5 Questions with Russell Davis

The 11th reading in our FORUM “Soundings” series is TRESPASSER IN A PROMISED LAND by Russell Davis. This reading will be begin at 7:00pm and will be held at Fairleigh Dickinson University, Dreyfuss Theatre, 285 Madison Avenue, Madison, NJ. Click here for directions. Click here for a printable map of the campus (the Dreyfuss Theatre is located in Building 9).

In search of his former love, a young man enters a strange and foreboding place, secluded from the rest of society. Following a letter she wrote to him once in the past he finds that everything has changed since he knew her, and now an ancient prophecy may stand in the way of the future he wants with her.

Russell Davis directed Tony Duncan who won the juggling championships at the 1994 International Jugglers’ Association Convention, and worked with the juggler Michael Moschen inMichael Moschen in Motion at the Brooklyn Academy of Music’s Next Wave Festival and at the Lincoln Center’s SERIOUS FUN! Festival.  He was one of four jugglers featured in ‘The Best Jugglers You’ve Never Heard Of’ (cover story JUGGLE magazine, Winter 2007, published by the International Jugglers’ Association).  He has led circus workshops at various theatres, universities, and schools.  He has been a juggling/unicycling instructor for the Big Apple Circus’ education program, for the S.T.E.P. summer  program for New Haven inner city youth at the Yale Univer­sity gym, and at HB Studio in NY.  He is a playwright and has received fellowships and grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, Pew Fellowships for the Arts, McKnight Foundation, Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, New York Foundation for the Arts, New State Council on the Arts & the Tennessee Arts Commission.  His plays have been produced at various theatres and are published by Broadway Play Publishing.

1. What made you want to become a playwright?
Not much.  (Just kidding.)  Actually I was interested in fiction, as a young fellow.  I was particularly fond of E.M. Forster, Dostoyevski, Andre Gide and such.  But after college I was acting in a professional NYC children’s theatre and was quite bothered by the quality of scripts we were asked to act in.  And so I began to write scripts myself….

2.  You were one of four jugglers featured in ‘The Best Jugglers You’ve Never Heard Of’ (cover story JUGGLE magazine, Winter 2007, published by the International Jugglers’ Association). What does it mean to you to be named one of four jugglers that no one has heard of? It means I have earned the respect of some of my juggling peers.  Plus I think it was very sweet of them to write that article.

3. We did a reading of Trespasser In A Promised Land in 2010 as part of our FORUM reading series. What has been a major change in your revision or is it a culmination of smaller changes that are influencing the big picture?There have been several large changes – the character Nina, for example, is no longer from a foreign land – but also many little, and not so little, cumulative changes throughout.

4. You have a penchant for long titles: IN CASE OF THE APOCALYPSE AFTER EDMOND IS GONE and Theatre For Your Mother: The Little Red Riding Hood Show to name a few. You make it difficult to use a decent sized font on postcards that folks can actually read. On behalf of Marketing and PR Directors everywhere, I just have to ask: What’s up with that?
Well, I have a couple of short titles of scripts that were presented at PTNJ:  The Wild Goose Circus and Sally’s Porch.  Maybe it’s because I didn’t originally intend to be a playwright and maybe I like long titles because fiction writers are allowed long titles.  Knowing what the (long) title is to a play definitely helps me write it.  If it’s any consolation, the marketing & PR folks at People’s Light & Theatre Company didn’t allow me the long title to Theatre For Your Mother: The Little Red Riding Hood Show when they produced that script, and nor did Honolulu Theater For Youth.  They advertised it as The Little Red Riding Hood Show, which I, of course, considered to be a lack of courage on their part.  And maybe misleading too, because it was the grown-up mothers in the audience, and even some of those dads and other adult ne’er-do-wells, who certainly approved of the show as much as any of those youngsters.

5. If we presented you the following choices of things to juggle, which would you choose and why?   a) grapes   b) knives   c) water balloons  d) tea cups

I would decline to juggle any of those items.  When the public sees someone juggle a grape, a knife and water balloon or tea cup, they are basically witnessing someone performing a three object juggling cascade — which is the simplest, most fundamental juggling pattern.  There is basically, therefore, no challenge besides taking some time to get used to the different weights and shapes.  The next time you see someone juggling odd objects ask them to start juggling continuously behind their back, or juggle all three objects in one hand, or to do a “three-up” pirouette while juggling those objects.

Playwrights Theatre will present these readings free of charge, with an optional donation of $10

♦ A $25 dollar donation will get you a FORUM pass that covers all of the readings.

♦ A $250 donation will get you a rehearsal pass that allows access to all reading rehearsals.

♦ Reservations can be made online at or call (973) 514-1787 X10

Click here to reserve your seat to see TRESPASSER IN A PROMISED LAND