Adam & Eve in 2016

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AMV’s about page is very upfront about the inbred nature of the current Mormon-arts community, but this post seems to require a direct reminder of the fact.

The new online miniseries Adam & Eve is written and directed by Davey and Bianca Morrison Dillard. They were both early joiners of New Play Project, which began life as “mere” student works, yet gained acclaim, gathering words like renaissance and breakthrough and baby-this-is-the-future. It didn’t hurt that established playwrights like Eric Samuelsen and Melissa Leilani Larsen, and Mahonri Stewart were seduced by all this young blood and provided additional work for them to produce. No doubt, NPP, while it lasted, was a marvelous thing, and everyone involved deserves fond memories of their own and long memories of ourn.

My intimacy with NPP began with Davey approached me about publishing a collection of NPP work. I had a couple stipulations but was largely hands off, and the thing came out almost six years ago now, if you can believe it. Among the short plays included in the collections was Davey’s “Adam & Eve.” It was his first attempt at playwriting. One of his better NPP plays. And, apparently, has not unclutched him ever since as it appears now in serial film form as “Adam & Eve.”

[keep reading] Continue readingAdam & Eve in 2016″

Kickstarting <i>WWJD</i>

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Theric: Let’s start with the history of WWJD? Where did it come from? How did you find it? How did the New Play Project production do?
Davey: WWJD was written by Anna Lewis as her BYU Creative Writing Master’s Thesis. The idea started as a poem (which will be published later this year in Dialogue), and developed into a play through the BYU Writers-Dramaturgs-Actors workshop, led by Eric Samuelsen and Wade Hollingshaus. My wife, Bianca, was a dramaturg and actress in the workshop at the time, and got to see the script as it developed, offer feedback, and participate in the staged reading when it was finished. She loved the play, and had been wanting to produce it ever since; so, when we started planning New Play Project’s first season with Bianca as Artistic Director, WWJD was one of the first titles that came up. I finally read the script and completely adored it. We decided to do it.
The show ran the last weekend in March and one of the first weekends of April at the Provo Theatre (we skipped a weekend for General Conference–who in Provo wants to see a play about Jesus during General Conference?). Tony Gunn did a wonderful job directing, we had a fantastic cast, and audiences loved it. We were (I think understandably) a little nervous about doing a show in Provo where Jesus skateboards, goes miniature golfing, and plays Halo, and it was tricky to market–the script might seem a bit edgy for the Deseret Book crowd, but it’s also pretty G-rated and really quite reverent. As is usually the case with New Play Project, our most effective advertising was done through word-of-mouth–our first weekend, we had audiences of twenty or thirty people, but by closing night we were playing to a sold-out crowd, including a few people who had come back for a second time and brought friends. Almost everyone who talked to us after the show told us they loved it. One guy told Bianca as he was buying tickets, “I just couldn’t stop thinking about it, I had to come see it again.” It was really an incredibly rewarding experience–the sort of thing you really look forward to in theater and in the arts generally. We had a good time putting it together, and it was a project I think we were all excited to share with our audiences. And we were even able to pay rent on the theater.
Theric: So I hear there’s a new production of WWJD happening in Salt Lake? Tell us about that.
Davey: Actually, I don’t think there is. We’re having a round of auditions for the film in Salt Lake, so that might be where you got that idea–maybe we should look at that and make sure it’s more clear. (Unless there is a new production in SLC, and I just don’t know about it, which would be awesome!)
Theric: In that case, let’s move right into the real point of this interview. Filming WWJD. Whose idea was this?
Davey: Last summer I was starting to really get into low-budget and DIY filmmaking–reading a lot of blogs, watching no-budget movies, and seeing how beautiful and professional a movie can look for just a few thousand dollars. With DSLRs and other recent developments in prosumer HD and with online distribution I think we’re seeing a shift in the economics of filmmaking that’s unlike anything in film history–it’s a bit like the paradigm shifts of Italian neorealism or the French New Wave, but on a much broader scale. So right around the time I was thinking about directing a feature in the not-too-distant future, I read WWJD. The more I read the script, the more I loved it–and the more I started to see it as a film. I thought it was a shame that our stage production would probably only be seen by a few hundred people at the most, and I started getting really excited about the idea of shooting it. I e-mailed Anna Lewis, and she was thrilled about the idea. I got started adapting it and started talking to some potential crew members, and things grew from there.
Theric: I can get why the script inspired you. I somehow came across it online (all BYU masters theses being online these days) and started reading it and couldn’t stop even though I had more important things to do. I look forward to seeing the poem and, I hope, seeing the film. But even a cheap film is expensive. Even with (relatively) inexpensive cameras and options for digital distribution, you still require hours and hours of people’s lives to make it happen. What kind of range (both in terms of hours and dollars) do you anticipate this project taking?
Davey:
Theric: The reason I’m interviewing you about this project now (as opposed to next month or last week) is because of your Kickstarter campaign. So give us your pitch.
Theric: I can get why the script inspired you. I somehow came across it online (all BYU masters theses being online these days) and started reading it and couldn’t stop even though I had more important things to do. I look forward to seeing the poem and, I hope, seeing the film. But even a cheap film is expensive. Even with (relatively) inexpensive cameras and options for digital distribution, you still require hours and hours of people’s lives to make it happen. What kind of range (both in terms of hours and dollars) do you anticipate this project taking?
Davey: We’ll be shooting the first two weeks of August, with typical 12-hour shooting days. Our projected budget is around $10,000, about half of which we hope to raise through Kickstarter. Almost all of our cast and crew will be working for free, with the possibility of deferred pay if the film makes a profit or if we’re able to raise additional funds. I think we’ve been able to assemble such a strong crew primarily by virtue of the script–people are excited about the project, and it’s attracted a very talented group (and hopefully will continue to do so, with auditions for most major roles taking place this Saturday and next). We’re making the movie for (compared to most movies) virtually nothing, but we’ll be using the same kind of camera that was used to shoot movies like Monte Hellman’s Road to Nowhere, Lena Dunham’s SXSW-winning Tiny Furniture, Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride, Rubber, some of Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan and Robert Rodriguez’s Machete, and House’s sixth season finale. For an example of micro-budget filmmaking, check out this featurette on Gareth Edwards’ terrific Monsters, which came out last year, was shot for $15,000, and features big scary monsters breaking things on location in Central America. It’s an exciting time to be making independent films, and I hope WWJD will show how Christian and Mormon filmmakers can take advantage of new technology to tell great stories that traditionally probably wouldn’t get funded. After we wrap production in August, we’ll be working on editing the film and sending it out to festivals around the country.
Theric: The reason I’m interviewing you about this project now (as opposed to next month or last week) is because of your Kickstarter campaign. So give us your pitch.

As mentioned, we’ve got a great crew, and this really is a phenomenal script–incredibly smart, funny, and entertaining. I really think we’re going to be able to put together a great movie. As you mentioned, the play is available to read online for anyone interested, and I think it speaks for itself. As far as Kickstarter goes, for those who don’t know how it works, it’s an all-or-nothing fundraising platform–which means that if we reach our goal of $5,000 in 60 days, we get to keep all the money that’s been pledged. But, if we don’t make the goal, we don’t get anything, and no one will be charged for any donations they’ve pledged–which means, as a donor, you’ve got nothing to lose. Every dollar counts, and we have rewards available at different donation levels–including seeing your name in the end credits of the film (along with your very own IMDb page!), season tickets to New Play Project (if you’re in the area), and copies of the movie itself (on DVD, Blu-Ray, or digital download–so if you want to see the film, donate to our Kickstarter and consider that your pre-order). We’re putting everything we can into the film, but we need everyone’s help in order to get it made. It’s just the sort of intelligent, thoughtful, well-crafted and engaging story that AMV readers (and fans of the “radical middle”.

everywhere) will love..

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Theric: Let’s start with the history of WWJD? Where did it come from? How did you find it? How did the New Play Project production do?

Davey: WWJD was written by Anna Lewis as her BYU Creative Writing Master’s Thesis. The idea started as a poem (which will be published later this year in Dialogue), and developed into a play through the BYU Writers-Dramaturgs-Actors workshop, led by Eric Samuelsen and Wade Hollingshaus. My wife, Bianca, was a dramaturg and actress in the workshop at the time, and got to see the script as it developed, offer feedback, and participate in the staged reading when it was finished. She loved the play, and had been wanting to produce it ever since; so, when we started planning New Play Project’s first season with Bianca as Artistic Director, WWJD was one of the first titles that came up. I finally read the script and completely adored it. We decided to do it. Continue reading “Kickstarting <i>WWJD</i>”

Tonight in Provo

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Tonight in Provo, New Play Project begins a series of shows featuring five of their most popular plays:

“A Burning in the Bosom,” by Melissa Leilani Larson
“Foxgloves,” by Matthew Greene
“Gaia,” by Eric Samuelsen
“Adam and Eve,” by Davey Morrison
“Prodigal Son,” by James Goldberg

I have a vested interest in these revivals as I helped publish, through Peculiar Pages, the volume Out of the Mount which features these and fourteen other excellent plays produced by NPP over their short yet remarkably fruitful existence.

Currently, you can get two-for-one tickets to the first weekend’s shows if you invite ten or more Provo-local Facebook friends to the Facebook Event. They are also doing straight-up ticket giveaways to tonight’s show on their website and Facebook page.

I’m quite jealous of anyone close enough to see the show. I’ve gone on and on elsewhere about how much I love “Gaia” (1) and “Prodigal Son” (1 2) but all five of these plays are excellent and worthy of your attention (1 2 4 5 6). (Seventh witness via William Morris.)

Go and witness for yourself (Sept. 16-20 and 24-27, 7:30pm; $7 general admission, $6 students with ID).

And pick up a copy of Out of the Mount.

Then return and report.

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My take on Out of the Mount: 19 From New Play Project

So we have Peculiar Pages, which is Theric Jepson’s imprint. We have MoJo’s B10 Mediaworx, an indie publisher known for creating e-books that look great. And we have New Play Project, which has put together an impressive track record of productions over its (relatively) short history. Put that all together and you get Out of the Mount: 19 From New Play Project, edited by Dave Morrison. And for only $3.99, you get a set of plays that are well-written, thought-provoking, fun to read and together form a significant contribution to Mormon letters. A trade paperback is also available and a Kindle edition is forthcoming (although the mobi file you get in the e-book download should be readable on your Kindle or via the Kindle app).

And in the interest of full disclosure, Peculiar Pages is not only the imprint that will be publishing Monsters & Mormons, but it also asked me to provide a blurb for the anthology. Which I was initially nervous about, but happily did after reading the manuscript. Here it is:

With these 19 plays, the New Play Project ably makes its claim as one of the most ambitious and vibrant going concerns in the world of LDS culture to all of us mission-field Mormons who have only heard rumors and testimonies. Out of the Mount delivers comedy and tragedy and social commentary, allegory, politics and healthy doses of armchair philosophy and theology in plays that mainly focus on (as most good plays do) relationships that unfold via crackling dialogue. Whether it’s Clark Kent and Lois Lane applying for a marriage license or Adam and Eve feeling their way towards some sort of post-fall rapprochement or young couples falling in and out of love, these playwrights are writing for these latter-days, even when there’s nothing particularly LDS about their characters and settings. That said, what I love most about this anthology is that we get—especially with the fantastic concluding trio of “Gaia,” “Prodigal Son” and “Little Happy Secrets”—works that artfully and poignantly explore key aspects of the grand drama that is the Mormon experience.

You can ; but you should also check out Theric’s series of posts on the anthology (including excerpts from some of the plays) over at the Peculiar Pages blog.

A bunch of links: post-July 4th edition

It’s time to highlight some things that have come across my transom lately with a heavy slant towards those associated with AMV in some capacity or another.

LDS Cinema Online and the new Prop. 8 documentary

Kevin has posted an in-depth review of “8: The Mormon Proposition” that actually finds a few things to like among all the preaching to the choir.

Earth day musings from Patricia

And they’re not quite what you think they would be. But you still get the fantastic writing and insightful commentaries on how we use language and relate to difference and the natural world that one has come to expect from Patricia.

Jonathan Langford at King’s English July 13

Jonathan will be reading from his novel No Going Back at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 13, as part of the King’s English Bookstore’s local author showcase. The bookstore is located at 1511 South 1500 East Salt Lake City, UT 84105.

Mormon criticism of a non-LDS film

Theric recently sent to me this link to a column by Davey Morrison that does a Mormon reading of “Pan’s Labyrinth.” Davey summarizes the field of Mormon criticism and then takes the approach that “Mormon film is any film as seen by a Mormon” and attempts to prove it. The result is quite interesting.

Zarahemla Books new releases two-fer

Hopefully you’ve already read my interview with Stephen Carter about his new collection of personal essays. But that’s not the only Zarahemla Books summer title. Chris has also published a collection of short stories by Darin Cozzens. Currently you can (35% savings off of the cover price).

Ask Mormon Girl on the Great Mormon Novel

Joanna Brooks takes on the whole Great Mormon Novel question. Note that the discussion takes place both at Mormon Matters and the Ask Mormon Girl blog. See Wm get all snippy and whiny! See the same attitudes play out all over again! But anyway, Joanna makes a great point about how the discussion often ignores female authors (although, you know, the Shakespeares and Miltons come up with Whitney for a specific reason, which I’ve already discussed. Short answer: they are the founding geniuses of English language literature. When authors to emulate gets brought up in all seriousness it’s almost always Chaim Potok and Flannery O’Connor. And as I mention, many of the most celebrated and widely read authors of Mormon-themed literary fiction are Margaret Young and Angela Hallstrom. But I digress) and makes the claim for Terry Tempest Williams.

Looping through the Mormon Arts, from me to me

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Though this post is by it’s very nature heavily self-indulgent, I am going to try to spin it as more altruistic than it is. Continue reading “Looping through the Mormon Arts, from me to me”