Cover photo by Peter Cunningham

Plays by Stuart Spencer

Stuart Spencer
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This collection includes three full-length plays: SUDDEN DEVOTION, RESIDENT ALIEN, and IN THE WESTERN GARDEN, composed of three related one-acts. SUDDEN DEVOTION: A young man who is dating an attorney feels himself drawn more and more to an older blind man in his search for intimacy. RESIDENT ALIEN: A comedy about Michael, a Kierkegaard-quoting intellectual in small town Wisconsin, who doesn’t know what to do about the “AWOL alien busboy” who has decided to spend his shoreleave in Michael’s living room watching reality TV and eating Cheese Doodles. Will the real alien please stand up? IN THE WESTERN GARDEN: A trilogy of one acts on the theme of art how and why we create it. In the first play, THE ROTHKO ROOM, a man and woman meet in the room of a museum devoted to the works of Mark Rothko. They are either complete strangers or they know each other better than anyone else in the world. Which is it? Is the secret in the mysterious Rothko paintings themselves? The second play, WATER AND WINE, is based on an historical incident in which Michelangelo visited a poor farmer who had unearthed the long-lost Laocoon group statue of antiquity. In the play, Michelangelo finds not just the statue but also the farmer’s son … who dreams of becoming an artist himself. In LEVELS OF PERCEPTION an aging, ill painter fights to retain moral ownership of his own work.

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Press Quotes


“It’s not often you see a space alien in orange Converses and a Wisconsin K-mart employee expound upon Kierkegaard in the woods. RESIDENT ALIEN, a comedy by Stuart Spencer, is filled with such suprisingly funny scenes. RESIDENT ALIEN is hilarious … the dialogue is snappy with lots of local flavor, and the characters interact well with each other … this show is both heart-warming and delightful. The best part of this show is not the kooky humor, and it’s not the Fargo-ish Wisconsin accents. What makes RESIDENT ALIEN so exceptional is that it manages to reveal a number of insights about intelligence, culture and a sense of belonging without being too obvious about it.” —Jenny Sandman, Louisville Eccentric Observer

“RESIDENT ALIEN is a sweet and quirky comedy set in an anonymous small town in northeastern Wisconsin … It’s the characters that set RESIDENT ALIEN apart from television fodder. They are interesting, likeable and cut just enough against stereotype to be refreshingly funny … Additional humor is found in small town insularity. Most of the characters, who are approaching middle age, are still playing out grudges and slights from their adolescent years.” —Damien Jones, Journal Sentinel (Milwaukee)


“… be sure someone pokes you awake for Stuart Spencer’s IN THE WESTERN GARDEN, the evening’s gem. It’s 1989; a famous old abstract expressionist painter and his patient, sagacious wife are visited on their Hamptons farm by his longtime dealer, with a hot young conceptual artist in tow. The dealer, on the verge of bankruptcy owing to the crash in art prices, desperately needs product; the conceptual artist wants either to replace his boyhood hero or to subsume him into the anonymity his pomo installations express. The artist and his wife have secrets of their own to unveil. Packed into the play’s short space are a neat, effective intrigue, a fierce debate about the nature of creativity, four vivid characters … the wit or the nearly palpable passion behind Spencer’s mordant contrivance.” —Michael Feingold, The Village Voice (reviewing the second act of the full-length play being performed on its own)

About the Author


  • Stuart Spencer

    Stuart Spencer is the author of numerous plays that have been produced both in New York at the Ensemble Studio Theatre and around the country. His play RESIDENT ALIEN was produced at the Humana Festival of New Plays, and has since had numerous productions at many regional theatres, including the Milwaukee Rep and Florida's Hippodrome Theatre. RESIDENT ALIEN is published by Broadway Play Publishing. His play ALABASTER CITY was commissioned by South Coast Rep and his one-act BLUE STARS is published in the Best American Short Plays of 1993 – 94. As an undergraduate, his play THE GOLDEN ROSE was designated "Best Play" at the American College Theatre Festival. His book on the art of playwriting, The Playwright's Guidebook, was published in 2002 by Farrar Straus & Giroux under the Faber and Faber imprint. Edward Albee calls the book "indispensable" and David Lindsay-Abaire (FUDDY MEERS) says that the book "charts a straightforward course through the knotty and twisting wilds of playwriting. If you want to be a playwright, here's your bible." The book is currently in its second printing. As a screenwriter, he has been commissioned to write films for actor/director Campbell Scott and for director George Camarda. He has written the screenplay version of Resident Alien for Langley Productions in Los Angeles. Stuart currently teaches playwriting, dramaturgy, dramatic literature, and theatre history at Sarah Lawrence College. In the past he has taught at New York University, Playwrights Horizons Theatre School, The New School for Social Research, SUNY/Purchase, the Ensemble Studio Theatre Institute for Professional Training, and The Young Playwrights Festival program, which brings the art of playwriting into New York's inner city schools. He has served as a theatre and film editor of Bomb Magazine, a quarterly magazine that publishes writing and art by, and interviews with, contemporary artists. His interview subjects include Robert Schenkkan, Campbell Scott, Joyce Carol Oates, John Ford Noonan, and Horton Foote. Stuart has held positions in the story editing department of CBS Films and the literary department of the Ensemble Studio Theatre, where he served as Literary Manager for two years. In this latter capacity he helped to discover and cultivate new American writers and their plays, supervised and served as dramaturg for an ongoing series of readings, workshops, and major productions of the theatre, and moderated the Playwrights Unit that included, at the time, such notable writers as Eduardo Machado and John Patrick Shanley. He is a member of the Dramatists Guild and the Ensemble Studio Theatre.

About the Book

Book Information

Publisher BPPI
Publication Date 3/1/2000
Pages 179
ISBN 9780881451696