Death Valley: A Love Story

A stage play inspired by the journals, collages, and photographs
of Carol Emerson, LCSW and David Nutter, M.D.
Used by permission.

Available from Dramatic Publishing Company at https://www.dramaticpublishing.com/death-valley-a-love-story


The first full production of “Death Valley: A Love Story” opened on October 25, 2019, at Springfield Contemporary Theatre, Springfield, MO.  Directed by Alan Souza and featuring Andie Bottrell, Rachel Jamieson, and Sarah J. Wiggin.  

Here’s a promo trailer with a peek at the production: https://youtu.be/MZ-nzDm66sg

“Death Valley: A Love Story” was also released by Samaritan Counseling Center in a film version as a DVD with guidebook for therapeutic uses in grief counseling.  More info at http://scclanc.org/counseling-services/death-valley-a-love-story-dvd-therapeutic-guide/.

Here’s the trailer:

The first public screening of the completed film was held on Sunday, May 15, 2016, at Tellus360, Lancaster, PA.

Film by Andrea Campbell, http://naturallightfilms.com

Additional theatrical direction by Laura Korach Howell, http://peoplesshakespeareproject.org

Featuring Mary-Sarah Agliotta as Carol, http://mary-sarah.com.

Available with “The Landscape of Grief: a Guidebook” from Samaritan Counseling Center, http://scclanc.org.  See under “Resources.”

DVD only:  http://naturalfilms.com


Theatrical director Laura Korach Howell, film director Andrea Campbell and lead actor Mary Sarah Agliotta confer on set.

DEATH VALLEY POSTCARDThe beautiful postcard designed by Carol Emerson for the first public rehearsed reading of the stage version at Tellus360 in Lancaster, PA, on August 22 and 25, 2013, directed by Laura Korach Howell and featuring Lisa Budwig, Anne Meeder, and Carol Woodman.

First fully staged workshop reading:  The Open Eye Theater, Margaretville, NY

September 4 – 7 and September 11 – 14, 2014

Directed by Amie Brockway Henson (http://www.theopeneyetheater.org)

Another rehearsed reading, arranged by Fractal Productions and directed by Alan Souza, was held on Saturday, November 12, 2016, at Shelter Studios in New York City.

Development of the script continued with participation in two weeks of rehearsals and two public readings with talkbacks as part of Maryland Ensemble Theatre’s 2017 METLab Festival, Frederick, MD, July 16 – 30, 2017, under the direction of Brandon Scott Boyd.

Recently, “Death Valley: A Love Story” was chosen for the Philadelphia Women’s Theatre Festival to be held in Philadelphia, August 4-7, 2022.  More info at http://phillywomenstheatrefest.org.

CHARACTERS (stage version only; the filmed version features one on-screen actor plus voice-overs)

Three actors play all play CAROL, who is an artist, a therapist, and a journalist, plus all of the other people in her story.  Carol is about 50 years old, attractive, sensitive, emotional, playful, energetic, intelligent, and loving.  Informally dressed, with a touch of Southwestern color and flair.  While the actors need not resemble one another physically, they should be costumed in a way that unifies them.

CAROL ONE — Also plays other people in Carol’s memory:








CAROL TWO – the same person as ONE.  Also plays other people in Carol’s memory:





CAROL THREE – the same person as ONE and TWO.  Also plays other people in Carol’s memory:





TIME:  Winter of 2003 through early summer of 2005.

PLAYING TIME:  about 75 minutes, with opening and closing slide shows of David’s photographs and Carol’s collages (available from playwright).

SETTING:  Minimal.  Area staging, at various levels if possible.  While the action moves through many settings – Carol’s house, cars, planes, hospitals — transitions should be fluid and achieved through lighting, music, and easily moved set pieces.

SYNOPSIS: In the winter of 2003, during their first glorious year of being in love, Carol and David, both therapists and artists, spend a vacation week in Death Valley, where David begins experiencing symptoms that are diagnosed on their return home as Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia.  Months of chemotherapy follow, culminating in a bone marrow transplant that goes awry, ending David’s life.  Throughout their ordeal, in an attempt to understand and heal her shattered self, Carol keeps a journal, chronicling her passage through love, loss, grief, and recovery.  This play grew out of the real journals, photographs, and collages that make this universal story poignantly specific.

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