Not living in Utah anymore has its advantages and its drawbacks… for me one of the things I REALLY miss is the Utah Theatre scene. Seeing original Mormon plays from New Play Project, or the the really interesting theatrical projects that happening these days at UVU and BYU, or seeing familiar names on the program at the myriad of quality plays performed in both Salt Lake and Utah County… it’s something I really miss. Fortunately, I keep my ear close to the ground (and glued to the events posted on Facebook and the Utah Theatre Bloggers Association website) to keep updated on what’s happening with Mormon Drama in the good ol’ State of Deseret. For, with all its quirks and foibles, Utah is still the center of the Mormon Arts, although it would be great to see a truly global Mormonism represented through Mormon Drama and other Mormon Arts (and for proof of such progress, one only has to look at the relatively recent international issue of Mormon Artist ). But, as it is, those of us out of the hive miss on some great artistic projects about our faith.
Fortunately, I have been asked by certain omnipotent powers that be here at AMV (okay, Jonathan Langford) to stay even more in touch with this side of my natural interests and start a monthly column about Mormon Drama. I will not always be the column’s writer, as I will often ask other guest Mormon dramatists and thespians to take over for a month and give us their two cents on the State of Mormon Drama. But I hope to consistently oversee the spot, to keep it running smoothly so that it can give some consistent information about my most beloved branch of the Mormon Arts. As far as I’m aware, others at AMV will be running similar columns about their own individual disciplines. In working with own angle on Mormon Drama, I’ll focus on several approaches:
- Mormon Drama’s Past: From Brigham Young starring in Pizarro, to the Salt Lake Theatre, to Orestes Utah Bean’s Corianton, to the flowering of Mormon Drama from BYU playwrights like Thomas Rogers and Robert Elliott, to the hey day of the Mormon Musical in the 1970s and 1980s, to the more modern representations (and misrepresentations) of Mormonism on the national stage, there’s a lot that’s happened in Mormon Drama’s history which is interesting, dynamic and ripe for writing about. I’ll write reviews and analysis of past dramatic writing, discuss important historical points where Mormon Drama flowered or withered, and in general celebrate, criticize, and analyze our dramatic past.
- Mormon Drama’s Present: What’s happening NOW? In the Jell-O Belt, in New York, in the outreaches of Africa or Samoa, where are the modern Mormon plays and how are they being received?
- Mormon Drama’s Future: James Arrington has called Theatre “the fabulous invalid.” Theatre survived (sometimes by the skin of its teeth) the onslaught of alternative art and media, whether it was film, VHS, DVD, video games, or the internet. Will it continue to limp along in its current state of performances of intimacy and immediacy, or will it have to change dramatically to survive the ongoing media revolution in the world? And how will the Church’s ever changing image, ever present history, and ever pervasive culture effect the growth of a home grown Mormon Drama, and how we are represented in the Drama of those who don’t understand us?
-Mormon Drama’s Personalities: Who have been the movers and shakers of Mormon Drama in its past and present? Who are the up and comers? How will the power of the individual interact, effect, and be effected by the larger Mormon culture?
- Why Mormon Drama?: Why do we do this at all? Why not integrate our talents with a wider, more universal subject matter? What is there about the medium and the religion where there should be any interaction at all? What are our philosophical and spiritual underpinnings that keep many chugging away at what many see as an odd marriage in the first place? Why place Mormon characters and subject matters on the stage?
So, for those lovers and followers of Mormon Drama (“we few, we happy few, we band of brothers…”), hold onto your hats, for it’s going to be a fun ride!