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Small Fire, A - Full Length Play, Drama

Small Fire, A

Adam Bock

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Full Length Play, Drama

2m, 2f

ISBN: 9780573700033

"The play is...raucous, funny and unexpectedly touching, as we are made intimate witnesses to a frank demonstration of how much of life, of love and of happiness remain within reach even when so much appears to be lost." –The New York Times
: Acting Edition
: Large Print
: Stage Manager

Minimum Fee: $75 per performance


Full Length Play


90 minutes

Time Period - Contemporary, Present Day


No intermission

Unit Set/Multiple Settings, Bare Stage/Simple Set

Contemporary Costumes / Street Clothes


Strong Language, Mild Adult Themes, No Special Cautions




College Theatre / Student, Community Theatre, Dinner Theatre, Professional Theatre, Reader's Theatre, Shoestring Budget, Large Stage, Blackbox / Second Stage /Fringe Groups


From Off-Broadway

Adam Bock's meticulously crafted A Small Fire follows John and Emily Bridges, a long-married couple whose happy, middle-class lives are upended when Emily falls victim to a mysterious disease. As her senses are slowly stripped away – smell, taste, sight – Emily resolves to remain engaged with her community, relying on John to help her run her company and experience her daughter Jenny's wedding. But her stoic outlook reaches a breaking point when the disease steals her hearing, leaving her with nothing but touch to communicate with the world. Suddenly, she is completely dependant on the husband whose endless devotions she had always taken for granted.


2m, 2f


Non-Traditional casting, Strong Role for Leading Man (Star Vehicle), Strong Role for Leading Woman (Star Vehicle)


N/A (Not a musical)

Rental Materials


N/A (Not a musical)


N/A (Not a musical)

  • A Small Fire

Adam Bock

Adam Bock

Adam Bock’s plays include Phaedra (Shotgun Players), A Small Fire (Playwrights Horizons, Drama Desk nomination), book for We Have Always Lived in the Castle, with music by Todd Almond (Yale Rep), The Flowers (About Face Theatre), The Receptionist (MTC, 2008 Outer Critics nomination, Best Plays of 2007-2008, The Evidence Room with Megan Mullally), The Drunken City (Playwrights Horizons, 2008 Outer ... view full profile

Now Playing
Peggy Walker 10/18/2013 12:00 PM
At first, I didn't know if I wanted these arguing brusque people to take up my valuable time.  But then, found the play written so strangely that I had to give it consideration and go the distance.  In the end, it packs a wallop emotionally.  
Michael Stratton 4/24/2013 7:38 PM
“A Small Fire” is going to turn some readers off.

I say “readers” and not “audience members” because this is an unusually formatted script. In (I’m assuming) an attempt to give the play a heightened sense of realism, Adam Bock has written it almost as a transcript of an audio recording rather than a fully realized blueprint for a stage show. Lots of sentence fragments, unusual and sometimes confusing punctuation, and minimal stage directions. At times it feels like David Mamet and e.e. cummings tried to write a screenplay together.

Don’t confuse this observation with criticism, though; if you can get past the nonstandard presentation, there is a beautiful and moving story to be found.

Emilie and John Bridges are a long-married couple whose daughter is getting married to someone they aren’t thrilled about. Emilie is tough, outspoken, critical. John’s kinder, gentler, more supportive. Tensions about the wedding rise and fall – then Emilie loses her sense of smell. She slowly succumbs to a mysterious disease that robs her of her taste, sight, and hearing.

A TV medical drama would fixate on finding a cure, but Bock focuses on the relationships between the characters whose wife/daughter/friend has gone from fiercely independent to completely reliant on others. In the end, it’s about the power of love to withstand even the most heart-breaking obstacles.

A few technical notes – the play takes place in a few different settings, but the amount of scenery required for each is negotiable. Just know that the scenes themselves, due to their realistic dialogue, do not necessarily propel themselves into the next one, so be sure you have a plan to handle scene changes fluidly and quickly. Sound also plays an important role.

Due to its scale, this play is likely best suited for smaller, intimate theaters.
Joel Repman 4/21/2013 3:41 PM
When the values you've cultivated your whole life are no longer relevant, what do you do?  How do you react?  If you're a person who tells it like it is and can spot bullpucky a mile away and respects that quality in others, what happens if you can no longer hear,  or see,  or both, the person in front of you?  What if you've felt superior to both your husband and daughter for so long, now that you need them, really need them, they don't know if they have it in them.
Forgiveness is a powerful thing.  It requires a lot of effort and, sometimes, we're all guilty of it, we decide it's just not worth our time. Not enough of an upside.  If we're lucky, we have someone who is stronger than us, whose well is deeper than we ever gave them credit for.  Through them, we can realize our capacity to change.
The play accumulates these moments subtly. Nothing is forced.  It relies on our seeing ourselves in the characters' confused emotions and allowing those feelings to propel the play forward.  In the distance, a small fire, a great comfort on a cold night.

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