Lindsey Ferrentino on Survival Instinct and Bringing Virtual Reality to the Stage in Ugly Lies the Bone

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28 Jul 2014

Lindsey Ferrentino (playwright), Jill Rafson (dramaturg) and GT Upchurch (director) on opening night
Lindsey Ferrentino (playwright), Jill Rafson (dramaturg) and GT Upchurch (director) on opening night

Lindsey Ferrentino chats with about her play Ugly Lies the Bone.


Ugly Lies the Bone is about virtual reality therapy that addresses new forms of pain management. It is a new play about the act of survival and the search for home. The play had workshop readings at the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center's National Playwrights Conference July 9-10.

Ugly Lies the Bone was written by Ferrentino a New York-based playwright originally from Florida where some of her plays are set.The play is the winner of the 2014 Paul Newman/Joanne Woodward Drama Award and was chosen for 2014 reading series in Roundabout Underground, Premiere Stages, The Florida Studio Theater and The Great Plains Theater Conference. Ferrentino is a Kendeda playwright with The Alliance Theater and has had worked developed at Atlantic Theater Company, Rattlestick Playwrights Theater and The Kennedy Center, among others. She holds a BFA from NYU, an MFA in playwriting from Hunter, and is currently pursuing a second master's degree in playwriting from the Yale School of Drama.

Here's how the show is billed: "Jess returns from war severely burned, only to find her Floridian hometown in a state of decay. With the use of virtual reality video game therapy, she desperately tries to restore her relationships, her home, and all that was lost."

Ferrentino spoke with to share her insights on Ugly Lies the Bone workshop readings, playwriting and theatre.

What is Ugly Lies the Bones about?
Lindsey Ferrentino: Ugly Lies the Bone is about female soldier Jess returning from war, severely burned, to her Floridian hometown, also in a state of decay after the closing of NASA's shuttle program. Jess uses virtual reality video game therapy to treat her body and reintegrate into civilian life.

Until now, pain management has not improved since World War II, but this virtual reality therapy is currently being developed to treat returning soldiers with severe burns. The actual game itself is called "Snowworld" and opens up the possibility for a non-drug based treatment of chronic pain.

Is this play autobiographical? Or is it personal?
LF: This is an incredibly personal play for me. I grew up in a small town along Florida's space coast — This was an area that always prided itself in a belief in the future, in being forward thinking. I grew up under a literal banner that said "Welcome to Merritt Island — where dreams are launched." I went away to college around the same time as NASA's layoffs and the space shuttle program shutting down and came home to an area whose landscape drastically changed both physically and economically. Around the same time, my childhood best friend became a psychologist at a VA center in our town and the play grew from noticing a parallel between soldiers looking for a way to start over and the town itself looking for this same thing. I also have questions about personal relationships in my life that I'm working out in this play. Sarah Ruhl, a current mentor at Yale, once described this kind of writing to me as "looking at the sun without burning your eyes." In general, I'm always interested in writing about where I come from, trying to find, define and redefine home.


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