Winner, Samuel French Off-Off Broadway Play Festival “Vassallo orchestrates an intricate duel of wits between two embittered men struggling to validate their own bigotry.” – Steven Boone, Show Business “Mr. Vassallo has taken an interesting approach. … There is some refreshingly honest talk from both characters—no political correctness here.” – Neil Genzlinger, New York Times "The strength of Vassallo’s 1995 playlet is that he balances griefs. Nothing … is black-and-white. Intolerance, the playwright observes, can sometimes grow from understandable resentments—but the problem with rational gripes is that they don't often lead to attempts at reconciliation. –  David Finkle, Theater Mania “A bitter sampling of bigotry and racial epithets … Most blatantly challenging and angry …hints at social conventions, political correctness in universities, and the genesis of bigotry among the average folks on the street… offers some poignant moments of heated exchange.” – Kessa De Santis, Electronic Link “A highly theatrical exploration of ongoing racial grudges in the Bronx.” – Mark  Dundas Wood, Backstage

  What Are You Running For?

Synopsis: As a high school boy prepares for his student council campaign speech, he struggles with two daunting tasks: overcoming the popularity of his more self-assured opponent, and living up to the success of his father's career. As he suffers the relentless teasing of his younger sister and listens to the wise counsel of one of his classmates, he learns an important lesson about keeping things real. Licensed: Green Room Press Genre: Comedy Type: One Act Running: 30 minutes Themes: high school life, boy-girl relationships, friendship Time: Present Running: 30 minutes Premiere: November 18, 1993, Carl Sandburg Middle School, Old Bridge, New Jersey Characters: 2 females, 2 females, all mid-teens Setting: family room Requirements: minimal Synopsis: As a high school student prepares his student council campaign speech, he struggles with two daunting tasks: overcoming the popularity of his more self-assured but shallow opponent, and living up to the success of his father's career. As he suffers the relentless teasing of his younger sister and listens to the wise counsel of one of his classmates, he learns an important lesson about keeping things real.

  What Do You Charge for a Cure?

Licensing: Mgarr Publishing Genre: Drama Type: One Act Running: 35 minutes Themes: developmental disabilities, professional crises, gun violence Time: Present Premiere: January 30, 1992, Amandla Theater, Howell, New Jersey, as part of Questions Asked of Dying Dreams Characters: 2 females, 40 and 30; 2 males, 30 and 25 Setting: a clinical director's office Requirements: office furnishings, custodial supplies Synopsis: A director of a clinical program for developmentally disabled individuals confronts her personal and professional doubts as she counsels a problematic client and interviews a brain-injured man ill-suited for her program. Kudos: New Jersey Council on the Arts Playwriting Festival, as part of Questions Asked of Dying Dreams;  Selected, Gettysburg College One-Act Play Festival