HONEYDEW NO. 2. Full-Length Play. Satire. 1f, 1m.
by Jackson Kienitz
Farm’s belly up.
Baby’s due soon.
Lab rat’s got a boo-boo on her liver.
HONEYDEW NO. 2!* Yodel-ay-ee-oo!
*= An agrochemical fable featuring two actors, six-and-a-half characters, and an eco-terrorist.
HONEYDEW NO. 2 will premiere at the Centre for Contemporary Arts in Glasgow on January 17th, 2024.
Script available upon request.
PETNAMES. Short Play. Drama. 1f, 1m.
by Jackson Kienitz
The tragicomic end to an adulterous relationship.
Workshopped with Philip Howard at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, 2023.
Script available upon request.
RESPONDING TO YOUR VOICEMAIL. FEB. 17TH, 2021.
by Jackson Kienitz
4x4 Magazine, Vol. 8)
What we, and we here being Yahweh, don’t like
Is the question.
And I am really conscious of everything I say.
Just a quick quick caveat about what I’m able to do:
Big scale sort of nature.
The um big uh sublime nature.
Instead of being like you know,
Let me think of a good example.
Like you know instead of
Instead of having a setting of
A giant mountain like in the background,
I can make a grassy plateau.
What I can’t do is I can’t hear everyone at once.
Why is the finger sized for fitting
in the nostril? An example of the question.
All it is is you decree that that that was going to happen was going to happen.
What constitutes work time what constitutes
leisure time? That’s the other question.
All leisure time.
Don’t know about you folks
but I don’t remember floating in the ether
and choosing to inhabit this enigmatic bodily form.
I hear that often.
And I think the thing is it gets a little
sometimes fuzzy for people but that’s okay.
You have people who are good you have people who are bad.
You have conflict based in really broad strokes.
I encourage everyone to take what one might call a gestalt shift.
Undertake that gestalt shift
and try to uh inhabit your own world.
A CAMERA OBSCURAby Jackson Kienitz
A giant squid / harpooned / floating towards the break
higher still / among the clouds / while the mountaineer
climbing / unharnessed / the boulders of a flooded river bed
loses his grip…
…lambent / along the black current / light from another sunrise
through the shutters of our dining room window / gleams
in my daughter’s tea / like in her irises / brown
like her mother’s / when / studying in the garden
I learn her face in profile...
In the stillness of memory / a red cedar grows around me.
I am indebted to the woodpecker / who offers
another pinhole / through which my eye may look.
JASPER “BABY’S BREATH” CARTERby Jackson Kienitz
bullish boy. My blue-chested boy. Silver gloves, silk trunks. My
divine, mountainous, God of a boy. Pork loin on a counter-top. Chicken
breast at a cockfight. 38 K.O.s — A.K.A. “THE MEAT MALLET.”
Oil sheens, down the cords of his back. He’s on that equestrian
shit. Breakfast: skip. Lunch: sunlight + rain. Dinner:
spit. Gonna get to a point where it’s only foam. Keep
going. Once that spit turns to foam — you’re losing
40% more water. Some’ll need a mop, hah-heh. Some’ll
choke on the scale, have a seizure on the mat, all sleepily like,
butterknife to the toaster type electric vibration like.
Flames spark his arrival. Herd the sheep away,
from the ring. Salute the king, inappropriately.
Trumpet, sardonically. Never quietly. Louder than
the bell. Oh, baby. Oh-ho-ho, baby! ‘SKO MEAT! Look at that
left hook, uppercut, ring around the rosey! In slow-motion
it almost looked gentle: trip… spin… snap…!
And the red stuff: skim… sift… snuff……………!
Yesterday’s pratfall, the doctors would discover, had rocked
the pink-yellow hubcap loose from all connective tissues
inside his head. Carter had nearly won. After the match, the two
had kissed cheeks. One had tried to curl onto the other’s lap.
WALKING COYOTE HILL
by Jackson Kienitz
(I JUST WANTED TO BE SURE OF YOU)
Peek-a-boo with the sun baby.
Is that a Cooper’s hawk on a cell tower?
I fold my hands and
make my shitty duck call.
That’s a fucking vulture.
I know because it beats in circles above me.
And I was thinking the sun baby cried
because she lacked object permanence.
I took my seat cross the road’s dotted yellow
and silenced my cell-phone.
It took six frickin’ hours for that
eighteen wheeler to arrive.
That’s a long-ass time for life to flash
before your eyes.
I’ve membered, I've remembered,
To be, or not to be,
Hamlet or Piglet? Eeyore or Or? Or? O!
You know, you really can
just leave at intermission.
There was a crack in the tar near my curlicue tail.
There was a flower poking through.
Sourgrass. Oxalis pes-caprae.
Heh, they really do grow everywhere, Pop.
I lay on the freeway
and watched the sun baby learn to walk.
I chewed on the stalk,
that gosh-silly tingle.
FRAGMENTS FROM AN ESSAY ON SILENCEby Jackson Kienitz
AUTHOR’S NOTE: In this piece, I am attempting to blend the rhetoric expected of an
argumentative essay, with a more poetic form—my hope is that a poetic form
will force space between my own arguments, allowing readers to find their own.
the forest approaches
Macbeth would rather condemn all, than condemn one—namely, himself:
“Life’s but a—
full of sound and fury,
signifying nothing” (Shakespeare, Macbeth).
and Spongebob Squarepants awards Patrick Starr a trophy. Engraved on the plaque:
“For Doing Absolutely Nothing Longer Than Anybody Else”
(SpongeBob, “Something Smells”).
the paradoxical nature of nothing, of negative definitions: the absence of sound,
darkness as the absence of light, evil as the… absence of one relies on presence of
John Cage says in “Lecture on Nothing,”
“but what silence requires is
that I go on talking” (Cage, “Lecture on Nothing”).
Silence exists because sound exists, dangling on either edge
Or, no, rather—sound exists because silence exists open hands to catch the sound!
The two are twins wrestling neither born first: silence is the orphan of sound
simultaneously, the parent of sound.
seeking a definition of theatre, director Peter Brooks distills theatre
into a comparable positive/negative relationship: “I can take any empty space
and call it a bare stage. A man walks across this empty space whilst someone else
is watching him, and this is all that is needed for an act of theatre to be engaged.” The same might be said of
I can take any silence and call it a hushed theatre. A woman speaks through this silence
whilst someone else is listening to her, and this is all that is needed
for an act of theatre to
Words, words, words. going much further along this path of definitions
would be to
lose ourselves in the rules of grammar—and life, from my understanding, is
not exactly grammatical
in a lecture, or watching a performance, when the speaker’s word-after-word turns
alphabet soup, when my mind begins to stack soup cans into a pyramid,
thoughts flickering beside the supermarket’s fluorescents—
perhaps you’re there now—
what most regularly returns me to the lecture hall, reminds me that my mind
the sound of silence.
Is it my turn to speak?
Say something! Anyone!
I think someone missed an entrance.
The major fears of performance often end in silence: the line that is forgotten, the cue
that is missed, the joke that rouses no laughter…
Silence speaks in Uncertainty.
It is Anton Chekhov’s mother-tongue: he knows, and shows, in his characters,
the natural fear (or: power over mind)
of silence, and the uncertainty silence carries
Consider the doctor, Astrov, of Uncle Vanya:
returning daily, for months, to visit the Serebryakov estate,
in hopes of a hopeless affair with Serebryakov’s wife, Elena…
By play’s end, Elena and her husband leave the estate—permanently—
and Astrov, struggling to accept this failed romance, idles behind,
postponing his own departure
Astrov strives against silence—against the failed past/uncertain future it signifies—
through inane small talk:
“My trace horse has gone lame for some reason,” he says,
to which no one responds
“Out there in Africa now, I expect the heat must be terrific!” he tries again...
(Chekhov, Uncle Vanya)
Silence for Astrov (and so, too, an audience, if used skillfully) seems a small, quiet death,
the sleep at the end of Astrov’s day of love—
will night bring Sugar-Plum Fairies?
“Aye! There’s the rub: for in that sleep of death, what dreams may come, when we
have shuffled off this mortal coil, must give us pause…” (Shakespeare, Hamlet)
Smack in the middle of Hamlet’s most iconic soliloquy
precisely at the point of epiphany—the moment Hamlet realizes the “what”
that follows death, could, in fact, be worse than life itself (just as Astrov fears!)—
Shakespeare, through form and content, forces silence.
He directly instructs us to “give pause,” ends the clause, with
a hard-stopped period, half-way through the line—“must give us pause. There’s the respect”—
driving the text to a screeching halt.
unlike the surrounding lines, here Shakespeare breaks from his established iambic pentameter;
only eight syllables.
When reading the line aloud, almost instinctively, an actor will look for
a two-syllable rest, so as to maintain rhythmic symmetry.
In fact, I encourage you to perform Hamlet’s soliloquy without pausing
after the word “pause.” I do this to annoy my parents,
who cringe at my bastardization of the Bard...
Within this moment of silence, Shakespeare offers Hamlet—and, too, the audience—
space to breathe in the emotional significance of the “To be, or not to be” speech.
Maybe, space to sigh, perchance to cry...
And, a more practical note, a pause makes for easier
audience comprehension. In a classroom, when some seventh graders are reading aloud,
say, Romeo and Juliet, one of the easiest ways a student can improve her reading
is to embrace the pauses, letting each thought impress before starting the next—rather than
a recitation of one’s multiplication tables... the text becomes emotive poetry…
giving audiences the space to reflect on what has happened
and guess at what may follow
Director Robert Wilson, noted for his use of stillness, puts it simply: “It [silence]
lets me think” (“Robert Wilson and Willem Dafoe”).
Bilingual Silence: conversational fluency in Reflection and Forethought
Precisely Hamlet’s focus
“To be, or not to be—”
A speech of reflection and forethought
But is not Hamlet’s speech, also, a question of positives and negatives?
To live, or to die. To act, or to not act. To speak, or to remain silent!
Hamlet is asking questions not unlike those that guide this very— !
And what is Hamlet’s discovery, the “rub,” in his— ? He realizes that the negative—
death, sleep—might actually be a positive: “For in that sleep of death what dreams may come.”
Shakespeare is suggesting that negatives can hold positives—that death, or sleep, or...
might actually hold life, and dreams, and— !
meaning! found in the cracks between a traditional understanding of meaning!
It is the search that drives Samuel Beckett, and other writers working in absurdism:
making the meaningless meaningful.
Beckett makes his speech impotent as a medium of communication:
Lucky, the slave in Waiting for Godot, when commanded to “Think, pig!”,
in a nonsensical soliloquy declares:
“Given the existence as uttered forth in the public works of Puncher and
Wattmann of a personal God quaquaquaqua with white beard
quaquaquaqua…” (Beckett, Waiting for Godot)
Speech fails, too, in Krapp’s Last Tape,
story of an aging man, interacting with his own memories through a recorded audio-diary:
the majority of the play’s dialogue is fragmented story—memories recounted by the
tape-recording, lacking context,
and so, stripped of meaning
Instead, meaning is found in the quiet relationship the old Krapp forms with each recording
After one recording mentions a former lover, Krapp rewinds the tape
Beckett’s stage-direction reads: “Krapp’s lips move. No sound.” (Beckett, Krapp’s Last Tape)
Beckett chooses to communicate emotional significance
through a silent tremble of the lip
and the show ends with Krapp motionless, a “the tape runs on in silence”
has Krapp’s life come to an end?
Beckett is not moving away from meaning, but rather returning to a lack of meaning:
for an absurdist sees—through the limits of our human understanding—that all meaning,
thus far, has its foundations built on a lack of meaning
We find our own purposes, set our own rules, create our own Gods
something can’t come from nothing—and yet we do it everyday
Absurdism is not a condemnation of meaning, but a celebration
of our ability to find meaning in a forest that appears to lack meaning!
And if silence can speak as loudly as speech itself,
then Silence speaks in Power
at a Black Lives Matter protest, today, we hear: Silence is Violence
earlier during Vietnam anti-war protests, a 1967 executive statement
from the Clergy & Laymen Concerned About Vietnam, cited by Martin Luther King Jr., declares:
“A time comes when silence is betrayal” (King Jr., “Beyond Vietnam”).
again: Silence speaks in Power (Oppression, when corrupted)
It must be of note that Suzan-Lori Parks—
one of the foremost contemporary playwrights,
whose writing centers upon the narratives of black lives and historically voiceless peoples—
associates silence with authenticity of self.
Parks, of her scripted silences, writes: “a spell:
An elongated and heightened (rest) […]
This is a place where the figures experience their
pure true simple state.” (Parks, “Elements of Style”).
The brothers of Parks’ Topdog/Underdog express a similar sentiment:
“ BOOTH Whatd he say, that one time? ‘Yr only yrself––’
LINCOLN ‘—when no ones watching,’ yeah.” (Parks, Topdog/Underdog)
When external forces demand subjugation and/or conformity,
to not act, to not speak—these choices can become subversive actions.
Take Suzan-Lori Parks’ play, Venus:
her protagonist is Saartjie Baartman—a woman from South Africa,
coerced, later forced, into exhibition within a European, travelling “Freak Show.”
The ring-leader demands of Baartman: “Sound the drum […] Sing!” (Parks, Venus)
later, a European doctor hopes to “civilize” Baartman by teaching her French,
by changing her speech
To not sing, to not speak French…
silence, if not an act of rebellion, is at least a space of respite for Baartman
Perhaps this is why Parks writes “Scene 19: A Scene of Love (?)”:
a scene composed entirely of one silent “spell”—no dialogue, no stage-directions—
framed as an emotional swell in Baartman’s narrative.
A woman whose single comfort (or last resort) is silence
a painful reality, repeated...
see: Hermia and Helena,
who, in the entirety of Midsummer’s final act,
after each woman has married,
Shakespeare refuses to give a single line of dialogue.
To appreciate Parks’ use of silence, is not to enjoy Baartman’s need for silence:
as poet/social-theorist Audre Lord’s daughter tells her:
“you're never really a whole person if you remain silent,
because there's always that one little piece inside you that wants
to be spoken out…” (Lord, “Silence into Action”)
Knowing my place,
fortune of the birth-lottery,
I must encourage others to be loud—
if only Baartman had the freedom to be loud, and truthfully loud!—
but to do so, must I also quiet myself?
It is with great humility and trust that Suzan-Lori Parks writes a silent scene into Venus.
and how deeply exciting, too: she gives each director,
each actress, in each portrayal of Saartjie Baartman,
complete freedom to speak a new interpretation, and
find her own meaning.
Isn’t the search for meaning one of our favorite past-times?
In hospice, my grandmother 80-years-old, 92-lbs
pulse of 3 BPM
hasn’t opened her eyes for a half-dozen days
So when she, in her final breath, sits up and looks my mother straight in the eye––
a single flash of silent something
with which my mother can find peace––
please don’t tell mom that “the frog legs dance because
that the “sound isn’t actually a lobster’s scream, but the whistle of
Why tell us that lobsters lack vocal chords?
I don’t really want to know the magician’s tricks
We are here because we want to, even if temporarily, believe!
And the director, through careful analysis and staging, has presented the story
in a tightly-wrapped package, has done all the interpretative work already
Instead a director might trust in uncertainty, in ambiguity—allowing audiences
the chance for discovery
yes, encouraging active engagement
And if Jesus hadn’t spoken in metaphor? what then?
Is not the space for renewed interpretation that which grants the Bible, al Qur’an, and the
“Dramatic Canon” resistance against obsolescence?
Might we follow Parks’ lead? understand the power we hold as director, as writer, as performer,
and perhaps soften our voices, so that our collaborators, our audiences may speak, too?
Eighteen months ago, if you had asked, I would say: I don’t get poetry
I hadn’t realized that poetry asks a reader to bring parts of herself into the story being told
Max Picard writes, “The great poet does not completely fill out the space of his theme
with his words. He leaves a space clear, into which another and higher poet can speak.
He allows another to take part in the subject; he makes the subject his own but does
not keep it entirely for himself” (Picard, World of Silence)
A collaboration between artist and spectator
in the silence between lines...
Together, in the darkened seating of our sometime theatre, now our sky
above the ghostlights, reading the constellations,
my feelings of awe towards the stars, in large part, derive from:
the remarkable distance of nothingness
light has endured to meet us here.
Beckett, Samuel. Krapp’s Last Tape. The Collected Shorter Plays, Grove Press, 2010.
Beckett, Samuel. Waiting for Godot: A Tragicomedy in Two Acts. Grove/Atlantic, Inc., 2011.
Cage, John. “Lecture on Nothing.” SILENCE: Lectures and Writing. First Edition, Wesleyan University Press, 1961.
Chekhov, Anton. Uncle Vanya. Chekhov: The Major Plays, Translated by Ann Dunnigan, New American Library, 1964.
King Jr., Martin Luther. “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence.” Clergy and Laymen Concerned About Vietnam, 4 April 1967, Riverside Church, New York City. Keynote Speech.
Lorde, Audre, “The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action,” Sinister Wisdom, vol. 6, 1978.
Parks, Suzan-Lori. “Elements of Style.” The America Play and Other Works, Theatre Communications Group, 2013.
Parks, Suzan-Lori. Venus. Theatre Communications Group, 1997.
Picard, Max. The World of Silence. H. Regnery, 1961.
“Robert Wilson and Willem Dafoe with Charles Shafaieh: New Social Environment #195.” YouTube, uploaded by The Brooklyn Rail, 16 December 2020, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KqcSdBZZR4A.
Shakespeare, William. Hamlet. E-book, The Project Gutenberg, 1998.
Shakespeare, William. Macbeth. E-book, The Project Gutenberg, 1998.
“Something Smells.” SpongeBob SquarePants, created by Stephen Hillenburg, season 2, episode 3, Nickelodeon, 2000.