2013 Capital Fringe Show Preview: ‘Dark House’ by Tarpey Long

Dark House will open July 12, 2013, as part of the Capital Fringe Festival in Washington, DC. Written by Tarpley Long and directed by Tracy McMullan, the play is based on Faulkner’s story Absalom, Absalom! Dark House, was Faulkner’s original  title while he was writing the novel. The present work  re-imagines the ruthless Colonel Thomas Sutpen as a land developer in Washington, DC, during the 1960s, 70s and 80s. Classism, racism, miscegenation, incest, murder, suicide, and the twists and turns of love imperil a family living in a Logan Circle mansion.

Mark Mueller and Charles Martinez.
Mark Mueller and Charles Martinez.

This play was inspired by a confluence of events in the summer of 2012, starting with Washington’s annual Boomsday event in June celebrating the writing of James Joyce. Two weeks after I spent the day as a reader immersed in Ulysses, I was traveling and happened to pick up the Sunday NY Times in a Starbucks while I was on the road. The magazine section asked a provocative question: Does America have a Ulysses? The answer was yes: Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom!

When I returned to Washington, I re-read Faulkner’s novel and fresh from the recent Joyce experience was overwhelmed by the sheer majesty of the language. Why not organize a staged reading of Absalom, Absalom!? As I set about to select passages, it occurred to me that I might need permission to quote Faulkner if I planned to read his work in a public forum. I called the Center for the Studies of Southern Culture at the University of Mississippi and was directed to the head of the Faulkner Studies program. I was informed that I would need formal permission and was given a contact at the Literary Estate of William Faulkner.

The guardian of the estate has never granted permission for Absalom, Absalom!  to be made into either a film or stage play. We discussed why I wished to craft the novel into a play. My motives were simple: First, I love Faulkner’s writing and this timeless story, which unfolds before, during and after the Civil War, could be taking place in my DC neighborhood today. Second, I wanted to promote Faulkner’s Shakespearean writing and Greek tragedy to audiences who may never have read Faulkner. And, third, I had no profit motive. Permission granted.

As I set about cutting and pasting Faulkner’s prose, in my head another story began to write itself. Sutpen, who came to Mississippi in 1833, purchased 100 acres cheaply from local Indians and proceeded to build a mansion on it started to morph into a present day DC land developer. As a resident of the Washington area since 1968, pieces of local history began to weave into a modern story line – the April, 1968, riots after the assassination of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., the burning and looting in Shaw, Columbia Heights, U Street, H street NE, the plight of these neighborhoods after 1968, and the redevelopment of these neighborhoods.

Two weeks later, I was running on North Capital Street by the 25 acre McMillan Sand Filtration site, closed to the public and surrounded by barbed wire for decades, and thought, “What this land needs is someone like Oprah or Warren Buffet to purchase it from the DC Government and convert it back to McMillan Park, a link of the emerald necklace parks invisioned by Frederick Law Olmstead, Jr. McMillan Park became part of my story.I revise Faulkner’s time line of events, changing Thomas Sutpen’s birth from 1807 to 1940. The Faulkner estate guardian encouraged me to re-fresh the Absalom story of racism, classism, murder, suicide, miscegenation, incest, The American Dream, etc. How better to show Faulkner’s continued relevance!

Dark House is not a DC  “corridors of power” story.  It is about the “other” Washington – neighborhoods such as Logan Circle, Shaw, Georgetown, Edgewood, Bloomingdale, and Truxton Circle.

Playwright/Producer Tarpley Long is trained as a psychotherapist, psychoanalyst, and actor. She is grateful to the Literary Estate of William Faulkner for permission to use language from the original text of Absalom, Absalom!. It is understood that the playwright/producer makes no profit on this production.

darkhouse-4 (1)

Fri 7/12@7:15pm
Fri 7/19/@6:15 PM
Sun 7/21@12:45 PM
Wed 7/24@6:00 PM
Fri 7/26@8:00 PM
Sat 7/27@11:45 PM

Purchase tickets here.

This production is presented as a part of the 2013 Capital Fringe Festival, a program of the Washington, DC, non-profit Capital Fringe.


  1. I’ve known of playwright. Ms. Long’s talent for years. She strives for and accepts no less than excellence for her work. I anxiously await the performance of “Dark House”.

  2. With your southern background and diverse experience as a DC resident, this play will be yet another avenue for you to share your many talents. Break a leg, Tarpley.


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