By Joyce Carol Oates

Only a select number of authors have been able to master the art of writing both fiction and drama. As Joyce Carol Oates, one of the major novelists and short story writers of our time, remarks, writing a play is “something else entirely.” This superb collection of twelve plays is exciting evidence that Ms. Oates ranks among that select number.

Twelve PlaysAll of the works in this collection are recent, and most have been performed since 1990. “Tone Clusters,” with its core of murder and distress, haunting interview-like dialogue, and video imagery, was co-winner of the 1990 Heideman Award for One-Act Plays. “The Key,” in which dark undercurrents swirl around a vacationing middle-aged man and woman who flirt and sip Voodoo Bombshells, was first performed by L.A. Theatre Works in January 1991.

Some of the plays are highly compressed, while others are more expansive, filling an entire evening; some are traditional in form, and others are boldly experimental, like her daring collage-play, “I Stand Before You Naked.” And all twelve plays collected here incorporate specific issues of our time, from AIDS to racism, yet they go beyond current topics to intimately explore universal themes such as aging, death, and hope.

Innovative and intense with emotion, the drama of Joyce Carol Oates is as unique as her unmistakable voice, which can be clearly heard in each work’s dialogue, soliloquy, or chorus. These plays, written to be performed, make for exciting, provocative contemporary theater and are a brilliant testament to the genius of this enormously gifted artist.



  • Tone Clusters information
  • The Eclipse information
  • How Do You Like Your Meat? information
  • The Ballad of Love Canal information
  • Under/Ground information
  • Greensleeves information
  • The Key information


  • Friday Night information
  • Black information


I Stand Before You Naked: A Collage-Play information

  • I Stand Before You Naked
  • Little Blood-Button information
  • The Boy information
  • Wife Of . . . information
  • The Orange information
  • Nuclear Holocaust information
  • Darling I’m Telling You information
  • Wealthy Lady information
  • Good Morning! Good Afternoon! information
  • Slow Motion information
  • Pregnant information
  • I Stand Before You Naked information

The Secret Mirror: A Collage-Play information

  • The Human Fly information
  • Secret information
  • The Call information
  • The Anatomy Lesson information
  • Cuckold information
  • “I Don’t Want to Alarm You” information
  • “I Got Something for You” information
  • Bluebeard’s Last Wife information
  • The Floating Birches information
  • A Report to an Academy information
  • The Psychic information
  • The Secret Mirror information

American Holiday: A Collage-Play information

  • American Holiday I information
  • $ information
  • One Flesh I information
  • Procedure information
  • Lethal information
  • Imperial Presidency information
  • “Whispering Glades” information
  • The Pact information
  • I’m Waiting information
  • Social Life; or, The Cannibals information
  • Love Triangle information
  • The Suicide information
  • Ladies and Gentlemen: information
  • Sex information
  • One Flesh II information
  • American Holiday II information

Afterword information


  • Heidemann Award for One-Act Plays, 1990 Co-winner: “Tone Clusters”

Book Covers


Stephanie Furtsch, Library Journal, October 15, 1991, p80
4 stars
Oates again displays her amazing versatility with these emotionally charged, powerful plays.

Image: “Planeta provoca Eclipse” by Juan Luis Sotillo

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