The Fear of Vulnerability: Nature or Nurture?

VulnerableI’m writing a play right now. The two characters are struggling to connect because of their fear of vulnerability.

This is a very old and common theme, on-stage and off. So, I wonder, is it in our nature to fear vulnerability? Has it provided us with a reproductive advantage?

On first reflection, it doesn’t seem like there should be any reproductive advantage to such a fear. We often experience vulnerability when we think or know we are more attached to someone than they are to us. A fear of this kind of vulnerability would, I think, lead to fewer rather than more attachments. Attachment is the foundation of all human relations. Without it, far fewer babies would be born or survive. So, if this analysis is correct, it seems likely that a fear of vulnerability shouldn’t lead to a reproductive advantage.

However, perhaps this fear of vulnerability helps us to be more selective or discerning in our attachments. Yes, attachment is good, but attachment to the best primates is better. Perhaps, a fear of vulnerability leads to more stable pair bonds, and maybe this leads to a reproductive advantage in the long run. There is some plausibility to this conclusion.

Of course, there may be a whole other way to approach the question of why we fear vulnerability. Perhaps, we humans are naturally inclined to form attachments fearlessly and it is human society that has evolved in such a way that very many of us endure experiences that almost always engender a deep fear of vulnerability. We are not born with a fear of vulnerability, but instead learn to fear it as we live in a social environment, which is very different from the one in which we first evolved.

If a fear of vulnerability is not a question of our nature, but is instead the result of a certain kind of nurture, overcoming and eventually eliminating the fear of vulnerability could be a way to return to where we began. The wise, for example, are often said to be very much like children. Moreover, if a fear of vulnerability is a reasonable and rational response to social life as it has evolved, it may also help explain why the wise often stand apart and outside of conventional society.

And my characters? Will they get over their fears and connect? Fortunately, for them, the fantasy of fiction is far neater and far simpler than fact. Maybe that’s why we enjoy it so much.

My Plays Are Wiser Than I Am: A Reason to Write.

Fire Engine Red

On Sunday, I discovered that my plays are wiser than I am.


On Saturday, over drinks (natch), Wayne floated the idea of producing either Paris is Dead or Sunlight. Accordingly, I reread them the next day.

As I reread them, I was surprised to realize that I had much to learn from my own plays. I suppose, I wasn’t learning so much as relearning.

My plays, it seems, possess a power of discernment, judgment, and discretion I too easily lose or forget.


  1. A person’s identity is always in flux, progressing and regressing according to models, principles, and standards that are also always in flux.
  2. A play (or any well executed work) is the result of hundreds and thousands of micro decisions made by a constantly evolving and devolving identity.
  3. A finished work seems to be unified and coherent, but it is, in fact, a bricolage of very many ideas, motivations, and decisions. It reflects the wisdom of a crowd of ever changing “I”s.
  4. Once finished, the work and its wisdom is unchanging. The identity that created the work carries on evolving and/or devolving.


Of course, wisdom can’t reside on or in a page. Wisdom exists — if it “exists” anywhere — in a brain or brains.

The work is a reminder or a catalyst for its reader and it will only only be as wise as its reader. The work will always seem wiser, because it is through the work that the reader is reminded of — or spurred to — his or her own wisdom.


For some time now, I’ve been struggling with the question: why write? why create?

Ultimately, I write/create because I am a writer/creator, but the discovery of a pragmatic consideration may quiet — for now, anyway — an uncertainty of purpose.

A play — or any well executed work — is an enduring catalyst for wisdom, which is too easily lost or forgotten.

That, I think, is an outcome worth pursuing.

Have you made any discoveries lately?

A New Play: Cheshire and Kat, Lovers In A Dangerous Time.

I’m not sure why but, all of a sudden, a couple of weeks ago I decided it was high time to tie up some of my creative loose ends.

Accordingly, I made the final push on Cheshire and Kat: Lovers In A Dangerous Time.  As I worked on the last few scenes, I discovered that I was depressing myself  as I wrote. I was forced to wonder why I had decided to write a play that is — for lack of a better expression — so dark.

The short answer, if you find yourself asking that question as you read, is that I had watched one too many documentaries about humans heaping misery upon other humans for no sensible reason. I think I needed to test my answer to the question, “Why bother?”

The elevator pitch: Bonnie and Clyde meets Heart of Darkness with a dash of Highlander.


Download Cheshire and Kat, Lovers In A Dangerous Time.

Like Boiling A Frog: And Here We Fear To Tread.

I’ve been thinking about this scene, from my unfinished play Cheshire and Kat: Lover’s In A Dangerous Time, off and on for the past little while.

When I started writing this play, I was motivated primarily by the rather adolescent desire to write a play with sword fights and five acts; from there, I cooked up a good old fashioned post-apocalyptic dystopia.

Because I started writing it in the early days of Obama’s administration, when optimism for the near future was running high, I actually thought to myself: your timing’s not ideal on this one. Who’s going to want to think about a dystopia these days.

Now, as a default looms, the idea of a less than ideal future seems much more plausible.

And that’s why I’ve been thinking about this scene. If memory serves, most post apocalyptic stories hinge on some great cataclysmic event; being the contrarian that I am, I decided to imagine a different kind history for my dystopia.

These days, the idea of it seems more and more plausible. This is a draft but you will get the idea.

ACT 3, Scene 2

Night, in a sheltered spot. A glowing lamp.

(Cheshire reads out loud from Watership Down.)

El-ahrairah, your people cannot rule the world, for I will not have it so. All the world will be your enemy, Prince with a Thousand Enemies, and whenever they catch you, they will kill you. But first they must catch you, digger, listener, runner, prince with the swift warning. Be cunning and full of tricks and your people shall never be destroyed.



Do you remember what it was like? Before? You know: before?

Some, I suppose. I was pretty young. It’s a bit of a haze.

You don’t think about it or try to remember.

No. Not really. I guess it comes into my head every now and again but I don’t dwell on it.

Why not?

No reason. That I can think of. Just doesn’t seem that important. I guess, I’d rather think about now. You. Tomorrow. Us.

What was it like? You know when every thing went to hell.

Why all this sudden interest in ancient history? What? Afraid I won’t be around much longer to ask.

Shut up, asshole. Don’t joke about that. I don’t know. I don’t know. Maybe it was finding that guy’s photos and videos that got me thinking about it.

The cat will mew, and dog will have his day.

Whatever. What was it like?

I don’t really remember it being like anything. It was what it was.

That doesn’t make any sense.

It’s not like anything suddenly happened. It wasn’t like there was a big explosion and society as we know it collapsed. It was kind of gradual. Lots of little things that finally added up to what we have now. I guess that’s why it happened. No one saw it coming.

Like boiling a frog.

I guess. To be honest, most of my memories are pretty happy. Despite what was slowly happening all around me. Sure, when I think about it now, as an adult, I can’t make sense of how a little kid could deal with it but when I remember it as I was, as I lived it, it wasn’t so bad. It was life, you know. Sure, life with a lot of death and misery, but still life. You must know what I am talking about. You were a kid once too.

I don’t.

What do you mean you don’t?

I don’t. I close my eyes and try and I can’t really get much farther back than ten or eleven. There are snatches. Images. Most of them are pretty ugly though. Angry. Hate-filled. The memories from ten or eleven aren’t so good either.

I know.

Here there be dragons.

And here we fear to tread.



Cheshire and Kat: Stay on Target, Stay on Target!

For those of you following along at home, here is Act 3 of Cheshire and Kat: Lovers In A Dangerous Time.

To read ACT 3, click here.

The fourth act has been a tough slog but the burden of serialization has worked. I’ve made good progress and I managed to carve out the shape of it. There’s plenty of detailed work to go but the guide rails are in place.

I’ve also discovered a bit of a knot. It needs to be untangled or cut if the whole thing is going to work but, for me, finding, untying, and / or cutting the knots is half the fun.

Will I have it done in a month? I don’t know but I will try!

The next installment will be Act 4 and 5 — the exciting conclusion!

As always, if you have any feedback for me, it’s always appreciated it.

NB: One rehearsal with Peter Hinton has already had an effect. I’m working hard to cut back my stage directions to the absolute minimum.  In retrospect, I realize now I gave almost no consideration to my stage directions. Lesson learned.

For more of my plays, click here.

Cheshire and Kat Need Your Help: Please Read Act Two!

A few weeks ago, in a desperate attempt to save the lives of Cheshire and Kat — the main characters in my latest play — I posted their first Act together and solicited feedback. I hoped the feedback — positive or negative — would spur me to keep writing.

It worked!

Thanks to your helpful replies, I was galvanized to make numerous revisions and I have even mustered the energy to start in on the unfinished Act 4. I will post the up-dated Act 1, along with the other revised acts, when the whole thing is done.

I was usefully surprised by some of the strong reactions against both the content of the narrative and the nature of the characters. It never occurred to me that the violence depicted or the characters themselves would provoke such strong negative reactions. I suspect I overlooked this possibility because, much like Cheshire, I am focussed on the art and the argument and not paying too much attention to the visceral details.

I mention this useful revelation because the strong and unexpected reactions caused me to wonder if they shed light on my reluctance to finish ACT 4. If you make it that far, my indebtedness to Conrad’s Heart of Darkness will be obvious. Also, my “indebtedness” to some recent and very real atrocities will also be obvious.

In fact, the key speech will be based on some notes I vomited out, after watching yet another film about humans doing horrible things to other humans. Actually, come to think of it, it was this film. This film gets credit for breaking the dam but, truthfully, there are so many tributaries I’m not sure it should be held responsible.

Here, there be dragons, as they say.

Click here for Act 2 in PDF.

For more of my plays, click here.

A Playwright In Search Of Motivation: Cheshire and Kat Need Your Help!

For me, writing is a bit like creating a puzzle and then trying to solve it. Sometimes, if I solve the puzzle in my head before I finish it on the page, I have a hard time finishing the piece of writing.

I lose the drive to finish it because, for all intents and purposes, it is essentially done. It becomes a little too easy to say “mañana” and move the “solved” project to the back burner because the tough / fun work is already finished.

Without the puzzle, for me, writing is almost akin to data entry. And who the hell wants to do data entry with so many other puzzles to solve!?

Such has been the fate of Cheshire and Kat: Lovers In A Dangerous Time.

Four of the five acts are pretty much done — including the final act.  I even know what happens in the fourth act but I haven’t been able to find the motivation to finish the damn thing.

This is my attempt to rekindle my motivation.

Please click here to read Act 1.

Please read Act 1 and let me know your first impressions. Do you want to find out what happens to these characters or are you not too fussed either way?

If people are intrigued, I will serialize the acts. This should, I think, motivate me to finish the damn thing.

Your help, as always, is deeply appreciated.

For more of my plays, click here.

My Latest One Act Play: Home In Time

Last week, I wrote a play! Here it is! When you have a chance please give it a read and let me know what you think. I’m pretty pleased with it, so I hope you enjoy it.

[Update: The first version of this play won OLT’s 69th National One Act Playwriting competition. The play has been reworked a couple of times since then, and the link is to the latest version.]

Home in Time: A Play In One Act

All thoughts, comments, etc. are very welcome.

For more of my plays, click here.

Sunlight, A Play in One Act

Sunlight combines text, improvisation, a dumbshow, and movement in order to craft an original and unexpected response to a reality we face each and everyday: the minute-by-minute choice between a life of distraction and a life of attentiveness.

Although it is very much a work of theatre, it can also be described as a kind of dance piece in which the characters’ dialogue act as the dancer’s accompaniment. Together, the dance and the dialogue pose the question, “How can I be happy”. Refreshingly, the play provides a simple and direct answer.

Click here for the PDF.

For more of my plays, click here.

Tangelico, A Play in One Act

Jacob has the space booked. He is certain of it. He has proof, evidence, and memories. Furthermore, there are rules, systems, and procedures designed to resolve this very kind of conflict. Unfortunately, Jenna and Samantha won’t leave him alone, won’t let him get back to doing whatever he was doing — and would be doing — if they hadn’t interrupted him. An absurd, hilarious, and downright silly farce about the creative process, friendship, and memory.

For a PDF copy of the play, Tangelico, A Play In One Act.

For more of my plays, click here.

Special thanks to Dave Dawson who gave me the idea of a bare stage and guy in unitard with a stool. I owe the substance of The Cats rant to him as well. He went forward with Tangelico as a Fringe tour when all I had was a name, a few vague ideas, and an even vaguer play description for the festival guides. If not for him, it would never have been written and it is the play that got me writing again. So if you like anything on my blog, be sure to support his shows. See