Flowers in the Desert
After 14 years of marriage, Britt and Joe called it quits, so Joe is surprised when three years later, Britt asks him to try again. Cheater Joe still loves his ex and their boys, so he’s willing to go along with date nights and counseling—until he realizes that Britt has a very specific agenda.
Flowers in the Desert is one of my early plays, but one that’s gone through much revision to get to your hands. What hasn’t changed, though, are the essences of Britt, Joe and their relationship. And yet, through development, that’s where readers, actors, audiences most wanted adjustments—but nobody wanted to change the same thing! In a group of playwrights, nobody could understand why Britt would ever marry a guy like Joe. At a reading at Midwest theater, everybody fell in love with Joe and couldn’t understand why he’d marry such a bitch. I was fascinated to find that these characters were divisive, but realized it was a strength of the play.
Britt and Joe are two people who met, fell in love, made a go of it, and the go didn’t work. How many of us can relate to that? It’s in that resonance that this story lives. If you’ve ever asked yourself “what if?”—if you’ve ever feared as Britt does, if you’ve ever wished you could have an amicable relationship with the person you raise your children with, you will understand this story. You will understand the pivotal Scene 5, where we do see what they used to be like, where they’re able to reconnect, where the momentum builds and never stops, where they can’t keep their hands off each other, where Joe feels like they have finally done it, where the audience assumes they’re headed straight to bed and all will be well. Scene 5 is the top of the mountain, the most important scene in the play.
Neither Britt nor Joe needs to be perfect; nobody is. It’s not necessary to understand why they were ever together, but to understand where they are in this moment. To see the good and bad in both of them and appreciate how they are finally able to see each other, to achieve that previously elusive closure—free of the hurt and anger and loss and betrayal that accompanies divorce—that is good for both them and their children.
This is all to say let Britt be Britt and let Joe be Joe. They will have their champions and detractors that will have nothing to do with the actors or text. People will find themselves in this couple and in this play. And when they do, the show will be a success.
|Stage directions||James Pagliasotti|
Various locations in New Jersey.
Donna Hoke’s work has been seen in 46 states and on five continents. Plays include Brilliant Works of Art (2016 Kilroys List), Elevator Girl (2017 O’Neill, Princess Grace finalist), Safe (winner of the Todd McNerney, Naatak, and Great Gay Play and Musical Contests), and Teach (2018 O’Neill semi-finalist, Gulfshore New Works Festival, Athena Plays in Progress).
She has been nominated for both the Primus and Blackburn Prizes and is a two-time winner of the Emanuel Fried Award for Outstanding New Play (Seeds, Sons & Lovers). She has also received an Individual Artist Award from the New York State Council on the Arts to develop Hearts of Stone, and, for three consecutive years, she was named Buffalo’s Best Writer by Artvoice – the only woman to ever receive the designation.
Donna is also a New York Times-published crossword puzzle constructor; author of Neko and the Twiggets, a children’s book; and founder/co-curator of BUA Takes 10: GLBT Short Stories. She also serves on the Dramatists Guild Council and as Greater New York State regional representative. In addition, she is a blogger and moderator of the 12,000-plus-member Official Playwrights of Facebook. Her commentary has been seen on #2amt, howlround, The Dramatist, the Official Playwrights of Facebook, and Workshopping the New Play (Applause, 2017).
Flowers in the Desert was a finalist in the inaugural contest of the American Association of Community Theaters.
Click here to read an interview with Donna Hoke about this play in the Stage Rights newsletter.