"Does writing count in the world (the way shoes and food do)? How does writing contribute to the way theatre counts in the world? I'm concerned with boundaries (my play/our play/the play), genre, style; with writing as performance and for performance; with fidelity to ensemble; fidelity to experiment. I'm concerned that theater be made as it would signify: esthetics in dialogue with ethics (Barba, Boal)."

Ehn's plays, written in intense, oracular language, investigate longing, grief, miracles, and the very nature of faith. Posing challenges to spectators of narrative realism, the work‹more than fifty plays – delivers relieving beauty. In addition to script-making and works of corporal mercy (contemplation and action), Ehn is committed to the rats – an informal alliance of theater makers from around the world who join together in intense lab work, collective interrogation, and hospitality – and to the Tenderloin Opera Company, a performance ensemble that breeds work and grows community. He is learning to write, he says, so that he may write as he will "until writing and will break and writing itself is left."

"How 2 (Do this one step at a time without reading the instructions through first)

Look out the window.

See three things.

Put them in relation in your mind.

Start writing the story of these three things.

Write faster than you can think.

Write till you fill up a big sheet of paper.

Go back and cut out extra language. For example, if I write: "The blue dog crossed the street at a diagonal and dove perpendicular into the building's long shadow," I cut to: "Blue dog cross dove shadow."

Organize the remaining language to ten separate lines, where a line is defined as a batch of language that goes no from one side of the page no further than the other. Allow new associations to form; don't worry about logic, or about tying the lines together; pull language back that you regret losing. So the above might turn into: "Diagonal dove blew shadow cross on dog" (where "dove" turns into the bird versus the past of "dive.")

Take the ten lines and turn them into ten lines of ten syllables each. You may have to add/subtract language; again, allow meaning to morph and float. "Shadow dove flew her cross across blue dog."

Turn these ten lines of ten syllables each to five sets of 5-7-5 syllable stanzas (total of fifteen lines.) "Blue dove sets her cross/On the back of the crossing dog/Building poses shade" (you might be working with contraction versus expansion - I've only got the one line as source.)

The first line of each set is a scene title. The second line is a stage direction. The third line is dialogue, gesture or transformative action. Use your sets of five-seven-five as an outline for a five-scene play. No scene contains more than 34 syllables, including character names and stage directions. Play title is extra.

E.g. Play: Dove-Blue Plex
(Shadow dog crosses screen. Building drops shade. Dove flies, moves shadow X to dog, as dog melts into building throw.)

(Sun eats all dark.)
...and then four other scenes..."


Born 1957, Dallas, Texas
Lives in San Francisco

1997 Co-founder, co-artistic director (with Lisa Bielawa), Tenderloin Opera Company, SF
1992-present Assistant Professor, U of Iowa; Santa Clara; UCSF; UCSD
1990-97 New Dramatists, Fellow

1983 M.F.A., Playwriting, Yale School of Drama, New Haven, CT
1979 B.A., Yale College, New Haven, CT

  2001 Indigo Heart (group devised, Santa Clara); Smoke Times Seven (group: TOC)
  2000 Chokecherry; Spooky Action at a Distance; Gold into Mud
  1999 Heavenly Shades of Night Are Falling; Ophelia's Tattoo;
Shiner (with Octavio Solis); Maid
  1998 Thistle/Una Carroña (The Loyola Project)
  1997 Phrenic Crush; The Year of My Mother's Birth; Tailings; The Sound and the Fury;
Erotic Curtsies; The Imp of Simplicity
  1996 Ideas of Good and Evil

No Time Like the Present

  2000 Gerbode Award (with Theatre of Yugen); NEA/TCG Residency (with Perishable)
  1999 McKnight Fellowship
  1997 Whiting Writers Award
  1997 Creative Works Fund/Haas Foundation Grant
  1995 California Arts Council Individual Artists Grant;
Mary Flagler Cary Commission

  2000 The Saint Plays, Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore
  1998 Angel uh God, in From the Other Side of the Century II: A New American Drama (1960-'95),
Sun and Moon Press, Los Angeles
  1998 New South Wales, Conjunctions 30, Bard College,
Annandale-on-Hudson, New York
  1997 Two Altars, in Plays for the End of the Century, PAJ Press, New York