Steve & Idi – David Grimm


Pro­duced by Rat­tle­stick Play­wrights The­atre, in New York City, on April 23, 2008.

Orig­i­nal Cast:


Steve                                    David Grimm
                                   Greg Keller
                                      Zachary Knower
                                      Michael Busillo
Idi Amin                                 Evan Parke

Steve:  Intel­li­gent, defen­sive, neu­rotic gay Jew­ish writer in his 30s
Ralph:  Scruffy, unshaven, hyper-intellectual writer in his 30s
Max:  Heavy­set, long-haired, bearded left-wing teddy bear of a writer in his 30s
Brad:  A beau­ti­ful young man in his mid 20s
Idi Amin:  Appari­tion of the for­mer Pres­i­dent of Uganda

Direc­tor:  Eleanor Holdridge
Scenic Design:  Kris Stone
Cos­tume Design:  Jes­sica Ford
Light­ing Design:  Les Dick­ert
Sound Design:  Scott Kil­lian
Stage Man­ager:  Emily M. Arnold

Pub­li­ca­tion:  Grimm, David. Steve & Idi. (2009). Drama­tists Play Ser­vice. Drama Library PS3607. R56 S74 2009

Set­ting:  Steve’s apart­ment in down­town Brook­lyn, New Year’s Eve and after.

Lan­guage:  Con­tem­po­rary with con­tem­po­rary ref­er­ences that will date it quickly; but it has some great one-liners


Dream­ing about John McCain is the first sign of madness.

Genre/Style:  Com­edy; if you find the idea of the ghost of Idi Amin eat­ing Krispy Kreme donuts and dis­cussing tor­ture funny.

Plot:  The ghost of Idi Amin, for­mer Ugan­dan strong­man, haunts a New York play­wright, demand­ing that he write a play about him in three days.   His boyfriend and his agent have just dumped the play­wright, Steve, and he’s sui­ci­dal. The play begins with an intrigu­ing idea:  a play­wright with writer’s block is vis­ited by the ghost of Idi Amin, who demands that he write a play about him in three days, but doesn’t go far enough with it.  Idi Amin as a char­ac­ter, as a sym­bol, as a metaphor, car­ries sub­stan­tial weight; he was a tyrant who used vio­lence to cow both his ene­mies and the cit­i­zens of Uganda.  To reduce him to a pizza– and donut-eating ghost who lounges about harangu­ing a play­wright misses dra­matic oppor­tu­ni­ties even if, in the end, Amin is just a fig­ment of the writer’s imag­i­na­tion.  The play does have scenes where the play­wright, seem­ingly under the influ­ence of Amin, suc­cumbs to darker impulses, but over­all, the play barely skims the sur­face of its setup.



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.10:  Steve rant­ing about the futil­ity of play­wright­ing.


Read­ing, work­shop, read­ing, workshop—Suck my fuck­ing dick. What are we doing, any­way? Why are we pre­tend­ing? You can play the polit­i­cally engaged writer all you like, Ralph, it won’t make you a bet­ter artist and it won’t absolve you. [Lines cut] I look in the mir­ror and my fuck­ing gorge rises till I wanna tear my face off and flush it down the toi­let. “Let’s write a play!” Jesus Christ, what an utterly point­less waste of time.

p.31–32:  Idi explains hunger and yearning.


When yearn­ing ends, life ends. I am what becomes of yearn­ing that will not die. You think I do not understand?

 For eight years, Field Mar­shal Amin loved his peo­ple. For eight years he makes them beau­ti­ful and strong and asks for noth­ing but their love. But always they betray him. Even in Jid­dah, in exile. [Lines cut]

What is done can­not be undone. The glo­ri­ous past is lost forever.

p.41:  Idi push­ing for a final time for Steve to fin­ish the play.


I want Danny Glover. Danny Glover must play me. The For­est Whitaker was good but every­body loves the Danny Glover. Plus he was a Lethal Weapon. Roger Mur­taugh. I also like the Lethal Weapon 2: “The magic is back!” Num­ber Three and Four, not so much, but still… Danny Glover!

[Lines cut]

Why do you stare? Get me donuts. Get me steak. Get me a bot­tle of wine and a woman!

p. 42:  Steve, upon smelling a t-shirt belong­ing to his ex.


(In a kind of reverie.) San­dal­wood and sweat—Salt and honey. Bit­ter steel. If only I could bot­tle this. (He smells it again, tastes it. He speaks very calmly.)

If he were here right now, I would take him in my arms and taste his lips. I would rock him and com­fort him and tell him everything’s all right. I would place around his neck a thin gold wire, sharp as razors. And oh so slowly I would draw it: Oh so gen­tly but oh so tight and watch as it pinches his skin and breaks it. [Lines cut] I would taste his blood and pull at his hair and chew skin off his face and swal­low it. And I would shout the name of God and know it only has the mean­ing I give it, because every­thing is empty. And then I would know what it’s like to be free.



Rep­re­sen­ta­tive Scenes:  

p. 23–24:  Steve tries to con­vince Max that he really is being haunted by the ghost of Idi Amin. Starts with


Okay, so where is it?

and ends with


What bet­ter inspi­ra­tion for a writer than a blank page? I’m sorry, man, but with Daniel there was never any there there. Come on—You saw some­thing beau­ti­ful in him—Great. That’s part of your gift, man. But all that stuff, that wasn’t in him. That’s in you.

p. 30–31: Idi is upset because Steve seems obsessed by his ex and isn’t work­ing on the play. Starts with


(Look­ing at com­pute.) What is this? Answer me! What is this?

and ends with


I am proud of you for it. Love can­not be trusted. It is bet­ter to be feared. Fear lasts longer than love.



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


Fein­gold, M. (2008, May). Some unen­chanted evenings. The Vil­lage Voice, pp.54

James, Caryn. (2008, May 7). A les­son before writ­ing, cour­tesy of idi amin’s ghost. The New York Times, pp.4.

Scheck, Frank. (2008, May 6). Absurd tale with Ugan­dan dic­tor is “idi’-otic. The New York Post, pp.42.

Thel­man, S. (2008). Steve and Idi. Daily Vari­ety, 299(22), 4–7.

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