Contra Dance – A Play

Why This Play? Why now?

As an actress/writer/producer/director over the age of sixty who has chosen to spend an entire career in rural New Hampshire, I wrote Contra Dance in response to several questions and issues that come up in conversation – and in the arts media – more and more frequently.

First and foremost is the conversation about the serious dearth of women playwrights whose work gets seen. I think overall the number of us whose work has been published in the last year is at 21%.

Second is theatre and film’s notorious ageism. If we are lucky enough to work as older women, the portrayal of age bears almost no relation to the reality lived by modern women over the age of fifty-five who live, work, curse, have sex, run marathons, and still enjoy wearing fuck-me-pumps and cool clothes. Even if they are grandmothers.

And third is the regional question. There is not a lot of theatre out there that portrays our rapidly changing rural areas with any sort of clarity or realism. But there are a whole lot of theatres in the U.S. that serve those populations, which have all the same problems that exist in major cities, but few cultural or social similarities.

So I wrote Contra Dance.

First production September 3-6, 2015 by Team Contra Dance at The Barnstormers Theatre, Tamworth, New Hampshire

First production September 3-6, 2015 by Team Contra Dance at The Barnstormers Theatre, Tamworth, New Hampshire


Contra Dance is now available to both community and professional theatres. You can read fifteen pages of the script here. A full script is available on request. Per U.S. Copyright regulations, this script may not be reproduced in any way without proper permission from the author and all proper fees paid.

About The Play

British actress Sara left her career years ago to raise a family in her husband’s hometown. Successful novelist Rosie wrestles with writer’s block, an empty nest, and the invisibility common to middle aged women. As sisters-in-law, Sara and Rosie are partners in The Two Ladies pub and café in rural New Hampshire. Their niece Hannah, a thirty-something recovering addict, struggles with making a go of the family farm, life as a single mom, and the unwanted attentions of World War II veteran and recent widower Howard Bennett. And angry, post-alcoholic Perley – Rosie’s uncle, Hannah’s grandfather, Howard’s oldest frenemy – is haunted by a lifetime of harsh realities and crushed dreams.

Change is put on fast-forward when rigid, seventy-ish busybody Clara Givens barges into The Two Ladies with the startling revelation that Rosie’s long-ago love Cam Gilles, a faded but still-famous-enough t.v. star, is returning to town to settle down with his fifth wife. Not only that: Sara has brokered the homecoming without sharing the news with anyone. Hard on Clara’s heels, Perley inexplicably appears in the pub after five years of swearing he would never darken its door, and it looks like he’s going to stay. The electrifying appearance of Cam Gilles himself creates chaos in the quiet pub, but there’s room for one more surprise when young African American musician Dominique Brown, whose passionate desire was to leave lily-white New Hampshire forever, returns as the local high school’s new music teacher.

By turns dysfunctional, hilarious, heart breaking, and finally transformative, these eight opinionated characters, including six over the age of fifty-five and four tough women ‘who could seriously kick your ass’, work, live, curse, drink, have sex, and grapple with the same issues found in any large city – but in a small town. With wrinkles. All are burdened with secrets. All have stories. And like the perception- and partner-changing form for which it is named, Contra Dance calls them through a winding pattern of perspective, love, age, and a clearer definition of home.