Thursday, November 01, 2012

Adam Szymkowicz Interviews Me (with help from my 6-year old nephew)

As part of his ongoing series, playwright Adam Szymkowicz interviewed me recently about playwriting, theater, and my childhood.  Adam was also kind enough to let me get a little loose with his questions, allowing my 6 year-old nephew, Brody, to ask me a few questions as well.

Also-- I let my Mom answer one of the questions, because she had a better answer than me.

You can read the entirety of Adam's interview of me HERE.

Thank you to Adam for reaching out, and to Brody for his fun additions to the project.  Thanks also to my sister Wendy, for helping me out with Brody's questions.  And to my Mom.

Much love,


Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Schuylkill River Project

Dear Friends,

I want to clean-up The Schuylkill River.

And this is why:

Fairmount Water Works.  America’s first zoo.  George Washington’s army at Valley Forge during the American Revolutionary War.  Olympian John B. Kelly and Princess Grace of Monaco.  Fairmount Park.  And the Philadelphia Museum of Art.  All of these things have participated deeply with the Schuylkill River-- a site that Charles Dickens once called “wondrous to behold”.

Also-- because 1.75 million Pennsylvania residents drink from the river.

As an artist, it’s a passion of mine to develop a performance project that honors the Schuylkill River. 

But most importantly, I wish to express my LOVE for the Schuylkill.  And my desire, above all, to help the river fully express herself by freeing her from some of the pollutants that blight her beauty and her health, quieting her voice.

In short, I want to turn THIS (before):

The Schuylkill River at 2:30 pm on Saturday, October 6th, 2012.  Photo by Sarah Lloyd.

Into THIS (after):

The Schuylkill River at 3:30 pm on Saturday, October 6, 2012.  Photo by Sarah Lloyd.

The transformation documented in these photos took ONE HOUR.

The contents of those four large garbage bags (which also contain over 120 recyclable objects) took only sixty minutes for Sarah Lloyd and I to collect.

I would love to use time every day cleaning up the river.  Every day making the kind of difference that you see in these photos.  And while every day is not quite possible, it is my goal to work on the river for at least 50 – 60 hours from now until the end of 2012.

And I would love people to help me.

If you're interested, and I hope you are, these are the beginning ways we can care for the Schuylkill together:
  • Join me on the river!  As best I can, I will keep this blog site updated about when I am going out on the river.  You can also email me at, and we can communicate that way.  
  • Because I don't have the resources of money, you can donate helpful items.  Most useful: a wagon or wheelbarrow (for hauling trash bags), trash bags (eco-friendly ones if possible), a digital camera (for documenting).  Also useful, especially if a team of volunteers develops: lawn rakes, work gloves, snacks/food, reusable water bottles (non-plastic if possible).  
  • Information.  Maybe you know a convenient recycling or trash drop-off near the river?  Maybe you know the right people to reach out to?  Maybe you know specific areas of the river that need the most attention?
  • Help me document/archive.  My blog site is simple.  Maybe you can help me present this information better.
  • Donate money.  Funds will be used for gathering supplies, providing support for additional volunteers, etc.  Any surplus funds will be used wisely and generously.  You can send money via PayPal to  Or you can mail funds to:  Greg Romero, 322 N 39th St, Philadelphia PA 19104.

Of course, the Schuylkill will thank you more than I ever could, but because I believe in gift-exchange, anyone who helps me care for the river, I happily offer the following gifts in return:

  • I will happily acknowledge you in any creative project that develops from this work and also keep a running list of acknowledgements here.
  • With my finger, I will write your name (and/or a loved one’s, just let me know) into the river, thereby making you part of the river’s stories and history.
  •  I will also do my best to photo-document the process, tracking progress of the clean-up with before and after photos, positive developments, etc.  I will post as much as I can to this blog, and will also be happy to email any information to you directly.

Thank you for your care and generosity—I look forward to doing something beautiful and purposeful with you.


Greg Romero

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

PLASTIC THINGS Plays the Philly Fringe

In September 2012, my all-ages play, Of Plastic Things and Butterfly Wings, ran for seven performances as part of the Philly Fringe Festival, and I couldn't be happier with the experience.

The Oldest Sea Turtle That Ever Lived (Josh Totora), Reginald the Blue Crab (Kevin Chick), and Sam the Plastic Water Bottle (Leslie Nevon Holden).  Photo by Charlotte Jacobson.

Playing before live audiences from September 12 - 16 at the Off-Broad Street Theatre (in the Center City/Rittenhouse area), the play was wonderfully produced by Little Fish Theatre, who also commissioned the play in partnership with Fernbrook Farms Education Center.

I was thrilled by the creative team's imagination, and in their skill and generosity in expressing their highly creative ideas.  Making use of puppets, multiple expressions of size and scale, original live music (played largely on found instruments and on recyclable objects), and audience participation, I found this production to be delightful, surprising, theatrical, purposeful, and really touching-- all things that I hope for with every live performance.

As my first experience creating work for young audiences, I particularly enjoyed the performances which had the most young audience members present.  I had a memorable experience talking with one such audience member after the show, who told me all about everything she saw-- a crab, a pink parrot, a turtle, and a whale-shark (the whale-shark was a surprise to me, which I loved).

I also experienced a wonderful moment when a couple different parents told me that this was the first time their child had seen a play.  Now THAT is awesome.

I also loved seeing several Drexel students in the audience, many of whom helped created this work earlier this year through our exploration in the Winter Studio.

Sam's Father (Kevin Chick) and Sam's Mother (Maryruth Stine) caught in The Gyres.  Photo by Charlotte Jacobson
In general, I am very encouraged to the response to this play-- from its beginning creation in February and March of this year, and from this audiences of the Fringe performances.  I look forward to the play's long life, continuing next with this production's touring performance in late November (to Moorestown Friends School in New Jersey), and with another production run to be created by the fine folks of Space 55 in Phoenix, Arizona, in December.

Big continued thank yous to the Little Fish team for all their excellent work, for believing in me from the beginning, and for creating such a wonderful production that was also completely enjoyable to work on (this team embraced every impossible challenge and, in doing so, made the world way bigger).  Thank yous to Fernbrook Farms.  Thank yous to Drexel University and the Dragons of the Winter Studio.  Thank you, Cara Blouin.  Thank yous to the fine folks of the Off-Broad Street Theatre.  Thank you to Beth Cain, for helping us get the word out about this play.  Thank you to Green Philly Blog for covering the performance.  Thank you to Charlotte Jacobson for the photos.  And big thank yous to all the folks who came out to experience the play.

Much love,


Friday, July 06, 2012


Since its close on June 23rd, I have been meaning to write about my recent profound experiences at the 2012 WordBRIDGE Playwrights Lab.  But I have been unable to find the words.  I have thought of posting some images instead-- photos, dreams, moments, fragments, bits of memory surrounded by music.

These ideas have sparked me, but I have still had trouble igniting expression.  Perhaps I have felt that withholding keeps it sacred.  Or maybe I am too scared to release these memories into the world, for fear of losing them, for fear of the fire dying.

But I know this is a fear that I must confront.  Especially since the memories/fires, I know, are safe there, deep down in the bones.

The BABEL Ensemble creating body sculptures with Resource Artist Jeff Wirth.  
Photo by Phoebe Troiani.

I feel extremely fortunate, however, that Peter Davis has beautifully, eloquently, expressed the WordBRIDGE experience for me, partly through several thoughtful interviews of a number of this year's Lab participants.

It is my hope that you will read Peter's words HERE (in Baltimore's What Weekly Magazine) and see them, as full as they are, as only an introduction to the complete story of WordBRIDGE's generous magic.

Big thank yous to everyone, again, at the 2012 WordBRIDGE Playwrights Lab, for a truly transformational, humbling, life-affirming experience.

Jennifer Culotta (Office Worker 1) and Sarah Lloyd (Office Worker 2).  
Photo by Vincent Culotta.

To that end, the words below now find themselves in the first few pages of THE BABEL PROJECT:

The Babel Project enjoyed a two-week creative journey as part of WordBRIDGE Playwrights Laboratory, Baltimore, Maryland, June 2012.

And for this experience, the authors owe much gratitude.  Not only for the purposeful, deeply insightful, and innovative development of this work, but for the purposeful, insightful, innovative development of its authors as artists and humans.

This journey offered us countless gifts, many of which we will unwrap, continually, and with wonder and deep humility.

The WordBRIDGE creative team for The Babel Project included director Peter Wray, dramaturg George Brant, and stage manager J.D. Sivert.  The performers included Erin Boots, Rena Brault, Rich Buchanan, Jennifer Culotta, Emily Hall, Jamie Johnson, Kat Kaplan, Charles Kartali, Sarah Lloyd, Peyton Lynch, Will Manning, Tanner Medding, Erich Poch, and Michele Vazquez.

Big thank yous as well to the entire 2012 WordBRIDGE Company—you are all magical.


much love,


Tuesday, April 24, 2012

"The Other Room" to be Published by Penn Review

A couple years ago, one of my Creative Writing students handed me a scrap of paper that said, "the other room".  This was the prompt for a piece of writing I was to create for the end-of-semester anthology my students and I were making.

I chose to write a story, rather than a play, just because I thought, being a playwright, a short story might be a more fun challenge.

And, years later, this story, "The Other Room", will be published in the Spring 2012 Penn Review Literary Magazine, a development I never imagined.

Cover art for the 2012 Spring Penn Review

To celebrate, there is a book launch event at 2:00 pm on Saturday, April 28th, at The Rotunda (4014 Walnut St), where I (and other authors) will read our contributions to this volume.  The event is Free, and I hear there will be donuts.

Big thank yous to Penn Review, to the Kelly Writers House (whose ArtsEdge Residency led to this opportunity), and to the student who scrawled "the other room" on that fateful scrap.  Thank you as well to all my students, who provided such fruitful terrain from which to write.



Monday, April 16, 2012

SCHUYLKILL RIVER to Become a Book-Object

The ending moment of the 37 "Travel Plays" that compose my epic gift-exchange road-trip play, American Potlatch Road-trip, will take on a unique journey as a "book-object" as part of the project, Philos Adelphos Irrealis-- a handmade book collection of alternate historical texts about Philadelphias that never were.

What would happen if the Walt Whitman Bridge stretched over The Schuylkill?

Schuylkill River, which features the characters The Faceless Man, Walt Whitman, The SS United States, and The Walt Whitman Bridge, was originally written for playwright and bon vivant Richard Kotulski during 2008 - 2009.

As these "travel plays" were all about journeys, gift-exchange, and transformation, I am thrilled that this short play will experience all these things through this project, becoming something newly expressive.

I am also thrilled that the launch of this project will take place at Kelly Writers House, which was so generous to me as I was writing The Travel Plays (and also because it means there will be fun snacks there).


The Kelly Writers House and Creative Ventures present


Friday, April 20, at 2:00 PM in the Arts Café
Kelly Writers House | 3805 Locust Walk
No registration required - this event is free & open to the public


The Creative Ventures series supports creative collaborations across discipline, emphasizing evolution and innovation, convergence, creative process, and imagination.


Big thank yous to the creative folks making this possible, to the Kelly Writers House, and to all the generous people who contributed to the creation of American Potlatch Road-trip: The Travel Plays.



Tuesday, April 10, 2012

DALLAS Returns to the Shubin Theatre

The journey for Dallas continues, returning on April 13th and 15th (2012), to one of the first places it ever performed, Philadelphia's Shubin Theatre. Originally presented as a "staged reading" for Philly's Primary Stages in November 2009, Dallas was selected as one of a handful of projects to be included in the production, "Best of Philly's Primary Stages", celebrating the 25th Anniversary of The Shubin Theatre.

Clinton Hill and Jacqueline Kennedy (Dallas, Texas)

I continue to be thrilled with the opportunities to share this project, the upcoming production at the Shubin marking the sixth different performance of this work with an audience.

Big congratulations (and thank yous) again to collaborator Mike Vernusky, whose electronic music composition continues to haunt me and expand the worlds around me.

This performance is directed by Ken Kaissar (who directed the original staged reading two-and-a-half years ago) and includes performers Aram Alan Aghazarian, Rick Horner, Dana Marcus, John C. Nagy III, and Lynnia Shanley (who performed in The Undead production of Dallas in the 2011 Philly Fringe). The creative team also includes Assistant Director/Dramaturg Zachary Scovish. I am very happy with the thoughtful, detailed, and smart work being done by this team, and look forward to experiencing everyone's work in the intimate and unique environment of the Shubin.

Thank yous to the Shubin Theater, and Philly's Primary Stages for making this production possible. Thank you also to Drexel University, whose continued support of my creative work makes all of these projects more fun.

Continued thanks to Cody R. Kirk and Michael Kranes, whose voices continue to come through the walls, to Dianna Schoenborn, for whom this work was originally written, and to all the artists who have contributed to this work over the past few years.

For more information about this project, you can visit the event page here.



Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Princess Grace & Personal Statements/Emerging

Each year, Princess Grace offers the gift of reflection-- a moment to look into the river and ask questions about where I am, what I am doing, and what is important to me. And also, at least to myself, an opportunity to shape this word "emerging", which troubles me when it precedes the description "artist".

Specifically, this is what Princess Grace asks me:

Please describe, in your own words, your views and expectations of your role as a theater artist now and in the future. Please elaborate on your “emerging status” and how you plan to utilize this fellowship.

I am not certain my answers in response (more questions) are what she is looking for, but they come from the images that formed when I first read the prompt above.

I post my statement here because it might reveal something personal about me, but, more importantly, maybe it offers a beginning place to think about what "emerging" means (a small ripple in the water?).

In any case, I am thankful to the Princess Grace Foundation for their continued support of artists, for the opportunity to share my work with them, and for the questions they lead me to.

Thank you as well to all of the wonderful people (souls?) who have worked on Radio Ghosts with me, which is the work I applied with this year, and the inspiration for some of my statement below.


I started running recently, and the world has become bigger.

Also: “Please share with us a story or illustration of something or someone you have lost. Thank you.”

The running wasn’t planned. Last summer I turned 35, compelling my commitment to take better care of myself. So I started walking and stretching. After walking, daily, for several months, my body wanted more—it wanted to surpass its present limit. I could feel my muscles pitching me forward, harder. So I got some running shoes, because what is more important than listening to our bodies?

This invitation of sharing loss, described above, was hand-written on a single, folded, piece of paper, which we placed on each of the 25 chairs set out for the audience of New Leaf Theater’s workshop staging of Radio Ghosts. We wanted everyone in the room to participate deeply— to be listened to while risking something profoundly personal. It wasn’t enough that we were all in the room together—I wanted us all to go through something, for the conversation to work in all directions. Through shared expression, I wanted the full communitas of the event to bring us all someplace new.

And this running has taught me that I wasn’t working as hard as I thought I was at my writing—a disappointing discovery and a moment of hope. Because now, even when that knife is in my side, even when I have nothing left, I keep going. And each time, I can carry the pain a little further than last time. Am I still talking about running? I know that my body is different.

The audience handed their stories and illustrations of loss to two of the actors, who placed them in a lidded box, setting the box carefully on two sides of the playing space. Later in the play, the audience, seated in an intimate circle around the performers, directly experienced the journey of their stories. This time, the actors pulled the stories from their safe place, lovingly placing each one on the ground, leaning their faces close to each story, listening deeply to each gift of loss. This is how two of the characters then spoke to each other—through the paper that held the audience’s stories. And how two of the characters were kept from reaching each other—the papers on the ground creating an ocean they are unable to traverse. From this moment, the audience was different. They were profoundly engaged, they were nervous, they were thrilled, they were terrified, they were deeply inside of it because they were creating it.

And this is how I want each thing, running and creating, to continue reminding the other: committed, difficult challenge leads to purposeful, surprising transformation.

And this is what emerging means to me—the continued struggle of growing, a deeper discovery of personal truth, an exhausted body breaking-open, clearing the way for an ever-expanding version of self. Within this dedicated journey (and with the Princess Grace Foundation’s support) is my hope that the most truthful way of creating/sharing art emerges, a way that is likely very different from something I presently know, a way I am only beginning to imagine.



Monday, March 12, 2012

RADIO GHOSTS a Finalist for Bay Area Playwrights Festival

Collaborator Mike Vernusky and I continue to be encouraged by the response to Radio Ghosts, this time from The Playwrights Foundation's annual new play development program, the Bay Area Playwrights Festival (BAPF).

Based in San Francisco, 2012 will mark the 35th year of the festival, which has a rich history of developing some truly wonderful plays written by many writers whose work I admire (Sheila Callaghan, Dan Dietz, Annie Baker, just to name a few in the last couple years).

Mike and I feel honored that of over 400 submissions, Radio Ghosts is one of only 24 finalists. These are huge odds we have so far beaten, but the goal is to participate fully, which means there is still work left to do (just as there is still work to do on the project).

As we discover what might be possible for us next, Mike and I continue to work with the good folks of Chicago's New Leaf Theatre, working closely with director Matthew Ozawa to continue to explore the piece, to bust it open, to listen deeply to its demands, and to share it with another audience in late March (see you there, Chicago friends!).

Continued thanks to all the awesome people who have contributed to this project, and big congrats to collaborator Mike Vernusky.

much love,


Monday, February 27, 2012

RADIO GHOSTS a Semi-Finalist for National Playwrights Conference

It is with much enthusiasm that I learned Radio Ghosts has made the first cut for the National Playwrights Conference at the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center.

Of the typical 800 - 1,000 scripts submitted annually through their open submission policy, roughly 20 - 25 % make it to the semi-final stages of deliberation. From this number, 20 - 25 % become finalists, with usually 5 - 8 scripts selected from the finalist's pool for inclusion to the Conference.

So yes, these are long odds. But the first cut is the deepest.

And while this achievement is not the goal, it is welcome encouragement, especially since the script was selected before the re-writes of Boomerang Theater Company's "First Flight" staged reading in November, and before the major revision that resulted from the intensive workshop at The Painted Bride Art Center's "Bridal Salon" in January.

I am thrilled that upon giving us the good news, the National Playwrights Conference also allowed us to send an updated draft of the script, which expresses much stronger work thanks to the awesome team of people put together by Boomerang in NYC and to the outstanding group of artists that exploded the hell out of this thing for the Painted Bride in Philadelphia.

Big congratulations to Mike Vernusky, whose electronic music composition and whose friendship and deep listening and questioning all continue to inspire our work together.

As we wait to learn our fate with The O'Neill (and the half-dozen other opportunities we've applied for), Mike and I are already hard at work with the fantastic people of New Leaf Theatre in Chicago in preparation for their "Treehouse Reading Series" in March, to continue learning from this project, to continue to rip things open, to continue working to make this thing the best version of itself possible, and to generally enjoy sharing as much creativity together as we can.

Big hugs,


Thursday, February 16, 2012

CHALK Selected for Solstice Play Festival

My play, Chalk, will join nine other ten-minute works as part of Luna Theater Company's inaugural Solstice Play Festival.

The festival, exploring the theme "identity", will open in late May 2012 and run through early June at The Adrienne Theatre in Philadelphia.

This short play was originally written in two days as a "bake off" event, sponsored by Austin Scriptworks, way back in 2006. After a lovely presentation of Chalk by RedHouse Arts in Austin (thank you Chris Humphreys and Chris Doubek for your work on this) in 2007, the play didn't gather any attention again until the past few months, where it has been presented as staged readings in Philadelphia and New York ("staged readings" are interesting for this play, as there are no words spoken in it) and selected as a runner-up for the InspiraTO Festival in Canada.

I am thrilled that the play will go into full production this summer, and for the opportunity to continue working on it, learning from it, and sharing it with more people. And I'm happy to be working with Luna Theater Company, and sharing a bill with several playwrights I know and like very much.

Big thank yous to Austin Scriptworks for the three original ingredients needed to write the play, and to all the wonderful artists who have worked on Chalk in previous processes: Philly's Primary Stages (directed by Ren Manley with performers Dan Higbee and Lee Minora); and New York City's Adaptive Arts Theatre Company (benefit performance produced by Marielle Duke; directed by Olivia Harris, with performers Christina Kosyla and Neimah Djourabchi).

And big thank yous to all the good folks at Luna, for making this opportunity possible.

For more information about the festival, and the complete line-up of plays and playwrights, visit Luna Theater's Festival page.

rock on,



POST-SCRIPT: On March 14, 2012, Artistic Director Gregory Scott Campbell removed CHALK from the Festival.

RADIO GHOSTS Experience at the Painted Bride

On Wednesday, January 25th, 2012, collaborators Mike Vernusky (electronic music composition), Cara Blouin (director) and I presented Radio Ghosts at the Painted Bride Art Center in Philadelphia.

In what was supposed to be a "staged reading", I am proud to say we created and shared something much bigger, much more memorable than that. We created an event, fed by a wonderful process, that was one of the more satisfying creative experiences I've worked on in some time.

Photo from the back of the Painted Bride Gallery. Breaking bread and making an ocean.

To describe it, I borrow some words from a letter I wrote recently to a dear friend:


Radio Ghosts was quite an experience.

Cara and I (and then later Mike joined us) worked very hard for weeks, meeting regularly (and at some point, nightly) where I would share new pages, we'd explore them, ask hard questions, etc., and then I would keep writing.

The result was that the script is something I am now much happier with than I was when we started. The stories all connect with much more resonance, the challenges that all of the characters are facing are much more real and compelling, and the theatricality of the play was heightened in really satisfying ways. In short, I think I found the guts and the art of the play, though I know there is still work ahead.

As for the presentation, it was something I was really proud of as well. We did our best to really make it an event, not just a something that people show up to watch and then leave. This is a passion that Cara and I share and worked hard to make present in this event-- to create something personal, something purposeful and intimate for everyone who was there, a gift that would last forever.

So we made choices like: sending out personal invitations only, asking people to write or record us a personal story of someone or something they've lost. We received about 20 of these in response, all incredibly moving, all better than any play I could write. And then we took these stories and added them into the composition, layering stories all through the play, finding moments in which some of them could be heard clearly. But they were always present, always, at the very least, inspiring all of us working on the performance.

We also asked people to bring objects with them-- personal items that contained memories. The objects could simply accompany the audience member, or we could also find a way for the objects to work their way into the performance, thereby allowing it to hold new memories if it wanted (or to offer their memories a new place to roam).

And then we asked the producers, Painted Bride Art Center, if they would waive their $ 5 admission fee, which they graciously did in favor of "passing the hat" instead.

And, of course, we and Painted Bride (who were wonderful hosts and I love them for that) made food and brought wine and mingled with guests afterward (instead of doing a "talkback", which I loathe).

It was one of the more satisfying experiences I've worked on in some time, and for many reasons. The work was rigorous and personal, we all took big risks, we were all demanding but loving toward each other, and we actively expressed a lot of care for the audience. It was a gift-exchange in countless ways, and I think everyone involved grew in some way because of the experience.

And the people involved local professionals as well as a handful of my Drexel students, who were all wonderful in their contributions to the work.

We also made choices to seat Lorna in the same space as the audience; to have Lucy pull string from the hole in her chest, threading it through the audience, creating an ocean out of it; and they, the audience, also responded well to William Tell's lecture, participating in all ways that he asked.

So our performance was pretty memorable. It was quality material (and I haven't even mentioned all the excellent work that Mike did on the composition), it was generous, it was intimate and personal, it was challenging, it was unfamiliar but inviting, it was full of lots of people's naked souls, and I think it was really moving.

The play ended with me, as Tell, trying to hold everything together, turning to a blank page on the drawing pad, taking a deep breath. And then walking out of the gallery space.

I remember waiting behind the door for people to begin applauding so I could step out with the other actors to take a bow, but nothing happened. Everything was silent. Everyone was silent for minutes. Eventually people began clapping and we took a bow and thanked everyone, and then me, Mike, Cara, and Theresa (the actor playing Lucy) had a few drinks to celebrate what we all felt was really satisfying work.

So I don't know what the future holds for Radio Ghosts, other than Mike and I have one more shot at working on it and presenting it in Chicago in March. Beyond that, we don't know. But I will be satisfied knowing that we will always have what we created and shared on that night at the Painted Bride. And that night is why I live the way I do.

much love,