Stephen F. Murray
Director & Playwright

Nesting Dolls

by Stephen F. Murray

Herper Juhnke

Cooperative Performance Network

at The Underground Collaborative, Milwaukee, WI

June 1-17, 2017

Directed by JJ Gatesman

Composed as a clown piece, Nesting Dolls is the story of Billie an illiterate and mute homeless woman. As she goes through her normal routine of sorting through the trash to find her meal, she finds a Russian nesting doll that has a message hidden inside the smallest doll. The message unlocks the door to another world where she meets a puckish figure, Jack, who gives her the validation and empathy she longs for. Armed with this new self-worth and a magical gift, Billie returns to her world to pass on her new found hope to other who society has marginalized.

“Nesting Dolls” also introduces a theme running through many of this year’s plays: The potential we hide from the world and even ourselves, accustomed as we’ve become to wearing that outer shell we present to the world.  Can we grow into all we might be?  Or have we hardened into roles that leave us stuck, in how we understand ourselves and those we love?

In Murray’s play, neither that homeless woman nor a man picking trash alongside her are who they seem to be.  Ditto their trash dump, which eventually reveals itself as the latter-day equivalent of a homely Bethlehem manger. There’ll be additional miracles in this piece, as Juhnke’s woman finds the long-buried core of her best self.

Mike Fischer - Milwaukee Journal Sentinel 


Hesper Juhnke and Kira Renkas