Jan Donley, Author of The Side Door


It's Just the Wind

watercolor of open window at night

In the short play It’s Just the Wind, Pat and Gail go in search of a noise that has disturbed their sleep. Outside, on the street, they encounter two neighbors, each with their own impressions of the noise and the fickle wind.

I was honored to have this play included at the recent Boston Theatre Marathon.

It’s Just the Wind is meant to be non-realistic, a bit absurd, and, if acted well, poetic.

I think of it as somewhat existential: we are all grasping around for just a bit of a breeze; and in the midst of hoping for greatness, we often forget to experience the simple fact of air.

Read an excerpt from It’s Just the Wind

Give the Dog a Bone

Postcard for Give the Dog a Bone

Give the Dog a Bone is a quirky, dreamlike comedy about a girl, her mother, and a bone collection.

Give the Dog a Bone needs strong actors who understand timing and dark humor. The play has a feminist edge and is told from the point of view of an adolescent struggling to discover her very own bones. Any theatre company dedicated to exploring girls and their emerging identities—their struggles to control their own bodies—will be interested in this play.

Read an excerpt of Give the Dog a Bone

Two Daughters and Their Dead Mama

Two Daughters and Their Dead Mama tells the story of two estranged sisters, one lesbian and one straight, as they pack their dead mother’s belongings. Mom, as ghost, forces them to reconcile.

Two Daughters and Their Dead Mama is funny and engaging. The conflict is simple: one straight daughter, one gay daughter, and a dead mother who is tired of their estrangement.

Read an excerpt of Two Daughters and their Dead Mama


In this monologue, the audience becomes an Oklahoma Depression Era church congregation as Annie gets up to testify, blaming the dust bowl storms for destroying her faith, her land, and a close friend.

Dirt is dedicated to my mother’s upbringing in the Oklahoma Panhandle at the height of the dust bowl. My research into those who experienced the dust bowl days inspired Annie’s character. This monologue has power and the added benefit of audience members becoming a church congregation. If done well, the audience will be shouting “Amen” at the stage.

Read Dirt

Whisper Stories

One in a series of Milly & Grace one-acts. Milly and Grace, a lesbian couple, come to terms with an unexpected visitor who offers clues to a mysterious past.

I am very fond of this play, the only text of which was done on a typewriter in the 80’s. At present, I do not have an available on-line copy.

Whisper Stories introduces Milly and Grace-a lesbian couple who show up in several of my early plays. See also A Closet Year.

Aunt Elinor's Closet

A “prequel” to Whisper Stories, Aunt Elinor’s Closet brings us back to the day when Milly and Grace meet, brought together by the unlikely matchmaking skills of Milly’s Great Aunt Elinor.

I wrote Aunt Elinor’s Closet after Whisper Stories. It grew out of an improvisation the actors did during Whisper Stories rehearsals. The director, Doug Long, asked the actors playing Milly and Grace to experience their first meeting. That improvisation sparked the idea for Aunt Elinor’s Closet in which Milly’s great aunt does some lesbian matchmaking.

A Closet Year

Aunt Elinor’s Closet opens this sequence of Milly & Grace plays. The Burlington Free Press, in its review (Feb 1996), states, “The play deals with two young women, Grace and Milly, meeting at Milly’s great aunt’s, their subsequent deepening love, and the reactions to their relationship from both families. That’s it in a nutshell, but the meat picked out of this particular nutshell by author Jan Donley does not depend overly much on established clich├ęs, either in language or in plotting. It works because it is simple. It works because the side problems that develop contribute to the plot and do not leave us at the end with a handful of unresolved strands.”

While some reviews have criticized Milly and Grace as stereotypical—Milly “masculine” and Grace “feminine”—I think of them more as symbols. Social constructs present images of what women “should” be. Many girls, as they come of age, struggle with what is expected of them as it comes into conflict with an inner voice pushing them toward the unexpected. Milly and Grace are two sides of the same coin.

Read an excerpt from A Closet Year

All writings © Jan Donley 1985-2019
Printed from http://www.jandonley.net/plays