Nora Douglass holds an MFA in Playwriting from The University of Washington School of Drama. Playwriting awards include three Kennedy Center ACTF Awards, including the David Library Award for the best play about the American Experience. Other awards include first place in the Drury College One Act Play Competition and a Shenandoah International Playwrights Retreat fellowship. Three of her plays have been chosen for development by Theatre 33, a new play development company in Salem, Oregon and short plays have been included in numerous theater festivals including Seattle Fringe Festivals, New York’s Love Creek’s One-Act Festival: Women’s Voices and several Theater Company of Lafayette’s Short Play Festivals. In addition to writing, Nora has served in the roles of director, designer, actor, and dramaturg for new plays. She has taught drama and creative writing to students from 3rd grade through senior adults and has served as Artist-in-Residence at three colleges. Nora is a member of The Dramatists Guild, New Plays Exchange and The Playwrights Center.
A More Personal Story
My absolute bliss is to sit in a theater and watch rehearsals. It is the truest thing about me. The first stage of writing a play is a solitary sport, but after that, if you’re lucky, it becomes a community project. And it is the generous actors, designers and director who help finish the play, and then the audience who tells you what it was all about. I love playwriting because I get to write in company.
And the company is best when it feels like home. I have been fortunate to have found three theater homes in my playwriting life. First it was ACME Theatricks, a small fringe theater in Seattle that was founded by a group of University of Washington students. Rent was cheap and we were inexperienced and naïve about the ways of the world, so we did a lot of brave things. We produced primarily new plays, including two full-length ensemble-created plays that were hits at Seattle Fringe Festivals. In addition to contributing new plays as a playwright, I served as resident designer and occasional director.
My second theater home is Theater Company of Lafayette near Boulder, Colorado, a company that invites new work. The Artistic Director is ACME alum Madge Montgomery. Part of Madge’s genius is her ability to snatch out of the zeitgeist trending topics – our collective fears and latest preoccupations – to create themed festivals and invite playwrights to bend their creative minds around them. I have written nine short plays for these festivals. The latest, Tut Uncommon, celebrated the centenary of the discovery of King Tutankhamun’s tomb in 1922. The very first, The Frankenstein Experiment, received an Ovation Award from the Denver Post. My full-length play, Shorn was produced by TCL in 2020 and I am excited that my family saga, Edmonds Stories will be produced this summer, directed by Madge. She directed my very first play, Garden Party, so it feels like we have come full circle. It feels like coming home.
Theatre 33 in Salem, Oregon has offered me a home for my latest full-length plays. This new play development company offers northwest playwrights a unique experience. Playwrights are given a three-week residency that culminates in a fully mounted script-in-hand production with several performances and audience talk backs. I have had the great good luck to have three of my plays developed with the help of Theatre 33, beginning with Shorn in 2017. Martine Out of Time was chosen for development in 2018 and Unbuttoning Virginia in 2021. Once again, I felt welcome, supported and encouraged. This summer, my new play, The Great Bub, will have a reading in their Pop Up Series.
It has made such a difference to be a part of such welcoming communities. I like playwright Jaqueline Goldfinger’s advice for writers. She says, “Find your art family…Once you find a creative home with them, then you will be able to do your best work because you will be valued and you will lift each other up.” These three companies have lifted me up. Theater is collaboration and Home is where it happens best.
I have always liked the “minor masters” with their small stories of everyday people and ordinary life. I am also drawn to quiet characters, those in the background; the observers and the supporters, the easily ignored and the summarily dismissed, the invisible and the hidden, and the introverts struggling to count in our hyper-extroverted world.
I realize, of course, being drawn to these unassuming characters and small stories can be tricky in the theater, an art form all about conflict and action. This dilemma, however, has helped me learn to be creative, and to employ all the magical conventions theater can hold.
Almost all my plays begin as comedies, but invariably, each one turns, becoming something more serious, more difficult, still a comedy, but often with an underbelly of heartache, anger or critique.
MARTINE OUT OF TIME RADIO INTERVIEW – KMUZ Interview with Nora Douglass, Ann Peck McBride and Dramaturg, Deb Vaughn, July 7, 2018.
SHORN RADIO INTERVIEW – KGNU Interview by Veronica Straight-Lingo with Nora Douglass, and Madge Montgomery, April 2, 2019.
BUILDING A PLAY PODCAST, EPISODE 5: WHAT ON EARTH IS DRAMATURGY? With Deb Vaughn, Susan Coromel and Nora Douglass.