National award winning playwright Mahonri Stewart has just had two of his plays The Fading Flower and Swallow the Sun published through Zarahemla Books. Stewart, a Utah native who is now pursuing his Master of Fine Arts in Dramatic Writing at Arizona State University, has had over a dozen over his plays produced and has won awards for his writing through the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C., the Hale Centre Theatre, and the LDS Film Festival.
The two plays included in the volume are both about the struggles people have to find, or keep, faith. Swallow the Sun is about author C.S. Lewis, the creator of The Chronicles of Narnia and other popular books. Known as a valiant defender of Christianity, it is less known that C.S. Lewis was once an entrenched atheist. “Swallow the Sun is a story of a struggle against God,” said Stewart. “Lewis loved mythology and that sort of thing, so in a way there is a part of him that would have liked to believe. But he refused to be ‘taken in.’ However, along his path there were people like his friend J.R.R. Tolkien, who wrote Lord of the Rings, that showed him that there were thinking people, intellectuals, who believed this stuff. At first he fought them tooth and nail but, bit by bit, he started to see their reasons.”
The other play included in the volume, The Fading Flower, also addresses the struggle for faith, but from a different context. It tells the story of the family of Joseph Smith, founder of Mormonism, years after he was murdered. The story focuses most on Emma and her little known son David Hyrum Smith, “We hear a lot about Joseph Smith III, because he tried to carry on his father’s legacy by accepting leadership in the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, in opposition to the LDS faith led by Brigham Young in Utah,” said Stewart. “But I think David’s story is even more interesting. He went west as a missionary for the RLDS faith, to convert us Mormons over here. But the information he found out about his father from the Utah Mormons knocked him for a loop. He started to realize that not everything his mother and brother had led him to believe may be accurate. He then set out on a search for the truth that led to him some very uncomfortable places, personally.”
The publisher supporting this volume of plays, Zarahemla Books, publishes “provocative, unconventional, yet ultimately faith-affirming stories that yield new insights into Mormon culture and humanity.” Christopher Bigelow, the publisher behind Zarahemla Books, is thrilled to have brought two of Stewart’s plays into their repertoire, “Ever since Zarahemla Books started in 2006, I’ve wanted to include Mormon drama in our offerings,” said publisher Christopher Bigelow. “Mahonri Stewart is Mormonism’s preeminent young, emerging playwright, and Zarahemla is honored to publish his work. We know readers will enjoy experiencing these plays in book form, and we hope this volume also helps pave the way for future productions of the plays.”
The Fading Flower and Swallow the Sun can be purchased at Zarahemla’s website www.zarahemlabooks.com and will also soon be available through Amazon and other booksellers.