Jessica Dickey

Resident Playwright

2015 -- 2022

J E S S I C A D I C K E Y is an award-winning American playwright and actor most recently known for her play The Rembrandt (winner of the prestigious Stavis Award), which had a sold-out run at Steppenwolf Theater Company starring the wonderful John Mahoney. Jessie is currently commissioned by Manhattan Theater Club and the Sloan Foundation to write a play about the Pap Smear (gentlemen, please google); she is also currently writing a play about the sex lives of senior citizens, commissioned by ShadowCatcher; she is also developing a television show for Tom McCarthy's company and Paramount TV. Jessie’s next theatrical production is slated for January 2019 in New York City, featuring her play The Convent, a dark comedy about a group of women who try to live like nuns in the middle ages. The daughter of a gym teacher and a social worker, Jessie’s writing often draws from her rural Pennsylvania roots, including her debut (and most produced) play The Amish Project, which opened Off Broadway at the Rattlestick Playwrights Theater to great acclaim from audience and critics alike (Helen Hayes Award, Barrymore Award, CAPPIE Award for Best Play, among others). The Amish Project continues to be produced around the country and the world, including a recent run at the prestigious Guthrie Theatre, and was listed by nytheatre.com as a play that should have been nominated for a Pulitzer. Jessie’s next play, Charles Ives Take Me Home, premiered at Rattlestick Playwrights Theater, for which she was hailed as a “talent to watch” by Charles Isherwood of the New York Times. Charles Ives Take Me Home went on to be produced at City Theatre in Pittsburgh, Strawdog in Chicago, and Curious Theatre Company in Denver (among others). Jessica’s play about Civil War re-enactors, Row After Row, had its official world premiere with the Women’s Project at the City Center in NYC, followed by several regional productions, including an Ovation Award nomination for Best Play after its Los Angeles run at Echo Theatre Company. Jessie is very proud to be a member of New Dramatists. For more information about Jessie please contact Leah Hamos at Gersh and/or Greg Shephard at Writ Large.

Read Sample

an excerpt from

AN EXCERPT FROM THE REMBRANDT

(A dark room in the apartment of an old building. There is not much furniture left in this room, just the hospice bed, maybe the couch, an IV stand, a bed pan. HENRY enters. The hospice nurse MARTIN gets up, meets HENRY near the door.)

MARTIN
Shhh.

HENRY
Hi.

MARTIN
He’s sleeping.

HENRY
How was he today?

MARTIN
Did you get my texts?

HENRY
Sorry.

MARTIN
Would it hurt you to send a reply?

HENRY
We’re not supposed to have our phones. On the job.

MARTIN
Mm hm.

HENRY
Did he eat?

MARTIN
Some pudding.

HENRY
Chocolate?

MARTIN
Mm hm.

HENRY
Good.

MARTIN
He wanted pistachio.

HENRY
And?

MARTIN
We’re out. Thus my texts.

HENRY
Right. Yes. Sorry.

MARTIN
Mm hm.

HENRY
His fluids?

MARTIN
Pretty good. His spirits have improved. He told me to suck his dick.

HENRY
… No.

MARTIN
Oh yes.

HENRY
No!

MARTIN
Suck my dick.

HENRY
He hasn’t said that since 1989!-- a cop arrested him for holding my hand at a restaurant.

MARTIN
Well he said it today. Suck my dick. Right in that bed.

HENRY
Jesus. Well, I’m sorry.

MARTIN (affectionately)
Don’t be. Simon makes even suck my dick sound like poetry.

HENRY
Amen.

(A beat.)

MARTIN
You should know…

HENRY
Yes?

MARTIN
He’s in and out.

HENRY
In and out?

MARTIN
Of consciousness.

HENRY
…Oh.

MARTIN
He has moments of total lucidity, where he’s his old self, and then the next moment he’s gone.

HENRY
Okay.

MARTIN
Just so—you know. So you’re prepared…

HENRY
I understand.

(Beat.)

MARTIN
Alright I’m off.

HENRY
Thank you Martin.

MARTIN
Sure thing.

HENRY
See you tomorrow.

MARTIN
I’ll be here.

HENRY
So will I. All day. From now on.

(He stops.)

MARTIN (no judgment, just surprise)
Really?

HENRY
Yes.

MARTIN
Alright. See you then.

(He leaves. HENRY stays by the door, contemplating the sleeping SIMON across the room. A beat.)

SIMON (eyes still closed)
Fuck you.

HENRY (startled)
Oh Jesus. You’re awake.

SIMON (mocking their exchange)
The living bonding over the dead.

HENRY
Martin said you were asleep.

SIMON
“Amen.” Assholes.

HENRY
You scared me you know; “Fuck you” coming from the dark like a ghost.

SIMON
Oh just you wait. I’m gonna haunt you like the Cask of Amanti-fucking-llado.

HENRY
Simon.

SIMON (making haunting ghost sounds)
Oooooooooh.

(SIMON coughs. His voice is weak, but he’s himself.)

HENRY
Simon stop.

SIMON
You didn’t get the pudding.

HENRY
You had chocolate.

SIMON
Chocolate tastes like plastic now.

HENRY
I’ll run out first thing in the morning. You’ll have pistachio pudding before you can say “Suck my dick”.

(HENRY gives him a look.)

SIMON
He deserved it.

HENRY
I doubt that very much.

SIMON
He was trying to make me shit in that thing again—that plastic pot—and I told him I was DONE—he said I wasn’t dead yet and I still had to behave and shit where people can handle it, so I told him what he could do.

HENRY
Suck your dick.

SIMON
Indeed. I can’t believe you didn’t bring the pudding. I’m dying you know.

HENRY
I do.

SIMON
No you don’t. You don’t know I’m dying. You just think I’m smelly and sickly and shitting in a pot.

HENRY
When you’ve spent thirty-five years failing someone, it doesn’t seem right to suddenly turn into Partner of the Year. Right at the End.

SIMON
(Failing someone…)

HENRY
Right at the Home Stretch.

SIMON
What are you talking about?

HENRY
All the times I came home from work and you just wanted to go on a walk together.

SIMON
Well you know how I love to creeper our neighbors.

HENRY
And all the dinners I finished first and left the table to read the paper because you eat so interminably slow.

SIMON
(my delicate constitution)

HENRY
And left you sitting at the table… alone… (He shakes his head with the pain of that thought.) Or how I always drank too much at your writing parties and accused you of flirting… or hinted you were a burden or… I could go on and on.

SIMON
Don’t be dramatic.

HENRY
I have been vain. And petty. And eremitic.

SIMON
Eremitic? Don’t say eremitic.

HENRY
And MEAN. And COWARDLY.

(Beat. SIMON really takes him in.)

SIMON
Well. I’d forgive it all for some fucking pistachio pudding.

HENRY
Would you now?

SIMON
Yes.

HENRY
Well then.

(HENRY pulls out some pistachio pudding he picked up on the way home. SIMON gasps.)

HENRY
Ta da.

SIMON
Add manipulative to that list. And DISHONEST.

HENRY
I shall.

SIMON
And SNEAKY.

HENRY
Done. Shall I also add Forgiven?

SIMON
Get me a spoon you cad.

(HENRY does.)

Were you just going to keep that in your fucking pocket?

HENRY
I don’t know, I was just trying to find some way to surprise you.

SIMON (chuckling, pleased)
I should have died while you still had it in your pocket! THAT would’ve haunted you good and proper. (ala tortured Henry) “Oh he never knew I had the pudding! I was too EREMITIC.”

HENRY (an old joke between them, laughing like this)
Oh Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha.

(HENRY sits next to SIMON while he eats the pistachio pudding. He himself has opened a chocolate.)

SIMON (joining in, an old joke between them, laughing like this)
Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha.

HENRY
I like the chocolate.

SIMON
Well you don’t have Stage Four cancer.

HENRY
Neither do you. You’re just smelly and sickly and shitting in a pot.

(They eat.)

SIMON
So how was your day at The House For Dead White Men? Did you bring me another umbrella with naked cowboys in it?

HENRY
No.

SIMON
Then get out.

(HENRY chuckles then pauses, trying to process his day.)

HENRY (almost vibrating with it)
I think—I think I had an amazing day.

(SIMON stops.)

SIMON
Really? Pray tell.

HENRY
Pray tell? Don’t become Emily Dickinson.

SIMON
What do you mean become? Emily and I have been ONE for many years, you know that.

HENRY
(Pray tell.)

SIMON (falsetto, ala Emily Dickinson, an annoying one at that)
Because I could not stop for Death--
He kindly stopped for me--
The Carriage held but just Ourselves--
And Immortality.

HENRY
You sound like a fag.

SIMON
I am a fag.

HENRY
How do you know?

SIMON
You suck my dick.

HENRY (spitting up a little pudding)
Ha!—not for many months now.

SIMON
Oh rub it in.

(They eat together for a few moments.)

Lucky Emily.

HENRY
Why do you say that?

SIMON
Here we are, over a century later, quoting her poems.

HENRY
You’ve published eight books.

SIMON
Well.

HENRY
Well what?

SIMON
Will anyone read it? Will anyone quote it while eating pudding with the love of their life?

HENRY
… They may.

SIMON
Oh shut up.

(HENRY watches him, not wanting to break the spell)

HENRY
You’re very spry tonight.

SIMON
How do you know? Maybe I’m this spry all day long.

HENRY
You know what I mean. We haven’t talked like this in weeks.
Usually when I get home you’re out cold.
… I’ve missed you.

SIMON
Oh god don’t.

HENRY
Don’t what?

SIMON
Don’t start in with some simpering “Don’t die” crap.

HENRY
I’m not.

SIMON
Well good.

HENRY
… But don’t.

SIMON
Don’t what?

HENRY
Die.

Don’t die.

SIMON (trying to play the old joke between them)
Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha

HENRY
I’m serious.

Don’t die.

SIMON
Come on.

HENRY
Don’t die.
Don’t die.

SIMON
Henry.

HENRY (heartbreaking, simple)
Please.
Don’t die.
Please don’t die.
Please.
Don’t die.
Please don’t die.
Don’t leave me here without you.
I don’t want to be here without you.
My love.
My heart.
Please.

SIMON (taking his hand, a whisper)
Henry.

(Gently, but firmly)
Enough.

(He holds HENRY’s hand a moment longer, until he’s recovered, then he pats it.)

SIMON
So come on. You were Out There today, The World Beyond These Walls— Tell me everything. Any mental illness on display? Did Jonny let you touch his pee pee in the boys room?

HENRY (laughing, wiping his tears, but recovered)
Oh you’re terrible to Jonny!

SIMON
Well he’s ridiculous.

HENRY
He’s alright.

SIMON
Of course he’s alright (if you drop every aspect of his personality besides the fact that he is kind to you).

HENRY
Well. He invited me to Easter.

SIMON
Oh?

HENRY
With him and Twyla.

(SIMON experiences a tiny, imperceptible heartbreak.)

SIMON
... You should go.

HENRY
Apparently she makes a very good lamb.

SIMON
You should. You should go.

HENRY
Who cares.

SIMON
You need to start doing things without me.

HENRY
Oh shut up.

SIMON
You do.

HENRY
All this was before Jonny drew his gun on me.

SIMON
---What?

HENRY
Jonny drew his gun on me.

SIMON
---Is that a euphemism?

HENRY
No. Jonny drew his gun on me. And I no longer work there. At the House for Dead White Men.

SIMON
… What are you talking about?

HENRY
I got fired.

SIMON
--- You did not.

HENRY
I did.

SIMON
You did not!

HENRY
Yes I did.

SIMON
Don’t fuck with me.

HENRY
I’m not. I touched the Rembrandt.

SIMON
(Why does everything sound like code?)

HENRY
I touched the Rembrandt in room thirty-nine.
Aristotle with a Bust of Homer.
Painted by one of the greatest painters our civilization has ever known.
The subject of which is two of the greatest thinkers our civilization has ever known.

And I touched it!
Specifically the Golden Chain of Being (that Aristotle is wearing)—

(HENRY holds up his middle and pointer fingers.)

I touched it.

(SIMON just sits there, stunned. HENRY disappears into the memory of it.)

It was… surprisingly-- spiky.
The paint.
Slashes of ochre
and black
and white
and red.
I suddenly thought--
Art is such a slight thing.
It’s a trick.
The closer you get, it recedes, like a shadow.
It lives, it glows, and then you touch it and it’s not really there.
Or it’s ALL there— Rembrandt. Homer.
I touched it all…
Well, specifically three of us touched it—myself, this girl Madeline and Dodger.
We counted to three, and we touched it.

SIMON
What the fucks a dodger?

HENRY
He’s a new guard. Or—well—who knows if they’ll keep him on-- but they might— give him another chance… I hope so, he’s a sweet lad. (A sweet lad, God I sound old.) I felt old, watching them exchange phone numbers, arguing about where to meet for dinner, their faces like wet paint… (like it’s beautiful) I felt ancient.

SIMON (dreamily, from a far away place)
It’s as if I’m on a great ship. I’m honestly not sure if I’m dreaming this conversation…

HENRY
I know! I already feel it wasn’t real or something…
Look at my hand-- it looks so LARGE…

(The sight of his large hand triggers the memory)

I remember my Dad reading in the paper that this Rembrandt had been purchased for 2.3 million-- and this was 1961 mind you!-- and he turned to me, I was all of FIVE, and he said (ala gruff dad) “Come on Hank, we’re going to see what the hell is worth 2.3 million.” And he dragged me to the exhibit. We stood in front of it, his brow furrowed, the callouses on his hand… There was something about the way he stood there—staring—as if he felt separate—as if it was some Great Thing that would always be just beyond his reach…

I never asked him what he thought of it, the painting.
If he liked it.
If it pleased him.
(I’d like to think it did—that somehow he was—touched by it.)
I regret that actually.
Terribly.

It’s just a slight thing—canvas, paint— and yet it contains—what?
Worlds. Truths.

(As he speaks he is also seeing his beautiful Simon, of whom there is only one in all of time)

I stood there today, and I thought,
There is only one of this-- in all of time.
I touched that fragility
and my heart just…

(Sometime in the last few minutes SIMON has closed his eyes. He is very still.)

HENRY
My love? Are you there?

(SIMON doesn’t answer. We can hear his breath drawing gently in and out.)

I want you to know.
You’ve been
a wonderful
partner.
You have.
I have failed you so terribly.
So terribly.
But I am here now.
I’m here.

(HENRY puts his hand on SIMON’s head, just like Aristotle with a Bust of Homer. They sit like that for a tender moment.

Then BLACKOUT.)

Contact Info

Leah Hamos at Gersh
LHamos@gersh.com
jessiedickey@gmail.com

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