Suggested reading

Scott Carter’s The Gospel According to Thomas Jefferson, Charles Dickens and Count Leo Tolstoy: Suggested Reading

In hopes of shining a light on the weighty life questions put center stage in Scott Carter’s The Gospel According to Thomas Jefferson, Charles Dickens and Count Leo Tolstoy, we’ve put together the following resources for further exploration of their relationships to legacy, philosophy, and religion. From lesser known works by the men themselves to sweeping adaptations of beloved stories, there’s hardly a medium that Dickens, Jefferson, or Tolstoy did not influence.


  • A Confession and Other Religious Writings by Leo Tolstoy: Tolstoy is best known for his novels, War and Peace and Anna Karenina, but this collection of his personal writings—on the likes of faith, freedom, and morality—is further testimony to the tireless mind of a man lauded as one of the greatest authors in history.
  • Jefferson’s Extracts from the Gospels by Dickinson W. Adams: Thomas Jefferson was unsatisfied with the authors of the four Gospels and the trustworthiness of their accounts, so he took it upon himself to literally extract the offending passages from his own copies of the New Testament. This volume is a compilation of Adams’ research into Jefferson’s Bible, and the definitive presentation of the president’s religious beliefs.
  • The Life of Our Lord by Charles Dickens: Written exclusively for his children, Dickens forbade the publication of this book so long as he or any of his children lived. Published 64 years after his death, Dickens’ The Life of Our Lord is a simple and endearing retelling of Jesus Christ’s life and became a bestseller in its first year of publication (1934).   

Film & TV

  • A Christmas Carol (1984): If you’ve ever wrinkled your nose at the holiday season, you’re likely to have been called a “Scrooge.” We have Dickens to thank for coining the term with his iconic Ebenezer Scrooge and the timeless (and oft adapted) story of a miser transformed by visits from the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Yet to Come.
  • War and Peace (1966): Adaptations of Tolstoy’s epic have taken liberties with their sprawling source material, but Sergei Bondarchuk’s 1969 Academy Award-winning undertaking—some 7 hours on 3 discs—is as close to visualizing the text as you can get.


  • Thomas Jefferson (1997) by Ken Burns: The 3 part documentary by American filmmaker Ken Burns is an overview of both the public and the private face of the once president (and also writer, inventor, and architect). Academics and political figures discuss his life and legacy, as well as his relationship with his slave, Sally Hemings.
  • The Trouble with Tolstoy (2011) by Alan Yentob: Originally aired in two installments on the BBC, Alan Yentob’s documentary takes the viewer on a train ride through Tolstoy’s Russia. Featuring contributions from the author’s great great grandson and distinguished Russian commentators, it is a comprehensive overview of a singular and mercurial man.
  • Uncovering the Real Dickens (2003) by Peter Ackroyd: Presented by Peter Ackroyd for the BBC, this 3-disc set explores the best of times and the worst of times of the author, with the help of dramatic reconstruction. The additional material includes the 1999 adaptation of David Copperfield and A Christmas Carol as performed by Anton Lesser.


  • “Charles Dickens: Six Things He Gave the Modern World” by Alex Hudson: From shaping the portrayal of modern Christmas in our culture to his influence on cinema, Dickens’ work has a reach that transcends the page.
  • “Leo Tolstoy’s Poignant Letter to Gandhi on the Laws of Love” by Nathan Gelgud: It’s easy to overlook the fact that history’s most towering figures lived alongside equally formidable contemporaries and didn’t just exist in a vacuum by themselves. Take Tolstoy’s writings to Gandhi in the last years of the former’s life, where he expounds on his belief in love triumphing over force: “any employment of force is incompatible with love as the highest law of life, and that as soon as the use of force appears permissible even in a single case, the law itself is immediately negatived.” The letters in their entirety can be read here.
  • “Charlottesville: Why Jefferson Matters” by Annette Gordon-Reed: Pulitzer Prize-winning historian and author of The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family, Annette Gordon-Reed, writes on Jefferson’s aspirations and paradoxes, and how they continue to underline the fragility of the American experiment.

The Primary Stages production of The Gospel According to Thomas Jefferson, Charles Dickens and Count Leo Tolstoy: Discord runs until October 22, 2017 at the Cherry Lane Theatre. For tickets and additional information, please visit our website.


Daniel’s Husband: Suggested Reading

If you were intrigued by the topics addressed in Daniel’s Husband, you might also like these plays, movies, and articles:


  • Next Fall by Geoffrey Nauffts: Luke and Adam are two gay men in a committed relationship. There is just one complication– Luke is extremely religious and Adam is an atheist. The men make their relationship work despite their differences, but one accident will change everything for Adam and Luke.
  • Standing on Ceremony by Mo Gaffney and Jordan Harrison: This compilation of short plays explores the touching, heartbreaking, and sometimes ridiculous moments before same-sex couples say “I Do.”


  • I Do by David W Ross: This 2012 American drama follows a gay man who marries his lesbian best friend in order to get his green card. When he meets the love of his life, he is forced to make a daunting decision and confront the inequality that same-sex couples in America face.
  • Whose Life is it Anyway? by Brian Clark: (It’s also a play!) Ken Harrison is a sculptor who is faced with difficult decisions and a harrowing journey when circumstances alter his life forever.


  • Bridegroom by Linda Bloodworth-Thomason: This 2013 documentary tells the story of Tom Bridegroom and Shane Bitney Crone, a gay couple that plan to marry when the gay marriage ban in California is lifted. When Tom dies in a tragic accident, his family bars Shane from attending the funeral.
  • The Case Against 8 by Ben Cotner and Ryan White: A look into the journey of the team of people who brought the first lawsuit to the Supreme Court on marriage equality, this documentary spans five years and shows how the same-sex marriage ban is overturned in California.
  • Limited Partnership by Kirk Marcolina and Thomas G Miller: After Richard Adams and Tony Sullivan become one of the first gay couples to be legally married, they face discrimination at the hands of Immigration and Australian born Tony faces the possibility of deportation.
  • State of Marriage by Jeff Kaufman: This documentary sheds light on Mary Bonauto and the two lawyers that helped make Vermont the first state to legalize gay marriage and marriage equality.


The Primary Stages production of Daniel’s Husband runs March 22 to April 28, 2017 at the Cherry Lane Theatre. For tickets and more information, visit our website.


The Body of An American tells the story of the unlikely friendship between playwright Dan O’Brien and Pulitzer Prize-winning war photojournalist Paul Watson. We thought you might enjoy learning more about these fascinating men.

  • Listen to the interview that started it all! O’Brien first contacted Watson after hearing this interview with Terry Gross on NPR’s Fresh Air.
  • Read an excerpt from Paul Watson’s memoir Where War Lives: A Journey Into the Heart of War. (You can purchase a copy here.)
  • O’Brien recently shared some poetry from his new collection, New Life, on our blog. (You can purchase a copy here.)
  • O’Brien’s earlier collection of poems about Watson entitled War Reporter—described in the Guardian as “a masterpiece of truthfulness and feeling”—received the UK’s Fenton Aldeburgh Prize and was shortlisted for the Felix Dennis Prize for Best First Collection.
  • This fascinating interview with Watson and O’Brien gives some wonderful background context to their friendship.
  • Paul Watson recently resigned from his post as journalist for the Toronto Star. Read his side of the story in his own words, in “Why I Resigned From the Toronto Star.”

Performances for The Body of an American run through March 20 at the Cherry Lane Theatre. Visit our website for more information and to purchase tickets.