Michael Gene Sullivan

                                                             ...playwright...

"I believe strongly in Michael's work... As one of the most active political playwrights in the country, his is certainly a voice you should know."

Kent Nicholson, Playwright's Horizons

 

"Michael stands out as one of a handful of the best writers in the country."

Amy Mueller, Playwrights Fundation

 

"Michael is focused and resilient; he is engaged and engaging, and a fascinating man of the theater whose sense of humor is matched only by his voracious curiosity. He is a writer of exceptional talent and range with a distinctive voice, a sure sense of craft, and a mature sense of drive and commitment."

Paul Walsh. Ph.D. Yale School of Drama

 

Michael's plays have been produced at theaters throughout the United States, as well as in Greece, Spain, Columbia, Argentina, Mexico, Scotland, Germany, The Netherlands, Italy, Canada, Australia, and China.  His work has been seen at the Melbourne International Arts Festival, the International Festival of Verbal Art (Berlin), The Spoleto Festival (Italy), and The Hong Kong Arts Festival.

 

Michael is a Resident Playwright for the Playwrights Foundation, was awarded the 2017 Playwriting Fellowship by the Djerassi Arts Center, and since 2000 Resident Playwright for the Tony and OBIE award-winning (and despite its name never, ever silent) San Francisco Mime Troupe, where he has written or co-written over 20 plays. 

~ Newest work ~

fugitive/slave/act
by Michael Gene Sullivan
 
A historical drama based on the true story of the "Riot at Christiana," a battle between escaped slaves and slavecatchers in southern Pennsylvania - and the ensuing trial -  that threatened to start the Civil War 10 years early.

1984

By George Orwell

adapted for the stage by Michael Gene Sullivan


"Sullivan does an exemplary job of distilling "1984's" political essence... to communicate the pointed richness of Orwell's thought... The Actors' Gang production "1984" knows how to clear a path for its trenchant, and still sadly undated, critique." 
Los Angeles Times


"Sullivan has resolved the challenges of Orwell’s novel by setting the entire play in one austere space... A dark room - deprived of all technical aspects, and without technological gadgets - but sufficient to recreate the atmosphere of mystery, anxiety, and the fear of the unknown, omnipresent, veiled oppressor." 
L'Apuntador (Barcelona)

 

"This Michael Gene Sullivan adaptation of George Orwell's classic 1984 is multi-layered, intense and disturbing - exactly how it should be." 
The South China Morning Post

For more information. about 1984 click here.

 

Available now from Playscripts.com

 

 

 

 

 

Walls

Script by Michael Gene Sullivan, Lyrics by Piero Infante, Music by Michael Bello

Nominated - Outstanding Original Musical, Theatre Bay Area Awards

 

How can a nation of immigrants declare war on immigration? 
The answer: FEAR!  

L. Mary Jones knows all about fear. As a top agent for I.C.E. - Immigration and Customs Enforcement - she knows how to stoke fear to keep her country safe. Fear of people like Bahdoon Samakab , a Somali refugee escaping oppression, fear of Cliodhna Aghabullogue, an Irish woman yearning to be American, and fear of Zaniyah Nahuatl, whose family comes from... here. As a foreigner in a land her people have worked for thousands of years suddenly Zaniyah is a criminal, an illegal, a "bad hombre." What part of herself will this American give up to pass as "American?" Will she? Can she? Should she? Can someone leave part of themselves behind without losing their mind? And is it better or worse that she crossed the border to find Agent L. Mary Jones - the woman she loves?

 

"... with Sullivan's wit, and the talents of this excellent cast under Edris Cooper-Anifowoshe's fast-paced direction, the Mime Troupe strikes just the right balance between comedy and - for too many in this country of immigrants - tragedy."

SF Examiner 

Schooled

Script by Michael Gene Sullivan, Eugenie Chan. Music and Lyrics by Ira Marlowe

Education. It's like the weather: everyone has an opinion but nobody does anything about it. That's how Livina Jones feels about her son Tom's new school, Eleanor Roosevelt High. With its old textbooks, crumbling classrooms, and racist treatment of kids just like hers Livina believes Roosevelt is exactly the sort of school that can benefit from a little free-market common sense. The nanny-state government has failed to see students as individuals, and failed to give them the real-world skills they'll need to get ahead. So who says it isn't time for some big money, for-profit schooling?

 

Ethel Orocuru, for one. She's the long serving history/civics/American government/basketball coach at Eleanor Roosevelt, and she's willing to fight for her version of education as long as her reconstructed hips will allow. But is she fighting for a system that can be fixed, or is she just too blind by her past to see how times have left her and her school behind? And when an efficiency expert, Mr. Babbit, is assigned to improve her class is it a sign that Ethel is behind the times, or a sign of something more sinister? And with privatization on the line, and a Wall Street heavy hitter lined up to fold the entire district into his conglomerate, suddenly the next School Board election is more about a hidden agenda than the open curriculum. And when did the hall monitors start wearing brown shirts and arm bands?

"Sharp satire, teaching the important lesson that when you put voracious corporate interests in charge of education, what they teach is only whatever most benefits voracious corporate interests, illustrated in the school's speedy transformation into a kind of totalitarian training camp. At the same time, the play morphs into a parody of the 2016 presidential election..."

Marin Independent 

Freedomland
Script by Michael Gene Sullivan, Music and Lyrics by Ira Marlowe
Nominated - Outstanding Original Musical, Theatre Bay Area Awards
 
A door blown off its hinges, and into a blasted room of scarred walls and shattered windows, armed with M-16's, America's bravest duck and dodge for cover, finally training their deadly gunsights on... an old black man watching TV on his couch? This isn't Baghdad or Kandahar - it's home, and for ex-Black Panther Malcolm Haywood it's just another wrong door police raid in the War on Drugs. So of course Malcolm is horrified when the grandson he's tried to protect, Nathaniel, returns from serving in Afghanistan only to find another war zone at home - and one where young Black men like Nathaniel are in the crosshairs. Is it safer to re-up and fight overseas than to try to survive here at home, in Freedomland?
 
"While there is plenty of its famous, biting humor, there is also a serious undercurrent throughout this year's offering... Freedomland is a rallying call for citizen oversight and action. Once again, the San Francisco Mime Troupe has produced an action-initiating play that deserves to be seen far and wide."
Talkin' Broadway

Recipe

by Michael Gene Sullivan

Winner - Israel Baren Playwriting Award.

 

The Morning Glory Baking Circle seems like a harmless enough group of women bakers of retirment age... until they reveal the rest of their title, "for Revolutionary Self-Defense!" They may appear innoffensive, but they are as dedicated to making pies, cakes, muffins, and cobbler as they are to overthrowing the fasicst corporatocracy of America... with a "K!" But when they invite a young Black reporter to their rebel headquarters to divulge their latest plan to for socialist revolution the last thing they expect is that she might be an F.B.I. mole, sent to infiltrate and destroy them. Or is she? Are they just paranoid old nuts, or has the government really taken notice of them?

 

"Part farce, part satire, even part mystery, but make no mistake: The political agenda of this seemingly dotty quartet is no joke. Funny, and alarming." 
Examiner.com

 

Ripple Effect

Script by Michael Gene Sullivan, Eugenie Chan, Tanya Shaffer, Music and Lyrics by Ira Marlowe

 

Skyrocketing rents. Loss of diversity. Certain workers welcomed like saviors, while other workers discarded like trash. The War on the Poor. And San Francisco - the capital of the Revolution - becoming the center of corporate surveillance technology.

What is The City coming to?

Veteran of the Revolution Deborah Johnson thinks she knows. So does immigrant-turned-super patriot Sunny Nguyen. And so does Silicon Valley's newest star, small-town transplant Jeanine Adenauer. And each has reason to despise the other. So how do they end up together in a tour boat in the middle of San Francisco Bay? Each one has a story to tell; a broken dream that brought them to this moment, and a past that divides them from the others. But can the old commie, the tech newbie, and the flag-waving beautician find common ground ashore, or will they all sink under the waves?

 

"Brightly written, laugh-laden... one of the most enjoyable Mime Troupe shows in recent memory."

San Francisco Chronicle.

A Red Carol

By Charles Dickens

Adapted for the stage by Michael Gene Sullivan

(Originally opened as "A Christmas Carol" at Open Door Theatre, Sheffield, England) 

For The Greater Good

Script by Michael Gene Sullivan, Music and Lyrics by Pat Moran

 

Pity the poor one per cent! Abused in that sliver of press they don't own, condemned in the streets by a rabble to who don't appreciate the benefits of being trickled down on, raked over the coals by the few politicians who aren't lined up to kiss their wealthy, powerful butts. Talk about an oppressed minority! "For the Greater Good" is a melodramatic tale that should warm the hearts of every billionaire - if they have one. Based on the classic "The Poor of New York" it ironically turns the story on its head, telling it from the point of view of the misunderstood Godzill-ionaires who have made this country what it is today: broke.

 

"Scathing satire of a culture that lionizes the rich...There's no denying the riotous sense of empowerment in this tribute to our democracy, in all its frailties. Political musical satire has rarely been so infectiously patriotic."

San Jose Mercury News

 

2012: The Musical!

Script by Michael Gene Sullivan, Music and Lyrics by Pat Moran and Bruce Barthol

 

A small political theater company, Theater BAM!, finds itself at a crossroads: should they keep telling the stories they feel can change the world (and starve while telling them), or feed at the corporate trough, sell out, and be the mouthpiece for The Man. Tough decision. But before having to make it, they are offered an artistic commission that may save the company; all they have to do is create a new play, "2012 - The Musical!" But is it political? Will it keep with the company's original mission? And who's really bankrolling the production?

 

"A lively satire about corporate funding and the art of mass distraction, and holds up in 85 fast-paced minutes the SFMT tradition of "Power to the People" sensibilities."

San Francisco Bay Times

Posibilidad

Script by Michael Gene Sullivan, Music and Lyrics by Pat Moran

Nominated - Best Original Musical, Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle

A U.S. factory is shutting down. On the final day of work, a pregnant employee, suddenly overtaken with labor pains, sits down on the job. Interpreting this as an act of defiance, The Boss calls security. The situation escalates and before anyone has a chance to think, the Workers have accidentally occupied the Factory!

 

"...a brilliant work, combining tragedy and humor to make a very pointed argument for thinking outside the box on the state of Labor and jobs today."

The Huffington Post


 

Too Big To Fail

Script by Michael Gene Sullivan, Music and Lyrics by Pat Moran

 

"A story, a story!" cries the Griot. "Gather 'round, and I will tell you a tale of greed, and sacrifice, high finance, love, goats, and the terrible curse that tore our little village apart.. the evil, magical spell of... Credit!"

 

Told in the style of a musical African folktale, Too Big To Fail is a story of demons and witches, heroes and villains, and how a single village - that could be a town, city, or nation - is almost destroyed the by insatiable hunger of Capitalists that are willing to sacrifice friends, family, democracy itself in the name of Profit, the only thing they feel is...  too big to fail.

 

"It's all as entertaining as it is didactic. Sullivan is disarmingly open about his intentions, but he also doesn't pretend to have all the answers. He's more intent on getting us to question the fundamentals of a system dependent on citizens 'living and dying in debt.'" 
San Francisco Chronicle 

Red State

Script by Michael Gene Sullivan, Music and Lyrics by Pat Moran

Nominated - Best Original Musical, Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle

 

The Heartland - apple pie, general stores, hard work. But in Bluebird, Kansas, apple pie has been replaced with government cheese, general stores have made way for pawn shops, and hard work on the job has become the hard work of survival. But what if a small town in a Red State found itself at the forefront of a political fight? That's what happens when, due to an Electoral College tie, the entire Presidential Election comes down to the one district, Bluebird, that  didn't report any results. And that's when it occurs to some of the citizens of Bluebird, with the world waiting for a result, that perhaps they might get some long overdue government money if they don't re-vote right away... Can one little town hold an entire nation's election hostage? 

 

Reclaiming red from the dusty color wheel of history, Michael Gene Sullivan's smart and consistantly funny script - brilliantly delivered by a uniformly sharp and charismatic cast - posits FDR's small town America as marooned at Francis Fukuyama's end of history.

San Francisco Bay Guardian

 

Making A Killing

Script by Michael Gene Sullivan, Music and Lyrics by Pat Moran

 

Two army newspaper reporters are assigned to write a puff piece on the construction of an American funded hospital in Iraq. But as the facts unravel, it soon becomes clear that there's corruption, death, music and mayhem lurking behind this benevolent seeming humanitarian project. Back in Washington, Dick and Condi are manipulating intelligence and in Iraq, a cabal of military-industrial-Neo-Con colluders will stop at nothing to hide the truth.

 

"Part savagely acute political satire, part living newspaper, and all broad, tuneful and timely musical comedy, "Killing" is the Mime Troupe's most direct grapple yet with the war in Iraq. It's very funny and equally politically engaged."
San Francisco Chronicle

Godfellas

Script by Michael Gene Sullivan, Music and Lyrics by Bruce Barthol, Pat Moran

 

Imagine a nation where religious fervor runs hot, and faith rhetoric runs hotter. Where belief has replaced reason, and where Liberty and Justice play a broken second fiddle to an all powerful, omniscient and omnipresent military-industrial God complex.

As the televangelizing head of the J.C.L.U. (Jesus Christ Loves U!) Ministries
Rev. C.B. De Love would like nothing better than to bring the nation to the Lord, and the nation's money to him. If only it weren't for that pesky First Amendment in the Constitution. And it's also the nation where Angela Franklin finds herself. She works hard, and some would say too vocally, to remind people of the true power of secular democracy, and the freedom of the Enlightenment. But in her struggle to stop the coming Theocracy will she go too far? In her zeal to destroy the opiate of the masses will she make a religion out of her anti-religion, and join the ranks of the Gangsters for God? Or will she see the folly of blind faith in anything - even the Constitution - and return to Reason?

 

"More than one sacred cow drips with figurative meringue before this subversive bust-up reaches its rousing conclusion. 'Godfellas' goes on a ruthless topical tear that seldom slackens."
Los Angeles Times

Showdown in Crawford Gulch

 

Script by Michael gene Sullivan, Music and Lyrics by Amos Glick and Ira Marlowe

It's 1886, it's Texas, and a rust red sun rises on the sleep frontier town of Crawford Gulch, where the citizens live harmoiously... until they are whipped up to a panic after what appears to be an attack on a stage coach by the Commanche! Now good folks are in daily terror of this Red menace, and turning on each other as they question who's loyal and who's liberal. It sems only the questionably elected mayor and the strangely terrified sheriff can protect them, while a mysterious robber baron stands in the shadows, waiting to acquire this last patch of prairie. For its protection...

 

 

Veronique of the Mounties

Script by Michael Gene Sullivan, Bruce Barthol, Music by Jason Sherbundy, Lyrics by Bruce Barthol

 

Veronique of the Mounties finds the US government deeply engaged in its imperialistic quest to save the people of the world from themselves. After bringing "democracy" to Iraq, Syria, and France, the US turns its gaze to the terrorist threat on its northern border, CANADA. Fiction follows fiction until only one thing can protect America (and launch the Cheney/Rice run for the White House in 2008), Operation Frozen Freedom!

Meanwhile, as the Canadians mobilize to fight off invasion, Royal Canadian Mounted Policewoman Veronique Du Bois is given a dangerous mission: to journey into the heart of American darkness and recover the object that may stop the US military's insane rush to the Great White North.

 

"This satire hits everything from the erosion of civil liberties to the rape of the environment, political cronyism, privatization of public services and, of course, George W. Bush."

San Francisco Chronicle

Mr Smith Goes to Obscuristan

Script by Josh Kornbluth and Michael Gene Sullivan, Music by Jason Sherbundy, Lyrics by Bruce Barthol

 

The President of the United States has a problem: his well-earned reputation of using the War on Terrorism to advance corporate interests is getting in the way of his actual foreign policy - advancing corporate interests. The Administration needs to convince the world that it puts democracy before profits, and it needs an unimportant place to use as an example. So, when the President-For-Life of the tiny country of Obscuristan announces first time ever elections, the US sends 9-11 fireman hero Jeff Smith as its official Election Observer. Smith, a true believer in America as a beacon of freedom in a dark world, vows to help Obscuristan achieve American-style democracy. And when a reformist leader announces his intention to challenge for the Obscuristani presidency, it proves to Smith the enduring strength of democracy. That is, until oil is discovered in Obscuristan.

 

"Beyond the jokes, a thoughtful tracing of the distinction betweenhonest post-9/11 patriotism and good old American jingoism, self-interest, and hypocrisy." 
Salon.com

1600 Transylvania Avenue

Script by Michael Gene Sullivan, Music by Jason Sherbundy, Lyrics by Bruce Barthol

 

Prowling the fog shrouded streets of our nation's capital - where zombies of past administrations rise from their graves to kill social services, and undead servants of darkness vote in the Senate - there is a new horror: Succubus Incorporatus... The legendary Corporate Bloodsucker! Freed from its constitutional chains it has reached the Principal of Power, ready to feed on the whole country. And the undead heart of this evil beats at... 1600 Transylvania Avenue!

 

 

"With interesting story twists and turns, it's a thoughtful and timely moral fable about economic compromise - about getting one's principles bought out." 
The Berkely Daily Planet 

Did Anyone Ever Tell You - You Look Like Huey P. Newton?

Written and performed by Michael Gene Sullivan

 

So what do you do when you find out that your hero, the icon of the Left, is just a human, with all the faults and more, like any other person? Does it invalidate the Movement? Does it mean that everything your parents taught you was wrong? Was the country that chased you through the streets and killed all of your heroes right all along? Or can you listen to the message, and let the messenger be human?

So this show is a true comic drama of the search for an answer. A one person, multi-character history of  my life, the Sixties, and the stories all these people were compelled to tell me. Because I look like Huey.

 

Winner -  Upstage/Downstage Award for Best Solo Flight 2000

Nominated -  Best Solo Performance nomination from the Bay Area Critics Circle.

Eating it

Script by Michael Gene Sullivan, Bruce Barthol, and Ellen Callas. Music by Jason Sherbundy and Bruce Barthol, Lyrics by Bruce Barthol

 

Protagonists Synthia and Isaac Albright are genetic engineers, and creators of Super Corn, a genetically enhanced vegetable. The patent on Super Corn has made them famous and garnered them the full support of a corporation "BobCo". Now Synthia is working on an even more powerful seed, one she hopes will end world hunger, and Isaac knows will make them wealthy. The new seed seems to offer an extraordinary opportunity for good and enormous profit, but before it is to be released at the World Food Conference, Synthia is having second thoughts about its impact on the environment. With protestors in the streets, the President preparing to become "the man who fed the world," and the CEO from BobCo controlling events for his economic advantage, a mysterious Old Man arrives desperate to stop Synthia from releasing Super Corn. Is he some Luddite nut? Or is he really from the future where the world has been ravaged by mutant plants, genetic contamination, and reduced to a barren wasteland? Will Synthia believe him? And why does he look so much like Isaac?

 

"Timely, funny, and provocative."

San Francisco Chronicle