Arnold Johnston lives in Kalamazoo, MI. His plays, and others written in collaboration with his wife, Deborah Ann Percy, have won awards, production, and publication across the country. His poetry, fiction, non-fiction, and translations have appeared widely in literary journals and anthologies. His books include two poetry collections—Sonnets: Signs and Portents and What the Earth Taught Us; The Witching Voice: A Play about Robert Burns; Of Earth and Darkness: The Novels of William Golding; and The Witching Voice: A Novel from the Life of Robert Burns. His translations of Jacques Brel’s songs have appeared in numerous musical revues nationwide (including the acclaimed Chicago productions Jacques Brel: Songs of Love and War and Jacques Brel’s Lonesome Losers of the Night), and are also featured on his CD, Jacques Brel: I’m Here! Commissioned by the Kalamazoo Civic Theatre, Arnie and Debby’s interactive drama The Night Before Christmas had its highly successful world premiere in December 2012. A performer-singer, Arnie has played many solo concerts and some 100 roles on stage, screen, and radio. He is a member of the Dramatists Guild, The Playwrights’ Center, Theatre Communications Group, and the American Literary Translators Association. He was chairman of the English Department (1997-2007) and taught creative writing for many years at Western Michigan University. He is now a full-time writer.
ARNOLD JOHNSTON & DEBORAH ANN PERCY, ACTIVITIES 2014-2015
Debby's full-length collection of short fiction, Invisible Traffic, appeared from One Wet Shoe Press, Mt. Pleasant, MI, in October, 2014. Most of the stories are set in and around southwest Michigan. A launch party was held from 2-5 pm, Saturday, November 1, 2014, at the Park Club. She had a reading at Michigan News Agency on Wednesday, October 29, at 6:15 PM. Readings are also scheduled in Ludington and Minneapolis.
Arnie's chapbook, Sonnets: Signs and Portents, appeared early in 2014 from Finishing Line Press, Pendleton, KY.
A radio adaptation of Debby's and Arnie's full-length play Beyond Sex, published in 2011 in English and Romanian editions by HP Publications, Bucharest, Romania, with Romanian version by Dona Roşu and Luciana Costea as Dincolo de Sex, was aired in summer 2014 by Romanian National Broadcasting, directed by noted director Vasile Manta and with a cast of internationally-known actors. Televiziunea Română is also considering a version of Arnie and Debby's full-length play Rasputin in New York (English and Romanian versions published by HP Publications in 1999, also translated by Dona Roşu and Luciana Costea).
Dona, Debby, and Arnie are currently translating The President (Preşidintele), a full-length play by Romanian playwright Hristache Popescu. Upon completion, the translation will be published in Bucharest, probably in mid-2015.
Debby and Arnie, with Kathleen Snodgrass, are editing Dona Roşu's Selected Poems. And Debby and Arnie are editing Dona's poetry collection I Will Come One Night. When completed, both collections will be submitted to publishers.
"Steering into the Skid," Arnie and Debby's one-act play about the effects of Alzheimer's disease, won the $1,500 First Prize in MemoryCare's One-Act Playwriting Competition, after a staged reading in May 2013 at the Grace Center, Asheville, NC, with the audience voting on the winning play. MemoryCare is a facility that serves Alzheimer's patients and their caregivers. "Skid" also received a staged reading in January 2013, produced by the New Vic Theatre at Theatre Kalamazoo's PlayFest. "Skid" received another reading at the St. Croix Festival Theatre's August 2013 one-act festival in St. Croix Falls, WI. Even though the judges decided that "Skid" was ineligible for an award because of its previous recognitions, they liked the play so much that they wanted it to be read with the three winning one-acts. The play was published this year in The MemoryCare Plays (Asheville, NC: 2014), a collection of one-acts on the subject that won the 2014 Bronze Medal in the National Anthology category at the Independent Book Publishers Awards in NYC. A reading of "Skid" was featured in late February 2015 as part of a presentation by John Morris, MD, and Margaret Noel, MD, at the National Hospice Meeting in Philadelphia; on February 19, John Potter and Danette Olsen performed a staged reading of "Skid" at the Phipps Center for the Arts, Hudson, WI, as part of the Remember Project, and a full production of "Skid" is set for May 2015 in Seattle, WA. Future readings and performances of The MemoryCare Plays are also planned in Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Seattle.
In May 2014 Arnie and Debby read "Skid" as part of a presentation/discussion of their fiction, poetry, plays, and song translations on the MSU campus at East Lansing for the Society for the Study of Midwestern Literature. In August 2013 "Skid" was also part of an evening of their one-acts, Six Dramatic Vehicles, presented by Developing Act Productions in NYC; one of the plays, "Scattered Shower," was filmed and entered in the Tribeca Film Festival, NYC. "Shower" was also a semi-finalist in Heartland Theatre Company's 12th annual 10-minute play festival, "The Parcel, the Package or the Present."
In August 2014 Arnie and Debby's one-act "Candy Kisses" won Third Prize and a staged reading at St. Croix Festival Theatre, St. Croix Falls, WI, where they also conducted a playwriting workshop for the professional company. In addition, "Kisses" was a finalist in the Pittsburgh New Works competition and had staged readings in November 2014; it was also a finalist in the 2014 Arts & Letters Drama Prize contest.
Arnie and Debby's one-act "Wake-Up Call: The X Commandments" received a staged reading in 2014 at Fire Arts and Cultural Collective by Fancy Pants Theatre as part of an evening titled "Hometown H8 Crimes." The play has also just won production in April and May as part of the 2015 Outworks Festival during Louisiana State University's Lab Season.
Arnie and Debby's one-act "Periodic Maintenance," originally presented in Kalamazoo as part of Fancy Pants Theatre's 2013 GayLa Fest, will be produced in a revised version in March 2015 as part of That Uppity Theatre's Briefs Festival in St. Louis, MO.
Arnie and Debby's one-act "Love Is Strange"—which has been previously published and has had many productions—will appear in 2015 in Art & Understanding: The 20th Anniversary Anthology, ed. Diane Goettel, Black Lawrence Press, St. Lawrence, NY. In 2015 Black Lawrence will also publish Arnie's sonnet, "New Year's Eve, Seven PM, ET," along with his family recipe for Scottish Shortbread, in FEAST: Poetry and Recipes for a Full Seating at Dinner.
"Come with Me," Arnie's translation with Debby and Dona Roşu of Romanian poet Zaharia Stancu's poem "Hai Cu Mine" will appear in the Spring 2015 issue of Metamorphoses. Three more of their Stancu translations—"The Days, The Days," "The Fourth Horse," and "Man at Sunset"—recently appeared in Able Muse's Special Translation Issue, Summer 2014. "At the Cemetery Gate," a translation with Debby of Dona Roşu's memoir-essay "La poarta cimitirului din satul meu" is scheduled to appear in a future issue of Pusteblume Translations.
Three of Arnie and Debby's half-hour radio dramas—The Nightingale, adapted from the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale, Recalculating, adapted from our own stage play, and Ananse's Web of Words, adapted from African folk-tales—were broadcast in 2014 on WMUK-FM by All Ears Theatre, Kalamazoo, MI, funded by the Irving S. Gilmore Foundation and the Arts Council of Greater Kalamazoo. For 2015, All Ears has commissioned Arnie and Debby's adaptations of Red Riding-Hood and another Ananse piece, Ananse: Caught in His Own Web, which will mark their 21st and 22nd radio dramas for All Ears.
Arnie and Debby's full-length play Giving Up the Ghosts received its world premiere in October 2013 as directed by James Furney at the New Vic Theatre in Kalamazoo, MI. Giving Up the Ghosts also received a staged reading in August 2013 by New York City's Resonance Ensemble Theatre as part of their Summer Reading Series.
Arnie and Debby completed a commission by the Soo Theatre Project (Sault Ste. Marie, MI) to write a stage adaptation of a short story by Edgar-Award-winning mystery writer Steve Hamilton for production during the 2015 theatre season.
Arnie and Debby's long one-act, Radiation: 33 Days of Waiting, based on Debby's radiation treatment for breast cancer, received highly successful staged readings in October 2014 at Farmer's Alley Theatre, directed by D. Terry Williams, featuring a distinguished cast of Kalamazoo performers, and sponsored by the West Michigan Cancer Center and Farmer's Alley. It can be viewed on the WMCC website. Radiation is also being translated into Romanian by Dona Roşu and Luciana Costea for publication in Bucharest in English and Romanian editions in 2015. Joseph Mirro, MD, CEO of WMCC, has just completed with several colleagues a scholarly article focusing on the play's therapeutic use for cancer survivors, their families, and friends. Later in 2015 Radiation will be produced by Fancy Pants Theatre.
Arnie and Debby have done several readings of poetry and drama during 2014 at public libraries in Kalamazoo, Oshtemo, Plainwell, Richland, and Paw Paw, as well as at Kalamazoo's Michigan News Agency. Future readings are planned at Western Michigan University, the Kalamazoo Public Library, and elsewhere. They also read in October 2014 at the Michigan College English Association conference in Ypsilanti at the EMU Student Center, under the title "Yours, Mine, and Ours: Form, Collaboration, and the Romantic Muse."
Arnie and Debby will conduct a playwriting workshop for the Ludington, MI, Writers' Group in July 2015; they will also read from their plays, fiction, and poetry.