The Staging of Utah and Mormon Culture on KUER’s Radio West

5.24.13 | | 2 comments

5-23_housewivesKUER’s daily talk program Radio West looked at how Mormon and Utah culture is put on stage in Utah and how it is looked at in the world. The program asks the question, among others, “have the stereotypes of Utah’s dominant culture been satirized too much?” The program is prompted by the opening next month the annual production of Saturday’s Voyeur, the staging of four of Eric Samuelsen’s plays in Salt Lake this year, former LDS Church member Miguel Santana’s play and novel The Righteous and Very Real Housewives of Utah County, and the continuing success of Charles Lynn Frost’s Sister Dottie Dixon.

The discussion on the show included a roundtable of Samuelsen, Santana, KRCL’s Troy Williams (also a former LDS Church member) along with the show’s host, Doug Fabrizio.

Give it a listen (length 53:12) and feel free to come back here and comment.

2 comments: “The Staging of Utah and Mormon Culture on KUER’s Radio West

  1. Jonathan Langford

    Thanks for drawing our attention to this. I should add that in addition to those you mentioned, there was an initial interview with Frost, and the broadcast panel also included Ben Fulton, Salt Lake Tribune theater critic.

    It’s all very interesting stuff. But I admit that partway through, I started getting tired of both of the shared belief in drama, and particularly satire, as a tool to change society (only what one would expect from satirists, I suppose, but I’d like to see a little more critical examination of the question) but also of the shared belief that the Mormon Church needs to change in certain specified ways, on the part of a panel most of whom don’t identify themselves as believing Mormons. (Samuelsen, of course, is a believer; I don’t know about Fulton or Fabrizio; the others are all ex-Mormons.) I’m skeptical, for example, about the relevance of calls for Mormonism to be less exclusionary on the part of those who don’t believe its truth claims. It’s heartening to hear from someone (I forget who) that Sister Dottie was a way of feeling again that warmth he had felt in growing up in the Church, and seeing the positives in Mormonism — but it seems to me that this is a substitute for belief, not belief itself.

    Eric Samuelsen makes an interesting (highly ethical, but I’m not sure historically accurate) distinction that in order to qualify as satire, something must speak for the powerless in the face of the powerful. And someone else commented that of course, in Utah we all know who holds the power. But of course power is a function of communities. It’s very easy to find communities in Utah where being a Mormon puts you in a position of relative lack of power.

    There’s certainly value in looking at what those who have left the community have to say about the foibles of those of us who are still in it. To a surprising degree, though, I come out of listening to this discussion with *more* of a sense of Mormon satire as an outsider critique, not an insider conversation. I’m not saying it has to be that way, but that’s the impression I come away with.

  2. Mahonri Stewart

    Thank you for posting this, Kent! They gave a highly interesting, if not somewhat lopsided, discussion on satire. I echo a lot of what Jonathan said above. As some one who is actually pretty skeptical about the positive power of satire, though, I came into the discussion rather unconvinced in the first place.

    Satire really has to hit a sweet spot to really resonate with me on a personal level. It can be easy to admire intellectually and literarily (my spell check is telling me that is not a real word), but “pure,” undiluted satire rarely does much for me as a lasting, positive influence. There are exceptions, however. Much of Oscar Wilde. Charles Dickens. Jane Austen. However, I’ve been doing an adaptation of Sense and Sensibility lately, and even Austen has been rubbing me the wrong way in certain sections of the book, which I’ve had to come to grips with in my adaptation. There are moments, with certain characters, in that book where, in the name of satire, where even she becomes cruel, judgmental and discompassionate. Trying to be more “clever” than “good.” And that surprised me and bothered me, because normally I relate so much with her.

    I see that as the danger of satire, which in fairness, I think they address in the program. But I believe satire needs to be tempered with heart and, as they state in the program, affection. Otherwise, it can turn hard and cynical really fast. That’s when I just turn off and the story loses credibility for me.

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