Aaron Mark

Work in Progress: Deer

Playwright Aaron Mark talks about the unusual path his play Deer took for its world premiere at Stage West.

published Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Photo: Evan Michael Woods
Lisa Fairchild and John S. Davies star in Deer at Stage West


Fort Worth —  Most of these Work in Progress essays have covered plays that have been workshopped and developed in DFW. I get to talk to the artists in the middle of the process, before the project is complete and all problems have been resolved. I assumed that a similar story would be found when I interviewed Aaron Mark, the playwright of Deer. Stage West is producing the world premiere of this play, and I was intrigued because I have never heard of this writer. I didn’t know if he was local or an emerging playwright, but the following conversation I had with Mark affirmed that there’s no one clear path to getting a play produced.

Aaron Mark grew up in Houston, attending theatre and classes as the notable Theatre Under the Stars. Instead of taking the typical route of going to college and majoring in theatre, Mark decided to move directly to New York City after high school to start his career working in the theatre. He began by assistant directing numerous musicals. Mark mused about his past ambitions,  “I was on a path to become a director of musicals.” He’s most known as a director, and has a notable amount of credits in the city.

Photo: Courtesy
Aaron Mark

But something changed as Mark began to take an interest in writing plays… weird plays, as he says. Deer was inspired by real events; a couple of Mark’s friends were driving in a wooded area when they suddenly hit a deer. It completely changed their night because the animal was not quite dead yet—one of them would have to kill it. Mark was fascinated by that situation. “Who is going to do it? What does it reveal about the dynamics of their relationship? What would it catalyze in their relationship? I was intrigued by the intensity of that moment.”

Deer is unusual from a development standpoint… because it has already been published. Even before a single production of the play had occurred. That is interesting…and almost unheard of.

The play did not simply drop into his mind and into the publishing house, as Mark spent some time on his own creating this new work. He had some closed readings with a few collaborators to develop the play (including the woman who hit the real deer). The first scene was written fairly quickly, and he developed the rest over a couple of years.

In the meantime, Mark gained success with his play Empanada Loca at Labyrinth Theatre (which he also directed and featured Daphne Rubin-Vega). Mark has served as writer and director for many of his projects, allowing a sort of “tailoring” as Mark describes it. He can write the characters for his collaborators, which he has done for many of his plays.

After the success of Empanada Loca, Dramatists Play Service decided to publish it,  and they asked if Mark had any other plays to consider for publication. He submitted Deer along with another play, and Dramatists selected the two-hander about a couple hitting an innocent animal. Then, a copy of the play was sent to Stage West, and they selected it for their season.

I can’t help but feel just a little bit of envy.

Can I get an “amen” from another playwright?

Mark notes that it is strange that this is the first time he will see one of his plays produced by another theatre company, it is particularly odd that he has never seen the play on its feet yet at all. Mark notes that it’s a different experience to have a work published “before the problems have been solved.” He’s talked with director Garret Storms about the piece, mainly to discuss the physical business in the play. He’s eager to see what Stage West has done with the play when he arrives this weekend.



» Shelby-Allison Hibbs is a Dallas-based teaching artist, playwright, director, performer and a Clinical Assistant Professor at the University of Texas at Dallas. In her Work in Progress column, she'll have conversations with playwrights, theatermakers, directors, designers, dramaturgs and others involved in the process of realizing new work from page to stage as she explores new plays and musicals being developed/created by theaters of all budget sizes in North Texas.

Please give us feedback and suggestions! You can contact Shelby-Allison Hibbs at or TheaterJones editor Mark Lowry at



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Work in Progress: Deer
Playwright Aaron Mark talks about the unusual path his play Deer took for its world premiere at Stage West.
by Shelby-Allison Hibbs

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