DAVID FRISTROM, PLAYWRIGHT
Plays about People and Ideas
I write plays about ideas and the people who develop, attack, defend, and are changed by them. My plays seek to illuminate little-known corners of history and bring them to life.
A Life with Plays
A passionate theater-goer who has seen over two thousand productions around the world, David is thrilled by the thriving theater scene in Boston, though frustrated he doesn’t have time to see everything. As an aspiring playwright, he has written three full-length plays, all on historical subjects: FOUNDATIONS, about the brilliant 20th century mathematician Kurt Gödel; an untitled play about the tragic life of the 19th century Shakespearean scholar Teena Smith; and SAVING THE PLAYHOUSES, about the struggles to keep London playhouses open during the 1590s.
During the day, David is the Research Librarian for Engineering at Tufts University.
Saving the Playhouses
Cast: 6 men, 5 women
Genre: History, Comedy, Drama
Set in 1597, the year Shakespeare wrote “The Merry Wives of Windsor,” and also the year London theater was almost destroyed, saved only (at least in this telling) by the efforts of a band of women. Some of the themes it touches on include the tensions and relationships between art and society, between men and women, and between historic and poetic truth.
Semi-Finalist, Shakespeare's New Contemporaries, American Shakespeare Center, 2018
Cast: 2 men, 2 women
Genre: History, Tragedy
Based on the true story of Teena Rochfort-Smith, a 19th-century literary scholar who battled institutional and personal sexism and harassment while pioneering a prescient new approach to Shakespearean scholarship, only to die tragically young before she could complete her work. Also appearing are Frederick Furnivall, Teena's mentor and predator, a major figure in 19th-century literary London and one of the founders of the Oxford English Dictionary, and the young Kenneth Grahame, who would go on to write The Wind in the Willows.
Cast: 3 men, 2 women
Genre: History, Drama
FOUNDATIONS tells the story of Kurt Godel, the brilliant 20th-century mathematician and logician whose work demonstrated the fundamental incompleteness of any possible formal mathematical system. While his mind could see new truths that among other things led to the development of computers, Godel was also battling mental illness that led him deeper and deeper into paranoia.
The play employs meta-theatrical tricks that mirror the meta-mathematical argument in Godel's Theorem.
Plays about People and Ideas
The theater is my church. It’s where I go for ritual and spectacle, for community and connection, for spiritual uplift and eternal truths. And though I enjoy many kinds of theater, I find myself returning again and again to plays about ideas. Or rather, to plays about people wrestling with ideas. Ideas by themselves don’t lead to drama, but great drama can come from people developing, attacking, defending, and being changed by ideas; ideas about what makes a good life, how the world works, why we are here, what we should do, and what has to change. And I am fascinated by the history of ideas: how ideas that we now find obvious were once unthinkable, how ideas that were once taken for granted have been discarded, and how some ideas reappear time after time through the years. Which is also the history of the people who came up with the ideas in the first place: what touched them and led them to think of something that had never been thought of before.
Since there can never be enough theater, I see my mission as writing more such plays, illuminating little-known corners of history and bringing them to life. I seek out examples in history of people who have been passionate about their ideas, and I put those passions on the stage. Thus, I have written plays about the brilliant 20th-century logician Kurt Gödel, whose ideas about the foundations of mathematics were as revolutionary as Darwin’s theory of evolution or Einstein’s theory of relativity, and who battled with a disordered mind while discovering the disorder inside mathematics; the tragic story of Teena Smith, a 19th-century literary scholar who pioneered a new way of studying Shakespeare while facing discrimination and harassment; and the writers, actors, managers, men and women, who faced censorship, imprisonment, and worse while creating the new art form of popular theater in late 16th-century London.