you come into the theater, you have to be willing to say, 'We're
all here to undergo a communion, to find out what the hell
is going on in this world.' If you're not willing to say
that, what you get is entertainment instead of art, and poor
entertainment at that.” – Playwright and provocateur David
Mamet, Three Uses of the Knife
the start it has been the theatre's business to entertain
people ... it needs no other passport than fun.”
Playwright and provocateur Bertolt Brecht,
A Short Organum for the Theatre
right? Mamet or Brecht? Syl believes they’re both
right: theater is communal entertainment that has the power
to transform even as it dazzles the senses.
|As a veteran, award-winning playwright who
has penned more than 60 plays, Syl views theater as a means to
an end, a vehicle for creating a better world.
|If theater isn’t
entertaining, engaging and well executed, the opportunity for transformation
is lost in the bright lights. Syl creates two different kinds of
theater that overlap in intent and impact: organizational and commercial
|Syl writes plays that dramatize complex personal
and organizational issues like Mastering Change, Diversity & Inclusion, Sexual
Harassment, Poverty & Privilege, Domestic Abuse, and Emergency
|Syl works with clients to create dramatic
and comic situations that transcend traditional PowerPoint presentations
or speeches. Using Mixed Blood Theatre as his production arm, Syl
ensures that these plays go far beyond the usual “sales theater”
to make audiences laugh as they also learn.
|Syl's very first professionally produced
play was in 1974 at the old Shoestring Playhouse in Minneapolis.
Since then, he has worked in the commercial theater with the Guthrie,
Mixed Blood, Penumbra, Children's, and History theaters in
the Twin Cities. Syl is committed to commercial theater as a means
not only to entertain but to enthrall audiences with an interest
in both comedy and drama.
|Organizational Theater Plays
|Syl's specialty plays for organizations have
been produced throughout the Midwest. Gunplay,
commissioned by the Hennepin County Attorney's Office to address
violence in the inner city, has been widely performed.
|The Domestic Abuse Project in
Minneapolis commissioned Gender
Bender, a musical drama that examines the complexities
of gender, sexual orientation and intimate partner violence.
|Baby, Baby was the first
play of its kind to examine the barriers to obtaining healthcare
experienced by women of color. The play debuted in Minneapolis
and later toured the country under the auspices of the Junior League.
|Ring of Fire, a Country
Western musical about domestic violence commissioned by Allina
Health Systems, has been produced throughout the midwest.
|He has also written plays about diversity
issues for Honeywell, Northwest Airlines, 3M, Ceridian, The Carlson
School of Business, William Mitchell College of Law, the Minnesota
State Supreme Court Race & Bias Taskforce, the Mayo Clinic
and dozens of other organizations.
|Commercial Theater Plays
|Syl is a 1992-1994 National
Endowment for the Arts playwriting fellow in theater
and a 1992-1993 McKnight
Foundation Advancement grant winner.
|He received the 1991-92 Mixed Blood
Theatre Versus America Prize for his
play Cincinnati Man; and, The Cornerstone
awarded by Penumbra Theater in St. Paul, for his play Shine! He
is the only playwright to win both awards.
|Black No More was produced
in Minneapolis and in Washington, D. C., by the Guthrie Theater
and by Arena Stage in association with Mixed Blood Theatre in March,
April, May and June 1998. The American Theater Critics Association
nominated the play for Best New Play of 1998. Black
No More won
the 1997 Roger L. Stevens Award from The Kennedy Center Fund For
|The Indiana Repertory Theater also produced
Syl’s play Mother of the Movement about the life
of Rosa Parks, in March-April of 1998.
|His play Sacrament was
part of Mixed Blood Theater’s 2004 production “Bill of (W)rights,”
which was also nominated for Best New American Play of 2004.
His play Wooden You? was part of Mixed Blood’s
2006 production “Point of Revue."
|The Great American History Theater in St. Paul, MN, produced
his most recent commercial success, Kirby, in
2008, about the life of Baseball Hall of Famer Kirby Puckett.
|He has also written plays for the 1996-1997 seasons of the Great
American History Theater (The Brotherhood) and
The Children's Theater (Not Without Laughter).
have had the pleasure of working with Syl twice, both times
as dramaturg on his plays. Syl is a colleague's dream to work
with; open, easy to talk to, sharp and insightful about his
work, reflective, objective, passionate and engaged. He is
receptive as a collaborator while being firm in his opinions.
If you work with Syl, you will learn something.”
– Liz Engelman, Dramaturg, Mixed Blood Theatre, worked
directly with Syl at Jones!