|Sunday, September 20, 2020|
About the Author
S.A. Shipley, who studied under William Gibson ("Miracle Worker"), has written more than 20 plays that have been performed internationally. Shipley is the recipient of the Dramalogue "Play of the Year" Award for the comedy "Caryatids" and was a nominee for an NAACP Image Award for Writing in Television. Shipley holds an MFA from Brandeis, an AA in Criminal Justice and is a certified private investigator.
Shipley's early, historical plays were set aside in the 1990’s in favor of expressionistic plays which were influenced by a combination of personal experience; the observations of naturalists Goodall and Fossey; and the rousing sensibilities of playwrights Gibson and Odets.
Shipley’s recent plays combine a modern linguistic sensibility with the rhythms of blank verse and the vitality of Shakespeare. These works depend on life experiences for perspective and Shakespeare’s masterworks for place and time. StarCrossed is a prequel to Romeo & Juliet. "The feud between the families is a celebrated mystery of theatre," said S.A. Shipley. "Following Shakespeare’s clues to their logical conclusion was a great detective exercise." (interview '05) "Firestorm", which is based on "Hamlet", is a compelling account of vengeance from a woman's point of view.
While Shipley’s plays are primarily "…seamless storytelling (with) … deeply empathetic characters," says Megan Grumbling, the Portland Phoenix. A close look at Shipley’s plays reveals writing "…marked by an accomplished and ardent attention to language… by turns lyrical and dirty" "Shipley’s language and tenor span a range from the libertine to the sublime." (Grumbling 05)) that enables her to draw realistic portraits of courtships in all their hilarious confusion. Shipley writes a classically structured story which, she says, is "essential to keeping the audience laughing and interested." (interview 05)
Critics note her expertise in portraying the misadventures of principled equals as they struggle to launch honorable lives. Larry Stark, editor of the Theatre Mirror, wrote of the 2005 premiere production of "StarCrossed", "Shipley's characters have a vigorous originality that brings them alive in their own right, with the excitement of their youthful discoveries of life exploding in all directions." The survivors in these plays always face choices involving love, honor, and overwhelming passion.
A consideration of Shipley's characters focuses on her skill with characters in groups. "They'll pick up a sword to kill each other one minute, the next they're clapping each other on the backs. In other words, they're a typical pack of young bucks on the run," says Savage in the Wire. The women’s roles "offer a much more intimate glimpse of the transition (between child and adult) than the Bard himself afforded." (Grumbling)
Shipley often writes about women caught in difficult circumstances, surrounded by men who represent desire and honor. The female characters, like the men, are constrained by the society in which they live and forced to make choices that conflict with their cravings. "StarCrossed" is a thematic commentary on love and honor. Shipley's female characters "gambol about on an exquisite line between girlhood and womanhood." (Grumbling 2/05)
Mature characters in Shipley’s plays represent the fulfillment of basic needs, like food and nurturing (Semla, the cook, in Firestorm, and Orangina, the nurse in StarCrossed) and often speak pragmatically about how to meet these needs, honorably or not, no matter the consequences. These characters can be ruthless in their drive for power and control (Osric in "Firestorm").
Shipley is currently at work on "Sycorax."
Copyright © 2002-2006 Sharyn A. Shipley.