Brighde Mullins is a playwright whose work explores the possibilities of language onstage and ways to tell stories that have never been told. She has written of the demi-monde of the outsider; has a fascination with landscape and ecology and with the dictates of biology and historical circumstance; and has often written about the Mojave Desert and other arid landscapes. Her work has been inflected by an admixture of the theories of Artaud (“we are not free and the sky can still fall on our heads”) and Yeats (“everything personal soon rots, unless it is packed in ice or salt”).
sitting, staying in place.
USC offers a broad range of courses in English, American and Anglophone literature, and related areas such as creative and expository writing, literature and visual arts, ethnic literature and cultural studies, and literary and cultural theory.
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Brighde Mullins is a playwright, poet and teacher. Her plays have been seen in London, New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. Awards include a Guggenheim, the Whiting Foundation Award, and the United States Artists Award in Literature.
“Writing for the Stage”
Writing for the stage implies that you are writing words that will be spoken by actors and heard by an audience. If you are writing for actors, then actors are your vehicles, your instruments. This is the most important distinction between writing for the stage and writing for another genre… The play fully exists only in production, and therefore the single most vital element that a playwright has to shaping her craft is access to a theatre.
Brighde Mullins’s plays include The Bourgeois Pig; Rare Bird; Monkey in the Middle; Those Who Can, Do; Fire Eater; Topographical Eden; and Pathological Venus.
King JohnIn this modern take on Shakespeare’s King John, Brighde Mullins navigates the political twists and turns of early English monarchy. Mullins’s translation parses Shakespeare’s language carefully, with a focus on its sonic qualities. Her version focuses on the listener, developing the play for the immense pleasure of it—the fortuitous juxtapositions of the fates of these characters.
Fire EaterFire Eater is the story of a Yankee temperance preacher’s travels to famine Ireland. This errant philanthropist, armed with Emersonian idealism and the conviction that the Irish were drinking up their food source of hops and grains, encounters a beautiful scullery maid, pagan crones, an oversexed heiress and would-be martyrs that populate the bogs, bedrooms and confessionals of this irreverent look at history and hysteria.
Monkey in the MiddleIt’s the mid-1980s, just when the Human Genome Project is getting underway. After being dumped in the desert by her military-minded dad, Tara goes on the lam to escape her dysfunctional family, and bumps into a brilliant symmetry-obsessed geneticist who also happens to be a deadbeat dad and former heroin addict.
I first learned the word from Samuel Beckett. He uses it to describe his short, his EXTREMELY short play “Come and Go.” Beckett’s plays became shorter and shorter as he got older. My friend Rick Cluchey, who worked with Beckett, says that Beckett didn’t want to “waste people’s time” and that’s why his texts became shorter and shorter.
Brighde Mullins Curriculum Vitae
1993: Columbia University, Teachers College, New York, New York Post-Graduate Fellow, English Education and Writing.
1989: University of Iowa Writer’s Workshop, Iowa City, Iowa. M.F.A., Poetry. Critical Thesis: “The Use of Fairy-Tales in the Poetry of John Ashbery” Creative Thesis: “Dear Utopia” (poems)
1987: Yale University, Yale School of Drama, New Haven, CT.M.F.A., Playwriting. Thesis: “True Blue and Trembling” (play)
1984: University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Nevada. B.A., English, Highest Honors
2010-present: University of Southern California; Professor of the Practice
2012 Fall Semester: Deep Springs College, Deep Springs, California. Taught one Creative Writing Workshop and served as Writer-in-Residence
2009-2011: University of California, Santa Barbara; Associate Professor of the Practice (visiting) Theatre
2006-08: California Institute of the Arts, Director, M.F.A. Writing
2006-present: Queens University of Charlotte, low-residency MFA Creative Writing Program, faculty
2002-2006: Harvard University, Briggs-Copeland Lecturer in Dramatic Writing, Department of English, Director of Creative Writing
2004-2006: Brown University, Associate Professor of Playwriting, joint appointment: Department of Literary Arts and Trinity Repertory Theatre; Artistic Director, Playwriting Showcase.
1994-2002: San Francisco State University, Associate Professor of Creative Writing, MFA Creative Writing Program (tenure)
1997-2000: St. Mary’s College, Moraga, CA.: Distinguished Writer in Residence, Dept. of English, Visiting Professor, Theatre Dept.
1990-93: Columbia University, Teacher’s College, Adjunct Faculty
2006-2008: California Institute of the Arts, Director, M.F.A. Writing
- Oversaw a faculty of six full time and six part time faculty; taught two classes per year; advised theses; liaised with REDCAT to program literary events.
2002-2006: Harvard University, Director of Creative Writing, Dept. of English. Acted as a liaison between the Creative Writing faculty and the English Department.
1990-2005: Dia Center for the Arts, New York. Responsibilities included the curatorship, introductions, education component, fundraising and fiscal management of this ongoing series of readings in contemporary literature. In 2004, after Dia:Beacon was opened, the Series adapted to the new site by including a pilgrimage/residency aspect for the participating writers.
1992-1994: Director of Arts Education, Dia, created and implemented aninnovative program to bring inner-city teens and junior high and high school teachers into the galleries of this Contemporary Art Museum. (The program still exists at Dia: Beacon, and has been a model of arts education in contemporary art museums.)
Summer 2013: USC: Ekphrastic Poetry
Fall 2012: Deep Springs College: The Art of Cruelty and the aesthetics of Compassion
Summer 2012: U.S.C.: MPW: Writers and Their Influences
Spring, 2012: U.S.C.: Contemporary Drama, English (undergraduate)
Fall 2011, Fall 10: University of California, Santa Barbara
- The History and Practice of Performance Art (Fall 2011)
- The Political Play (co-taught with Jon Robin Baitz, 2011)
- Solo Performance: Censorship, Self Censorship & the Dream of Artistic Freedom (with Holly Hughes, 2010)
Fall 2011 (starting in 2006) Queens University, Low Residency MFA
- Writing for Stage and Screen (I have taught this course eight times)
2008: University of Southern California, M.P.W.
Core Workshop in Multiple Forms
- The Anxiety of Influence: Multiple Forms
2006-08: California Institute of the Arts: 1 class per semester for 2 years
Short Forms: Poems, Plays, Prose
The Anxiety of Influence: Bloom, Etc.
2002-2006: Harvard University: 2 classes per semester for 12 semesters, Playwriting Workshop; Screenwriting Workshop
2003-2005: Brown University: 2 classes per semester for 8 semesters
- Playwriting (graduate and undergraduate)
Theatre Seminar (with Oskar Eustis)
Playwrights Lab (with Paula Vogel)
Director of the New Play Lab (with Erin Cressida Wilson)
Director of the “Once Upon a Weekend” Festival
1994-2002: San Francisco State University: 4 classes per semester for 16 semesters, including: Introduction to Playwriting
THE EVIDENCE OFF THINGS NOT SEEN: staged reading at Hartford Stage as part of the Brand New Plays Festival, October 2013.
BOURGEOIS PIG (full-length) Commissioned by Muhlenberg College, produced in Fall 2012; The Blank Theatre (Los Angeles) Developmental Residency, April, 2012; Muhlenberg College Development Residency, October 2011; Bard College, Voices and Visions Retreat, Summer 2011; Minneapolis PlayLabs workshop, June 2009
RARE BIRD (full-length) Production: Pioneer Theatre Company, Utah, Spring 2012; Workshops: Bay Area Playwrights Festival Summer 2005; Provincetown Playhouse, May 2005; Perishable Theatre, Feb. 2005; Jonathan Larsen Lab at New York Theatre Workshop (2003); Mabou Mines Residency Artists Project, 2001
TEACH (full length) Minneapolis PlayLabs, March 2008 (workshop); New York Theatre Workshop, Dartmouth Residency, Summer 2005; Clubbed Thumb Workshop, Fall 2004; New York Theatre Workshop, Staged Reading, May 2003; Bay Area Playwrights Festival, 2002; Public Theatre Workshop, June 2002.
THE PROVOK’D WIFE (American Repertory Theatre, Cambridge) Re-wrote the prologue and the epilogue of this restoration comedy for Mark Wing-Davey’s production. (Fall, 2004)
THOSE WHO CAN, DO (full-length play) Brown Trinity Playwrights’ Summer 2005; Clubbed Thumb Theatre, NYC, June, 2004.
THE ABLUTIONS OF BERNADETTE (monologue), Playground Theatre Co., SF, CA
CLICK, a play for voices, commissioned and performed by the Humana Festival at the Actors Theatre of Louisville, March, 2000; Intersection for the Arts CDRom.
MONKEY IN THE MIDDLE (full length) (Nomination: National Theatre Critics Circle Award; winner of the Will Glickman Award) commissioned by NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts
Workshops and Productions:
–The Women’s Project, NYC, March 2002
–The Bay Area Playwrights Festival, San Francisco, California; September 2000 (workshop-reading)
–The Eureka Theatre, SF, CA April, 2000 (staged reading)
–New York University, Tisch School of the Arts.
- Directed by Mark Wing-Davey. This workshop production of a new play which examined the intersection of Science and Social Obligations; Caryl Churchill mentored the project.
- FIRE EATER: The Famine Play
- (received a 1997 Mabou Mines Development Award and has been nominated twice for the Susan Smith-Blackburn prize.) Production with a 6-week run at the Electric Lodge in Los Angeles. Nominated for a LAMBDA Award.
- –Full production and four week run at the Tristan Bates Theatre in London. UK premiere. Directed by Mark Wing-Davey. June 1999
- –New York Stage and Film, Vassar College, Poughkeepsie NY, directed by Maria Mileaf, June 1998.
–Daedalus Theatre Company, off-off Broadway, NYC, Dec.1999
–Mills College Production, March 1998
-Portland Stage Company, April, 1997
TOPOGRAPHICAL EDEN: Coming of Age in Las Vegas
(Winner of the 1997 Jane Chambers Playwriting Award.)
- –Full production with a four-week run as part of the 1996-97 Season at The Magic Theatre, San Francisco.
- –Staged Readings at the Women’s Project (May 1997) and New York Theatre Workshop (December 1997). Published in International Theatre Forum.
MEATLESS FRIDAY, one-act play.
- The Women’s Project, ‘93; New York University, March 1990; Ensemble Studio Theatre, 1990; Yale Cabaret 1987.
INCREASE, full-length play.
- La MaMa Experimental Theatre Company, NYC, 1990. Music by Charles Goldbeck.
PATHOLOGICAL VENUS, one-act play.
- Ensemble Studio Theatre, NYC, 1989; Lyceum Theatre, San Diego, 1988; The George Street Theatre, New Brunswick, NJ, 1987; Yale Cabaret, 1984 and 1987.
Current Theatre Projects/COMMISSIONS:
–POETRY: A PLAY
Based on the life of Phillis Wheatley an African American slave who was also the first woman to publish a book of poems in the United States.
–TOWER/WELL: in collaboration with the Imaginists Theatre Collective, site specific piece written for Ann Hamilton’s Tower on Steve Oliver’s Ranch, Santa Rosa: a text for performance based on fairy tales, pilgrimage and the problem of war.
–“Doctoring the Classics” an essay on rewriting the Prologue and Epilogue of John VanBrugh’s The Provok’d Wife for the American Rep. Theatre in Cambridge, MA.
2012: Guggenheim Fellowship in Playwriting
2010: United States Artists Fellowship in Literature
2003: Pinter Review Gold Medal for Fire Eater
2001: Whiting Foundation Award for Playwriting, 2001
2001: Will Glickman Award for Playwriting (best new play produced in San Francisco, for Dominant Looking Males)
1997: Jane Chambers Award, Best Play, Topographical Eden
1998: Outstanding Teacher in the Arts and Creative Expression, San Francisco State University
1997: Achievement Award from The Fund for Poetry
1991: National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in Playwriting
Click, (a short play) and “Writing for the Stage” an essay, in Literature: An Introduction to Poetry, Fiction and Drama, Pierson Publishing, ed. By Dana Gioia and X.J. Kennedy, forthcoming
Monkey in the Middle, from Playscripts, Inc., 2004
Those Who Can Do, from Playscripts, Inc., 2004
Water Stories (poems) Slapering Hol Press, 2003. (nominated for a Pushcart Prize)
Topographical Eden, (a full-length play) The International Theatre Forum, Theodore Shank, editor. (Spring 98).
Baby Hades, (a play) in the Alaska Quarterly Review, Spring 1996. Editor: Ronald Spatz.
Pathological Venus, (a play) anthologized in Lucky Thirteen, University of Nevada Press, 1995. Editor: Red Shuttleworth.
“At the Lake House” (poem) in The Best American Poetry 1994, ed. A.R. Ammons, W.W. Norton & Co., 1994; also in The Best of the Best American Poetry, edited by Harold Bloom; Scribner’s, 1998.
Fifty Great Monologues (excerpts from Pathological Venus) Smith & Kraus, 1993.
Publications (book reviews, interviews, essays):
Writing for the Stage, a chapter in The Handbook of Creative Writing (University of Edinburgh Press, 2007). –
A Person With A Name: book review of David Mason’s verse novel, Ludlow, in Dark Horse Literary Review, Scotland, Summer 07.
Interview with Ann Lauterbach, Atlanta Review, Fall 2007
Book Review: Dramaturgy in American Theatre, in “Parabasis Magazine” Summer 1998 Issue.
“Theatre Exists All Around Us,” article in Callboard Magazine (January 98).
Web Publications: ongoing introductions to the Readings in Contemporary Poetry series at Dia Center for the Arts. These introductions include the poets John Ashbery, Robert Creeley, Michael Palmer, Adrienne Rich, and many others.
–Muhlenberg College, Playwriting residency, Fall 2011
–Bard College, Playwriting Residency, Summer 2011
–Yaddo Colony Residency, Summer 1999; Winter 2005.
–MacDowell Colony Residency, Summers 2005, 2003 (Chubb Fellowship recipient)
–Yale University, Drama Program, Mentor to Undergraduate playwrights, 2004
–Lincoln Center Theatre Director’s Lab, June 2000. Dramaturg on a workshop production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream
–Harvard University, Institute on Art and Civic Dialogue, Playwriting Fellow, Summer 1998; led by Anna Deavere Smith.
–Mabou Mines Play Development Residency Award, for Fire Eater: A Play from Famine Ireland, Spring 1998.
–Mabou Mines Play Development Residency Award, for RARE BIRD (Fall 2001)
–New York Theatre Workshop at Vassar, Summer 1999
–New York Stage and Film, Summer 1998
2009-present: Board of PEN WEST, various committees including “Writers in the Classroom”
2009-present: Los Angeles Institute of the Humanities
2008: Panel Chair, United States Artists Literature Panel
2007: National Judge, Scholastic Writing Awards
2006: Advisory Committee member/founding of Wave Books
2006-2009: Core Member, Minneapolis PlayLabs
1999-present: Usual Suspect, New York Theatre Workshop
1995-present: Founding Member and Board of Directors, “Play-Ground,”
- San Francisco: Created, in collaboration with Jim Kleinmann, a cabaret-theatre venue for new work, emphasizing small-scale productions that are performed eight times a year; Playground is currently in its tenth year and produces over fifty short plays a year.
1997-2000: Dramaturg, Young Playwrights Festival, NYC, Developmental script-work with a young playwright in this National Conference.
2003: Consultant, Mill Valley Film Festival
Attended the Cannes Film Festival as part of the curatorial staff
2013: ALOUD Series: Los Angeles Punlic Library: Anne Enright; Lorrie Moore
2012: ALOUD Series, Los Angeles Public Library: Conversation with Novelists Percival Everett and Steve Erickson
2011: ALOUD Series, Los Angeles Public Library: Conversation with Novelist Anne Enright
2011: ALOUD Series, Interview with Jamaica Kincaid
2010: ALOUD Series: Interview with Sapphire
2010: ALOUD Series: Interview, Sarah Shun-Lien Bynum and Yiyun Li
2009: ALOUD Series: Interview with Michael Govan, Verlyn Klinkenborg and John D’Agata on Place
2008: ALOUD: Interview, Writing Los Angeles: Vanessa Place, Janet Sarbanes,Veronica Gonzalez
2000: Lannan Foundation: Interview with Anne Carson
2012: U.S.C. Visions and Voices lecture: “Beckett: A Crash Course”
2012: Associated Writing Programs Conference (AWP)
–“Do Rankings Matter?”
–“The Use of Time On-Stage”
2011: National Women’s Studies Association: “Now You See Her: the Theatrical Embodiments of Holly Hughes” (paper)
2011: PEN West Poetry Festival: “On the Poems of Frank Bidart, California Native” Pasadena Public Library, October 2011
2011: U.S.C. Visions & Voices, Talk: “Hart Crane and Tennessee Williams: the Anxiety and Ecstasy of Influence”
2011: AWP: Assoc. Writing Programs Conference
–“Alumni Associations in MFA Programs”
–“Adaptation On-Stage” (organizer/moderator)
2010: U.S.C.: Visions & Voices: Introduction to Billy Collins
2010: U.S.C.: Visions & Voices/dramaturgy for Stacie Chaiken’s “Holocaust/Testimony” Theatre text, in conjunction with the U.S.C. Genocide Library, with Wolf Gruner and Lynn Sipes.
2010: AWP–Assoc. Writing Programs Conference
–“MFA Programs in a Nutshell” (organizer/moderator)
–“Censorship and Self-Censorship” (organizer/moderator)
2006: The Imagination Conference, Cleveland State University.
“Sleep, Dreams and Unstructured Time.”
2004: Spectacle and Speculation Conference, Brandeis University.
“Guy Debord in Las Vegas: Surface is Illusion, but so is Depth.”
1999: Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, Ct. “Painting and Poetry: the New York School”
Recent/Current Curatorial Projects:
–The Censored Artist Project: UCSB, Fall 2011: John Fleck; Fall, 2010: Holly Hughes: We have brought in 2 of the NEA 4 thus far
–THE CORE SERIES at USC/MPW:
Since 2008: have arranged over twenty readings at LACMA and USC as a part of the “core” class at MPW : a series of conversations with writers including Denis Johnson, Eavan Boland, Susan Orlean, Jamaica Kincaid, Sapphire, D.A. Powell, Heather McHugh, August Kleinzahler, Leonard Chang, John D’Agata, Lan Samantha Chang and others
–NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUM, LOS ANGELES: Bishop/Darwin: The Anxiety and Ecstasy of Influence: A Conversation with poets and scientists about the influence of Charles Darwin on the Poetics of Elizabeth Bishop. With Susan McCabe, Dr. Craig Stanford, Dr. Michael Quick, and others, to celebrate Darwin’s centennial.
–The Reading Series at REDCAT: curated a series of readings for the downtown CalArts Theatre. The Series included Anne Carson, Claudia Rankine, Holly Hughes and many others. Also collaborated with LA County Museum of Art to host a reading for Cherie Moraga and Helena Maria Viramontes in the Phantom Sightings: Art After the Chicano Movement show.
–The Reading Series in Contemporary Literature Dia:Beacon, designed and implemented a Residency and Reading Series for Writers at this visual art museum, which started in June 2005 with poet and translator Anne Carson. Other writers included: Denis Johnson; Lewis Hyde; John Ashbery; Rebecca Solnit and Ann Lauterbach.
2012: Blank Theatre Young Playwrights Festival, dramaturg/mentor
2011: LATFOB: organized and moderated panel on “Teaching Kids Writing”