Bryna Turner is a Brooklyn-based playwright originally from Northern California. Her play Bull in a China Shop recently premiered at LCT3, and will be produced by About Face Theatre in Chicago this spring. Her work has also been developed with Abingdon Theatre Company, Clubbed Thumb, Colt Coeur, Ensemble Studio Theatre, Mendocino Theatre Company, Mount Holyoke College, Rainbow Theatre Project, and Rutgers University. Other plays include: Carlo at the Wedding; Lights Over Philo; The Stand-In; and How to Separate Your Soul from Your Body (in ten easy steps!). She is an alum of Clubbed Thumb’s Early Career Writer’s Group, a MacDowell fellow, and holds an MFA in Playwriting from Rutgers University. She is currently working on a commission for Lincoln Center Theater and was awarded their Emerging Artist Award of 2018.
I’m originally from Fort Bragg, California—a logging-turned-fishing-turned-tourist town in Northern California with a population of 7,000. A survivor of the Donner Party is buried in the local graveyard. My father is the mayor, but he also holds several patents on mattresses. My mother is a quilt artist. My sister sells socks, my brother sells mattresses, and my other brother trains basketball players in the NBA.
I was introduced to theatre as a place to go after school. When I was a five-year-old with curly red hair, I was deeply disappointed to be passed over for the role of Ms. Hannigan in an Annie sing-a-long. I’ve been interested in complicated and comic female roles ever since.
I live in Brooklyn. I write plays about queer women. They are generally comedies that deal with love and don’t have happy endings. I’m interested in asking big questions without arriving at answers.
My plays include How to Separate Your Soul from Your Body (in ten easy steps!), in which an agoraphobic how-to-blogger forges a relationship with a strange entity on the internet, while her partner is being seduced by her master’s program; The Apprentice, a coming-of-age noir/comedy, in which a seasoned detective takes a hopeless fledgling under her wing to help her solve a mystery and to teach her about the dangers and lures of love—until the detective suddenly goes missing and the apprentice is left to solve both cases; The Stand-In, a contemporary Uncle Vanya adaptation that takes place in a decaying movie-house and focuses on Helene and Sonya as the protagonists; and Lights Over Philo, in which Carlo moves back to her microscopic hometown and things get weird when her partner leaves her for a feminist collective, her brother makes bail and needs a place to stay for a while, and strange lights keep appearing in the sky which may or may not be connected to the pagan witch ceremonies Carlo is hosting in her backyard.
My newest play, Bull in a China Shop, is a queer history play inspired by the real-life letters between Mary Woolley and Jeannette Marks spanning from 1899 to 1937. I wrote the majority of it in the 24 hours immediately following the dissolution of a five-year relationship. I sat down with a friend and swore that I would never write again—and then I suddenly wrote this play about growing older, idealism, identity, ambition, yearning, love, revolution, reform, shifting politics, and time passing so quickly we hardly notice we’re not the people we used to be.
Mostly, I wonder about people. I’m curious about human relationships. I think a lot about the mess of a world we live in. I wish I were a powerful essayist. I am not. I’m a playwright. I write comedies. This is one. I hope it makes you laugh and think and feel. That’s what I’m aiming for, at least.