Adele Edling Shank

©2000 Adele Shank E-Mail

The plays of Adele Edling Shank have been seen four times in the Humana Festival at the Actors Theatre of Louisville in Kentucky (once as the co-winner of the Great American Play Contest), and in San Diego, San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, and England.

She is the recipient of many awards including an NEA playwriting fellowship, Rockefeller Playwrights-in-Residence Grant, and a Dramatists Guild/CBS Award. She is a professor and Head of Playwriting at the University of California, San Diego, and an editor of the international theatre journal, TheatreForum.


Christmas in a suburban home, the family gathers. The oldest son brings home his male lover. The youngest son (Josh) decides to leave home and moves into his car, receiving the mother's milk of electricity via a very long extension cord. The daughter (Anne) has such severe allergies she lives in her stainless steel room and participates in family life via closed circuit TV. Her monitor joins them at the Christmas dinner table.

Premiere: Women's Project, American Place Theatre, New York (Staged Reading)

Premiere: Magic Theatre, San Francisco

The following summer, a backyard barbecue for family and friends. Aunt Gem arrives with her new very young husband. Josh is still living in his car over there by the swimming pool. Anne’s allergies are no better. Aunt Gem's almost-estranged son arrives to show off his wife and new baby. Mom and Dad's marriage is outwardly as calm as ever, but as shaky as Jell-O under the surface. When Dad falls asleep and wakes in the middle of the night and falls in the swimming pool we discover that Mom would have been quite happy if he had drowned. In fact, she's been trying to put him in an early grave with cholesterol. Astounded by her animosity, he confesses that he hasn't really been having affairs, only pretending to. They go to bed. Just before dawn a naked Anne comes into the yard and runs out the back gate to freedom.

Premiere: Actors Theatre of Louisville, Kentucky
Co-winner of the Great American Play Contest

Stuck: A Freeway Comedy
who work at the same company have organized themselves into two car pools–one of men, the other of women. They time departures so they get stuck in traffic together. In the morning they picnic on coffee and doughnuts, in the afternoon on martinis. Carol and David, both married, are falling in love against their better judgment, and in act two they have left the car pools and use the traffic jam to carry on a freeway affair in the back of Carol's station wagon. There are Italian tourists trying to get to Donner Lake, an entrepreneurial doughnut saleswoman on roller skates, an unexpected encounter with the boss, and the discovery that the guy behind one of the wheels has died while they sipped their drinks.

         Premiere: Magic Theatre, San Francisco
         Best foreign production (Theater Heute, Germany)


        Stuck: A Freeway Comedy
            A radio adaptation of the play.

          Radio Broadcast: Slovak Radio, Bratislava

Sand Castles
Two of the women from the women's car pool are on vacation in San Diego with their families. Carol is trying to revive her marriage, and Ginger is trying to avoid going into business with her husband who can't seem to stop building houses. Carol's daughter dreams of being an astronaut, but earthly temptations appear in the guise of a surfer. Linda Blue, a prostitute who works out of a van in the parking lot, enjoys an afternoon off with her daughter, Anemone who keeps the books. Beautiful Iris sun bathes and chats with her friend Linda Blue. At the end of act one Iris's attendant arrives to carry his paraplegic employer home.

Premiere:  Magic Theatre, San Francisco

The Grass House
Anemone is going to marry Moon Hawk, the guy she met in Sand Castles, a former drug addict who has turned his life around with the help of his brother Ben and his wife Naomi. They are hosting the wedding at their cabin in Humboldt county where they farm marijuana. Guests are Linda Blue, Iris, and a surprise–Anemone’s father, an East coast judge. Serenity performs the wedding ceremony. Late that night, tucked under the quilt Naomi so painstakingly made but didn't get finished, Anemone and Moon Hawk decide they can't stay here.

Premiere: Magic Theatre, San Francisco

Anemone, now pregnant, and Paul (who has renounced his Moon Hawk moniker) have been on the road. They land in a small town in the Imperial Valley and are given shelter in a house in the country. The house is being “farmed” by two Chicano brothers, one of whom had a high school thing with the now adult daughter of the house. The thing bursts into adult passion. Anemone desperately wants Paul to agree to settle down, but all seems hopeless when the house is burned to the ground. The last scene is a macabre Thanksgiving dinner on the burned slab of a house.

Premiere: Los Angeles Theatre Center


War Horses
The theatrical rivalry between British actor William Macready and the American Edwin Forrest is the catalyst for the Astor Place Riots in 19th Century New York. Five actors play twenty-three roles including Charles Dickens and Ned Buntline. Includes scenes from some of Forrest’s and Macready’s most famous roles, and Act One climaxes with a Shakespeare duel.

Premiere: Second Stage, New York (Reading)
Premiere: Magic Theatre, San Francisco

Rocks in Her Pocket
The ghosts of Virginia Woolf, Diane Arbus, and Sylvia Plath turn up at an academic conference in England, the subject of which is “Women in the Arts: Why Suicide?” The other characters are a maid (who is the only one who sees them), and four academics. There's Jacques the French deconstructionist, Trish Crowley the sociologist whose conference this is, O.G. Washington the black feminist from Phoenix, and Max the abstract expressionist painter from New York who claims to have photos Diane Arbus took of herself dying. The ghosts have a mission–discover who is about to commit suicide and save him or her.

Premiere: Paines Plough Theatre, London (Staged Reading)
Playwright's Festival, San Francisco (Workshop Production)
Premiere: Show of Strength Theatre, Bristol, England

I'm a Stranger Here Myself
Three one-act plays: 67201, Dry Smoke, and Mopping Up
Premiere: University of California, San Diego
Actors Theatre of Louisville

Dry Smoke
An opera with music by Victor Kioulaphides

Premiere: Manhattan Chamber Orchestra, Merkin Hall, New York

With Allison's Eyes
When their daughter is killed in an accident, Julia and David donate her organ for transplant. Struggling to overcome their grief, they decide it would help if they met the people who received the organs. They meet Rose, a lesbian who got the kidney, and Carlo, the taxi driver who received the liver. They rescue Sol Tristani (who got the corneas) from a convent where her parents have stashed her for safe keeping and take her with them to meet Charlie Russell–the heart. Julia wants to turn Sol into a surrogate daughter, but the eyes and the heart must find one another and Julia realizes she must surrender control or loose this daughter too.

ReadingsPaines Plough Theatre, London
La Jolla Playhouse, La Jolla, California

With Allison's Eyes
A television film adaptation of the play (Work-in-progress)

The Wives of the Magi (with Theodore Shank)
A Mayan, Christian, Music Hall, Jewish, Calypso, Buddhist Play with Music.

A Buddhist monk tells Magus Jabbar Khan to watch for a sign, but it takes him a while to realize that the star is blinking at him. When he sets off his wife, Amirana, sends word to the other two tribes in this world that she has found a lost young woman who must belong to one of their tribes. The Magi of those tribes have also set off on their quest and their wives (the North African Shaharazad and the Viking Hedwig) overcome centuries of hatred and suspicion and come to see this strange girl for themselves. She turns out to be a pregnant Mayan princess. The women become friends and are all thrilled when Xquic gives birth to a daughter. They celebrate in a naming ceremony drawn from many cultures. The men return, also having become friends on their journey, and the world is united.

Reading: Magic Theatre, San Francisco

The Wives of the Magi
A radio adaptation of the play (Work-in-progress)

Sex Slaves
Len, a discouraged New York film maker, tells his ex-wife (Rosemary, a performance artist) that he's going to the Philippines to meet his mail order bride to be. She erupts, he asks her for the name of film people in Manila. In Manila he meets Starkweather who is interested in making Len's film if it has a role for the sixteen-year-old girl he's hoping will be pleased enough to go to bed with him. The movie deal set up, Len goes to Binalbagan to meet Rita who is not quite what was advertised, but he is intrigued by the scar on her face. Eventually she tells him the story of how she got the scar and he becomes obsessed with interweaving her story with the action flick/love story he was going to make. By telling her story he will come to understand her. He isn't even deterred when he finds out that the only films Starkweather makes are porno films and he's asked to write in a donkey. When he eventually finds out Rita's story isn't true, she tells him her story is for her only. Len returns to New York, alone. They are all slaves to sex in one way or another, and everything is for sale, quid pro quo.

Reading: Playbrokers, San Francisco

To The Lighthouse
A stage adaptation of Virginia Woolf's novel

Berkeley Repertory Theatre February 23-March 25, 2007

Directed by Les Waters

With music by Paul Dresher



Rockefeller Playwrights-in-Residence Grant
National Endowment for the Arts Playwriting Fellowship
Dramatists Guild/CBS New American Play Award



Theatre Communications Group, Inc., Plays in Process
TCG's anthology New Plays USA: 1

West Coast Plays, No. 4

Stuck: A Freeway Comedy
Theatre Communications Group, Inc., Plays in Process

Sand Castles
West Coast Plays, No. 15-16

The Grass House
Theatre Communications Group, Inc., Plays in Process

67201 and Dry Smoke
in Facing Forward: One-Act Plays and Monologues by Women. Leah Frank, editor.  New York: Broadway Play Publishing.