Title: A Roof Overhead and Other Plays
Author: Mahonri Stewart
Publisher: Zarahemla Books
Year Published: 2016
Number of Pages: 390
The summer after my junior year in high school, or maybe the year after, I saw an audition notice for a BYU graduate student production, The Persecution and Crucifiction of Jesus: Four Plays from the Wakefield Mystery Cycle.
Our director, Rodger, explained how mystery plays were performed by medieval guilds, so we would be playing both medieval guildsmen and the characters they were playing. And since the plays were travelling shows, Rodger built a pageant wagon for the set and planned to perform at the University Mall.
He decided later that the sacred character of the plays didn’t lend itself to audiences wandering in and out as they would at a mall, so we set up the pageant wagon and the audience seating on the Pardoe Theater stage, close enough to see the audience jump when the Roman soldiers were pounding the nails into Jesus’s hands. (There was a washer in his palm that the end of the wooden nail fit into, so there was no damage, but what the audience could imagine.)
Then they raised up the cross and dropped it into a hole at the back of the pageant wagon. (Audience gasps.) My character was the one who took Jesus down, draping a long cloth around his waist and up over the arms of the cross to hold him in place so the others could undo the ropes holding his arms and legs to the cross. Then we would lower him down into the arms of Mary and the burial party. Of course, Rodger cautioned us to be very careful not to drop him, as the actor would have no way to break his fall, but would surely break his legs.
Continue reading “Sundry Moldy Solecisms # 3 Mahonri Stewart, A Roof Overhead”
Loyal readers of Douglas Thayerâ€™s fiction will not be surprisedâ€”at least initiallyâ€”by his latest novel, Will Wonders Never Cease: A Hopeful Novel for Mormon Mothers and Their Teenage Sons (Zarahemla Books, 2014). For the last half-century, Thayer has been writing stories about young Mormon men, still naÃ¯ve in the faith, whose battles with wilderness and human nature leave them emotionally and physically scarred, yet also hopeful and spiritually more mature. His protagonists are not the guilt-drenched youths of Levi Petersonâ€™s fiction, whose forbidden experiments with sin and sex leave them feeling acutely the classic division between body and spirit. Instead, they are sensitive, righteous young men who take beating after beating from a world where God observes more than he intervenes. Thayerâ€™s protagonists are acquainted with death, cruelty, and injustice. If anything redeems them, makes them willing to hope, it is their awakening to grace and the strong influence of their mothers.
Of course, it is easy to overlook the influence of mothers in Thayerâ€™s fiction. Thayer, like Cormac McCarthy or Ernest Hemingway, is not known for writing strong female charactersâ€”not because his work doesnâ€™t have them, but because the testosterone level in his stories has a tendency to overwhelm the narrative to the point of muffling (though never silencing) female voices. This is certainly true in the three novels that precede Will Wonders Never Ceaseâ€”Summer Fire (1983), The Conversion of Jeff Williams (2003), and The Tree House (2009)â€”each of which has a significant female character who occupies the role usually given to a sage old man in most storytelling traditions. These female characters are uniformly motherly and wise to the ways and wiles of the world. They are frank and intelligent, always ready with advice and counsel, and deeply caring. Moreover, so much of what they do is to compensate for the adult men in the novels, whose physical ailments, spiritually immaturity, and emotional stuntedness make them little more than cautionary tales for the young protagonists. Still, despite the overwhelming influence these female characters have, as well as the crucial role they play in each narrative, they never seem to take center stage in the readerâ€™s mind.
Continue reading “Mormon Sons and Mothers: A Review of Douglas Thayer’s Will Wonders Never Cease“
Saints on Stage: An Anthology of Mormon Drama is now available at Zarahemla Books’ website, Barnes and Noble, and Amazon.
After a half decade of delays, obstacles, research, and revising, I am so pleased that this behemoth is now ready to release onto an unsuspecting world! The plays it includes (from such Mormon Letters luminaries as Eric Samuelsen, Margaret Blair Young, Melissa Leilani Larson, Thomas F. Rogers, Susan E. Howe, James Arrington, Scott Bronson, Tim Slover, Robert Elliott, and Thom Duncan) have effected my life in profound ways and I hope other people will feel the same. They make up some of the finest accomplishments in the history of Mormon Drama. The volume is huge… nearly 700 pages. It has 11 plays, playwright biographies, and a 30+ page introduction on the history of Mormon drama. We’ve tried to be thorough, we’ve tried to give you something meaningful. I hope you’ll see why this is a project I thought was worth working and waiting for.
It’s taken the better half of a decade, but Saints on Stage: An Anthology of Mormon Drama is off to the printers. This is the description of the book on Zarahemla Books’s website:
Saints on Stage is the most comprehensive and important work on Mormon drama ever published. This volume anthologizes some of Mormonism’s best plays from the last several decades, many of them published here for the first time. Several of these plays have won honors from institutions as varied as the Kennedy Center and the Association for Mormon Letters.
This volume includes historical backgrounds and playwright biographies, as well as an introduction that provides an extensive overview of Mormon drama. The following plays are included:
Fires of the Mind â€“ Robert Elliott
HuebenerÂ â€“ Thomas F. Rogers
Burdens of EarthÂ â€“ Susan Elizabeth Howe
J. GoldenÂ â€“ James Arrington
Matters of the HeartÂ â€“ Thom Duncan
GadiantonÂ â€“ Eric Samuelsen
Hancock CountyÂ â€“ Tim Slover
StonesÂ â€“ J. Scott Bronson
Farewell to EdenÂ â€“ Mahonri Stewart
Martyrs’ CrossingÂ â€“ Melissa Leilani Larson
I Am Jane â€“ Margaret Blair Young