Spring is here, and that means I now give up all day at my desk and turn my life, at least half the time, on days when it isn’t raining, toward gardening. I raise a huge amount of vegetables every summer and that effort starts now, early this year, way early. All of which means I spent the first three days of this week outdoors. I am NOT complaining! But I’m 72 this year and things take so much longer than they did 20 or 30 years ago. What took me three and a half days this week would have taken me a day a couple of decades ago.

Those first three and a half days this week were spent turning over my largest raised bed, my earliest ground, where I always plant the peas, two kinds, and my first long double row of spinach. I also spent some of those days indoors working on trying to organize the notes for SAMOVAR AND ZEEMAHOOLAH. Thursday, April 19th, I planted Green Arrow shell peas and Oregon Giant Snow peas and a twenty-foot, double row of long standing Bloomsdale spinach. On Friday I visited with some neighbors, wrote letters to Wendell Berry and Donald Hall and then Lois and I made a pizza. Saturday I spent the entire day outside turning over my compost pile. This is the biggest and heaviest job I do every spring. It took all day, but it’s done, and after I put a layer of last year’s finished compost on top of it, it’ll be ready to be the place I plant my cucumber starts this summer.

I’ve gone into such detail about what I did this past week, because I wanted to demonstrate how, especially now that spring is here, I do not give up the rest of my life to be a writer.

If you really don’t want to give up the rest of your life in order to write–and who would?–even though in their pomposity, that’s what so many writers say you must do–what are you to do? Well, grin and bear it, I’d say. Do as much as you can while you live your life. John Haines said to me once, “Live your life and don’t be literary about it.” Good advice! The trouble with the pompous, arrogant and unrealistic admonitions from so many writers about how you must give up everything in order to write, is: if you do that, you’ll have nothing to write about, and you’ll end up like so many American writers writing about language instead of, as joel oppenheimer said, “something.” Joel said, “Poetry is not about language, it’s about something.”

Today, Sunday–I always write my blog on Sunday–it is raining. We need rain desperately. It’s been dangerously dry here for months. I’m particularly glad I got the compost turned before the rains came. A little soaking and settling for that compost pile is just what it needs.

Sincerely, David Budbill


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 davidbudbill.com






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


a poem for fourteen voices and blues band


David Budbill

Synopsis of the Play

LITTLE ACTS OF KINDNESS is a series of scenes, events, encounters, little acts, set in a city park about the little joys and great sorrows in the lives of the ordinary souls who pass through and inhabit this particular park.

From the sad and lonely old men and women who wander through the park to the young people on their way nowhere to the street preacher and Mr. C., the failed poet and caretaker of the park, to the lost and homeless to the ne’er-do-well rich man to the child abused by his mother, LITTLE ACTS OF KINDNESS is about the conflicts between the rich and the poor, the old and the young, the firm and the infirm; it is about loneliness and music.

Also in the park is a little street band that plays the blues and other kinds of music from time to time; the band reacts to, embellishes upon, interprets and sometimes predicts the action of the play; it functions the way The Chorus functioned in ancient Greek drama. The music is eclectic, both vocal and instrumental, and ranges from Villa-Lobos to two very old traditional twelve bar blues to Thelonious Monk to tunes composed originally for this play.

The play engages us in the pain and joy, the love and cruelty, the goofy delight of being human. In the end LITTLE ACTS OF KINDNESS makes a funny, sweet and quietly hopeful statement about the possibilities for acceptance and community in our lives.

LITTLE ACTS OF KINDNESS calls for an interracial, international cast at least half of which is non-white with a core ensemble of eight: four men, four women, four younger actors, four older actors, plus extras and a small, improvising street band to perform throughout the play, plus a blues singer.

Those interested should contact the author at the address and phone above or his agent:






City of Westminister College, Paddington Center, London, England, May 18 & 19, 2006

Center Stage Theatre Company, Montpelier, VT, Vermont Tour, 29 September-4 November 1995

Lost Nation Theatre, Montpelier, VT, 23 June-4 July, 1993



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



A Duet for Poet and Improvised Bass

William Parker & David Budbill


Support a local, independent bookstore. Order this two CD set from:

The Galaxy Bookshop

or from

BOXHOLDER RECORDS P.O. Box 779 Woodstock, VT 05091-0779

T: 802-457-8150 F: 802-457-4254 Email: Boxholdr@aol.com

for information and bookings call: (802) 888-3729

* * * * * * * * * *

“In concert, Parker’s combination of elemental power and responsive generosity can be earth shaking. [He is] the most consistently brilliant free jazz bassist of all time.”

The Village Voice

“[Budbill’s writing is] wrenchingly real, fiercely emotional and unexpectedly funny.”

Chicago Sun Times


Poems from Budbill’s book, MOMENT TO MOMENT: POEMS OF A MOUNTAIN RECLUSE plus the music of world-renown bassist, composer and multi-instrumentalist William Parker playing his original compositions on acoustic bass, Gralle–a double reed from Barcelona–the Shakuhachi–a vertical, Japanese bamboo flute–pocket trumpet, slit drum, valve trombone and innumerable bells, gongs and other percussion.




for the most recent review published in September 2001 go to: http://www.allmusic.com/cg/amg.dll?p=amg&sql=Akzfexqe0ld6e

  * * * * *
“The plaintive rawness of Budbill’s Taoist and Zen-inspired poetry keeps perfect company with Parker’s spontaneous, experimental music. . . . [Here also is] the almost-forgotten pleasure of hearing words and music presented in such a direct and unadorned way.”

SHAMBHALA SUN, January 2000

  * * * * *

“PICK OF THE YEAR: “In a year of great awareness and music, it is incredibly difficult to pick one favorite CD….I thought of Belle and Sebastian, Thievery Corporation, Matthew Shipp, Sun Ra in Egypt, Johnny Cash in Jail and Captain Beefhart. All this finally ended with ZEN MOUNTAINS-ZEN STREETS….Under Budbill’s Zen reflections, Parker lays deep, deep soulful bass lines with the feeling of sunlight. Working together, the two create a world similar to the reflection of your face in a windswept lake, making you feel brisk chills and stand in awe.”

WOOVE, Fall 1999
Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Virginia

  * * * * *

“When I came to hear Budbill and Parker, I knew I was going to hear great poetry and bass playing. What I didn’t know is that the audience would respond to this work by becoming deeply silent and rapt in the experience. Slowly, this evening, I realized I was in a sitting meditation with a hundred other people.”


  * * * * *

“Budbill is…a wide-open, vulnerable, questioning rural-mystic acutely aware of the difference between a wise man and a wise guy….Parker is the perfect accompanist: ever-present and never overbearing….[His] compositions…gently impel and embellish the spoken words with an electrical impulse of their own….

“The seemingly mismatched men–Parker’s cool, urban, African-American and Budbill’s white, poetically anxious, rural recluse–are in fact as comfortable together as a pair of socks….

“‘My life is like the bird’s path across the sky. It will leave no trail,’ Budbill says plaintively. It’s likely ZEN MOUNTAINS-ZEN STREETS will prove him wrong….

“…a brilliant collaboration.”

SEVEN DAYS, 30 June 1999

  * * * * *

Both Budbill and Parker are students of the human condition and this is what stands out.

Parker alternates between backing Budbill’s voice and doing his own extemporaneous improvisations [on] . . . many instruments . . . in addition to his upright bass. . . Budbill . . . has a powerful and commanding voice that reveals a love of performance as well as a heartfelt belief that what he is saying matters.

This disc deserves a fine place in the cupboard of improvisation.

Micah Holmquist
JAZZ REVIEW, Volume 60

  * * * * *

“Without a doubt, the finest jazz/poetry project to come along in a very long while. Featuring the beautiful poetry of David Budbill whose words come from what the Taoists call Wu-wei, spontaneous action in accordance with one’s own nature. And for fans of William Parker, well, all we can say is that this may be his finest recorded performance. With a great bonus of hearing William also perform on the Gralle, the Shakuhachi, pocket trumpet, valve trombone.”

* * * * *

“From the ritualistic opening of double reed and gong, we are on a long journey that David illuminates with scenes and observations from his life story. A friendly voice, a wise voice, a natural voice like the wind blowing freely through the woods of Judevine Mountain….William does a fine job allowing these poems to unfold at their own pace, while he accompanies the stories with haunting resolve and a constant inner dialogue. David’s observations often ring true for all of us–the lifelong struggle for survival, our darker side taking over our positive side and the healing power of music and poetry. There are even a few funny moments to ponder. There is a refreshing unrushed purity to this entire endeavor, quite moving.”


* * * * *

“The pairing is supremely sensitive, supportive and successful, with Parker’s soulful musical commentary flowing as easily as Budbill’s fully organic, resonant bon mots.”

SIGNAL TO NOISE, Sept/Oct 1999



History of performances


IN 2008

Sept 25: The Hardwick Townhouse, Hardwick, VT, 7:00 p.m.

Sept 27: The Flynn Space, Burlington, VT, 8:00 p.m.

Sept 28: The Unitarian Universalist Church, Woodstock, VT, 4:00 p.m.

Sept 29: Marlboro College, Marlboro, VT, Whittemore Theatre, 7:00 p.m.

Sept 30: workshop with Marlboro College students, Campus Center, 10:00 to 11:30 a.m


IN 2001

March 21: The Prism, Charlottesville, VA, 9:00 p.m


IN 2000

April 27: The Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, RI, 7:00 p.m.

November 30: New England College, Simon Center, Henniker, NH, 7:30 p.m.


IN 1999

Oct 3: The Nuyorican Poets Cafe, New York, NY, 4:00 p.m.


IN 1998

Oct 14: New England College, Simon Center, Henniker, NH, 7:00 p.m.

Oct 15: Conway New Music Society, Unitarian Meeting House, Amherst, MA, 8:00p.m.

Oct 16: Pentangle Arts Council, Little Theatre, Woodstock, VT, 7:30 p.m.

Oct 17: Onion River Arts Council, Bethany Church, Montpelier, VT, 8:00 p.m.

Oct 18: On-Stage Series at the Flynn Theatre, Burlington, VT, 4:00 and 7:00 p.m.

Oct 20: Middlebury College, McCullough Student Center, Middlebury, VT, 8:00 p.m.


In Performance At The
Nuyorican Poet’s Cafe
in New York City,
October 3rd 1999





All pictures on this page by: Cathryn Dwyre