josh drimmer, playwright.
josh drimmer, playwright.


Ever since I first wrote a play looped around and oriented by a Steely Dan song about Nazis and a Miles Davis album mostly played on a wah-wah peddle, music has had a place in my plays. 


Love Is Good is about a band; Iago, of W. 95th St. has a band in it too, fronted by a beautiful, vainglorious Othello named Obi. 


The relationship in For You starts to fall apart around the point when one of the lovers writes a song about the other.  


New Haven and the Problem of Change in the American City is set in four parties, with every party has its own sonic quality, from 70s soul to Golden Age hip-hop.


After I'm/ After You're/ After We're Gone was largely inspired by the life and death of James "J Dilla" Yancey, the greatest hip-hop producer of all time; the bleep-bloops of his posthumous collection Dillatronic also helped score the comical electronic nightmare of The Beeping


Halcyon Days is drenched in the sweet, semi-secret sadness of Yacht Rock.


Even Falling took its title and feeling from the Dudley Perkins song of the same name.


The following playlists are music in my plays and music that inspired it. I don't know if you can get a feeling for the plays from the music alone, but you can get a feeling of some kind all the same.


Story and Her



The genesis of this play, a middle-aged Don Juan's journey into his own mind/life/hell was Serge Gainsbourg's Histoire de Melody Nelson and the dippy, lethargic, hypnotizing bassline that bookends the album. Black MIlk's "Story and Her" gave me a title and further seductive feeling, but this one is laden with references and builds, from the self-dread of "I Went To The Mirror" to the heartbreaking fall of "Rocket Love."


Halcyon Days



Yacht Rock, invented musical genre that it is, is both smooth and often sad, particularly the divorce rock song "LIvin' It Up" by Bill LaBounty, lyrics of which became my foreword. The necessary soundtrack befits what begins as a seaside comedy and quickly turns to (yeah, I'll say it) choppy waters.


Hobo Divorce



A two-character play where the two characters (exes) must constantly dance around what they're starting to feel, again. The songs dance around it too. Xenia Rubinos' (amazing) "Lonely Lover" is the theme song here, but Men at Work's "Who Can It Be Now" is the track I worked into the script, in a gag I'm kinda proud of.


They All Stay With You



Apocalypse means fire and explosions and death to a lot of people, but They All Stay With You is about a gentler, harsher end, the moment when the planet is dead, the future is gone, but you and your child still have to get through the day.


The Police's "When The World Is Running Down, You Make The Best Of What's Still Around" fits naturally with this kind of mundane end, as its narrator eats the same food and watches the same porn day after remaining day, but Yellow Magic Orchestra's "Perspective" bookends it with a melacholy appreciation for the joy in repetition, and staying alive. 


Lady in the Cage



90s R&B becomes an odd bonding factor between a Presidential candidate and her senior advisor, with TLC and Mariah Carey recurring subjects. The final emotional moment between them is made all the more emotional because Mary J. Blige is playing. She's always had that effect.


After I'm/ After You're/ After We're Gone



J Dilla died in 2006 after battling TTP, a rare blood disease, and lupus, just days after the release of Donuts, his last work of genius. How much of Donuts was created in a hospital bed on a laptop and a small, 45s-only record player is unknown and probably more limited than was first believed, but the idea of creating even as your body fades away stuck to my mind and became a big part of this play.


As you'd expect, this sprawling list is full of Dilla highlights, sample sources, and unusual hip-hop instrumentals, but there's more than that. Roxy, another of the play's three leads,  is responsible for the punk rock selections, as well as Janet Jackson's "If." And I could explain the Todd Rundgren songs here from the oddball album Healing, but...well, trust me, there's a good reason.


New Haven and the Problem of Change in the American City



A play that contains tons of drinking, a good dose of drugs, music playing on jukeboxes, record players, and stereos, and a full explanation of the socialist tendencies of Philly Soul greats The O'Jays. A college play. Music means a lot to me now, but it will never mean as much as it did to me then. My whole personality was wrapped up in my CDs. Yes, CDs.


The Lighthouse Invites the Storm



Music is a genuine part of the scenery at times (Four Tet playing at a high-class bar, Turkish singer Selda [not available on Spotify, but you've got to hear her; try here] playing from an odd kid's dorm room) but this playlist plays best as what I imagined Irene and Quinn were thinking at times, as 16-year-olds and 32-year-olds. Also, I played this AlunaGeorge record hundreds of times in the leadup to Sanguine Theater Company's production of Lighthouse and it never stopped working on me, even after the (cough, inferior) DJ Snake version got big.


Making the Turn


A comedy set over the Boston Red Sox's 2007 championship run, I listened to a lot of music of the period to find my mood, not so much as a matter of time travel (2007 was 4 years away when I started this play) as to remind myself where I was once when I was single, often unemployed, largely clueless, and on the verge in more ways than one. You know, 26. "Major Leagues" by Pavement is the theme song here, and not just because of the baseball reference. "My Little Japanese Cigarette Case" is a genius rock song in its lack of, and lack of need for, other lyrics.

Iago, of W. 95th Street


The foreword of the play comes from T3 of Slum Village, around where he says he's "feeling like somebody I don't like but I resemble." That self-loathing is an essential quality to my Iago, Jacob, the main character of this Othello-inspired bit of controlled mayhem. I also put a lot of dark, jealous, sweetly poisonous tracks in my ear while I wrote this. Three important tracks not available on Spotify are the sweetly/creepily longing The Smith Connection's "WIsh I Had You,"  Ahmad Jamal's "Death & Resurrection," a foreboding song that plays right before a certain murder happens, and The Afghan Whig's cover of "Creep," here represented by the TLC original. No offense to the original
The missing song here is "In California" by Joanna Newsom, a moody, troubled, troubling track a lot like Tuesday Baker, the bipolar heroine (of sorts) of this dark piece. There's actually way more humor in this play than I can properly represent in a Spotify playlist, but at least there's a nice easy-going song by Wayne Shorter (with the subtitle "Drinkin' And Drivin'). The Stone Roses' "Fools Gold" only appears for a brief 90s flashback in this script, but it's only by listening to all 9:54 that you will get thoroughly BUGGED out.
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© josh drimmer, 2001-2024