Callaghan, Sheila 1973–

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Callaghan, Sheila 1973–


Born January 24, 1973, in New York, NY; daughter of John Augustine and Eileen Callaghan. Education: College of New Jersey, B.A., 1995; University of California at Los Angeles, M.F.A., 1998.


Home—Brooklyn, NY. Agent—Mark Christian Subias Agency, 331 W. 57th St., Ste. 462, New York, NY 10019. E-mail—[email protected]


Playwright and educator. Worked for Ask Theatre Projects, Los Angeles, CA, 1996; University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) Playwriting Faculty, teaching assistant, 1997; College of New Jersey, Trenton, adjunct professor, 2003—; Brooklyn College, Brooklyn, NY, adjunct professor, 2004; La-Guardia Community College, Queens, NY, adjunct professor, 2004; University of Rochester, Rochester, NY, adjunct professor, 2005; Spalding University, Louisville, KY, M.F.A. program in creative writing, faculty member, 2005—; William Inge Center for the Arts, Independence, KS, guest teaching artist, 2007. Has written plays on commission for numerous theaters and festivals, including Playwright's Horizons, South Coast Repertory, New Georges (Dawn Powell Festival), Actor's Theatre of Louisville, and EST/Sloan; has taught numerous playwriting workshops around the country.


13P, New Dramatists (resident).


Marty Klein Comedy Writing Award, 1993; Samuel Goldwyn Writing Award, 1996; Nicholl Screenwriting fellow, Academy of Motion Pictures Association, 1998; Princess Grace Award for emerging artists, 2000; LA Weekly Award for Best One-Act, 2000; Jerome Fellowship, Playwright's Center in Minneapolis, 2001-02; Chesley Prize for Lesbian Playwriting, 2002; Mac Dowell Residency, 2003; NYFA grant, 2004; Cherry Lane Mentorship Fellow, 2005; NYSCA grant, 2007; Susan Smith Blackburn Award, cowinner, 2007; Whiting Award, 2007.



Scab, produced in New York City by Women's Expressive Theatre, 2002.

Blue Lila Rising: A Drama in One Act, Playscripts (New York, NY), 2004.

New Shoes: A Comedy in One Act, Playscripts (New York, NY), 2004.

Tumor: A Comedy in One Act, Playscripts (New York, NY), 2004.

Kate Crackernuts, Playscripts (New York, NY), 2004.

Hold This, Playscripts (New York, NY), 2004.

Star-crossed Lovers, Playscripts (New York, NY), 2004.

Crumble (Lay Me Down, Justin Timberlake), Playscripts (New York, NY), 2004.

Crawl, Fade to White, produced in Los Angeles by Moving Arts, 2005.

Dead City, included in the anthology New York Theater Review, edited by Brook Stowe, Black Wave Press (New York, NY), 2006.

Lascivious Something, produced in Chicago at the Dog and Pony Theatre, 2006.

We Are Not These Hands, produced in San Francisco by the Crowded Fire Theater Company, 2006.

Contributor to Monologues for Women, Heinemann, 2004, and the Playwrights' Center Monologues for Women/Men, 2005; also author of the plays Two Weeks, Smog, The Hunger Waltz, No Returns, Roadkill Confidential, Fever/Dream, That Pretty Pretty; or, The Rape Play, American Jack, Ayravana Flies; or, A Pretty Dish, The Transit Plays, Twilight in the B-Bowl, He Ate the Sun, Soak, Water; or, The Secret Life of Objects and Hold This; author of the musicals Elemental, Strange News from Another Planet, and Softland; author of screenplays for film and television, including Fish Bites Fish's Tail, Killing Sarah, and Coffee.


Sheila Callaghan was born January 24, 1973, in New York, New York. She earned her undergraduate degree at the College of New Jersey, then went on to earn a master of fine arts degree from the University of California at Los Angeles. A prolific playwright, Callaghan has written numerous works, both full length and one acts, as well as several screenplays. Over the course of her career, she has been the recipient of a number of awards and fellow- ships, including the prestigious Whiting Award in 2007. Callaghan's work has been produced through various theaters and repertory companies, such as the Soho Repertory, Playwright's Horizons, South Coast Repertory, Clubbed Thumb, the LARK, Actor's Theatre of Louisville, the New Georges, and Moving Arts. Her plays have also been produced internationally in New Zealand, Norway, and the Czech Republic. In addition to her own writing, Callaghan has spent time teaching at the university level at such institutions as the University of Rochester, Spalding University, the College of New Jersey, and Florida State University, as well as in workshops.

When writing her plays, Callaghan is particularly interested in what happens when the play begins with a traditional narrative structure and then allows the addition of something different or absurd into the mix, altering the context of the situation in order to create an entirely new structure. She enjoys letting unusual language or plot devices into her standard narrative to create innovative forms. Adam Szymkowicz, in a review for the Brooklyn Rail Web site, observed that "Callaghan delights in creating specific and unique language for her characters, at times even stretching the language so far as to create new dialects."

Her plays cover diverse subjects, as well. In Lascivious Something, August find his hard-earned life—beautiful Greek wife, home on an idyllic island in the Mediterranean, approaching birth of his first child—suddenly threatened when a woman in a broad-brimmed hat appears out of nowhere and sets herself up in his guesthouse. We Are Not These Hands is a humorous work that follows Moth and Belly, whose school has blown up and who have far too much time on their hands. They repeatedly pass a local Internet café, observing the patrons and wishing they too might be allowed to spend time there. Bored, they become somewhat obsessed with Leather, a regular customer of the café who spends copious amounts of time doing research online. Leather begins to fall for Moth, and Belly's fate is thrown into question. Crawl, Fade to White tells the story of Louise, who sets out to sell an old lamp, a family heirloom, hoping to raise enough money to keep her daughter April in school while avoiding any work that is morally questionable. April, however, does not want her mother to go through with the sale and rushes home to stop her. A mysterious couple appears with a secret, and ultimately they end up claiming the lamp. New Shoes: A Comedy in One Act is equally mysterious, as Richard, a Vietnam vet, falls asleep as usual next to his wife of many years, only to wake to find a lovely young secretary in her place.

Dead City is a takeoff on James Joyce's Ulysses, in which a female protagonist, Samantha Blossom, works as a computer consultant and spends her day taking a tour of Manhattan. Samantha is dealing with a husband who is a jazz singer and an empty house, since her daughter left for college. Still, the thing that haunts her the most consistently is the loss of her son twenty-two years earlier, shortly after his birth. In a kind of juxtaposition of souls, Samantha finds Jewel Jupiter, a twenty-two-year-old poet, to act as tour guide through the city, spending the midnight hour traversing the meatpacking district. The day, June 16, 2004, comes exactly one century after Joyce's own tour through Dublin. Steven Suskin, in a review for Daily Variety, remarked that "an hour or so in, Callaghan places her heroine in a late night tryst along the docks of the Hudson in a gripping scene reminiscent of Torch Song Trilogy. Dangerous, but the playwright pulls it off … and is thereafter in total control." Gwen Orel, writing for Back Stage East, called Callaghan's effort "stylish, lyrical, fascinating, occasionally irritating, and eminently worthwhile." Kristen Palmer, in a review for Brooklyn Rail, observed of Callaghan's writing that "the aesthetic, ethnic, rhythmic, and material diversity of the play brings the shared experience of living in New York onto the page."



American Theatre, May 1, 2006, Jason Grote, "New York City: Joyce among the Ruins," p. 22; October 1, 2006, "New Dramatists of New York City," p. 20; April 1, 2007, "In an Unprecedented Move, the Judges of the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize," p. 18; December 1, 2007, "Playwrights Sheila Callaghan and Tarell Alvin McCraney Were among the 10 Recipients of the Whiting Writers' Awards, a Hefty Prize of $50,000 Given Annually to Emerging Writers," p. 20.

Back Stage East, June 8, 2006, "Dead City: New Georges at 3LD Art & Technology Center," p. 15.

Daily Variety, June 2, 2006, review of Dead City, p. 15.

New York Times, October 25, 2007, "New Writers Honored," p. 2.


Brooklyn Rail Web site, (May 1, 2006), Adam Szymkowicz, "Devouring the Scenery with Sheila Callaghan"; Kristen Palmer, "Sanctifying the Quotidian: Sheila Callaghan's Dead City."

Here Web site, (June 17, 2008), author profile.

New Dramatists Web site, (June 17, 2008), author profile.

Sheila Callaghan Home Page, (June 17, 2008).

[Sketch reviewed by assistant to Mark Subias (agent), Sari Kamin.]