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The Difficulty of Crossing a Field

Nine New Plays

2008
Author:

Mac Wellman
Foreword by Helen Shaw

The Difficulty of Crossing a Field

A new collection from one of America’s leading avant-garde playwrights

Known for his verbal invention and radical experimentation, Mac Wellman is one of America’s most original dramatists. In this new book, Wellman brings together nine recent plays. With their feisty heroines, crisp dialogue, and noir influences, the works in The Difficulty of Crossing a Field reveal a playwright at the peak of his powers, and the collection concludes with Speculations, Wellman’s bold theatrical vision presented as lyrical prose.

Mac Wellman is as blessedly hard to locate in his plays as he is blessedly easy to find in his life. In life, he is the reliably masterful and genial teacher of playwriting, in lobbies, coffee shops, and at Brooklyn College. In his plays, he lies lower and is more likely to let the secret genius of language scream for itself. But, if you squint, you can see that he's there in the language, too. We are there, too. We are called for. ‘Nature needs people,’ Wellman tells us in Infrared, ‘for what no angel can perform.’ Just try to find a more dignified justification for the species.

Will Eno

Known for his verbal invention and radical experimentation, Mac Wellman is one of America’s most original and essential dramatists. Since seizing the spotlight with 7 Blowjobs in the early nineties, Wellman has charted an ambitious artistic course. As a fixture on the downtown New York theater scene, and now with his work being staged around the world, he has challenged directors, designers, producers, actors, audiences, and readers for nearly three decades.

In this new book, Wellman brings together nine recent plays, including some of his most provocative work, Antigone, Infrared, and The Invention of Tragedy. With their feisty heroines, crisp dialogue, and noir influences, the works in The Difficulty of Crossing a Field reveal a playwright at the peak of his powers, and the collection concludes with Speculations, Wellman’s bold theatrical vision presented as lyrical prose.

The Difficulty of Crossing a Field

Mac Wellman is Donald I. Fine Professor of Playwriting at Brooklyn College. He has received three Obie awards, most recently in 2003 for lifetime achievement. He is the coeditor, with Young Jean Lee, of New Downtown Now: An Anthology of New Theater from Downtown New York (Minnesota, 2006).

Helen Shaw is a New York theater critic whose work appears in the New York Times and Time Out New York.

The Difficulty of Crossing a Field

Mac Wellman is as blessedly hard to locate in his plays as he is blessedly easy to find in his life. In life, he is the reliably masterful and genial teacher of playwriting, in lobbies, coffee shops, and at Brooklyn College. In his plays, he lies lower and is more likely to let the secret genius of language scream for itself. But, if you squint, you can see that he's there in the language, too. We are there, too. We are called for. ‘Nature needs people,’ Wellman tells us in Infrared, ‘for what no angel can perform.’ Just try to find a more dignified justification for the species.

Will Eno

These plays are undeniable proof (if such were needed) that Wellman has charted an ambitious artistic course far beyond—yet fully attuned to—the cultural shock-attack that first made him famous, the notorious 7 Blowjobs. These nine plays represent the confident maturing of his magnificent talent.

Una Chaudhuri, New York University

If it’s sometimes hard to imagine how these texts might play on the stage, that is precisely the challenge Wellman issues to both readers and theatermakers—asking us to find or conceive new mechanisms to accommodate a wider, more expansive theatrical experience of language, the mind, and the American landscape.

Tom Sellar, Yale School of Drama

The dialogue is always playful, in a manner that would immediately remind any lover of modern playwriting of Beckett’s Waiting for Godot.

The Minnesota Daily

Mac Wellman’s new book of plays, The Difficulty Crossing a Field, forges new ground in this peculiar form of print content. White space is a major player.

Bomb Magazine