Here is an overview of the theatrical works written by Mark Shapiro.
ON THE 40TH DAY
Ten characters. Two sets. Rain. Flood. Noah’s ark is about to run aground in the mountains of Ararat. The animals are in revolt, Noah’s family is planning a mutiny. Then, on the fortieth day … a zany commentary on faith, optimism and the ultimately precarious nature of the human predicament. In addition to Noah’s human family, the cast includes a middle-aged lion, a none-too-bright bull, a seasick snake and a plaintive dove.
IPHIGENIA AT THE ALTAR
Eight characters. One set. 1190 B.C. The Greek fleet is stalled off Aulis, waiting for a favorable wind to invade Troy. The price for that wind? King Agamemnon must sacrifice his daughter, Iphigenia. When Aeschylus wrote the “Oresteia” (458 B.C.), he used Iphigenia’s sacrifice as justification for Clytemnestra’s slaughter of her husband. Written in semi-verse, IPHIGENIA AT THE ALTAR is the ultimate anti-war play. It also characterizes some of the great figures of Greek mythology including Odysseus, Achilles, Agamemnon, and, in a potentially career-defining role, young Iphigenia herself. As for those who say the classics impart nothing of relevance today, her scream echoes across the millennium!
Open the Gates
Seven characters. One fixed set. Historical drama. 1911: Jewish philanthropist Jacob Schiff and activists Louis Marshall and Lillian Wald (among others) conduct one of the first nationwide grassroots campaigns for a civil liberty. In doing so, they not only take on the Czar of Russia but President of the United States William Howard Taft.
Six characters. One set. What is the human face of politics? When State Senator Sandy Mumford votes to support his Party and a medal of Honor winner takes his own life, where does the responsibility lie? The Agenda deals with the dangerous disconnect between elected officials and the hapless electorate.
BIRTHRIGHT OF DREAMS
Six characters. One set: Manfredo Reyes is a self-made Cuban refugee whose adult children are American-born. The play sets up a collision of dreams: the Immigrant versus American. Expectation versus Reality. The dreams of the parents versus the awakenings of their children. Although the plot revolves around a Cuban refugee, the play could be about any immigrant group.
Nine characters. One set. U.S. Senator Jedidiah Kane will do anything to locate an Army base in his State. SPIDER is a character study of the archetypical Capitol Hill insider. However, the words “Democrat” and “Republican” do not appear in the text. Nor is the play tied to any current event or modeled after any personality. Rather, it’s based loosely on the author’s own observations as a Capitol Hill staffer and lobbyist some years ago. SPIDER, without preaching, demonstrates the pernicious effects of money on legislation. More than that, it portrays the mindset and political “morality” of elected leaders.
POINT O’ ROCKS
Nine characters. One set. What is the sum of an artist’s life? Why did America’s First Dramatist destroy the centerpiece of his life’s work? Eugene O’Neill battles ghosts, demons and Parkinson-like symptoms. “Point o’ Rocks” is concerned with legacy. How are we judged? What are the costs of genius? How and when to say goodbye to one’s art? The play also attempts to solve American theatre’s enduring mystery: why did O’Neill set fire to his “Cycle” series? “Point o’ Rocks” delves into past (parents and brother), present (wife and illness) and future (children) in an effort to solve the puzzle.
Six characters. Two sets. Post-Holocaust thriller. Based on the award-winning novel WHO SHALL LIVE, WHO SHALL DIE by Daniel Stern. Judah Kramer is fourteen when he learns his family is on the next day's selection at Auschwitz. Twenty-two years later (1965), “Jud” is a successful director staging a play on the concentration camps. He’s visited by a strange man determined to strip him of all he holds dear. This includes Jud’s gentile wife, his career … and ultimately his life. RETRIBUTION deals with seldom-discussed aspects of the Holocaust: costs of survival; remembrance versus victimhood; forgiveness for whom? In 1998, RETRIBUTION was produced Off-Broadway starring Golden Globe recipient Dennis Christopher.
Six characters. Two sets. Middle America, Third party grass-roots movements. The politics of disillusionment. Harry and Bea were born in the '30s and grew up patriotic. They believed if they worked hard, "played by the rules" and taught their children these values, they would be rewarded. Instead, their son was reported missing in action in Vietnam and Harry (in 1992) is afraid of being laid off from a company he once owned. In short: Harry is a perfect candidate for Ross Perot's "people's movement". When Perot drops out of the race, Harry and Bea are forced to confront their past loss, present trauma and the promise of an uncertain future. In 1996. THE SHATTERING was produced Off-Broadway.
Eleven characters. One fixed set. Musical revue. Comprised of twenty-four numbers, it encompasses various styles of music from a satire on rap, to tap; from ballroom to show tunes; from blues to neo-classical, climaxing in a twelve-minute modern-dance ballet. The plot showcases various New York subway stops utilizing a “circus” motif, i.e., the City is a three-ring circus.
Nineteen characters. One primary set. It's 1942 and the Germans have invaded the forests of Volhynia. Ablaze with the fire of Tchaikovsky's musical genius, ROMA ROMANI is an epic tale of Partisan resistance and Gypsy lore — of love and courage and a people determined to survive outside time and history. Unlike other theatre pieces about gypsies, ROMA ROMANI seeks to tell its story from their viewpoint. It is, in a sense, a FIDDLER ON THE ROOF of the Rom — complete with acrobatic dancing, fiery music and a plot interweaving gypsy lore with fact.
MODERN DANCE BALLET
THE BALLAD OF READING GAOL
Fourteen character types. One set Based on the last published poem of Oscar Wilde, the ballet tells the story of a Guardsman under sentence of death for the murder of his wife (“each man kills the thing he loves”). The Ballad recounts the young man’s last days and execution — complete with “loves,” demons and spirits. Years after Wilde wrote the poem, it would be used in the successful battle to end capital punishment in England. Ballad uses a full orchestra and has a running time of 40 minutes. As envisioned, the revised text would be recited by a seen or unseen Wilde as he observes the action.
BORN OF THE SUN
Texas, 1866: one year after the Civil War … one year before the great cattle drives that would flood the North with three million head of Texas beef. BORN OF THE SUN is based on the novel by John H. Culp. Seen through the eyes of twelve year-old Kid, it is a fictional account of that first epic cattle drive. But it is more than that: it is the story of Drisco, the haunted Texas Ranger, of beautiful Judy Deatherage and Treppis, the outlaw who wronged her; of Martin who had a dream and Morning Star, the daughter of a Kiowa Chief. It is a western saga of tornadoes and stampedes and the lonely heroism of the American cowboy. In short, it is a coming-of-age story of a boy and a Nation … born of the sun!