Local playwright Brad Nies will have the opportunity to see his play “The Prisoners of Driscoll Street” performed this weekend at The Gallery Players, an intimate off-Broadway theatre in Brooklyn, New York.
Nies, who works at Blinn College as a theatre and speech professor and as the theatre arts director, submitted his play in August to a competition held by The Gallery Players, and in October it was selected as one of the winners.
It will be performed this weekend, Jan. 16-20, along with three other short plays from other playwrights as part of an evening of original works.
The play is based on a 1965 Houston murder, in which an elderly couple was discovered murdered and stored in their refrigerator.
Police suspected that the couple’s son, who lived with them, killed them after an altercation with his mother before disappearing, never to be seen again.
“What I’ve done is written a play about what I think that altercation is about,” explained Nies. “Nobody knows what took place, but this is my interpretation of it. It pulls up all this family drama because when I was writing it I figured, the son did it, so what did his parents do to make him the way he was.”
Nies was inspired to write the play several years ago after reading a book about the murder.
“I always wanted to write something about it but didn’t know how to approach it,” he said. “I finally played with it and did research on it and figured out a way to tell the story.”
Blinn College and Theatre Suburbia in Houston have held staged readings of the work, but this will be the first time a theatre is holding a full production and the first time any of his works have been produced outside of Texas.
“It’s really exciting for me,” said Nies.
He is also interested in seeing the changes the theatre has made to his play.
“I’m excited to see an out-of-state production to see what they do to make it appeal to their audience,” he said. “As a director, I don’t like somebody hawking over me when I’m making decisions, so I told that director I want him to do what he wants. I want to see what someone else does with it because it’s usually what someone else brings to the table that makes me look at it from a completely different perspective.”
Nies first became interested in theater in high school.
“I had a fantastic speech and theater teacher in high school, Lydia Fowlkes. She really turned me on to theater,” Nies said, adding that he also had wonderful teachers during his time at Amarillo College and West Texas A&M University. “They made me who I am today.”
Nies did not begin pursuing the playwriting aspect of theater until more recently, when he took some online playwriting classes through Texas Tech for professional development, although he has always enjoyed writing.
“I like writing because it provides an escape for me,” he said. “I like to write about things that really happened, and true crime has always intrigued me.
“There’s a lot of history in this area, but what I think is sad is that there’s a dark history too, to certain places, and a lot of people don’t know things like this. People need to know that things like that happened there. It’s a dark history, but it’s part of their history.”
Nies has written five other plays that have been published through Next Stage Press, a small script publishing company. Two of his other works, “The Boys from Houston Heights” and “Haunting the House,” were finalists in competitions at theaters in Houston and Victoria and were performed as staged readings there.
Although “The Prisoners of Driscoll Street” is currently unpublished, Nies hopes to publish it after the Gallery Players’ production.
“Getting a play published is harder than getting a book published because it changes so much with what people are going to like,” said Nies. “But once it’s produced by somebody, it looks good because somebody else thought it was good, and publishing companies start taking it seriously.”
Nies will be attending the performance Sunday and participating in a playwright talkback after the performance.