P.O. Box 42828, Lafayette, LA 70504-2828 Tel. (318) 269-9412
Mitchell continued working as a performer while in graduate school, where he completed an M.A. in English and an M.F.A. in Playwriting. Mitchell also completed two years of doctoral work in Performance Studies at Tisch School of the Arts, New York University before taking a sabbatical to concentrate on writing plays. The production and development of his plays have been supported by the Connecticut Commission on the Arts, the Puffin Foundation, the Inner-City Cultural Development Program, the State of Connecticut Department of Mental Health, and the Bridgeport Area Foundation. Since August of 1997, Mitchell's been a University Fellow in Creative Writing at the University of Southwestern Louisiana, and from 1992 through 1997 he was an Adjunct Professor of English at Fairfield University (CT). Mitchell has also taught at several other universities and colleges. In addition to teaching literature, creative writing, and playwriting, Mitchell has taught acting, theater history, and the history of dramatic literature.
Mitchell's first one-act play, STAND-UP COMIC, was produced by Performance Studio in New Haven in 1988, and subsequently produced for television. STAND-UP COMIC was televised by New York City's CUNY-TV and WNYE in 1991. Since that time, Mitchell has completed nine new plays, six of them full-lengths, while working closely with Urban Ensemble Theater Collective, a nonprofit arts organization. Mitchell's produced plays include: URBAN RENEWAL (Norwalk Community College, CT, 1993; Co-op Center Bridgeport, 1994; Urban Ensemble, Bridgeport, 1995); REASON OF INSANITY (Norwalk Comm'y College, Norwalk, 1994; Ethel Kweskin Theater, Stamford, 1995); CIRCLES OF DESIRE and STATE OF THE UNION, ArtSpace, New Haven, 1994); AMERICAN LABOR (ArtSpace, New Haven; The Buttonwood Tree, Middletown; Urban Ensemble, Bridgeport, 1995); BEHIND-THE-SCENES (Urban Ensemble, at Quick Center for the Arts, Fairfield University, 1996); POTLATCH (New England Artists' Trust/A.C.T.S. Theater, Portland, ME; Arts on the Edge/International Festival of Arts and Ideas, New Haven; Urban Ensemble, Bridgeport, 1996); CRUISING THE CARIBBEAN: OLD PLEASURES IN THE NEW WORLD (Urban Ensemble, New Haven, 1997); REPTILES OF THE MIND and THE GULF (radio versions) (WPKN-FM Radio and Urban Ensemble, Bridgeport, 1997).
In addition to attracting unusually diverse theater audiences, Mitchell's work has received a significant amount of critical acclaim. For example, Rosalind Friedman, theater critic for WMNR Fine Arts Radio, called Mitchell "a modern day Brecht" (May 20-23, 1996). Christopher Arnott, the theater critic of the New Haven Advocate, wrote of Mitchell's AMERICAN LABOR: "the plotting is surefooted, with some neat surprises near the end, and he has a wonderful sense of impatience which fuels some truly bizarre structural and visual stunts..." (June 15, 1995). And Elizabeth Hilts, editor of the Fairfield County Weekly, wrote: "His work as a playwright is courageous, but never self-consciously so; there is a recognition of the humor endemic to the situations Mitchell writes about, as well as a recognition of the horror and absurdity" (June 2, 1994). Further reviews of Mitchell's plays, including complete articles, can be provided upon request. In addition to writing plays, Mitchell also works as a director. After watching a recent production (September 1997) of her play Who Do You Want, Peire Vidal?, directed by Mitchell, at the Deep South Writers Conference, the playwright/poet Rochelle Owens wrote: "Rick Mitchell's direction of my play was brilliant." Presently, Mitchell is working on a play about an American fiction writer, and on a novel examining the political theatricality of Caribbean cruise ships and the tourism industry.
(Please contact Rick Mitchell for scripts of the following plays. Fuller synopses will also be sent upon request, although -- since the plays are somewhat complex -- it would be much more helpful to read the scripts.)
CRUISING THE CARIBBEAN utilizes hand-puppets, human actors, a bit of commedia dell'arte, vaudeville shtick, indigenous West Indian-type "magic," and drag, and the play takes place on a Caribbean cruise ship. The work also leans back into history, all the way Columbus' time, in order to examine the horrors of "Discovery" and the related conflicts of Caribbean tourism. The play is fast moving and comedic, and it's somewhat absurdist at times. The play requires a cast of at least seven actors.
POTLATCH examines the somewhat surreal connections between indigenous culture(s) and Indian reservation casino gambling. The play moves back and forth in time, from a village on the Northwest Coast in 1846 to an Indian reservation casino in 1996, while juxtaposing contemporary and indigenous world views. And as communities throughout the U.S. and Canada increasingly turn to casino gambling -- often on Indian reservations -- as a source of economic revival, POTLATCH is extremely timely. The play can be performed with five actors.
AMERICAN LABOR This postmodern drama/comedy by Rick Mitchell examines the middle class/working class suburban family in mid-1990s America. The play requires four actors, three of whom play multiple (and related) characters. While emphasizing the unique qualities of theater, the play takes a satirical, realistic/surreal look at the disintegration of the family, filial obligation, the conflict between cities and suburbs, consumerism, and the increasing tensions between employer and employee amidst corporate downsizing. The main characters are Sam and Dolores, a middle-aged couple; Roger, their graduate student son; Sheila, Roger's girlfriend and eventual wife; and Dad, Sam's dying father who is played by the same actor (sans disguise) that plays Roger. The play takes place in the Bridgeport, Connecticut area, but any U.S. city which is generally disdained by suburbanites can be substituted for Bridgeport. Christopher Arnott, the New Haven Advocate's theater critic, wrote of AMERICAN LABOR: Mitchell's "plotting is surefooted, with some neat surprises near the end, and he has a wonderful sense of impatience which fuels some truly bizarre structural and visual stunts."
URBAN RENEWAL is a multi-cultural, two-act play featuring rap and gospel. (It is not a musical, although there is music on tape for the raps.) URBAN RENEWAL can be performed with as few as eight actors. And although the sets change often, the play has very minimal set requirements. Much of the action of URBAN RENEWAL, which takes place primarily on the street, confronts inner-city alienation in both realistic and surrealistic fashion while emphasizing the absurd, humorous, and horrific nature of contemporary urban life in the U.S. Rosalind Friedman, theater critic for WMNR Fine Arts Radio, said: "A new play, Urban Renewal, written and directed by Rick Mitchell, is rocking and rapping the rafters... In fact, it is a sell-out... The playwright shows a real talent for dialogue and scene development." The play requires a minimum of eight actors.
BEHIND-THE-SCENES is a one hour-plus play which -- through a play (actually a rehearsal) within a play format -- examines issues related to mental illness and homelessness. As a group of people come together to put on a play about these issues, many of the actors find their real life situations mirroring the situations of their characters. This play was based -- in part -- on the rehearsals of Mitchell's play REASON OF INSANITY. The play requires six actors. Rosalind Friedman, theater critic for WMNR Fine Arts radio wrote of the play: "(A) powerfully searing new work... The writing is clear and hard-hitting... (Mitchell) is a modern day Brecht."
REASON OF INSANITY is a one-hour and fifteen minute play which can be produced with as few as seven actors and has minimal set requirments. REASON OF INSANITY utilizes realism, absurdism, and biting satire as it takes a critical look at the mental health system and everday life for people with chronic psychiatric illness. The play had its opening on June 2, 1994 in Norwalk, Connecticut, where it played to a crowd of nearly four hundred in a three hundred seat theater. There were lots of laughs, and the play was very effective. In a preview, The Fairfield County Weekly wrote: "Reason of Insanity... tries to make some sense of the marginalization and alienation of people suffering from mental illness. Mitchell's... work as a playwright is courageous, but never self-consciously so..."
THE GULF, a twenty minute one-act play, features three characters. A Marine, telling grotesque war stories to a stranger waiting for a train, is confronted by a street prophet who continually disrupts the Marine's narrative with her own unique narrative on the connections between racism, poverty, and the Gulf War. Eventually, the passerby gets on the train and the Marine and street prophet have a one-on-one confrontation. This is a short but powerful piece which engages with several contemporary social issues. (cf. CIRCLES quote.)
CIRCLES OF DESIRE is a performance art-type piece which features seven actors and a ventriloquist dummy and runs approximately forty minutes. The dream-like, challenging (in both form and content) play, which centers on a dissipating ventriloquist, takes place in three different locations: a bar in Ketchikan, Alaska; a cruise ship disco; and in the East Village apartment of two sex show performers. At the end, all of the characters come together in a pool hall, and they each become one of the other characters in the room while the ventriloquist tries to hold on to his identity. The New Haven Advocate said of a production of STATE and CIRCLES dir. by Mitchell: "Clever direction of provocative themes... strong ending to tolerance-challenging, dreamlike Circles."
STAND-UP COMIC is a dream-like, thirty minute, one-act play which centers on a comedian. All of the comedian's jokes throughout the play relate to the next character who will walk on stage, have a dramatic interaction with the comic (which seemingly takes place outside of the act), and then leave. Towards the end of the play, after the comic's agent brings bad news and then exits, the comic tries to go back into his act, but the people who had been on stage earlier reappear in the background, one at a time, and taunt the confused comic, whose jokes become fragmented, nonsensical. At the very end of his "act," however, the comic gets some laughs from those behind him. This false sense of security allows him to confidently finish his act, beaming.
"(Mitchell is) a one-man crusade against apathy in Fairfield County." Jamie Callan, The Fairfield County Weekly June 8, 1995
"BEHIND-THE-SCENES" (written by Rick Mitchell)
"(A) powerfully searing new work... the writing is clear and hard-hitting... (Mitchell is) a modern day Brecht."
Rosalind Friedman, WMNR Fine Arts Radio May 20 - 23, 1996
"REASON OF INSANITY" (written by Rick Mitchell)
"Reason of Insanity... tries to make some sense of the marginalization and alienation of people suffering from mental illness... Mitchell's last full-length play, Urban Renewal, also dealt with the problems of people facing social marginalization. His work as a playwright is courageous, but never self-consciously so; there is a recognition of the humor endemic to the situations Mitchell writes about, as well as a recognition of the horror and absurdity."
Elizabeth Hilts, The Fairfield County Weekly June 2, 1994
"AMERICAN LABOR" (written by Rick Mitchell)
(Mitchell's) plotting is surefooted, with some neat surprises near the end, and he has a wonderful sense of impatience which fuels some truly bizarre structural and visual stunts... And he's got a terrific doppleganger in A.J. Exum, one of the finest young actors in Connecticut. The pair have been working together for years, and they continue to challenge each other... American Labor's many inner-city in-jokes about Bridgeport... will appeal mightily to the locals...
Christopher Arnott, New Haven Advocate June 15, 1995
"URBAN RENEWAL" (written by Rick Mitchell)
"Urban Renewal at NCTC shakes up the safe world."
Chris Luongo, The Norwalk Hour April 29, 1993
"A new play, Urban Renewal, written and directed by Rick Mitchell, is rocking and rapping the rafters at Norwalk Community-Technical College. In fact, it is a sell-out... The playwright shows a real talent for dialogue and scene development."
Rosalind Friedman, WMNR Fine Arts Radio May 7th and 8th, 1993
"...the piece's anti-drug, anti-discrimination and anti-hypocrisy messages... were broadcast loud and clear."
Christopher Arnott, New Haven Advocate August 26, 1993
"CIRCLES OF DESIRE" and "STATE OF THE UNION"
(written and directed by Rick Mitchell)
"Clever direction of provocative themes... strong ending to tolerance-challenging, dreamlike Circles."
Christopher Arnott, New Haven Advocate May 5, 1994