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


  • Friday Night
  • Black


I Stand Before You Naked: A Collage-Play

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

The Secret Mirror: A Collage-Play

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

American Holiday: A Collage-Play

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



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

Book Covers


  • Library Journal, October 15, 1991, p80

Image: “Planeta provoca Eclipse” by Juan Luis Sotillo

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