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Cynthia Mercati Biography - Personal, Career, Member, Honors Awards, Writings, Work in Progress, Sidelights

perfection logan learning plays

(Cynthia J. Mercati)


Born 0022;Liberal Democrat." Hobbies and other interests: Reading, baseball, watching old movies, "and my doctor tells me walking."


Author and playwright. Des Moines Playhouse, Des Moines, IA, playwright-in-residence; participant in writing conferences and workshops.


International Center for Women Playwrights Writings, Iowa Arts Council, Iowa Scriptwriters' Association (board member).

Honors Awards

Youth Playwriting Award, University of Indiana, 1999, for To See the Stars; Shubert Fendrich Award, Pioneer Drama, for Bigger than Life; Prairie Playwright Festival Gold Medal, Grandview College, for Grant Wood: Prai-rie Rebel; Squeeze Plays Festival, Texas A & M University, 2004, for The Totally True Completely Fictional Story of the Mother of Jesse James; awards from Boca Raton Playwrighting Festival, White Play Lake Tenminute Play Festival, and Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, all for The Jar.



Wagons Ho!: A Diary of the Oregon Trail, illustrated by Larassa Kabel, Perfection Learning (Logan, IA), 2000.

The Secret Room, Perfection Learning (Logan, IA), 2000.

Remember the Alamo!, illustrated by Margaret Sanfilippo, Mike Aspengren, and Kay Ewald, Perfection Learning (Logan, IA), 2000.

The Pony Express, Perfection Learning (Logan, IA), 2000.

A Trip through Time, Perfection Learning (Logan, IA), 2000.

A Light in the Sky, Perfection Learning (Logan, IA), 2000.

Kit Carson: A Life of Adventure, illustrated by Dan Hatala, Perfection Learning (Logan, IA), 2000.

The King Christian Club, illustrated by Steve Hunter and Dea Marks, Perfection Learning (Logan, IA), 2000.

The Chisholm Trail, illustrated by Dea Marks, Perfection Learning (Logan, IA), 2000.

You Gotta Have Goop, illustrated by Dan Hatala, Perfection Learning (Logan, IA), 2001.

Shakespeare and Me, illustrated by Margaret Sanfilippo, Perfection Learning (Logan, IA), 2001.

Schoolhouse on the Prairie, illustrated by Margaret Sanfilippo, Perfection Learning (Logan, IA), 2001.

Star Searches, illustrated by Dan Hatala, Perfection Learning (Logan, IA), 2001.

The Great Race: The Building of the Transcontinental Railroad, Perfection Learning (Logan, IA), 2002.

The Freedom Tree, Perfection Learning (Logan, IA), 2002.


When the Nerds Bit Beverly Hills, Baker's Plays (Boston, MA), 1987.

Makin' It, Baker's Plays (Boston, MA), 1988, published with musical score by Ben Allaway as Makin' It: The Musical, Baker's Plays (Boston, MA), 1993.

Facing Up, Baker's Plays (Boston, MA), 1989.

Cinderella; or, It's Okay to Be Different, Baker's Plays (Boston, MA), 1994.

The Baseball Show: An American Tale of Pine Tar, Bleacher Seats, and Hometown Heroes, Baker's Plays (Boston, MA), 1995.

To See the Stars, Dramatic Publishing, 2000.

Faces of Freedom, Dramatic Publishing, 2004.

New Clothes for the Emperor, Pioneer Drama, 2005.

Author of more than forty plays, including ten-minute short plays The Jar and The Totally True Completely Fictional Story of the Mother of Jesse James. Contributor of essays to "Chicken Soup for the Soul" series, as well as to periodicals, including Christian Science Monitor, Chicago Tribune, and Des Moines Register.

Work in Progress

An adaptation of the ten-minute play The Totally True Completely Fictional Story of the Mother of Jesse James as a one-act play. Currently researching penguins and Shakespeare, both for plays.


As playwright-in-residence at the Des Moines Playhouse in Des Moines, Iowa, it is no surprise that Cynthia Mercati has authored over forty plays. Her dramas have been performed in all fifty states, and many have also toured the playwright's home state of Iowa. Mercati's plays for young adults have been widely recognized, and her drama To See the Stars was honored with the University of Indiana's Youth Theater Play-writing Award.

In addition to her plays, Mercati is also the author of several novels and chapter books for young readers, including a chapter book biography of Kit Carson and nonfiction chapter books about life in the American frontier that include Schoolhouse on the Prairie, The Pony Express, The Great Race: The Building of the Transcontinental Railroad, and Wagons Ho! A Diary of the Oregon Trail. Reviewing Wagons Ho!, Booklist contributor Kay Weisman wrote that "Mercati's style is straightforward and direct." Some of Mercati's other titles focus on the Nazi occupation of Europe during World War II. Patricia B. McGee, writing in School Library Journal, considered Annie Van Vries, the hero of The Secret Room, about a Dutch girl who tries to help the resistance during the war, "a sympathetic character with whom youngsters, particularly reluctant readers, will identify." Janet Gillen, reviewing A Light in the Sky for School Library Journal, wrote that Mercati's "engaging story depicts the struggle of one girl's need to overcome her fears and discover an inner strength." A Light in the Sky takes place in the French town of St. Germaine and finds fourteen-year-old Jeanne Legrande attempting to care for her mother and younger sister during the Nazi occupation of her country.

Mercati told SATA: "Always my primary motivation is to tell a good story, keep the audience entertained, and slip in a few words about my eternal theme—never give up! I've been writing since I could write—my mother says before I could write, I drew pictures and told stories out loud—and my theme never seems to vary. It's always about the little person fighting back against overwhelming odds [who], because of a lively determination and energetic perseverance, always prevails—be it in baseball, World War II, or coming to America.

"I have always liked history, and the older I get the more I like to write true things. The first play I ever wrote was a one-man show about George Washington Taking place in Holland during World War II, this 1999 novel introduces strong-minded Annie Van Vries, a teen who joins the efforts of the Resistance to aid Jewish refugees despite personal risk. (Cover illustration by Paul Micich.)at Valley Forge. I was eight years old. Determination, history, and a good story—that first play had it all! Someday I'd like to try the story again."

Biographical and Critical Sources


Booklist, October 15, 2000, Kay Weisman, review of Wagons Ho! A Diary of the Oregon Trail, p. 438.

School Library Journal, May, 2000, Heather Dieffenbach, review of A Trip through Time, p. 174; June, 2000, Janet Gillen, review of A Light in the Sky, p. 150, and Patricia B. McGee, review of The Secret Room, p. 152.

Voice of Youth Advocates, June, 2000, review of A Light in the Sky, p. 116.


Dramatic Publishing Web site, http://www.dramatic publishing.com/ (September 15, 2005), "Cynthia Mercati."

Iowa Arts Council Web site, http://www.iowaartscouncil.org/ (September 15, 2005), "Cynthia Mercati."

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about 2 years ago

RE: The Totally True Completely Fictional Story of the Mother of Jesse James.

I am looking (quickly) for a one-act for community theater and noticed the Mother of Jesse James title in your biography. Is it a one-act yet? Is there an opportunity to peruse it?


Jane Orme

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almost 7 years ago

In God we Trust

Dear Ms Mercati;

I have read “She Didn’t Pray for a Miracle” numerous times, and every time I read it I am moved to tears.

At first I thought that Sonya was a Jewish woman, however, from what you wrote in the second paragraph – “She and her family had been active in the resistance movement…” – I gather that Sonya and her family were highly principled non-Jewish Germans.

Please tell me more about how and when Sonya was smuggled out of Germany; was it before or after September 1, 1939? I am also interested in knowing how it came about that her niece and nephew were brought to the United States so soon after the war, and reconnected with their aunt although the authorities supposedly did not know that she was their aunt.

Sincerely yours,

Ben-Siyon Yerushalayim