Playwright Bill Doncaster

The Boston Project is a new works initiative supporting the creation and development of new plays set in Boston that explore what it means to be in this city at this moment, and tap into the full breadth of experiences and identities that make up life in The Hub.

Bill Doncaster is a local playwright and our second Boston Project playwright. His new play Ward Nine will be featured alongside Nina Louise Morrison’s Born Naked this February. 


SPK: What has your experience been as a Boston Project playwright so far?

BD: It’s been great since the cast got together. Prior to that, it’s a tense mix of the usual isolation of writing 90 pages with the added pressure of this being called “The Boston Project.” Speakeasy’s goal is to develop plays that are set here – as opposed to New York – but the name adds a bit of pressure to sort of write for the whole area, to speak for a whole population that can’t be defined with any six characters on stage.

The nice thing is when the cast, [Director] Darren Evans, and [Dramaturg] Walt [McGough] gathered, it wasn’t about “what are we saying about Boston,” or “How is Boston being defined here.” It was about what’s going on on the page, these six characters, what’s happening to them and what do they want or need, and how will this work live. That’s all it should be, and that’s challenging enough. I’m pretty sure this could never be set anywhere else. I think it’s recognizable as happening in a neighborhood near Boston. But it’s a small story happening to a few people in a tiny sliver of a small corner of a very big place. It’d take a few thousand of those, from a hundred different writers, to define the big place.

Has any particular experience in Boston changed how you write or view playwriting?

I don’t have very many experiences that aren’t local, aside from a year or so in Chicago in my 20’s. Simply put, I don’t really know anyplace else (though to be clear, I’m from Somerville, not Boston and now live in Medford). The one big experience, I guess, is the sweep of change across years, even decades. I had a few different viewpoints watching Somerville change through the years. A lot of the change has been really good – amazing really. But, at the same time, I can honestly say Davis Square is a better place in a hundred different ways – but I don’t feel good there, and I’m probably not the only one that would say that. It’s a strange feeling standing in a place I’ve known for coming up on 50 years and not feeling “at home.” I can walk on the same streets I walked on when I was seven, and get homesick. A part of Ward Nine began with trying to make sense of that.


The Boston Project is made possible by a generous grant from the Harold & Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust.