Ellen West

Ellen West Image

Ellen West has had over twenty productions of her plays since she began writing for the stage when she moved to Portland in 1992. First she wrote sketches for Northwest Senior Theatre. Encouraged to begin a professional career as a playwright by having her earliest plays accepted for the New Rave Festival in 1995 and 1996, she went on to receive a first prize for her short play Bertha, Helen, Vivian, or Jane in 2004 and another first prize for her full length comedy, Losing Things in 2006. The plays were produced in New York and Seattle, respectively. In 2009 Losing Things was a semi-finalist in the Ellen Heckardt Drama Competition. Her family Christmas play The Gift of Speech has been produced in North Carolina and in Portland and has been published by Drama Source.

At the age of five, Ellen was in a scene in an Our Gang Comedy and was bitten by the stage bug. Unfortunately, her mother was not, so Ellen grew up in Oklahoma City performing at service clubs and civic events and in school plays. As an adolescent she was bitten by another bug—stage fright, and gave up performing altogether. At Wellesley she became serious about writing. In her senior year her play Charlotte was produced and she won the Jacqueline Award and Honorable Mention in Dodd, Mead’s search for new writers for her novel, Wherever the Grass Is Green. She pursued novel writing with no success while beginning married life and having two children in Topeka, Kansas, where her husband was a psychiatrist at Menninger’s.

When the first public television station came to Topeka, Ellen, who had taught composition and technical writing at Washburn, which owned the station, jumped at the chance to work at what she considered an exciting new job. Although she produced five regular series a week and wrote and produced eight specials, she was refused advancement because “your husband’s a doctor.” In a fit of righteous feminist indignation she quit the
job she loved and rapidly succumbed to alcoholism.

In 1974 she recovered and has remained clean and sober since. She founded Independent Media Productions and did three nationally distributed films on women’s issues. She married her ex-husband in 1989 and together they moved to Oregon where he was interested in the wine business and Ellen found a thriving theater community which has welcomed her ambitions. She calls her group of playwriting friends the Nameless Playwrights because they are all marginalized seniors who refuse to give up. Seniors. With an edge.

Author's Plays