Visual History of Ken Urban's Work

Ken Urban’s plays range in their subject matter from genocide to gay divorce to extrajudicial interrogation to more intimate negotiations of monogamy, growing up, and shifting values. His work also ranges in style, dipping into expressionism, realism, and dream-logic in various forms.

“The story determines the structure,” Urban says of his writing process. “Once I know the story I am telling—how it begins, how it needs to end—then I can see the structure of the play. For a play like The Remains, it is a linear plot that unfolds in real time, taking place at a family dinner in which a gay couple made a big announcement, while a play like The Awake follows the logic of a dream, so it is a series of scenes, and monologues describing impossible actions where time loops and skips.”

On stage, these plays take diverse and theatrically exciting forms.

Brian Hastert and Nael Nacer in A Future Perfect at SpeakEasy Stage Company. Photo: Craig Bailey/Perspective.


Claire and Max find their values put to the test when best friends Alex and Elena announce they are having a baby. Claire is climbing the corporate ladder in advertising, while her husband Max is a low-paid puppeteer for PBS. With friends entering into parenthood, they ask: What happened to the indie-rock kids that hated everything their parents believed in? This semi-autobiographical play, about a band Urban had in Cambridge during the time he taught at Harvard, is set in the fall of 2011 as the optimism of Obama’s election meets the energy of the Occupy movement.

Michael Stahl David and Maulik Pancholy in The Happy Sad at the Summer Play Festival @ The Public.


Armed with art and flowers, Stan discovers his girlfriend Annie wants to take a break. Meanwhile, long-term boyfriends Aaron and Marcus struggle with the question of monogamy. In a city with too many options, the lives of these two couples (and their friends) become intertwined when Stan and Marcus meet online and hook up. An exploration of modern mating.

Akiya Henry in Sense of an Ending at London's Theatre 503. Photo: Jack Sain.


Charles, a disgraced New York Times journalist, arrives in Rwanda for an exclusive interview with two Hutu nuns. Charged with homicide, the nuns must convince the world of their innocence during the 1994 genocide or face a lifetime in prison. When an unknown survivor contradicts their story, Charles must choose which version of the truth to tell the world.

James Kautz, Elizabeth Lail, Spencer Davis Milford, Sean Patrick Monahan, and Rachel Franco in Nibbler at the Rattlestick Playwrights Theater. Photo: Russ Rowland.

NIBBLER (2017)

In the summer of 1992 in Medford, New Jersey, Adam and his gang of friends face life after high school. But when the fivesome encounter a mysterious visitor from another world, their lives are forever changed. A dark comedy about that time when everything and nothing seems possible.

Daniel Desmarais, Kaiser Ahmed ,and Scottie Caldwell in The Awake at First Floor Theater. Photo: Lauren Nigri.

THE AWAKE (2013)

Malcolm, a devoted son, floats on a bed with his mother on an endless sea, as Gabrielle, an Eastern European actress, awakes to a new life in America. Meanwhile, Nate is on the run from a faceless interrogator. These three strangers discover that a mysterious corporation bonds them together.