Reborning – Zayd Dohrn


Pre­miered at the Pub­lic The­atre as part of the Sum­mer Play Fes­ti­val in June 2009.

Orig­i­nal Cast:

Daizy (male, 20s)                                           Greg Keller
Emily (female, 40s)                                         Ally Sheedy
Kelly (female, 20s)                                         Kather­ine Waterston

Direc­tor:  Kip Fagan
Scenic Design:  David Evans Mor­ris
Cos­tume Design:  Jes­sica Pabst
Light­ing Design:  Matt Frey
Sound and Video Design:  Leah Gelpe

Pub­li­ca­tion:  Dohrn, Zayd. Reborn­ing. Samuel French, 2013. Drama Library PS3604. O47 R43 2013

Set­ting:   A dollmaker’s stu­dio in Queens, NY.

Lan­guage:  Contemporary.


Yeah, I was kind of famous, for a while. In The New York Post. “The Dump­ster Dar­ling”. Sold a lot of papers for those ass­holes, which is prob­a­bly my great­est regret…

Genre/Style:  Serio-comedic.

Plot:  A doll­maker has been com­mis­sioned to cre­ate a doll based on her customer’s dead child.  While some of the char­ac­ter details are a bit pre­cious (Daizy is a boy named by hippy par­ents; a RISD grad­u­ate, he makes dil­dos for a liv­ing), the basic premise isn’t that far-fetched:  you can under­stand that grief over a lost child might drive a par­ent to do strange things.  Where the play loses steam is when it tries to con­flate Kelly’s trau­matic past with her present pro­fes­sion, and in par­tic­u­lar, with her com­mis­sion for Emily.


Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Mono­logues:  (Long mono­logues con­tain the first few lines and the last few lines; please con­sult the pub­lished text for the mono­logue in its entirety.)

p.15: Daizy explains to Kelly why he finds her work disgusting.


Sorry. But it’s like—we’re on Oprah or some­thing here, and these peo­ple think they’re buy­ing some prod­uct that’s gonna make them feel bet­ter about like—(imi­tat­ing Oprah) “You get a doll! And you get a doll! Every­body gets a fuck­ing doll!” (pick­ing up a doll) Look at this. Is this a per­fect sym­bol for some kind of –post-feminist cap­i­tal­ist night­mare? “Real­i­ties of life too depress­ing for you, lit­tle lady? Go shop­ping! Who needs a career? Play with dolls!” I mean—women in Africa lose half their kids within a year, all right? To diar­rhea! Know what they do? They get knocked up again. Right away. They don’t have time to raise a baby made out of plastic!

p.45:  Emily explains what hap­pened to her to make her want a doll.


But, right. Well, it wasn’t enough…for me. (beat) I weened Eva, you know, when she was six months old…I wanted to go back to work. To make part­ner. A year off would have killed my career. Put me in mom-limbo, per­ma­nently. And I couldn’t stand pump­ing in the restroom, like a cow. Hav­ing the sec­re­taries walk in one me. The slurp­ing sound. So, we switched to for­mula. [Lines cut]  Then last year, I started get­ting these hot flashes. And it all came rush­ing back. That need. I see babies in the park now, when I’m out jog­ging, and I want to touch them so bad, my fin­gers ache.


Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Scenes: 

p.8–10: Emily exam­ines the Eva doll for the first time.  Starts with


The lit­tle crust on her eye­brows. I haven’t thought about that for…God knows. I didn’t real­ize I still had that on my mind…

and ends with


Not at all. Not at all. It’s a relief, actu­ally. To be so straight­for­ward. I thought I was being realistic.

p.22–23: Emily exam­ines the doll for the sec­ond time.  Starts with


The milia on the nose. So  alive. It just—Makesteh eyes feel a bit flat to me, that’s all.

and ends with


Right. And I can’t sculpt your memory.


Select Bib­li­og­ra­phy of Reviews and Crit­i­cism:  (Note:  arti­cle title links are to the online ver­sions, mostly UW-only restricted unless des­ig­nated as open access.)

Healy, P. (2009, Sep 03). A playwright’s glim­mers of a fugi­tive child­hood. New York Times. (Review of The Pub­lic The­atre production)

March­ese, E. (2012, May 09). ‘Reborn­ing’ swad­dled in dys­func­tion, authen­tic­ity. Orange County Reg­is­ter. (Review of Chance The­ater pro­duc­tion in Orange County)

Reborn­ing. (2011, May 10). Daily Vari­ety. (Review of San Fran­cisco Play­house production)

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