Ned Dougherty was born and raised in Pennsylvania, university’d in Maryland, MFA'd in Minneapolis, taught high school humanities for 15 years in Taos, New Mexico; and now lives and teaches in the Appalachian Mountains. As a writer of bios, he thinks grammar rules are fluid and up for interpretation because life is short. As a teacher, he doesn't tell his students about this feeling towards grammar.
His playwriting has been showcased in festivals from Albuquerque to Dublin, Ireland. His work has been supported by the Taos Center for the Arts, ForgeNYC, and SOMOS. He has taken classes or studied with Carson Kreitzer, Sarah Meyers, Andrew Rosendorf, Harrison David Rivers, and with Josh Wilder’s Playwrights Workshop. He earned an MFA from Augsburg University (2019) in Playwriting.
As a screenwriter, his comedy pilot about the female golfers in 1864 Scotland, The Greens, earned 8s on The Black List. He is busy creating and devising more features and pilots and revising old projects that quarterfinaled in a few writing contests.
He is an award-winning high school teacher (2014 NM Charter School Teacher of the year), a coach for teachers, a Social and Emotional Learning leader, a podcaster (Why We Root), an essayist, poet and woods wanderer. Previous poetry and educational screeds can be accessed at teachpoet.com and you can follow him on Twitter @teachpoet where he mostly just likes posts by screenwriters and playwrights, former students and Sixers fans.
His workshops are available for teaching (remote and in-person). He is also interested in helping you push your script with notes and coverage. Reach out to the email below if that’s why you’re here!
When I first started writing for theater I thought I was taking on the solemn duty of reckoning with the blind spots of my Irish Catholic middle class suburban family. I took our unearned sanctity to task. I wrestled our faith tradition to the mat and exposed its emptiness. I trained the floodlights on our secrets of depression and alcoholism. I unmasked our allegiances to power structures we pretended don’t exist but quietly benefit from. Against our sweet-faced narratives of generosity and abundance I found characters soured by passive aggressive jealousy, stagnation and lives without dreams.
And just like that paragraph above, with its big words and pseudo-wisdom, I wrote shitty plays.
Because I don’t know if you noticed up there, but with all those sacred intentions I did a really good job of hiding myself in a frenzy of accusations against my cosmology, framing my problems in the safety of our problems. Safe plays are terrible plays. Writers who don’t realize they are writing to protect themselves are going to eventually stop writing.
I haven’t stopped writing yet.
Now I am on the mat. The floodlights are trained on me. I am the privileged white boy who pretends and hides. The sweet-faced narratives are my own, employed to keep myself afloat in the face of depression and lack. Like an archaeologist using a toothbrush to shoo away decades of dust from bones at the dig site, I marvel at the past and how well everything was hidden, how the puzzle pieces make so much sense when you match the history of world against the history of a singular being.
So now I find myself writing plays about teachers who do drugs to subvert their existential paralysis. I write about failed relationships. I write about the faux-wokeness and allyship of colonizing white activists. I write about struggling fathers and young men who hope against hope they won’t turn out like the generation before them. I write about the women in my life who are courageous enough to change the world.
I don’t know if my plays are better, but my writing is. There’s more truth. There’s more joy. There’s finally a sense of meaning pouring through the comedy.
More importantly, I’m better off for it. So long as I keep writing, one day, my plays and scripts will be better too.