Too Strange to Live, Too Weird to Die - A Staged Reading Series presents

A Beautiful Day in November on the Banks of the Greatest of the Great Lakes

Playwright Kate Benson

Dates Saturday, July 9 • 7:00 pm

$10 online $15 at the door

Buy Tickets

About the Play

Too Strange to Live, Too Weird to Die is back!
This reading series, curated by Literary Manager Todd Brian Backus, features beautiful and bizarre plays that stretch the limits of the theatrical imagination.

“For those of you just tuning in, Thanksgiving is already in progress here at Wembly kitchen. The stands are nice and full, it’s quite a crowd that’s gathered. They’re in for a real treat.” As the lights go up on A Beautiful Day in November on the Banks of the Greatest of the Great Lakes we’re greeted by the dulcet tones of sports commentators as an all-American family gets ready for the original bloodsport, Thanksgiving Dinner.

Funded in part by a grant from
the Maine Arts Commission.

Featuring: Maureen Butler*, James Herrera, Abigail Killeen*, Erica Murphy, James Patefield, and Maya Williams, more TBA.

About the Playwright

Kate Benson

Kate Benson (Playwright) Kate Benson is a writer and actor living in Brooklyn. Her plays include A Beautiful Day in November on the Banks of the Greatest of the Great Lakes, produced by New Georges in 2014, [PORTO], Lee Miller, and Radium Now. She is a member of the Jam at New Georges, and she is a graduate of the Brooklyn College MFA Playwriting program. She has had readings and showings of her work at Dixon Place, 13th St. Theater, Jimmy’s No. 43, and the Room at New Georges. As an actor, she has appeared at the Public, NYTW, the Flea, PS 122, the Incubator, and LaMama.

Cast and Creative Team

Meet the Directors and the Cast

Todd Brian Backus

Todd Brian Backus (Director)  is a new works director, dramaturg, illustrator, and literary manager based in Portland, Maine. He likes to work on “weird theatre” by which he means: Sci-fi plays about absentee voting, Chekhovian cavemen plays, time-traveling gentrification musicals for kids, and plays that combine poetry, swordplay, and ghosts. He’s hoping this series will get more people interested in plays outside the living room. Todd is a co-producer of Dungeons + Drama Nerds, a podcast that explores the intersection of theatre and tabletop roleplaying games, a co-founder and Artistic Producer with PowerOut, and a co-founder and producer of Hot Pepper Theater. Find him just about everywhere @tbbackus.


Macey Downs

Macey Downs (Assistant Director) is a Directing & Dramaturgy Apprentice at Portland Stage with a passion for new play development. At Portland Stage, Macey assistant directed Perseverance by Callie Kimball dir. Jade King Carroll and Where We Stand by Donnetta Lavinia Grays dir. Kevin R. Free. In 2020, she earned her BA at Bard College as a double major in Theater & Performance and Sociology. She completed a senior project in directing with the premiere of a new play titled this is the knot in my stomach by Phil Carroll, which she remounted in NY Winterfest in November 2021. She has also directed scenes or productions of the following plays: Eurydice, The Wolves, Bluebird, Richard III, Being Norwegian, and Fun Home.


??? (#) 




??? (@) 




Maureen Butler (Snap Dragon) has been an Affiliate Artist at Portland Stage for over ten years. She moved from Boston where she started her acting career to Maine 24 years ago.  She has performed in many productions with PSC as well as Mad Horse Theatre Company, Theatre at Monmouth and AIRE.  Some favorite roles have been Aiofe in AIRE’s production of Outside Mullingar, Abbie in PSC’s production of Arsenic and Old Lace, AND Queen Margaret in TAM’s production of Richard III.


James Herrera (GrandDada) James Herrera recently celebrated his 23rd year of being from away.  Mad Horse:The Goat, The History Boys, Stupid F*cking Bird. Maine State Ballet: Six turns as Drosselmeyer in the Nutcracker. PortFringe: Naked Lunch. Richard II/York for Portland Shakespeare Company. Cock for Dramatic Repertory Company. Voicework: Final Rune/The Cleansed, Audible: Starstruck & X-Files/Stolen Lives. He studied at The New Actor’s Workshop in NYC and the Mid-Summer at Oxford program at BADA in the UK; James is a graduate of MGSA/Rutgers University.


??? (Trifle) 




Abigail Kileen (AEA)

Abigail Killeen (Cherry Pie) is an Affiliate Artist at Portland Stage and is delighted to be part of this exciting project. Other shows at PSC include The Clean House (Lane), Babette’s Feast (Martine, Off-Broadway transfer, NY Mag Critic’s Pick), Brighton Beach Memoirs (Blanche), Love/Sick (Meg/Celia/Sam), and A Christmas Carol (Ghosts/Mrs. Cratchit), along with a number of Little Fests, From Aways, and other festivals of new work. For PSC’s Studio Series she co-produced and performed in the solo show The Amish Project. Other Portland-based work: Sofonisba (Sofonisba, Dramatic Rep, also directed by Sally Wood); The May Queen (Jennifer), Death by Design (Sorel), and Next Fall (Holly) at Good Theater; Uncle Vanya (Yelena), and Nina (Helen) at The Theater Project; and Macbeth (Lady Macbeth) with Fenix. New York credits include The Merchant of Venice and Everything That Rises Must Converge with Compagnia de’ Colombari, the NY International Fringe (Moritz von Stuelpenagel, dir.) and Naked Angels (David Dalton, dir.) Film: America’s Hidden Stories, Wayfair, Showers of Happiness. Abigail is a Professor of Theater and chair of the Department of Theater and Dance at Bowdoin College.


??? (Cheesecake) 




Erica Murphy

Erica Murphy (Smilesinger, Republican’s Wife, Trainer & Trainer’s Partner, and The Wives of the Twins) is an actor, educator, and movement specialist based in Portland. In Maine, she has performed and worked with Portland Stage, Good Theater, Mad Horse Theatre Company, Fenix Theatre Company, Ziggurat Theater, Theater at Monmouth, and The Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine. She has also performed in world premieres in Chicago and New York City. Some favorite recent productions include Balloonacy (The Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine), Eurydice (Fenix Theatre Company), Ninshaba (Ziggurat Theater), and As You Like It (Theater at Monmouth). Erica is a certified Feldenkrais practitioner, and a graduate of The Theatre School at DePaul University and the Jacques Lecoq International School of Theater in Paris. She is represented by Dirigo Talent, works as a Play Associate at The Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine, and teaches theater at the University of Southern Maine.


James Patefield (Fred, Ed, Ned, Smilesinger’s Husband, Republican, The Twins, and Runnerman) is thrilled to be back reading for TSTLTWTD! He is a Portland-based actor, director, and fight choreographer. He is Director of Audience Services/Community Engagement at PortFringe, Maine’s Fringe Festival, one half of Wolpertinger Battalion, and an education artist at Portland Stage. He helped found Bare Portland and helped make a lot of plays about and featuring the beauty of trash, including Storage and The Yellow Wallpaper. Other favorite local credits include A Midsummer Night’s Dream with Fenix Theatre Co. (co-director), The Song Bird with Stages, The Explorer’s Club with Mad Horse (Walling), Arsenic and Old Lace with Portland Stage (Teddy), and Wolpertinger Battalion’s Pity Party. His fight choreography has also been seen in 60Grit’s Bug and Bare Portland’s Macbeth, of which he was also co-director. James will be playing Feste in Fenix’s upcoming production of Twelfth Night, and you should come see it!

Maya Williams (Gumbo, ey/they/she) is currently Portland, Maine’s seventh poet laureate. Ey has performed in shows such as Storage with Bare Portland, The Rocky Horror Picture Show with Consensual Daydreamers, and 12 Impassioned Women with Portland Stage. You can find them as one of the three artists of color to represent Maine in The Kennedy Center’s Art Across America series. You can also follow her work on her website

Sponsored in part by