“When 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
“From 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
Who’s 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 theater.
Organizational Theater
Syl writes plays that dramatize complex personal and organizational issues like Mastering Change, Diversity & Inclusion, Sexual Harassment, Poverty & Privilege, Domestic Abuse, and Emergency Medicine.
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.
Commercial Theater
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 Prize, 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 New Plays.
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).
“I 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!