What We Were

By Blake Hackler    

What We Were

Enjoy this audio recording by Ashland New Plays Festival. You can also listen on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcasts.


What We Were is set in East Texas and spans two decades. Sisters Nell, Tessa, and Carlin are now adults whose lives have been impacted by a childhood of abuse. After disappearing 17 years ago, Tessa, the youngest sister, resurfaces. It seems she has spent her adult life on the run, moving from state to state and foster family to foster family, pretending to be a teenage girl. When she is found out, her sister Nell must decide how much of her past she is willing to face to save her sister. Weaving scenes from the past and present, this story is a meditation on responsibility, on what we do to cope, and on the very difficult work of healing.

Playwright Perspective

I was inspired by a story I read in Texas Monthly about a woman named Treva Thornberry, who for 17 years moved from state to state, pretending to be a teenager. I wanted to write about her, but eventually it became about all three sisters. I was very moved at certain moments while writing this play, by the pain and the plight of these three women. It’s as though I knew them and hoped so much for them. I hope audiences will feel the same way.


Carlin Liisa Ivary
Nell Jackie Apodaca
Tessa Kris Danford
Luke Nolan Sanchez
Stage directions Tamra Mathias


Mostly Texas… East Texas… between 1979 and 2016
A bedroom
Another bedroom
A school
A porch
A holding room

Genre: ,

Play Length: 1:29:44

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Playwright Image

Blake Hackler is an actor, teacher, and playwright. He currently holds faculty positions at Yale University and Southern Methodist University. His plays and musicals have been produced in Dallas, Chicago, and New York. Most recently, his play The Necessities received its world premiere with Second Thought Theatre. He is a member of the esteemed BMI/Lehman Engel Musical Theatre Writing Program and is the recipient of the Harrington Award for Excellence in Musical Theatre Writing as well as a Dramatist Guild Intensive grant.

As an actor, Blake has appeared in Broadway and Off-Broadway productions and in regional theaters throughout the country, as well as in TV and film. He has an MFA from the Yale School of Drama and is a Fulbright Senior Scholar.

Jackie Apodaca
Jackie Apodaca
Kris Danford
Kris Danford
Liisa Ivary
Liisa Ivary
Tamra Mathias
Tamra Mathias
Sanchez Nolan
Nolan Sanchez

2017 winner at Ashland New Plays Festival

2019 World premiere co-production at Second Thought Theatre (August 28 – September 21) and Circle Theatre in Fort Worth (September 26 – October 19)

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