Given the recent activities in Fergurson, Missouri, this play is particularly relevant.

The play is DIFFERENT PLANET: The Life and Times of Edward T. Jordan:  Chemist, Educator, Militant Activist, Irritant, Dreamer, Idealist, Disagreeable Person.

There are two characters in this play: the actor, who will play Edward T. Jordan, and the musician. Edward T. Jordan, talks about what it was like to be the first, Black research chemist ever hired by DuPont, why he thinks “Hoop Dreams” is a nightmare, what it was like to be educated, poor and black in America in the 1920s and 1930s, on what’s wrong with black higher education and how Edward Jordan’s insistence on high educational standards got him fired from Dunbar University, on the color of black skin, what it was like to be a Black man in the army in World War II, Black music, and finally, Edward talks about the cancer that killed him.

Running time: probably about an hour and a half, divided into two, more or less, equal parts with an intermission, or as a one act. Cast: one Black man. An individual improvising musician who reacts musically to what Edward is saying. Simple or no set. Minimal props.

A truncated version of DIFFERENT PLANET was first performed as a staged-reading at the Greensboro Arts Alliance and Residency in Greensboro, VT, on August 22, 2014

David Budbill is a poet and a playwright. For more about his works go to:

Following here is a synopsis of the play,  a review of the staged reading and short biography of the playwright.




a new play by David Budbill

There are two characters in this play: the actor, who plays Edward T. Jordan, and the musician/musicians.

E.T.J. talks about what it was like to be a research chemist for DuPont, why he thinks “Hoop Dreams” is a nightmare, what it was like to be educated, poor and black in America in the 1920s and 1930s, on his parent’s influence, on what’s wrong with black higher education, and how Edward Jordan’s insisting on high educational standards got him fired from Dunbar University, on the color of black skin, on what it was like to be a Black man in the army in World War II, on Black music, and finally, Edward T. Jordan talks about the cancer that killed him.

Running time: probably about an hour and a half, divided into two, more or less, equal parts with an intermission.

Cast: two people: one Black man. An individual improvising musician, a bassist or a shakuhachi player. The musician reacts musically to what Edward is saying. The actor and the musician should react to each other.

Set and Props: Simple or no set. Minimal props

A REVIEW OF DIFFERENT PLANET from Barre Times Argus/Rutland Herald, August 24,2014


Jim Lowe / Staff Photo

Bassist William Parker and Edgar Davis perform David Budbill’s new play, “Different Planet,” in Greensboro.

If you think a young African-American can be angry about America’s ongoing racial injustice, try a well-educated successful black college professor. “Different Planet,” Wolcott poet and playwright David Budbill’s newest play, confronts just that issue with a powerful authenticity: Are black and white Americans on different planets? 

Somewhat truncated, Budbill’s latest effort was presented in a deeply moving staged reading by actor Edgar Davis and bassist William Parker on Thursday under a tent on the Greensboro Green, part of the first Greensboro Writers’ Forum. “The Life and Times of Edward T. Jordan: Chemist, Educator, Militant Activist, Irritant, Idealist, Disagreeable Person,” the play’s subtitle, pretty much tells it all, but it misses Jordan’s foremost quality: integrity. Jordan is a composite character, based on an actual acquaintance of Budbill’s in the Northeast Kingdom, but fleshed out with bits and pieces from the playwright’s experience. Like the characters in Budbill’s most famous play, “Judevine,” the feel is authentic. Jordan grew up poor in Philadelphia, but with the influence of educated relatives, he worked toward and earned a college education. His understanding of his place in the world was cemented by his World War II army experience. Although a science expert, he found himself segregated, looked down upon and otherwise discriminated against. Jordan’s first major job was as a chemist for DuPont, where he excelled. But he found himself a lone black man in a white world and after a dozen years, left to join academia. 

He became the only black professor at the fictitious Dunbar University, an institution of higher learning aimed at the African-American population. Again Jordan was fighting an uphill battle, at least as far as he was concerned. He had learned throughout his life that in order to be accepted in America, an African-American had to be better than his white counterpart. His demanding — realistic, he would say — approach led to troubles and his eventual firing by the school. Budbill’s Jordan is a bit on the self-centered side. Indeed, he doesn’t mention having a wife until near death. And he isn’t always compassionate.
His statement, “I am harsh, I am not nice, I am merciless,” is almost true. But he applies his extreme standards to himself before anyone else. Budbill’s tale takes Jordan through his fight with cancer. And even in his death Jordan had to have it his way. Finally, he sums it up, “I’ve been a lucky guy.” 

Davis, a veteran professional actor living in Hardwick, became Edward T. Jordan. He effectively reflected the man’s anger as well as his pride with authority and authenticity. “Different Planet” would be a monologue without its musical score provided by Parker, a renowned New York jazz bassist and frequent Budbill collaborator. Parker provided everything from atmospheric music to accents, to conversation through his bass and other instruments. 

According to Parker, he begins with a set score upon which he improvises. The music is essentially a character in the play. Davis and Parker collaborated in truly potent storytelling. According to Budbill, this performance of “Different Planet” was cut from the original 90 minutes to about an hour for this occasion. It’s typical Budbill storytelling in that the characters, full of defects, are convincing, compelling and sympathetic. Perhaps Budbill got carried away with the jazz references, but they were fun. Budbill is one of Vermont’s best and best-known poets. Often his plays emanate from his poetry, as in the case of “Judevine.” But “Different Planet” began with interviews with a neighbor. “Different Planet” is a compelling piece of theater combining an understanding of America’s deep racism and Budbill’s deep passion for humanity. Hopefully, it will be presented in its entirety in the near future. Presented by Greensboro Arts Alliance.
For information about the Greensboro Arts Alliance and Residency, call 802-533-7487, or go online For information about David Budbill, go online

Very Short Bio, September 2014 for David Budbill

Exterminating Angel Press published David’s latest book of poems, Park Songs: a Poem/Play, in September 2012.

Copper Canyon Press now has David’s latest book of poems: Tumbling Toward the End.

His latest play, Different Planet, received it’s first staged reading at the Greensboro Art Alliance in Greensboro, VT, on August 22, 2014

His next to latest play, A Song for My Father, received its third production at The Western Stage in Salinas, CA, in November of 2013.

Garrison Keillor reads frequently from David’s poems on NPR’s The Writer’s Almanac.

He lives in the southwest corner of Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom.





a new play


David Budbill


A SONG FOR MY FATHER is a memory play inside the mind and heart of Randy Wolf, Frank Wolf’s son. It takes place in Cleveland, Ohio, from 1915 to 1998.

Act I begins shortly after Frank has entered a nursing home. Then through a series of scenes and conversations which are flashbacks to before Randy’s mother, Ruth, died, to when Randy was in college, to Randy’s early childhood, and including an actual knockdown, drag-out fight at the end of Act I, Frank and Randy confront the past, how irritable and angry they are with each other and how much they love each other.

Act II begins with Randy’s visit to meet his father’s new bride, Ivy. The remainder of Act II takes place in a nursing home.

A SONG FOR MY FATHER is about growing old and dying, Frank’s loneliness and Randy’s guilt. It’s about men and women, the meaning of marriage, class-consciousness in America and memory.

A SONG FOR MY FATHER is about a father and son and about the attachments and conflicts between them and how time and education separate them.

Running time for A SONG FOR MY FATHER is about 50 minutes for Act I and about 45 minutes for Act II.

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Excerpts from Reviews

David Budbill’s new play A Song for My Father is a stunner, a powerful work that’s both a painful analysis of and a loving elegy for a flawed patriarch. . . It’s also such a strong play because it never takes a cheap shot at honesty even as the father and son are taking cheap shots at each other. . . A Song for My Father is a heavy play broken by tremendous touches of humor. . . Budbill has created a work that aspires to classic heights while staying true to his own life and, in many ways, the lives of everyone.

Brent Hallenbeck
The Burlington (VT) Free Press
April 24, 2010


Budbill’s somewhat autobiographical story of his relationship with his father during the latter’s final years is powerful not only for its authenticity but for its universality. . . . Although there are tough moments in this intense drama, there’s plenty of humor. Particularly funny – and realistic – are Frank’s sexual overtures to the buxom nurse in his nursing home. There is also plenty of humor as we see ourselves in this psychologically accurate drama. . . . David Budbill’s A Song for My Father is dramatic theater at its best.

Jim Lowe
The Sunday Barre (VT) Times Argus/Rutland (VT) Herald
April 25, 2010


Budbill weaves humor into the convincing dialogue, so the net effect of this drama is far from depressing but curiously hopeful . . . . A Song for My Father is a preview of what we all will experience sooner or later, if we haven’t already, and it well embodies one of the primary functions of theatre in particular and art in general, which is to create a mirror in which we can see ourselves more clearly.

David K.Rodgers
The Hardwick (VT) Gazette
April 28, 2010


David Budbill’s new play is brilliant and powerful and explores areas within difficult relationships that people often don’t want to explore. The play is a tribute in a way, but it’s not a comfortable thing to watch. . . . Don’t go to see A Song for My Fatherif you are looking for an evening of light or mindless entertainment. You will leave the theatre emotionally drained and yet weirdly hopeful and wanting to talk to your father or your son, or anyone else in your life remotely resembling a family member.

 Bethany Dunbar
The Chronicle (Barton, VT)
April 28, 2010


Budbill has far too much class and appreciation for reality to sugarcoat an ending, but he also avoids gratuitous grief. It was clear just by listening to those around me that the play had achieved precisely what the playwright wanted, “to release powerful feelings of sadness, foreboding and grief and in the process, like the blues, make you feel better, refreshed, lighter, even happier.” The standing ovation and demand for a second curtain call is testimony to the play, the players, and the production team who have given central Vermont a show, which falls into the rare category of “must see” theater.

 Charlie McMeekin
The Herald of Randolph (VT)
April 29, 2010


If you’re interested in powerful, thoughtful acting, and a heart-rending story that tackles life’s biggest questions head-on, go. . . . David Budbill’s new play isn’t light, happy fare. It’s serious theater. It will prompt big thoughts. . . . Budbill masterfully succeeds in connecting his characters’ lives with the big questions of our time: Jobs and the environment, unemployment and the rage of the increasingly alienated American worker. . . . The play is clearly Budbill’s paean to his father, but it’s also a gift of self-contemplation from the playwright-poet-philosopher to the rest of us.

 Biddle Duke
Stowe (VT) Reporter
May 6, 2010

Lost Nation Theater’s presentation of David Budbill’s play, A Song for My Father, is not about pleasure or entertainment. It’s a work of art whose primary concern is with truth–the truth unflinchingly told about the reality of a son’s painfully unfulfilled relationship with his father . . . a powerful play about a son’s struggle to come to terms with himself and his father.

 Tom Mulholland
The Bridge (Montpelier, VT)
May 6, 2010

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That is a strong, funny, biting, very human play! Way up the ladder. Thomas Wolfe was wrong.

Peter Miller


Amazing . . . you speak the truth, right into my heart, deep down inside, places I have been, places I am, and some places I hope to never be!

Nick DeFriez


I was so moved by your play. At times, art transforms the very personal into a truth intensely personal to others. For me your play was a fearless work of art. . . . I’m grateful for your courage in writing it, and honored to have seen it.

Amy Rahn


Thank you for the gift of your writing and your capacity and generosity in putting such a difficult yet (often) common subject into honest words and acts.

Marion Stegner


I broke into tears with the last few words, but left with that honest purged feeling–not to be confused with the feeling of being a sucker to bathos. . . . I’ve recommended your play to all my friends. There is something in it for everyone.

Stephanie Herrick

The totally amazing thing about last night is that even though moments were so intense as to be physically daunting from a second-row vantage point; even though tears flowed not once but twice; even though the ending connected me to my own pain as one of my dearest friends who is being taken from me and her many loved ones through dementia; even with all of that power and challenge, today I am not sad. I found lightness and a sense of peace after an evening spent swimming through the muck of the blues. This is a monumental achievement. Thank you, David.

Caro Thompson

Thank you for A Song for My Father.  It touched me so much. . . .  I’m sure you hear this a lot, but having gone through this with my mother’s Alzheimer’s was a long journey and I recognized a fellow traveler last night. Thanks for not being sentimental about it.

Linda Radtke

While watching your play I thought a lot about the roots of drama and literature and how primal our need for them is.  This was especially poignant for me when Randy has his mother and father act out a scene within the play.  I loved how the mother was invited into the space of the play, to exist there with the son and enlisted in the project of reconstructing and interpreting the past.  And the complexities of the father and son relationship, their love and resentments were rendered beautifully and without the glaze of sentimentality . . . . And the actors were wonderful. Hats off to you on having written such a compelling work!

Zelda Alpern

I thought it was superb. . . .We were all very moved. Are there plans for a production in New York?

Robert Barasch

The play [is] a powerful encounter with life events that many of us have experienced. . . . In a fine and deftly calibrated way, and through exquisite acting, the play enables us to face such a sitz im leben without blinking. . . in facing that situation straight on. . . . Thank you for tending to the common ventures, in the life of common people.

Jack Bremer

The play successfully communicates something honest and moving about both pain and enduring love in even the most conflicted family relationships. . . this play speaks to something common in all our experience.

Keith Alan Deutsch


. . . I was also interested in the audience’s response, which was always varied and diverse. This came out strongest in the hospital scenes, where the audience was divided between those who had experienced such a scene in their own lives, . . . or had never been through it. Some found comedy . . . gasped or moaned in sad recognition (no comedy for them), others I think were bestilled by the closeness to home in their current . . .  situation.

The overall dynamic between child and parent, the baggage carried from childhood into adulthood, . . . was strongly written, and the actors carried it well. I loved the diversity within the characters — not black and white, but complex.

My dad wondered at how much of what we saw was autobiographical. I suggested that whether or not it was the writer’s autobiography, it is clearly a collective autobiography . . . .

Rob Faivre


. . . What has been most interesting [since seeing the play] is the number of conversations, thoughtful, serious and reflective, that I have had with several people. Thank you for the power of your words and emotions. All of us who experienced the play came away with more than we brought.

Ginny McGrath


I thought your play was very powerful. I was not alone. One lady I talked with the day after I saw the play said she got as far as her car and burst into tears. . . . the 2nd act was uncanny in its accuracy . . . [it] made me cringe as it should have.

Bill  Blachly

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The World Premier Production

Directed by Andrew Doe


John Alexander, Tara Lee Downs,

Robert Nuner & Ruth Wallman


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Production History

The Western Stage, Hartnell College, Salinas, California, November 2, 3, 8, 9, 16, 17, 22, 23, 2013

Old Castle Theatre Company, Bennington, VT, August 20-September 5, 2010

Lost Nation Theatre, Montpelier, VT, April 22-May 9, 2010



Using an acting ensemble of variable size, from six to a dozen or more, and through a series of interrelated scenes the ensemble creates 24 characters in a town called Judevine, a poor, rural mountain town in northern Vermont, which is a kind of Third World country within the boundaries of the United States where, like so many Third World countries, there is incredible physical beauty, great suffering and hardship and a tenacious and indomitable will to survive.

JUDEVINE is a parade of lives seen singly and in relation to others: Raymond and Ann, who in their 50 years together have become a mythic vision of love and warmth and cooperation; Grace, whose tortured and lonely life explodes into bitterness, violence, jealousy and finally into madness; teenager Carol Hopper, middle-aged Conrad and the Vietnam vet, Tommy, who all in their isolation withdraw into themselves; Lucy, who has literally lost her mind, and Jerry who loves and protects her; Alice who is “half man, half woman” and who “embraces other people’s lives,” Laura and Edgar, who pass their ordered, proper and restrained days while bursting with repressed passion for each other; and Antoine, the bad talking saint, the irrepressible, effusive, loquacious and ebullient lover of women and all the rest of life. These and many others populate the town and the life of JUDEVINE and are brought to the stage by David, the poet, who is the narrator of this play and who observes all these others from his own isolated yet involved and loving distance.

Through a collection of lyrically beautiful and compelling portraits of ordinary people, by turns raucous and bawdy, delicate and painful, intensely funny, loving and angry, the characters in JUDEVINE reveal to us the survival strength in the oppressed and hurt.

The human parade in this specific and particular and forgotten place becomes the universal human parade itself, and ultimately, JUDEVINE becomes an intensely passionate and caring song of praise celebrating human nature.

Minimal set, properties and costumes. The sound track is created live and on stage by the acting ensemble. Simple lighting.

JUDEVINE-IN TWO ACTS is available in NEW AMERICAN PLAYS: 2, edited with an introduction by Peter Filichia, Heinemann Educational Books, Inc., 361 Hanover Street, Portsmouth, NH 03801-3959







Staged reading at The Tiny Theatre, Poultney, VT, Green Mountain College, April 23
Brian Rickel’s One Man Judevine: The Vine Theatre at the Bernardo Winery,
Rancho Bernardo, CA, April 13 & 14
Brian Rickel’s One Man Judevine: Grand Central Arts Center, Santa Ana, CA,
April 8 & 9
Brian Rickel’s One Man Judevine: CSU Fullerton, Fullerton, CA, May 19 & 20


The Palace Players, The Palace Theater, Hamilton, NY, October 15 & 16

Actor’s Bridge Ensemble Theatre, Nashville, TN, February 5, 6, 7 and 11, 12, 13, 14


Portland Community College Theatre, Portland, OR, Nov 13, 14, 19–11 a.m. matinee, 20, 21, 22–2 p.m. matinee


Middlebury Town Hall Theatre, Middlebury, VT, October 16, 17, 18

Paramount Theatre, Rutland, VT, October 10 & 11

Lost Nation Theatre, Montpelier, VT, September 19 – Oct 5

Old Castle Theatre, Bennington, VT, April 12, Benefit Reading, author in cast

William and Mary Theatre, Williamsburg, VA, March 27, 28, 29


Lost Nation Theatre, Montpelier, VT, April 19-May 13

Dorset Playhouse, Dorset, VT, March 2, 3, 4, 9, 10, 11



Nebraska Repertory Theatre, Johnny Carson School of Theatre and Film, Lincoln, NE, October 5-14

Cambridge Rindge and Latin School performs a one-act version of JUDEVINE at Brookline High School, Brookline, MA, March 2

Cambridge Rindge and Latin School performs a one-act version of JUDEVINE at Brookline High School, Brookline, MA, March 4



Mainstage Theatre of New England College, The Open Door Theatre, Henniker, NH, September 28-October 1

Mainstage Theatre of New England College, The Open Door Theatre, Henniker, NH, June 30-July 3



Connecticut Repertory Theatre (at the University of Connecticut), Storrs, CT, October 28-November 7

Old Castle Theatre Company, Bennington, VT, June 11-20

A Reading of JUDEVINE: A PLAY IN ONE ACT, Strafford Town House, Strafford, VT, June 5



Evergreen Players at Colorado Community Theatre Coalition Festival, Fort Collins, CO, June 27-30

Harvard University, Harvard-Radcliffe Drama Club, Cambridge, MA, April 25-27

The Evergreen Players at Center/Stage, Evergreen, CO, March 15-17

Greendale High School, (High School Version), Greendale, WI, January 4 & 5



Wellesley High School, (excerpts), Wellesley, MA, February 8, 9 & March 3



Kieth Country Day School, Rockford, IL, Oct 28-30



Summer Repretory Theatre, Santa Rosa, CA, June 26-August 1, 1998

Santa Fe Community College, Gainsville, FL, April 2-11, 1998

Wayward Theatre Company, Tulsa, OK, January 1-11, 1998



Yale University, New Haven, CT, October 24-November 2, 1996

Old Castle Theatre Company: Judevine: In Four Acts, Premier, Bennington, VT, October 4-26, 1996

University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ, January 28 -February 11, 1996



Amos Alonzo Stagg High School, Palos Hills, IL, November 1995

ArtRise Theatre, South San Francisco, CA, September 8-23, 1995

Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA, March 23, 24, 25, 1995



Poet’s Theatre of Cambridge, Boston, MA, December 1-18, 1994

Twice Struck By Lightning Theatre, Santa Cruz, CA, August 5-28, 1994

Lake Forest High School, Lake Forest, IL, May 1994

Luther College, Decorah, IA, 11-16 March, 1994

American Inside Theatre, Genesee Depot, WI, March 9-27, 1994

New American Theatre, Rockford, IL, February 1994

Thomas Jefferson High School, (excerpts) Council Bluffs, IA, 22 January & 4 February 1994



New England College, Henniker, NH, November 5, 6, 7, 12, 13, 14, 1993

Equity Library Theatre, Chicago, IL, August 4-29 and Septemer 16-October 10 1993



Tulane University, New Orleans, LA, November 11-21, 1992

Silk Road Theatre Company, The Matrix Theatre, Los Angeles, CA, March 12-?-May 3, 1992

Arkansas Repertory Theatre, Little Rock, AR, January 16, 17, 18, 1992



Northeastern State University, Talequah, OK, October 10,11,12, 1991 Icefire Performance Group, Vermont Tour, August 27-September 15, 1991

Perseverance Theatre, Juneau, AK, April 25-May 15, 1991



Texas Wesleyan University, Fort Worth, TX, October 25, 26, 27 and November 1, 1990

The Theatre Project, Brunswick, ME, August 9-25, 1990

American Conservatory Theatre, San Francisco, CA, January 10-February 24, l990



The Old Castle Theatre Company, Bennington, VT, October 10-28, l989

Arena Stage, Washington, DC, May 21, l989, Staged Reading

Florida Studio Theatre, Sarasota, FL, New Plays Festival, May 14, l989 (two ?shows), Staged Reading

The Western Stage, Salinas, CA, January 13, 14, 15, and February 10 and 11, l989



Florida Studio Theatre, Sarasota, FL, December 11,1988, Staged Reading

The Old Castle Theatre Company, Bennington, VT, April 12-30, l988

The Gloucester Stage, Gloucester, MA, March 6, l988, Staged Reading



Vermont Repertory Theatre, Stowe Playhouse, Stowe, VT, October 16 and 17 and in Winooski, VT, October 21 through 24, Held Over, October 28 through 31, 1987

The Western Stage, Salinas, CA, June 11, 12, 19, July 26, and August 14 and 25, l987

The Performance Place at the Elizabeth Peabody House, Somerville, MA, May 2 and 3, l987, Staged Reading

The Boston Athenaeum, Boston, MA, April 5, l987, Staged Reading



Vermont Repertory Theatre, Winooski, VT, Vermont-New Hampshire Tour, September10-28, l986

Vermont Repertory Theatre, Winooski, VT, January 24-February 15, l986



McCarter Theatre, Stage Two, Princeton, New Jersey, January 17-29, l984



McCarter Theatre, Princeton, New Jersey, Staged reading, as part of the annual Playwrights-at-McCarter Series, November 3, 1980





Wrenchingly real, fiercely emotional and unexpectedly funny, this is a show that pierces the heart and engages the senses, growing in intensity as it draws you into the lives and battered fortunes of an entire community. Budbill’s characters are unusually rich and three dimensional. And he offers profound insights into the secret lives and overt eccentricities of the inhabitants of a modern rural community where unemployment, child abuse and loneliness coexist with love, friendship and the unmatched beauty of the natural world.

Chicago Sun Times

At once tough and tender, [JUDEVINE] is not afraid to tell hard stories with a warm heart.

The Boston Globe

One of the on-stage inhabitants of the fictional town of Judevine calls it the “ugliest town in Northern Vermont.” Well, that may be–but out of its life has come a most beautiful, exquisite piece of theatre….Budbill strokes and brushes this dramatic story-telling with rare honesty, affection and grace–and with language so precise and descriptive you will know immediately you’re soul-deep in something extraordinary.

Los Angeles Daily News

Playwright Budbill has a thoughtfully keen and gut grabbing sense of what makes individuals tick, by themselves, in couples and in groups.

Herald News
Passaic, New Jersey

What makes JUDEVINE so memorable is not just the intensity of its emotions, the depth of its feeling, the absence of cloying sentimentality, the hearty humor–and this play is loaded with humor–but also the prodigious musicality with which it has been put together…[an] extraordinary new play…a play that should find as wide an audience as possible. Regional theatre literary managers take note!…A highly theatrical and memorable evening of theater that dignifies both the art Budbill serves and the people–his own people–who nourish his artistic and social vision.

The Berkshire Eagle
Pittsfield, Massachusetts

JUDEVINE is a beautifully tender combination of theatre and poetry. Budbill’s play presents us with a vision of ourselves.

Sarasota Herald Tribune
Sarasota, Florida

JUDEVINE…glows with a contagious compassion.

Chicago Tribune

Go see JUDEVINE. It’s wonderful….David Budbill’s script is rich and believable, full of sass and heartbreak.

The Juneau Empire
Juneau, Alaska

JUDEVINE is a compilation of 20 years of poetry by Budbill describing a backwoods village in present day Vermont, and because the play is intimate glimpses of the unfathomable mystery of humanity…analogies are made with such similar plays as Under Milkwood, Spoon River Anthology and, of course, Our Town. However these comparisons are ridiculous because JUDEVINE is a memorable theatre work that is anything but cutesy, folksy and bucolic. It is rather a searing view of a rural town in today’s America.

Bay Area/San Francisco

. . . an astonishing variety of characters. We come to care deeply about them and to see the dignity inherent in the humblest of human beings.

The Chicago Reader

JUDEVINE as a poem-play sweeps the imagination across paths of folk the likes of which are rarely seen let alone heard from….Ultimately the show is a beautiful song of praise, celebrating human nature.

Trenton, New Jersey

JUDEVINE achieves that rare phenomenon, acclaim from the critics along with appreciation from the people. What a joy to see an audience of 400 weeping and laughing and squirming…what satisfaction to hear a dramatic presentation in which each word is so well considered, each thought so cleanly limned, each line so deeply true–a presentation, in short, in which the actors speak poetry…in which the characters speak, although roughly and comfortably, with precision and grace….The success of JUDEVINE is a tribute to the power of truth, affirming that when audiences see and hear the truth, they will recognize it and respond to it.

The White River Valley Herald
Randolph, Vermont

It’s easy to think of JUDEVINE as a late-20th century variation on Thornton Wilder’s “Our Town.” Easy, but wrong. Budbill’s work is closer in purpose and effect to William Faulkner–both use a small distinct place to examine the world….Budbill has populated his JUDEVINE with intensely real people.

Tulsa World
Tulsa, Oklahoma

The script is innovative, funny, likable…intelligent, different and articulate…a spirited new work. JUDEVINE…deserves the highest praise.

The Home News
New Brunswick, New Jersey

Those who scoff at the thought of experimental theatre should go see–and hear–JUDEVINE. It is so superbly written and so beautifully performed that this critic resented having to take notes instead of sitting back–no, sitting forward–and being transported to the mountains of Vermont.

The Princeton Packet
Princeton, New Jersey

David Budbill’s intriguing JUDEVINE…is a warm and wistful, sometimes sad, sometimes hilarious glimpse at small town life.

Little Rock, Arkansas

This humane celebration and haunting examination of tangled souls provides a glimpse into forgotten lives.

Village View
Los Angeles, California

Haunting beauty mixed with broad comedy exuberantly expressed…the shortest two hours of uncontrollable entertainment imaginable.

The Post Star
Glens Falls, New York

[In] JUDEVINE…there are repeated small jolts of surprise, pain, affection, delight–you name it–that come out of the unpredictability of carefully observed, precisely detailed characters…the energy, pain and joy of the place swells and courses through them….from tender sadness to raunchy gut-busting humor.

The Vermont Vanguard Press
Burlington, Vermont

Budbill leaps deftly between pathos and comedy, never lingering in sentimentality; he keeps his edges hard….JUDEVINE is a lyrical, funny, earthy work, full of sweetness and darkness, about the joys and troubles of life.

The Bennington Banner
Bennington, Vermont

Mingling the sweetness of Thornton Wilder, the raunchiness of Lenny Bruce, and the format of Dylan Thomas’s Under Milk Wood. JUDEVINE has earned tremendous acclaim.

New England Monthly

Budbill is a superb storyteller with a fine sensitivity and a wonderful way with words….The people of Judevine are people like the rest of us: ordinary, imperfect, unique….JUDEVINE flows with power and grace.

The Times Union
Albany, New York

Fictional JUDEVINE may be rooted in Vermont, but it represents much of forgotten America….Budbill is a marvelous storyteller and ACT’s nine actors create 20 vivid, distinctive characters….JUDEVINE displays ACT’s strength, depth and ingenuity better than any show this season.

The Tribune
Oakland, California

JUDEVINE is a fine, moving, intriguing play…written in a rough free verse crowded with fine images….JUDEVINE reminds you that the glory of theatre is not story or scene–it is the human voice.

Portland Press Herald
Portland, Maine

Budbill has fashioned his poems about the little town into an uncommonly beautiful play….In Budbill’s Vermont, marked by the cyclical seasons, everything changes. Against the resilience of nature, he tells of the impermanent humankind….The pleasures of Budbill’s JUDEVINE meanwhile are likely to last awhile.

The Sacramento Bee
Sacramento, California




David Budbill


Synopsis of the Play

A richer, fuller, more complete telling of the Judevine story in three acts with two intermissions, in which we follow Raymond after Ann’s death into his complex and frustrating relationship with a younger woman, Sarah, and what happens to Sarah after Raymond’s death. We find out also much more about the ill-fated Tommy and Grace and what tragedy awaits Grace after Tommy’s death. And we learn more about Sam and Beatrice Hines, The Buddhas of Judevine. We meet Albert Putvain, welfare cheat and down-home landscape architect and we get to know The Two Old Retarded Guys at Albert’s. Act III opens with an raucous and joyful ensemble piece about summer softball in Judevine replete with a blues for the whole ensemble.

JUDEVINE: IN THREE ACTS spans two decades, from 1970 to 1990, and is structured so as to provide more of a consistent and traditional through-line, thus it is a bit less experimental in its form than JUDEVINE: IN TWO ACTS which has now been produced in 23 states.

Technical requirements are the same as JUDEVINE: IN TWO ACTS. Ensemble cast should be slightly larger than minimum number for two act version since the three act version has an additional major role for a woman. Contact the author at the address and phone above or his agent:

Contact the author for reviews and production history: david at






He behests ye go and please, to Bethlehem go see.


Hover cursor over thumnail for description

Photographs by Jerome Lipani


for excerpts and promo from Lost Nation Theatre visit their website


Listen here for an interview with playwright David Budbill on Vermont Public Radio



Presenting back-to-back one-act plays with nearly identical plot lines sounds potentially redundant, but Budbill and TWO FOR CHRISTMAS create fun with the comparison. . . . TWO FOR CHRISTMAS is a well-acted, amusing double bill . . . . The two plays in the Lost Nation production share sharp direction by Andrew Doe (who led the company’s compelling version of Budbill’s A SONG FOR MY FATHER in 2010) and terrific acting not just from Nuner and Ash but also from the remainder of the half-dozen performers — Mark Roberts, Andrew Butterfield, Morgan Irons and Ashley Nease — taking on dual roles. Central Vermont fiddler Susannah Blachly provides subtle but vivid musical links in both productions.

Burlington Free Press, December 4, 2012


[This is} a charming and entertaining production of David Budbill’s TWO FOR CHRISTMAS. . . very funny, but also quite touching in it’s basic Christian message. . . . TWO FOR CHRISTMAS is a great way to celebrate a real Vermont Christmas.”

The Barre Times Argus, Rutland Herald, December 1, 2012


The play artfully combines a wondrous and raucous medieval English miracle play, THE SECOND SHEPHERDS’ PLAY, of 1479, with a
contemporary retelling of [Budbill’s] own creation, A PULP CUTTERS’ NATIVITY, set in rural Vermont. . . . Budbill brings humor to his
narrative without ever losing a sense of reverence for the archetypal event of Christ’s birth. He maintains the underlying empathy for the
poor inherent in the humble circumstance of the nativity.

Hardwick Gazette, the week of November 21, 2012


When queried as to the play’s message, Budbill replied, “One of the messages is that in 500 years times haven’t changed that much . . .
Both plays are also hilariously funny, especially with these actors.”

The Bridge (Montpelier, VT) November 29-December 12, 2012


The lines to a play are like the score to a symphony, Budbill said. The notes don’t exist as sound until the conductor (the director) and
musicians (the actors) perform it.

The Rutland Daily Herald, November 22, 2012


TWO FOR CHRISTMAS was first produced in 1996. . . . Why bring back the work now? The playwright’s answer is simple, “Because
people wanted to see it. And I thought it was time. So did [Andrew] Doe, who once again directs. . . TWO FOR CHRISTMAS is a “really
hilarious” [Budbill} alternative to seasonal staples A Christmas Carol and The Nutcracker.

Seven Days, November 28-December 5, 2012

Synopsis of the Play

Act One, THE SECOND SHEPHERDS’ PLAY, is set in Wakefield, England, in 1479. Mak, a sheep thief, steals a lamb from three shepherds and takes it home to his cantankerous wife, Gil. When the shepherds arrive at Mak’s cottage in hot pursuit, Gil puts the lamb in the cradle and jumps into bed herself pretending she has just had a baby. Thus the most unholy of nativities is created. After the shepherds decipher the ruse they return to their flock and on the way they encounter The Angel of the Lord who announces the birth of The Christ. The shepherds then go to Bethlehem and worship the newborn child. Nine-tenths outrageous and hilarious parody, one-tenth devout adoration, THE SECOND SHEPHERDS’ PLAY has come down through the ages as the most entertaining and inventive of all the medieval English miracle plays. This new translation by David Budbill renders the play in modern English yet retains the original poetical form, both the pre-Elizabethan cadences and the original rhyme scheme.

Act Two, A PULP CUTTERS’ NATIVITY, set in northern Vermont in 1979, exactly 500 years later, is a funny, sad, raucous, raunchy and devout recreation of THE SECOND SHEPHERDS’ PLAY. Characters from Budbill’s well known JUDEVINE return to act out this modern version; woodcutters, Antoine, Doug and Vietnam veteran Tommy Stames, take the place of the 15th century shepherds and a stolen chain saw replaces the stolen lamb. JUDEVINE’S Arnie also returns to become the thief, and Arnie’s cantankerous wife, Gil plays the original Gil. In this version the Announcing and Attending Angel is a waitress from the local diner. PULP CUTTERS’ NATIVITY follows the original play very closely, almost speech for speech, and within those speeches there is great similarity in content. The two plays illuminate each other and make for a warm hearted, entertaining, compassionate and honest contemporary alternative to A CHRISTMAS CAROL.

Ample space for the generous use of music within and surrounding both plays. With music, running time is a little under two hours. Strong language. Four Men/Two Women, plus musician or musicians. Simple set. Those interested should contact the author at the address and phone above or his agent:

Literary and Theatrical Agent:
Susan Schulman,
The Susan Schulman Literary Agency,
454 West 44th Street
New York, NY 10036
phone: (212) 713-1633
fax: (212) 581-8830


Note: This short essay is usually printed as an insert in the program



The Second Shepherds’ Play is one in a cycle of thirty-two Biblical plays, from creation to apocalypse, written and performed in and around Wakefield, England, in the middle of the 15th Century. The church created these plays in order to teach the peasantry the literature of the Bible. Members of the various medieval guilds wrote, produced and performed most of these plays communally.

The Second Shepherds’ Play however is so distinctive, has about it so much the stamp of an individual author, that the play has come down to us as written by a particular person known only as “The Wakefield Master.” Miracle plays are devout, often humorous, and always entertaining. The Second Shepherds’ Play is that and more. The whole play except for a short and orthodox scene at the very end is an outrageous and warm-hearted parody of the nativity in which a sheep thief, his cantankerous wife and a stolen lamb comprise the unholy family.

For his play The Wakefield Master invented a complex and daunting stanza full of internal as well as end rhymes. The form, by the way, is similar to the stanza in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, the second, after Beowulf, great work in English literature. Here are two examples of the original, each stanza followed by my translation; the first somewhat free, the second more literal.



Sich servandys as I,    that swettys and swynkys,

Etys oure brede full dry,    and that me forthynkys;

We ar oft weytt and wery    when master-men wynkys;

Yit commys full lately    both dyners and drynkys,

Bot nately.

Both oure dame and our syre,

When we have ryn in the myre,

Thay can nyp at oure hyre,

And pay us full lately.


Such a servant as I    who works and who sweats

Yet must eat his bread dry    is aggrieved and bereft.

Still at work and bone tired   while the rich are asleep

I come home tardy and weary     to my dinner and drink–

Such as it is.

Should perhaps I blunder or miss even one day

The Sire will be happy to interrupt his play

To upbraid me, insult me and dock me my pay–

Such as it is.

Hayll, derlyng dere,    full of Godhede!
I pray the be nere    when that I have nede.
Hayll, swete is thy chere!    My hart wold blede
To se the sitt here    in so poore wede,
With no pennys.
Hayll, put furth thy dall!
I bring the bot a ball:
Have and play the with all,
And go to the tenys.

Hail, darling dear    full of God’s seed.
I pray Thee be near    when I have need.
Hail! Hail! sweet is Thy cheer!    But my heart bleeds
To see Thee lie here    so much in need,
With no pennies.
Put forth Thy hand so small!
The gift I bring is but a ball:
Have it and play Thee withal
At the tennis.


It is clear that the Wakefield Master had a well developed political and social conscience; he understood the nature of his society’s injustices. He knew the poor man’s condition, and he was not afraid to let his characters speak of it acrimoniously. But in addition to his sharp tongue, the writer also had a bubbling and irrepressible sense of humor. Although the play is a parody and has ironic moments, it is never bitter; it is lighthearted, joyful and extremely funny. The Wakefield Master was a good-natured fellow and it was impossible for him to speak critically without at the same time seeing the human warmth and humor inherent in the situation.

Sitting at my desk making my translation of The Second Shepherds’ Play  and again in the rehearsal hall as I saw the play come to life, I have been awed by its greatness. The characters are real people, finely drawn, distinct from each other; the author is in absolute control of the mood shifts; the scenes develop carefully and subtly, and the author’s heartfelt and committed engagement with his subject is obvious.

A Pulp Cutters’ Nativity follows the original play very closely, almost speech for speech, and within those speeches there is great similarity in content; in fact, in a number of places, where it worked, I used direct translations of the original lines–”My feet froze to my shoes.” “If I had the money I’d buy her a funeral.”

I have, however, tampered with the original in a few places. I altered slightly the personalities of some of the characters. I gave the angel the nativity narrative as she has it in the original, then added a portion of Jesus’ first public speech, the declaration of the jubilee year, because I think it is the penultimate message of the Christian gospel. I’ve moved the shepherds’ final singing forward a bit and written new lyrics. And I changed the mood of the end. My version ends with fear and foreboding; this is the modern age. I made up my own jokes, inserted an outburst about racism, because I think it is one of the most pressing issues of our time, added a second–more positive–view of marriage, and changed time, place, characters and dialect.

What amazed me as I wrote A Pulp Cutters’ Nativity was how easily and simply the original transferred from 15th Century England to 20th Century New England, which must be, I am afraid, a commentary on the changelessness of the human condition.

The central message of the Christian gospel is, in my opinion, that Christ came to give people hope. This gift was given originally, and must remain a special gift, to the poor, because to be poor, especially in America, is to be told every time you turn around that you should be ashamed, that you are hope-less.

The message of the Christian gospel is a denial of all that; it is an affirmation of self-respect and that is something the poor have never, nor will they ever, get from the societies of Caesar.

David Budbill

Advent 1996


Excerpts from Reviews and Previews for TWO FOR CHRISTAMS in 1996


Playwright David Budbill has created a special Christmas gift for Vermonters–a recreation of a 15th century play and a new “Judevine” play, each of which celebrate the nativity with humor and reverence.
TWO FOR CHRISTMAS features Budbill’s translation of “The Second Shepherds’ Play” and his new “Pulp Cutters’ Nativity.”
“The humor is very real in both plays,’ explained Andrew Doe, who directs the production. “What amazes me, and leaves me hopeful, is the incredible emotional hit that occurs when they go from the comic to the spiritual . . .”
“They’re both genuinely wacky plays, and then turn right around and become completely serious and devout about the nativity scene. If it works right, it should tear people’s hearts out–which is always my goal.” Budbill Said.


Jim Lowe


29 November 1996


David Budbill Revisits Judevine, and the Middle Ages, for the Holidays

[In TWO FOR CHRISTMAS] Budbill shows that, for good or ill, not much has changed in some 500 years. He transforms shepherds into woodsmen and sheep into chainsaws without a squeak of contrivance.

In his two versions of THE SECOND SHEPHERS’ PLAY, he draws together much of the crazy magic in the story of how a holy baby was born, in piercing cold, among thieves and drunkards, bringing hope and possibly justice to the ones who need it most.

It’s a wild story that turns Biblical lessons inside out, what with the lambs and the Holy Family imagery. Thus, it’s even more amazing when that thing called the true spirit of Christmas is evoked, and with such subtlety and grace. . . .

P. Finn MacManamy


11 December 199


Up in Judevine, only the props and costumes have changed since shepherds spied that star over Bethlehem.
Such was Vermont poet/playwright David Budbill’s proposition in TWO FOR CHRISTMAS, [and it’s] the real thing. Real, as in dirty, famished, foul-mouthed shepherds dressed in rags, ranting against social institutions before, literally, seeing the light. . . .
What a gritty story it was–unashamedly blasphemous in places, absolutely human throughout . . . [and] totally comical.
As one woman whispered . . . to a companion: “Now I’ve got the Christmas spirit.”


Debbie Salomon


28 December 1996





The underlying seriousness of both plays is reinforced by music maker Heidi Broner . . . . She also sings haunting melodies at the
beginning and end of both plays, and in general, overlays a brooding narrator-type presence onto the whole evening.

Jim Higgins


11 December 1996




David Budbill has hit pay-dirt again. TWO FOR CHRSTMAS . . . is a moving gift for the holiday season, as potent as 10 “Messiahs” or 15 viewings of “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

Dan Wolfe


18 December 1996




Two on-the-edge plays in one by Vermont author David Budbill: “The Second Shepherds’ Play” and “Pulp Cutters’ Nativity. Several characters from Budbill’s play “Judevine” reappear.

Melissa Garrido


5 December 1996

Production History of Two For Christmas

TWO FOR CHRISTMAS: Lost Nation Theatre, in conjunction with Center Stage Theatre Company. Vermont Tour, Nov. 29-Dec. 1 (Montpelier), Dec 7 & 8 (Hardwick), Dec. 13-15 (Burlington)

A PULP CUTTERS’ NATIVITY, Act Two of TWO FOR CHRISTMAS, Soulstice Theatre at The Hide House, Milwaukee, WI, January 8, 9 10

TW0 FOR CHRISTMAS, Center Stage Theatre Company, Vermont Tour, December 6-28, 1996