A Roof Overhead, a world premiere play by national award winning playwright Mahonri Stewart, is being produced by Zion Theatre Company on April 16, 20, 21, 23, 27, and 28 at the Little Brown Theatre in Springville, Utah, at 7:30 pm, with a Saturday matinee at 2pm on the 28th .
A Roof Overhead is the story of the Fielding family who have hit hard times, so they have let out their basement apartment to a stranger, Sam Forest. When Sam’s militant atheism comes into conflict with the Fieldings’ Mormon values, the differing world views they each hold conflict until things become increasingly personal.
During this current time in history when the culture wars are heating up, political polarization is common, scrutiny has been raised about the Mormons’ place in American society, and tensions grow between religious and secular groups, A Roof Overhead is a timely and relevant piece of theater. With themes revolving around tolerance, compassion, and cultural understanding, the play aims to constructively and compassionately address the complex dialogue that must occur between ideological extremes.
“I think the play is very topical,” said the play’s director and cast member Randy King, “It’s quite up to the minute and addresses issues that are current in society. The issues aren’t only applicable to Mormonism, but to any belief system. The play deals with the conflict between belief and militant atheism—and the lack of tolerance on both sides. The play addresses those issues broadly, but also in a very personal way. It doesn’t paint either side as all good or all bad, and confronts the challenges of being a believer and a non-believer. Yet it’s not only serious, but it’s got some awfully good comedy in it.”
Beyond tapping into the political, cultural and religious storms that are brewing around the “Mormon Moment,” Stewart said that this play is one of the most personal he’s written, going from macrocosm to microcosm, “I’ve invested a great deal of myself into the text. My family life, my belief systems, personal tensions, and very personal struggles of mine have all made their way into this play. But the play also connects on a larger, more universal scale. As a believing Mormon operating in the wider world, I’ve often confronted very real and very ugly prejudice because I’m a Mormon, both from adherents of the religious right and from followers of the secular left. On the other hand, I’ve also seen how my culture has developed its own blind spots and prejudices. The play addresses both sides of that coin.”
Ultimately the play is about a family, though, and their conflict with their tenant. On that level, King said that the writing of the show and the actors’ performances are very convincing, “The family dynamic is very believable. Most of us will recognize ourselves within somebody in the play.”
The “outsider” of the show, Sam Forest, is played by Rebecca Minson, who stated that she feels deeply connected to the material and her character. She has a great deal of admiration and compassion for the character she plays, “Sam is not a person which a typical LDS family would want to move into their basement. She doesn’t fit in with their values, but that doesn’t mean she’s a bad person! Passionate, loving, intelligent and always willing to stand for what is right or rather for what she thinks is right. When I play Sam she fills my heart with such passion and strength and… fear? Sam makes for a very interesting storm under this relatively calm roof overhead.”
Tickets for the show are $11 for general admission and $9 for students and seniors. Tickets can be purchased or reserved at www.ziontheatrecompany.com or by calling (801) 367-8700. The Little Brown Theatre is located at 248 South Main Street, Springville.