Johnna Adams

Plays written by Johnna Adams



Angel Eaters – (3M 3W 1M/W) The Angel Eaters trilogy follows three generations of a family cursed with the gift of raising people from the dead. These angel eaters, like a sin eater in reverse, eat the goodness off a dead body, bringing the deceased back brimming with evil and intent on mayhem. Set in the 1930s during the Oklahoma dustbowl, a young girl who speaks to angels with the voices of birds. A mother who hires a pair of con men to resurrect her dead husband. An unlikely love affair between a desperately pregnant woman and a despicably charming carnival barker. A false resurrectionist who is chained by the neck to the house of a family cursed with a genuine power to raise the dead. A body that is transformed against its will into a dark weapon of dread—the angel eater!

Cockfighters – (5M 2W) A lonely West Texas barn. The cockfights have just ended and the barn is littered with blood and chicken feathers, but the real violence is just beginning. Hump, a small town sheriff confronts rustic patriarch Dwight Fowler and we learn that we are in a world where vengeance and violence come more naturally to the men than to the gamecocks they fight. Dwight’s nineteen-year-old daughter Shirl is dead and someone is going to pay. His slow son Clarence is fuming about dead roosters. His mean son CD is plotting torture. And the law is telling him that justice doesn’t belong to sinners. Well, we’ll just see about that. The play shows the events leading up to Shirl’s murder and the tragedy of her family’s revenge, as played out in the cockfighting pit and a deserted field.

Godsbreath – (5M 2W) Mixing low-rent back roads, culture, magical realism, and a world of post-modern fabulism in which cell phones and mp3 players converse and the underlying rules of the universe are revealed through chicken sacrifice – GODSBREATH is a play about a boy with the power to raise the dead and wage war with God. CD rents his nephew COY JACOB out to perform resurrections from the back of the truck they use to haul their gaming cocks. When money-obsessed taxidermist HEP HENDY hires the young man to raise his recently dead wife, ALPHA SUE, their daughter LOGAN begins talking to appliances. Appliances with sinister purpose. There is also this prophesy that has been plaguing COY JACOB since his birth. Something about being fated to lead an army of angels in revolt against God.

In the Absence of Angels – (7W) Two retired Oklahoma sisters find their lives outrageously disrupted when their celebrity niece arrives followed by a horde of television and tabloid reporters, who proceed to camp out on the women’s front lawn. The world wants to know why movie star Grace Rivers tried to kill herself on the set of her last picture. The oldest sister, Josephine, is still grieving the death of Grace’s mother. Her sister Edith sees angels in the clouds. A star-struck second cousin and family friends are vying for Grace’s attention. Can they convince Grace that life is better than death? How do you save someone who has everything and isn’t happy with any of it? Grace needs some divine intervention. Will she meet her guardian angel in time to save her soul?

Lickspittles, Buttonholers, and Damned Pernicious Go-Betweeners – (7M 4W) Three extraneous Danish court officials: a professional loud mouth (the buttonholer), a kiss ass for hire (the lickspittle), and a successful dastard (the go-between) are tossed out of court just as Denmark’s merchant fleet becomes of strategic importance in the Napoleonic war. The three men journey to France and meet Napoleon’s top lickspittle, buttonholer and go-between, their female counterparts. Plots abound, flying machines are destroyed and the head of Marie Antoinette is discovered during the madcap struggle to save Copenhagen from British howitzers. The main characters speak in rhyming alexandrine verse, while a host of supporting characters converse in sestinas, haiku, free verse, limericks and sonnets. In a rhyming, metered world, the offbeat rules.

Rattlers – (5M 2W) Set in the 1970s, Oklahoma. A snake wrangler kidnaps a preacher, suspending a cage of live rattlers over his head, for a woman willing to sell her soul in exchange for her dead sister. A mother who lives for revenge. An alcoholic oil pipe layer with flashes of unwelcome clairvoyance. An undertaker who weeps for the woman he embalms. And one innocent boy surrounded by people with hearts like rattlers.

Sans Merci – (3W) An idealistic young woman – a crippled survivor of an attempted murder by South American revolutionaries- is visited 3 years later by the conservative mother of the other attack victim. Slowly, the two dance through their grief, while negotiating the truth of what brought the two young women together, why they undertook their dangerous humanitarian mission, and what happened on that final day.

Tumblewings – (4M 2W) Fifty years ago, an angel crash lands in an abandoned churchyard in Juarez, Mexico. In present-day Texas, three men are out hunting in the woods. Ominous angel wings are heard overhead once again. The visitation is part of a 50-year family legacy that haunts West Texas farmer Coy. Coy committed an unspeakable crime at an abandoned church outside of Juarez in his youth, and his folly may be a catalyst for Armageddon: fifty years ago, Coy and his brother Buck find an abused woman, Birdie, in a Laredo bar. Birdie’s mind is damaged and the men hide her near an abandoned church, where a mysterious, wounded Winged Man crash lands trying to find her. Buck’s first wife Ranetta shows up in Mexico and announces that God has sent her to claim Birdie’s baby. Buck is surprised to learn Birdie is pregnant and is not certain that he is the father. In the present, Buck’s son Jacob and his great nephew Matt want to put Coy in a retirement home so that Matt and his pregnant girlfriend Deanna can move into his house. Matt tells Coy that an angel told him their baby would be born to lead a host of angels in a coming war. Coy attempts to explain to Matt that the events in Mexico fifty years ago might explain the angel’s interest in this baby. When Deanna joins the men on their hunt and tells Matt that she has spoken to God, violence erupts that will haunt the family’s past and future. The angels arrive and the hunt begins.

8 Little Antichrists – (4M 3W 2M/W) Set in 2048, Los Angeles. The final generation of angel eaters in a futuristic Los Angeles. A paranoid drifter trying to escape visions of gold horns and Armageddon. An actuary thrust into a nightmare landscape of vicious angels and unwanted inheritance. A breeder with ambitious needs reaching far beyond the vat of amniotic fluid she is suspended in. A private investigator trying to find her clone sister’s killer. Fallen angels and inmates roaming a private prison built beneath Disneyland theme park attractions. And eight little antichrists who can’t wait to destroy the world.

Gidion’s Knot – (2W) Over the course of a 90-minute parent/teacher conference, a grieving mother and an emotionally overwhelmed primary school teacher have a fraught conversation about the tragic suicide of the mother’s son, the teacher’s student, Gidion. Gidion may have been bullied severely — or he may have been an abuser. As his story is slowly uncovered, the women try to reconstruct a satisfying explanation for Gidion’s act and come to terms with excruciating feelings of culpability.


Johnna’s plays are an eclectic menagerie containing meditations on grief, wild farcical verse plays, southern gothic supernatural plays and hard to explain, in-your-face tragicoms. She is the 2011 recipient of the Princess Grace Award and a 2012 Finalist for the Susan Smith Blackburn Award.

As a playwright so far, she has mingled with an all-inmate cast at the Mitchellville Theatre Project at the Iowa Women’s Correctional Institution (In the Absence of Angels, 2006) and participated in a fully nude talkback in front of a nude audience at the Naturist Society’s Western Naturist Gathering at the Lupin Naturist Club (Nude on the Beach, 2002). Other plays include Gidion’s Knot;The Anguisher; Hripsime; Hued Moll; Lickspittles, Buttonholers and Damned Pernicious Go-Betweens; The Angel Eaters Trilogy (Angel Eaters, Rattlers, and 8 Little Antichrists); Sans Merci, Cockfighters and The Sacred Geometry of S&M Porn. She is a past Reva Shiner Award winner, winner of the OC Weekly’s Best Original Play award (twice), finalist for the Princess Grace Award, finalist for the Christopher Brian Wolk Award, finalist for the National Art’s Club’s Playwrights First Prize; finalist for the William Saroyan Prize and New York Innovative Theatre Award nominee.

The Contemporary American Theatre Festival will produce her play Gidion’s Knot in Shepherdtown, WV, the summer of 2012 and Flux Theatre Ensemble will produce her play Sans Merci in its 2012-13 season in New York. Her play Lickspittles, Buttonholers, and Damned Pernicious Go-Betweens will be produced by Impetuous Theatre in 2012. Johnna’s plays Angel Eaters, Rattlers, 8 Little Antichrists, Sans Merci, Cockfighters and The Sacred Geometry of S&M Porn are published by Original Works Publishing ( Johnna’s plays have been read or produced by The Alliance Theatre Lab, The New Group, Flux Theatre Ensemble, The Astoria Performing Arts Center , Peculiar Works Productions,, Impetuous Theater, Bloomington Playwrights Project, Bootleg Theatre, Unknown Theater, The Blank Theatre, Wordspace, Write Act Repertory, Rude Guerilla Theater Company, the Hunger Artists Theatre Ensemble, Company of Angels, Moving Arts, The Bug Theater, the Women’s Theater Company of LA, O Henry Birthday Club Society, STAGEStheater, The Curtis Theater, Hunter College, DePaul University, Chapman College, Irvine Valley College, Fullerton College and the Chicago Dramatists Workshop. Johnna graduated from the DePaul University Theatre School with a BFA in Acting and is currently pursuing an MFA in Playwriting at Hunter College with Tina Howe and with Mark Bly.