Cover photo by Peter Cunningham

Plays by Richard Nelson, Early Plays Volume One

Richard Nelson
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This collection includes three full-length plays, CONJURING AN EVENT, JUNGLE COUP, and THE KILLING OF YABLONSKI, and a short monologue, SCOOPING. CONJURING AN EVENT: Charlie, a reporter, intends to break the rules of journalism. He wants not just to cover an event but to create it as well. His girlfriend and his brother attempt to dissuade him, but he disregards them and sets out to make news, with devastating results. JUNGLE COUP: Hopper is covering a military coup in central Africa. Bellows, a rival journalist, arrives to begin his own coverage only to find that Hopper appears to have invented the story. THE KILLING OF YABLONSKI: The story of the murder of a militant United Mineworkers leader by an assassin hired by bureaucrats opposed to change. SCOOPING: A reporter get the scoop on the perhaps the biggest story of his life, himself.

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Press Quotes

“Richard Nelson has gifts to spare. His talent, skill, wisdom, persistence and faith in the power of theater have led to an unprecedented American career. Irony, which infuses his writing, has come to inform his life. He is one of the most-produced American writers in Europe and England (particularly by the Royal Shakespeare Company), but Nelson’s plays have enjoyed few major productions in the USA. He writes passionately about his country’s politics and morals, but his prime audiences are foreign. Nelson is able to create plays built upon venomous characters and brutal scenes, but is himself generously loyal to family and colleagues. On stage and in life, there is no one quite like him …. This three-volume collection of Richard’s early plays provides a welcome chance to revisit his exciting young work and the struggles of a writer’s career … The four plays in this first volume (THE KILLING OF YABLONSKI, CONJURING AN EVENT, JUNGLE COUP and the short monologue SCOOPING) were written between 1975 and 1977. An indication of the excitement sparked by Richard Nelson, whose plays first surfaced in informal workshops at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles, is that the three full-length works included here were all produced by major not-for-profit New York theaters in back-to-back presentations between February and June 1978. It was a critical trial-by-fire, and a painful time for him, but these darkly comic plays have themes, character traits and theatrical set-ups that Nelson would refine in his acclaimed later work. The Chekhovian spirit that informs Nelson’s mature plays is not yet evident, but many of the basic tenets of his writing are already in place. From the start, Richard has been something of an American contrarian. In common with O’Neill, he often explores the dark side of American myth and bravado. The mid-1970s was the Post-Watergate era. Counter-culture investigative journalism brought down the Nixon White House, and reporters replaced rock stars as gods for the young. These four reporter plays aimed to burst the bubble of admiration that surrounded American journalism at that time.” —Robert Marx, Executive Director of The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts

About the Author


  • Richard Nelson

    Richard Nelson's plays include the four-play series, THE APPLE FAMILY (THAT HOPEY CHANGEY THING, SWEET AND SAD, SORRY, REGULAR SINGING (Nominated for Outstanding Play in Drama Desk Awards 2014; Public Theater, 2010 – 2013), NIKOLAI AND THE OTHERS (Lincoln Center Theater, 2013), FAREWELL TO THE THEATRE (Hampstead Theatre, 2012), HOW SHAKESPEARE WON THE WEST, (Huntington Theater, 2008), CONVERSATIONS AT TUSCULUM (Public Theater, 2008), FRANK'S HOME (Goodman Chicago, Playwrights Horizons, 2007), RODNEY'S WIFE (Playwrights Horizons, 2004), WHERE I COME FROM (National Theatre Connections), MADAME MELVILLE (which ran in the West End starring Macaulay Culkin and Irene Jacob and opened in May 2001 Off-Broadway); GOODNIGHT CHILDREN EVERYWHERE (winner of Olivier Award for Best New Play, 2000), KENNETH'S FIRST PLAY (with Colin Chambers, RSC), THE GENERAL FROM AMERICA (at the RSC and the Lucille Lortel Theatre, New York), NEW ENGLAND (RSC and Manhattan Theater Club), MISHA'S PARTY (with Alexander Gelman, RSC and Williamstown Theater Festival), TWO SHAKESPEAREAN ACTORS (Tony nomination for Best Play, RSC and Broadway), COLUMBUS AND THE DISCOVERY OF JAPAN (RSC Barbican), SOME AMERICANS ABROAD (Olivier nomination, Best Comedy; RSC, Lincoln Center and Broadway), LEFT, BETWEEN EAST AND WEST (Hampstead), PRINCIPIA SCRIPTORAE (winner of Time Out Award, RSC and Manhattan Theater Club), THE RETURN OF PINOCCHIO, AN AMERICAN COMEDY, BAL, CONJURING AN EVENT, RIP VAN WINKLE, JUNGLE COUP, THE KILLING OF YABLONSKI, THE VIENNA NOTES (Obie Award). His musicals include JAMES JOYCE'S THE DEAD (starring Christopher Walken and Blair Brown; Playwrights Horizons, Belasco Theatre, Broadway, Ahmanson Theatre, Los Angeles, Kennedy Center, Washington; for which he received a Tony Award in 2000 for Best Musical Book), CHESS (the book for the Broadway musical), PARADISE FOUND (dir: Harold Prince and Susan Strohman), MY LIFE WITH ALBERTINE (with Ricky Ian Gordon; Playwrights Horizons), UNFINISHED PIECE FOR A PLAYER PIANO (with Peter Golub). His translations and adaptations include TYNAN starring Corin Redgrave (with Colin Chambers, RSC and West End), LOLITA with Brian Cox (National), Molnar's THE GUARDSMAN (Kennedy Center), Carriere's THE CONTROVERSY (Public Theater), Fo's ACCIDENTAL DEATH OF AN ANARCHIST (Broadway), Strindberg's THE FATHER with Frank Langella (Broadway) and MISS JULIE (Yale Rep), Beaumarchais' THE MARRIAGE OF FIGARO (the Guthrie and Broadway); Molière's DON JUAN, Ibsen's WILD DUCK and ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE, Pirandello's ENRICO IV, Goldoni's IL CAMPIELLO, Erdmann's THE SUICIDE. With the esteemed translators Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky, he was co-translated Chekhov's THE CHERRY ORCHARD, Gogol's THE INSPECTOR, Turgenev's A MONTH IN THE COUNTRY and Bulgakov's DON QUIXOTE. Films: Hyde Park on Hudson, staring Bill Murray and Laura Linney (Dir: Roger Michell), Ethan Frome, starring Liam Neeson (Dir: John Madden); Sensibility and Sense, staring Elaine Stritch and Jean Simmons (Dir: David Jones). Television: The End of a Sentence with Edward Herrmann (Dir: David Jones). Radio Plays include: HYDE PARK ON HUDSON, LANGUAGES SPOKEN HERE (Giles Cooper Award), EATING WORDS (Giles Cooper Award), ADVICE TO EASTERN EUROPE, AN AMERICAN WIFE (all BBC).

About the Book

Book Information

Publisher BPPI
Publication Date 12/1/1998
Pages 132
ISBN 9780881451505