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Denis Johnson, Photo by Cindly Lee JohnsonSTAGED READING OF NEW PLAY “DES MOINES”

NYS Writers Institute, November 12, 2012
4:15 p.m. Seminar | Assembly Hall, Campus Center, Uptown Campus
8:00 p.m. Staged Reading | Recital Hall, Performing Arts Center, Uptown Campus


A staged reading of “Des Moines,” a new play-in-progress by National Book Award-winning novelist Denis Johnson, will be presented by the New York State Writers Institute in association with Fence magazine, at 7:00 p.m. [note early start time] on Monday, November 12, 2012 in the Recital Hall, Performing Arts Center, on the University at Albany’s uptown campus. The staged reading will be followed by commentary and Q&A with the playwright. Earlier that same day at 4:15 p.m., the author will present an informal seminar in the Assembly Hall, Campus Center, on the uptown campus. The events are free and open to the public.

The New York State Writers Institute and Fence magazine will present a staged reading of Denis Johnson’s new play-in-progress “Des Moines,” followed by commentary and Q&A with the playwright.

Set in a seedy apartment on the edge of Des Moines, Iowa, the play features an unlikely assortment of people who come together for an impromptu party that takes them on a dam-bursting ride down a stream-of-consciousness deluge.

Johnson’s 2011 novella, Train Dreams, the tale of a day laborer struggling to eke out a living in the 20th century American West, was a finalist for the 2012 Pulitzer Prize. Writing in the New Yorker, James Wood called it a “severely lovely tale,” and said, “A way of being, a whole community… is given brief and eloquent expression here.” Anthony Doerr in The New York Times Book Review said the novella “…might be the most powerful thing Johnson has even written.”

Johnson received the National Book Award for his 2007 novel, Tree of Smoke, about the experiences of a CIA agent based in Vietnam. In advance praise, novelist Jonathan Franzen said, “The God I want to believe in has a voice and a sense of humor like Denis Johnson’s.” Reviewing the book in the New York Times, Jim Lewis said, “Denis Johnson is a true American artist, and Tree of Smoke is a tremendous book . . . It ought to secure Johnson’s status as a revelator for this still new century.”

Johnson’s 1992 collection of interconnected short stories, Jesus’ Son, about a young man addicted to heroin, was adapted as a same-titled movie which was named a “Top Ten” film of 1999 by the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times. The New York Times reviewer said of the book, “No American novelist since William Burroughs has so flagrantly risked ‘insensitivity’ in an effort to depict the pathology of addiction.”

Johnson is also the author of poetry, plays and nonfiction. His plays, including Shoppers Carried by Escalators into the Flames, Soul of a Whore, and Purvis have been produced in San Francisco, Chicago, New York, and Seattle.

For additional information, contact the Writers Institute at 518-442-5620 or online at https://www.albany.edu/writers-inst.