educator, writer, director, performer Heart in the Ground © 1996 by Douglas Hill Click here for a PDF file of the complete script. CAUTION:  Professionals and amateurs are hereby warned that Heart in the Ground is subject to a royalty. It is fully protected under the copyright laws of the United States of America, and of all countries covered by the International Copyright Union (including the Dominion of Canada and the rest of the British Commonwealth), and of all countries covered by the Pan-American Copyright convention and the Universal Copyright Convention, and of all countries with which the United States has reciprocal copyright relations. All rights, including professional and amateur stage performing, motion picture, recitation, lecturing, public reading, radio broadcasting, television, video or sound taping, all other forms of mechanical or electronic reproduction, such as information storage and retrieval systems and photocopying, and the rights of translation into foreign languages, are strictly reserved. Inquiries concerning all rights should be addressed to the author at I began writing Heart in the Ground at UNLV as a monologue for a friend to use as an audition piece.  I liked the potential that I saw in that monologue, and so I developed more of the script as a writing exercise in a one-act class that I was taking.  My mentor, the playwright Julie Jensen, led us through a series of exercises where we “wrote into the metaphor” to try and unleash new potential in the story ideas.  I started with the image of the moon pulling the corn out of the ground and started looking at different ways a person could be pulled.  But all this poetic writing was leaving me a bit vulnerable emotionally.  So I decided to butch the piece up a bit.  I had a shotgun on stage, and by God, I was going to use it.  On everyone.  The first draft was a bloodbath.  The second draft was just as bad, but Bill actually showed up in the script, so here was someone new to shoot.  And shoot I did.  Draft after draft after draft.  It was silly meaningless carnage, but that’s sometimes what you do when you’re still working on your craft. I could tell Julie wanted to put the piece on stage for the next year’s one-act festival, but everyone – including me – hated the vicious endings.  I decided to keep developing the script over the summer.  However, my wife decided to go back to the Midwest to show horses during that time, and we agreed that our children should go with her and visit the relatives back home.  That left me alone in our Las Vegas apartment; which was torture.  And it was exactly what I needed. I sat down with the characters of Heart in the Ground and tried to be honest about my own feelings of being separated from my children.  I gave into being vulnerable and did a lot of suffering that summer.  I told a playwriting buddy, that every time I sat down to write, it was like opening a vein and dragging myself across the paper.  I used character names from my own family to try and keep the distance and separation issues constantly tugging at me.  I kept wrestling with the ending, though – “who deserved to be shot, and why?” It was midnight and I had been on the edge of sleep for a good hour.  And that’s when it happened.  I got out of the way of the play, and allowed the script to finally start showing me what was supposed to occur.  I sat straight up in bed and actually said out loud, “That’s how it ends!”  I got up and wrote the ending that satisfied both Julie and me, and it’s the one that’s been performed around the world. I’m always a little surprised to get contacted by someone from outside of North America who wants to do this play.  For me, the script is very much a part of the American mid-west.  I know the exact cornfield where I see this play occurring – it’s just outside of Joplin, Missouri on the way to Kansas – and even though the town of Pettiston is fictitious, I know where I think it would be in relation to Karen and Lee’s farm.  But these details are just surface details, I guess, to people from Australia or England or Russia.  The theatres abroad are looking for the universal details that we all share: Loss and survival, family and society, and the mystery of death and renewal. Original Company: Director: Helen Turnbull Karen:  Shannon Hammermeister Lee: Eric Kaiser Opened on October 30, 1996 at the Paul Harris Theatre on the UNLV Campus.