2023 – Another big year for Brennan & White.

After a number of productions of ALiEN8, and two workshops for CLEAN SLATE, in 2022, our work continues in 2023. Cushing Academy recently closed their outstanding production of ALiEN8 and CLEAN SLATE premiered as a co-production between Passage Theatre and Rider University. In May, CLEAN SLATE will receive its second production at Boston University Academy. This summer, the Bucks County Playhouse will revive their production of ALiEN8.

ALiEN8 is available for licensing through YouthPLAYS. Inquiries about CLEAN SLATE can be made by emailing brennanandwhite@gmail.com.

Meanwhile, here’s a review from the recent production of CLEAN SLATE from US 1 – Review.

CLEAN SLATE at Rider University and Passage Theatre

This has been a huge year for my collaborator, Kate Brennan, and I. There have been multiple productions of our first musical, ALiEN8, as well as the premiere of CLEAN SLATE as a co-production between Passage Theatre and Rider University. For more information on my work with Kate, take a look at http://www.brennanandwhite.com. Meanwhile, here’s a feature about the CLEAN SLATE premiere from the good folks at ArtPride.

Interview in US 1

Dan Aubrey interviews me about Panther Hollow, Ways to Be Happy and Iluminate!

See full article here – https://princetoninfo.com/160500-2/

Like many arts organizations finding their way through the pandemic, central New Jersey playwright, director, and actor David White is approaching a reduced yet busy schedule of four new projects.

One is for White’s regional artistic home, Passage Theater, Trenton’s only nonprofit professional theater.

The company’s former associate artistic director, White is participating in a digital fundraiser to help Passage address COVID-19-related revenue losses.

The event running from Saturday through Tuesday, October 17, through 20, is a recording White’s solo performance of “Panther Hollow.”

Here’s how the show’s press pack describes it: “Storyteller and monologist David Lee White details his struggle with love, sex, and clinical depression at age 25 while living in a one-hundred-year-old house in Pittsburgh’s hidden neighborhood, Panther Hollow.”

And while the theme seems a bit heavy, White, now 50, lightens the load in his opening, “Everything I’m about to tell you is true. And, fair warning, some of it is upsetting so I’m going to apologize in advance. There are eleven corpses in this show — eight victims of suicide, one tragic accident, one fake dead body, and one cat. I apologize for that. I especially apologize for the cat, although it’s not me that kills it . . .

“There are also two skinheads, one reference to public fornication, a few ghosts, Satan, and Shakespeare. I’m sorry that I take a few potshots at religion, although I feel it’s warranted. Also, because of lifelong feelings of self-loathing, I feel the need to say ‘I’m sorry’ for everything you might find offensive and for that, I apologize. So let me just start with the first dead body and you can tick everything off as I go along.”

White says the fundraiser’s roots come from a past presentation of the show during Passage’s annual series of one-person presentations, “Solo Flights.”

White says he wanted to get a good record of the show on film and thought of College of New Jersey filmmaker Susan Ryan, who had created a 30-minute documentary on one of Passage’s theater education projects.

“I called and asked if she and her students would like to film ‘Panther Hollow,’” says White. “She went all out. It is a really nice recording of the show.”

Then he adds, “When the pandemic started and arts organizations started closing, I was wondering, ‘What could I do?’ And since I had been working at Passage, I offered it as a fundraiser, and they took me up on it.”

He says the play resonates today because it deals with coping with depression and finding optimism.

He also says it has been his most popular stage work to date and resonates with theater companies looking to address social themes and in an economical way. “It’s just me, a desk, and a whiteboard. It’s a cheap date,” he says.

However, says White, he may let the tape be the legacy of the play and may not perform it in the future. “I was doing it at least a couple times of year. It is a show that is tricky to do. Part of it is, ‘Is there a need for people to see it?’ The other is whether or not I can tell it. It is so personal. It was a very healing experience for me. But I may not need to tell it anymore. It exists (on tape) and I don’t have to tell all that stuff.”

Another project is the play “Ways to be Happy.” Presented by the Summit, New Jersey, Dreamcatcher Theater, the recording can be purchased for download on Dreamcatcher’s website later in October.

“It is a comedy. I’m pleased with all the seriousness that I had a comedy out there,” he says about the work that has “been in development for years. It has readings and workshops, and Dreamcatcher was going to produce it in the spring. But that got canceled. So they moved it to the fall. And (the director) asked if I could develop it as an audio play. I hope people will listen to it and get a giggle for 90 minutes.”

Then on the schedule is Passage’s “OK Project.” It’s based on the 2017 removal by the City of Trenton of a six-foot-tall public art sculpture created by 16 young people involved with a city community project. According to city officials, the hand’s OK symbol resembled a gang-symbol.

Passage took the ensuing community discussions about art, policing, and censorship as the source of a community-focused work that received a MAP Grant — a fund primarily supported by the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to invest in artistic production and create “a more equitable and vibrant society.”

Calling himself a member of the team, White says the project is “an interview-type play. You can’t invent anything. Obviously interviewing people during a pandemic was a problem. Another difficulty is that the world is changing every day and the perspective changes — asking why this little story is important changes every day. It is hard to figure that out. We decided to wait to create the end of the script until after the election.”

“We’re going to have reading — a workshop over Zoom (date TBA). There will be a public reading in February. Then hopefully it will be on the Passage stage in about a year from now.”

Meanwhile, in addition to teaching at Drexel University, White says he is still writing musicals with his composer partner Kate Brennan — the two collaborated on the creation of the musical “ALiEN8” during McCarter Theater’s 2017 Education Program and took the work to Oklahoma City and Philadelphia.

Their latest is “Illuminate,” a project White says “could be done on Zoom” and features 12 songs and 12 scenes that tell a story.

“You can put them together in any order you wish. Any character can sing any song,” he says.

He says the title came from the composer’s interest in thematically exploring the social significance of light and darkness.

The original plan called for a mainly dark theater stage where specific objects would be illuminated at different times, but White says, “The pandemic came and we changed it.”

The play was reimagined for Zoom and gave the two the opportunity to discover a new tool for making theater. “We were able to collaborate with people in different states,” says White. “I interviewed them and wrote scenes inspired by what they said.”

Eventually they came up with a story that is both a play about memory and an allegory for what it is like to live during the pandemic.

“A woman who loses her memory wakes up in the hospital. Everything is dark and she goes on a search — but since she’s lost her memory the scenes do not have to follow an order. She is also a songwriter, so songs are part of her memory.

“We have all the scenes, and all the songs and further development with. No two productions of the show will be the same. We’re looking for a group of students to help pilot it.”

While a quick glance at White’s biography shows theater study in college, the son of a family counselor father and high school teacher mother says he actually got interested in theater as an elementary school student in his hometown of Wentzville, Missouri. “There was a college giving acting classes to kids, and I was taking them on weekends. I was pretty locked into theater by the time I was 12 or 13.

“In fifth grade there was a talent show. I was sick on the day of the audition, so I couldn’t audition. But my fifth grade teacher asked if I wanted to write something and also be in it. And I wrote ‘The $6 Million Dollar Frog’ — a combination of the television shows ‘The 6 Million Dollar Man’ and ‘The Muppets’ Kermit the Frog.”

Formal training followed years later at the University of Missouri and the University of Pittsburgh, where he received an MFA and met his future wife, art organization consultant Allison Trimarco from Plainsboro.

After experimenting with establishing careers in Chicago, the couple moved to New Jersey and settled in Bordentown Township, close to Trimarco’s parents and providing opportunities in New Jersey, Philadelphia, and New York City.

Later when they adopted their son, Nick, the couple realized that the community and schools were additional benefits.

White says he connected with Passage after a telecommuting job he started with a Chicago software company folded in 2001. “I was unemployed and thought I’d try to get a theater job and blind emailed everyone I could find.”

One person who responded was Passage Theater’s associate artistic director Nick Anselmo. He was less than 10 miles away.

“He had been from Chicago and called me,” says White. “I started volunteering with Passage. When Nick took another job, I took his position at Passage.”

Since then White has written several plays for Passage, including “Blood: A Comedy,” “Slippery As Sin,” “White Baby,” and “Fixed,” worked on the interview-based Trenton-specific projects “Trenton Lights” and “Profiles,” and worked on projects at McCarter Theatre, Dreamcatcher Rep, PlayPenn in Philadelphia, Rider University, and Drexel University in Philadelphia, where he also teaches.

While currently active and looking at a season with play development and experimentation, White also looks at the current disrupted theater landscape and shares two trends.

One, he says, is that theater artists are “coping with the grief of theaters being closed — live theater with a live audience. It is not only a spiritual grief and a practical one for people who count on it for a living.”

The other is they are also thinking about how theater was being created. “There are things about the theater culture that are not fair, not equal, and toxic. So people are looking at an opportunity to create more diversity.”

He says he found a symptom of rigidity of thought when theater artists starting using Zoom. “Right away, people were saying it was not theater. Meanwhile some people saw it as an opportunity to make it new.

“Play readings are a thing that Zoom has changed for the better. I have found it enlightening. For (play) development, it has made (the process) clearer. And you can get actors and audiences from all over the nation.

“There are a lot of gatekeepers out there who will define what theater can be. You see it in a lot of theater training, that you could only be a theater person if you have a certain personality. So there are people questioning how we do this.

“And like a lot of people, I love it and can’t wait for it to come back. But I hope it is a little different.”

Panther Hollow, Passage Theater. Saturday through Tuesday, October 17 through 20. $25. www.passagetheatre.org.

Random Horrible Thoughts Episode 2 – Dream Tim

Here’s this week’s episode of “Random Horrible Thoughts” entitled “Dream Tim.” It’s a play about teaching from home (sort of) – something A LOT of us are doing right now. The production features Ian August, Andy Phelan and Kate Benincasa. The recording was produced by Kate Benincasa and directed by Adam Immerwahr. This week’s episode also features music by Jeffrey Barg and Sarah Donner.


Random Horrible Thoughts – Episode 1

Hello, all. World sucks right now, AMIRIGHT???

The entire theatre industry is basically on life support, at the moment, so people are trying new things. So here is my new thing – a six episode podcast of one act plays.

Now, before you get all impressed that I somehow generated six episodes worth of content in a matter of days, here’s a reality check. I just finished a week homeschooling my kid and driving around to drugstores looking for laundry detergent and toilet paper – just like you. The episodes of “Random Horrible Thoughts” that I’ll be posting are audio productions of one act plays that have been sitting on my computer for years, just waiting for an audience. Now seems to be the right time.

So give it a listen and enjoy.


Conversation I overheard on a plane…

I eavesdrop on conversations. Not in a “plants a microphone under the hotel lamp” way. More in a “Pay attention to those two people talking loudly in a public space” way. I listen, I make mental notes, then I make physical notes (editing and shaping as I go) and sometimes this inspires a play or something.

Once in a blue moon I overhear or observe a conversation, a story, a moment, an event, the turning point of a life, that begs to be preserved. I was on an airplane recently and I heard one such conversation. It may be the only conversation I’ve ever heard that begs to be transcribed as accurately as possible. To try and edit or invent any part of it would only cheapen it. Normally, I would listen to these conversations with an ear toward adaptation – “How does what I’m hearing reflect something that’s going on in the culture right now? How can I edit the conversation to make this clearer.” But this particular square peg of a conversation would never allow itself to be forced into that round hole. So right now, I’m going to try to tell this story as accurately and truthfully as possible. I have no idea whether or not I’ll be able to convey the feeling I had while listening to these two people for two hours, particularly during the final thirty minutes in which I felt my brain slipping to the front of my head while two people’s worlds were turning inside-out.

I’m on a plane. I have an aisle seat. I’m getting ready to put on my headphones and listen to a podcast. Across the aisle from me is a man – mid-30s maybe? – and next to him is a woman – probably in her 70s. Someone recently asked me to “cast” them with familiar faces so that in the telling of it, the listener will have a better image of these two people. That’s tricky, but if I had to cast it, I’d say the man looks like Ron Livingston in the movie “Office Space” and the woman looks like the older version of the log lady from “Twin Peaks” as played by Catherine Coulson.

A lot of people seem to know the man. People from all over the plane are saying hello to him as they pass. They are getting up from their seats to converse with him. It dawns on me that perhaps he’s a celebrity. I don’t recognize him, which means he could be an athlete of some sort. He’s not buff. He’s more of a nebbish. So, I’m thinking baseball pitcher. The woman next to him is actively knitting – probably a sweater or something. At one point, a woman walks down the aisle and stops in front of his seat. She looks at her boarding pass.

“Is there a problem?” he says.
“Ummm…that’s my seat you’re in. I think. But you know what? I’ll sit over here. It’s okay. As long as there’s an empty seat.
“Thanks,” the man says. “I just wanted to sit next to my mom.”

The knitting woman smiles. I can’t explain how I know this, but when the man calls the woman his mom, I know he’s lying.

There’s more chatting. More handshaking. It dawns on me that this man is not a celebrity. Not in the traditional sense, anyway. I gather that he and all the people chatting with him have just met today, prior to boarding the plane. Perhaps there was an event of some sort – a flight delay? – something that bonded them. There is a sense of excitation and intimacy between them all – an acknowledgement of how rare it is that a group of solo travelers would find one another and genuinely enjoy one another’s conversation and company. But now the plane is about to take off and they are once again separated, isolated by their assigned seats.

Except for the man and the knitting woman who is not his mother. They are seated together.

I put on my headphones and listen to a podcast. Thirty minutes in, I become very aware of some unusual gesticulating coming from across the aisle. It’s a small plane, ergo, it’s a small aisle and the man’s waving arms are flying perilously close to my head. I think I smell alcohol. I spot a small, airplane-sized bottle of liqueur on his tray table (Is it Maker’s Mark?). His drunkenness is exacerbating his gestures and his voice is growing louder. I take off my headphones. The first thing I hear is this:

HER: …I don’t know for sure, but I’ve always been told I’m part Indian.
HIM: You’re from India?
HER: No, no, no. Indian. American Indian. Cherokee.
HIM: Cherokee?
HER: Yes.
HIM: (sighs) Oh my…Cherokee???
HER: Yes. What’s the…why are you so…what are you doing?
HIM: Nothing. I’m just…Listen to me. Are you sure? Cherokee. Are you sure?
HER: No. I’m not sure. It’s just something I was told. Maybe.
HIM: Because I…Okay…I’m gonna tell you something. I’m gonna tell you something right now.
HER: Okay.
HIM: My grandmother. My. Grandmother. Was sold.
HER: Sold?
HIM: What?
HER: Your grandmother was sold?
HIM: Yes. To the Cherokee Indians.
HER: Someone sold your grandmother to the Cherokee Indians?
HIM: Yes.
HER: For what?
HIM: Horses.

The knitting woman laughs. Does she know he’s lying?

HIM: This is true! I’m part Cherhokee!
HER: How are you part Cherokee? I mean if she was sold that doesn’t make her Cherokee.
HIM: Listen…!

He stops. He stares at her. She stares at him. He leans in close.

HIM: She was sold to the Indians for horses.

He sits back, faces front. The lie (and the alcohol) have exhausted him. She smiles at him over her glasses. She knits.

HER: She was your father’s mother?
HIM: What?
HER: She was your father’s mother? Your grandmother.
HIM: Um…yes. She was.

They sit. He stares. She knits.

HIM: What was your father like?
HER: He was nice enough to other people. He didn’t love us. Me and my brothers. He didn’t love us. We spent a lot of time in foster care. Most of when we were kids, you know. Mostly in foster care with other families. No, my father didn’t love us. I didn’t talk to him after I got married.
HIM: You’re married?
HER: I was. He died. My husband died.

He turns to her. He leans in close. His hands are out of sight. Is he touching her?

HIM: How?
HER: He had a motorcycle. Used to looooooove riding that motorcycle. He had an accident. Killed right away.
HIM: My father died too.
HER: This was my husband that died. Not my father.
HIM: I know.
HER: My son wants to ride it now, you know.
HIM: The motorcycle?
HER: Yes. What are we talking about? Yes, the motorcycle. He wants to ride it now. I do not want him to. I don’t know why I even kept the motorcycle. It was damaged but my son repaired it. He hasn’t gotten on it yet. He’s scared. I am too. But he wants to ride it because it was his father’s and it’s how his father died. So now he wants to ride it. I hope he doesn’t, though. I hope he doesn’t ride it or anything. I get scared thinking about it.

He leans in closer to her. She is still talking, but lower now. I can’t hear what she’s saying, but she’s telling a story. She’s whispering. She says “baseball.” She used to play baseball. It was hard being a young girl back then playing baseball. She was really good. One time she accidentally hit the ball so hard it went in the stands and hit her best friend’s mother. The man laughs at this. She laughs as well.

But girls didn’t play baseball. Her father that didn’t love her wouldn’t let her play baseball. Eventually she stopped playing. But she still has a baseball from when she was a girl. She kept it. She takes it out and looks at it sometimes. She doesn’t know what to do with it.

The man is emotional. He’s waving his arms, as if trying to shake his jacket off.

HER: What are you doing?
HIM: It’s hot in here. It’s so hot.
HER: Take off your jacket.

He does. He turns back to her. I see him take her hands this time.

HIM: Listen to me.
HER: Yes?
HIM: I want to tell you something.
HER: Okay.

There’s a very long pause.

HIM: I want to tell you something.
HER: Okay.
HIM: Let it go.
HER: What?
HIM: Let. It. Go.
HER: The baseball?
HIM: Listen to what I’m telling you. Let it go.
HER: The baseball you’re talking about. You want me to let go of the baseball.
HIM: Just…
HER: …
HIM… let it go.
HER: Okay.
HIM: Listen. You have to let it go.
HER: I will.
HIM: Let it all go.
HER: Okay.
HIM: Just…
HER: Let it go.
HIM: Let it go.

He’s exhausted again. He sits back and stares ahead. He’s flushed. She may be flushed as well.

HIM: I’m so tired.
HER: Well why don’t you close your eyes?

He does. He closes his eyes and tries to control his breathing. She continues to knit.

HIM: I wish I smoked. I mean I used to smoke.
HER: I did too.
HIM: You did?
HER: I still smoke.
HIM: You do?
HER: Yes.
HIM: I wish I smoked.

She reaches into her bag and takes out a small change purse. She covers it with one hand, looks around, then opens it. There is a pack of cigarettes inside. He laughs.

HIM: Oh, shit!
HER: Want a cigarette?
HIM: No!
HER: We could go in the back of the plane. We could go in the bathroom.
HIM: No! Put that away!
HER: We could smoke in the bathroom!
HIM: No we can’t! Put that away! Oh my God!
HER: Okay, okay…

They laugh. The don’t talk for a while. She is no longer knitting. He is holding one of her hands between his. Tightly. He is staring ahead. She is not looking at him. She is looking out the window.

HER: I used to smoke. I used to do everything. I was a bar dancer.
HIM: You used to dance on bars?
HER: In bars. I mean not professionally or anything. I’d go to bars and dance. All the time. I was out with some people from work a couple of weeks ago and I started dancing and everyone said “You’re really good!” See they don’t know how much I used to dance. They’re a lot younger and I don’t talk about myself. So I guess it was hard for them to imagine that I could dance. But I did and they were so surprised.
HIM: You remind me of my mom.
HER: I do?
HIM: She was awesome. Like…wicked awesome. You’re just like her.
HER: That’s so nice.
HIM: My mom didn’t smoke, though.
HER: I shouldn’t either. It’s how I lost my teeth.
HIM: What?
HER: When I was twenty-nine I had to get all of my teeth pulled. All of them. I was always in foster care and places like that, like I said, and I was malnourished all the time. Plus I smoked. And that ruined my teeth. So when I was twenty-nine the dentist said I had to have them all pulled. The teeth I have now are fake teeth. They come right out. Want to see them?
HIM: No!

They laugh. She does not pull out her teeth.

HIM: I’ll bet you’re a good mom.
HER: I’m okay.
HIM: You just have the one son?
HER: And a daughter. She travels a lot. She speaks French. Fluently.
HIM: I speak French.

He’s lying.

HER: Say something in French.
HIM: I speak French really good.
HER: Say something.
HIM: I can speak like…if I went to France I would know all the time what everyone was saying.
HER: Say something in French. Anything. Say just one word in French.
HIM: My wife speaks French.
HER: You’re married?
HIM: Yes.

They stop talking.

HIM: She’s Indian.
HER: Cherokee.
HIM: No! No! Indian.
HER: But like what kind of Indian? From India?
HIM: I don’t…She’s Indian!
HER: Why are you getting upset?
HIM: My wife is Indian.
HER: Tell me about her.
HIM: Tell you about what?
HER: Your wife.
HIM: She’s Indian.
HER: Does she have to wrap her head all up? Tell me about her.
HIM: That’s…what do you want me to tell??? She’s Indian!
HER: What I’m saying is, when she goes out, does she wrap her head all up?
HIM: I’m married!

They don’t talk for awhile. The plane has been in the air about two hours. The man is starting to calm down and sober up. The knitting woman is staring ahead. He is holding her hand. Now he is stroking her hand. The plane is now over Oklahoma. We will land soon.

HIM: I’m rich.
HER: You are?
HIM: Yes. My father left me a lot of money.
HER: He died.
HIM: Yes. And I’m really wealthy. I’m like…beyond everything. Beyond everybody.

He gestures out the window.

HIM: I own all of this. It’s all oil fields. I own all of this.
HER: I hope you’ll stay in touch with me.
HIM: Why?
HER: Because you’re nice.
HIM: Why?!
HER: Don’t yell.
HIM: Why?
HER: Because you’re nice. I’ve never met anyone like you before. I hope you’ll call me.
HIM: What is happening?
HER: What do you mean?

He leans in close.

HIM: What is happening?

They stare at one another.

HER: My son is supposed to pick me up. Maybe you’ll meet him.
HIM: I have to call.

While the plane is still hovering, he takes out his phone and dials. I’ve never seen anyone do this before – make a phone call in the air. He begins talking. He tells someone the plane will land shortly. He tells them he’ll see them soon. A flight attendant appears seemingly from nowhere.

FLIGHT ATTENDANT: Are you making a phone call???
HIM: I –
FLIGHT ATTENDANT: Terminate that phone call right now! Right now!
HIM: Sorry.

He hangs up. The flight attendant walks away. The man puts his head in his hands. The knitting woman puts her hand on his knee. He turns to her.

HIM: What is happening?
HER: I don’t know.

They look at one another.

HIM: What is happening?
HER: I don’t know.

They look at one another.

HIM: I love you.

He kisses her. She kisses him back. I can tell by the sound that they are kissing one another on the lips.

HIM: I love you.

He kisses her again. She returns the kiss. They look at one another. They kiss again for a third time. They sit back. He is staring straight ahead. She is smiling, look at him.

HER: We gave the people around here an earful, didn’t we?

He laughs.

The plane lands. I get my bags and start down the aisle toward the exit. The man gets up as well. He asks her if she’s coming. She says no, she has to wait for someone to bring her a wheelchair. On my way out of the plane, I see the wheelchair. It has her name on it. It’s an unusual name. I google it later but the only match I find is a poet who died over a decade ago.

In the baggage claim area, I see the knitting woman in her wheelchair. She is alone. The man is not with her. She doesn’t appear sad. The veil is lifting. The dream is beginning to fade. People don’t fall in love on airplanes. 70 year old women and 30 year old men don’t fall in love with one another.She knows they won’t see one another again.

But maybe he calls her. Maybe they stay in touch.

Coming up!

May, 2019 – Residency with Ignition Arts in Oklahoma City, workshop of CLEAN SLATE (with Kate Brennan)

May 20 & 22, 2019 – The Diner Plays – ENTRÉE produced by Pegasus Theatre and THE ASK produced by EAGLE THEATRE

June 2, 2019 – BLOOD: A COMEDY (reading) Best Medicine Rep, Gaithersburg, MD

June 28 – July 4, 2019 – Developmental workshop of ALiEN8 at Drexel University in Philly, PA (with Kate Brennan)

August, 2019 – IF I COULD, IN MY HOOD, I WOULD – Yendor Productions, Newark, NJ

October, 2019 – WAYS TO BE HAPPY at Dreamcatcher Rep in Summit, NJ

November, 2019 – PANTHER HOLLOW at Stockton University

November, 2019 – ALiEN8 at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA

February, 2020 – FIXED at Solid Lines Theatre in St. Louis, MO