Chinese Art of Placement


Sparky Litman:
male, late 40s/early 50s, a lonely misfit, very sweet, but schizzy


A bare stage with one chair and one telephone

Production history

  • Phoenix Theater, San Francisco
  • Woolly Mammoth Theater, Washington D.C.
  • National New Plays Network, Festival 2000, Chicago
  • Kitchen Dog Theater, Dallas, TX,
  • Dallas Theater Center, Big D Festival of the Unexpected, Dallas, TX
  • 78th Street Theater Lab, New York City
  • Theater Alley Workshop, Toronto
  • Melbourne Fringe Festival


In Plays from Woolly Mammoth, Broadway Play Publishing, Inc. 1999

The Story

A play with an absurdist edge, this 80-minute monologue, explores the depths of human isolation with humor and poignancy. At its center is the hopelessly deluded, but eternally hopeful, Sparky, who seeks the perfect placement of his old wooden chair, as he desperately tries to reach out to all the "sad, apprehensive, isolated, wounded, suffering people" to let them know that "it's okay to be scared and isolated, it's normal to be scared and isolated" and they're not alone.

Download full play here


  • Winner of the San Francisco Weekly's "Black Box" award for "best play"
  • Nominated for the Bay Area Theater Critic's Circle Award for "best original script"
  • "Best Bet," Washington Post
  • "Critic's Choice," Chicago Reader

I would say it’s the best play for one actor I have ever read. I think it’s going to get done all over the place.

Howard Shalwitz
Artistic Director, Woolly Mammoth Theatre, Washington D.C.
American Theater, November 1999

The Dialogue

A little bit of preparation can prevent a lot of heartache. I want to say that again: A little bit of preparation can prevent a lot of heartache. And the thing is I didn't used to believe in preparation, okay...I believed in spontaneity...I thought that spontaneity was the morally and existentially superior way to go, and that to plan for something merely reinforces the prevailing mythology that there is something to plan for...and, of course, I knew then and I know now that there isn't really anything to plan for...but what I didn't know then and what I do know now is that it's better to prepare for something even if you know it's never going to happen...because it gives you a feeling that something is going to happen, and if you just sit around all day being spontaneous nothing ever does happen and then you're left sitting home alone with the ants, nursing a big dose of heartache.