Date of Award

4-2002

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

English

Abstract

The plays in this collection are all examples of interrupted ritual. In Ouaddies, a play set in a 1969 college dormitory, Margaret's courtship conventions conflict with Terry's Friday night bridge game with his pals, a ritual interrupted several times by other rites: an anti-war demonstration, a bout of arm wrestling, and a panty raid. Similarly, Static disturbs the ceremonies of taxi dispatching (answering the telephone, making and drinking coffee, taking bids and giving out orders) with a game of chess played between two of the principals--a highly ritualized struggle beginning with a wager and ending with chaos. In Pluto, Dis Associates. Nick Shadow's rituals of soul procurement are ruined by the more quotidian rituals of dinner and email. And Woody Woodpecker's Dream Café interrupts its own process throughout. Beginning with a desert scene that turns out to be a play written by a character named Roger within a play about a playwriting workshop, the playwriting workshop is further disclosed to. be part of a larger play, the fictional brainchild of Cummins, who uses characters with the same names as the people in his own playwriting workshop. With every further interruption it becomes less clear what the truth is-and less certain that the most recent explanation of events is the final one.

Within the reality/fantasy continuum, Quaddies and Static are realistic plays, while Pluto Dis Associates and Woody Woodpecker's Dream Café hold more in common with fantasy. Woody Woodpecker's Dream Café revises the structure of the other three, since that play continues the fictive life of at least one character from each. Danny, the taxi-dispatcher in Static, is seen the year of his death, ten years later. Terry and Margaret, the student couple in Quaddies, are viewed three, then seven years farther on. Nick Shadow reappears.

Themes are similar throughout the collection, though they are sometimes presented ironically: the urgency of life's physical and moral struggles, the importance of culture, of family, of love.

Access Setting

Dissertation-Open Access

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