Sylvan Oswald


The darkly comic Profanity will use the structure of rabbinical commentary to tell three interwoven stories about the human capacity for destruction.


Dec 19, 2012Sylvan Oswald’s SUN RA
New York

May 17, 2012Sylvan Oswald’s “Profanity” in NYC!

Oct 5, 2011Sylvan Oswald’s Nightlands in NYC

Apr 10, 2011Sylvan Oswald’s PONY in Chicago

1543 W Division St, Chicago, IL

The NY Fellows

Judd Greenstein
Judith Berkson
Hadassa Goldvicht
Netta Yerushalmy
Sylvan Oswald
Hannah Bos
Oded Hirsch
Liana Finck
Alicia Jo Rabins


“Dan Hurlin enlisted me to create text for his large-scale puppet work, DISFARMER, which premiered at St. Anns Warehouse in 2009. Mike Disfarmer was a small town portrait photographer whose stark, raw portraits of 1940s-era farmers made him a name in the art world upon their posthumous discovery in the late 1970s. But we barely know anything about him. Disfarmer was a kind of Boo Radley-figure who scared the local kids, and didnt much respect his neighbors. He believed he was switched at birth by a tornado and later changed his name to dissociate himself (dis-farmer) from the working poor of Heber Springs, Arkansas. In this sequence, Disfarmer tries to leave town once and for all.” – SYLVAN


Profanity was performed as a work-in-progress as part of Soho Rep’s Studio Series on May 17th and 18th, 2012.

A family in 1950s Philadelphia runs a real estate office selling land that doesn’t exist. An intellectual flees Nazis through the Pyrenees with only his final manuscript and morphine, just in case. An unhappy contemporary teenage girl aspires to be a biblical commentator while her parents’ marriage crumbles. The characters in playwright Sylvan Oswald’s Profanity lose grasp of the difference between right and wrong, to darkly comic effect.

Each story has its own time period, and the characters from each comment on each other the way that generations of rabbis have commented on the Torah. Props and language will begin to filter through the three worlds, until there is only one reality in which men do business, float above themselves, and see God all at once. In addition to writing and producing Profanity, Sylvan produced an artist’s book of the play, to illustrate and share ideas with the audience before and after viewing the performance.

Sylvan Oswald creates plays, texts, and publications. His plays are often set in Philadelphia, his hometown. Sylvan’s plays include Sun Ra, Pony, Vendetta Chrome, and Painful Adventures. Recent collaborations include text for puppet-theater artist Dan Hurlin’s Disfarmer at St. Ann’s Warehouse in 2009, and Zoetrope, a music-theater work in progress with composer/director Alec Duffy designer Mimi Lien. Sylvan is a resident playwright at New Dramatists, a Six Points Fellow for 2010-2012 and the Dorothy B. Strelsin Playwriting Fellow at Soho Rep for 2010-2011. He is the recipient of a Jerome Fellowship from the Playwrights’ Center in Minneapolis, a Thurber House Playwriting Fellowship from The Ohio State University, and fellowships from The MacDowell Colony, The Millay Colony for the Arts, and the Dramatists Guild. Sylvan’s plays have been produced by About Face Theater, Clubbed Thumb, and New Georges. His work has been workshopped or developed with The Foundry Theater, The Hangar Theater, The McCarter Theater, New York Theater Workshop, Portland Center Stage, Soho Rep’s Writer/Director Lab, and P73’s I73 Writing Group among others. Sylvan created Play A Journal of Plays with Jordan Harrison and currently teaches playwriting at Barnard College and at Purchase College/SUNY.

Contact Info


-->Paper Theater/Play A Journal of Plays -->
New Dramatists
Disfarmer collaboration with Dan Hurlin

New York Times
Oct. 13, 2011

NY Theatre
Oct. 13, 2011

Oct. 11, 2011

The New Yorker
Oct. 10, 2011

Time Out Chicago
April 28, 2011

Chicago Sun Times
April 24, 2011