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.”
As one of my last posts for A Motley Vision (I’ll go more into that in a different post) I wanted to conduct an interview with one of my favorite Mormon playwrights (one of my favorite playwrights, period), Melissa Leilani Larson. Mel has created a body of work that is impressive and moving, and she is one of Mormonism’s best and brightest dramatists. So without further ado:
1. So, first, tell us a briefly about yourself. Your personal, educational, creative background as a person and as a playwright, your interests, what makes you distinct?
Iâ€™ve been writing for as long as I can remember. Iâ€™ve always been a voracious reader, and I think that love of reading led me to writing stories of my own. I wrote all through school, first grade on up, until I earned my BA in English/Creative Writing from BYU and later my MFA from the Iowa Playwrights Workshop.
As far as what makes me distinctâ€¦ Fabulous actresses far outnumber the parts they can play. My ultimate goal is to write fascinating, engaging, and challenging roles for women. A lot of themâ€”several strong female roles per play. Thatâ€™s the distinction to which I aspire.
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.
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:
As a devoted member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons), and an active member of the theatrical community, the conflict between the LGBT community and the Church is an issue that has been impossible to avoid for me. Some peopleâ€™s reluctance in talking about the issue altogether has not been an option for me. I have a number of friends and loved ones (both with connections to the Church and those without) who identify themselves as somewhere on the LGBT spectrum.Â I mean, letâ€™s be frank, Iâ€™m in theatre. In or out of Utah, there are always going to be many of my peers, co-workers, fellow artists and friends who are going to be gay. So itâ€™s something I have had to face, even within my own soul and identity.
I personally know a number of gay Mormons. Many have left the faith (sometimes hostilely), feeling as if their worldview and practices are simply incompatible with the Mormon culture. Yet some have desperately tried to hang on, groping about for some middle way, whether by trying to make a heterosexual lifestyle work for them, living celibate, or hoping (sometimes beyond hope) that the Church will one day change its stance regarding gay marriage. And then there are those Mormons who feel so attached to the issue, even when they are not personally gay, that it has caused some painful soul searching of their own.
Conversely, I have also experienced some very personal and pointed prejudice directed towards me from members of the theatrical community because I am a card carrying, committed Mormon. I have personally experienced a double standard in this regard, where tolerance was only preached , but not practiced by certain â€œprogressiveâ€ individuals when it came to views or lifestyles that opposed their own.
I have no easy answers for any of it, but I have made a study of a number of plays that have dealt with the conflict between Mormonism and homosexual lifestyles and tried to grapple with the conflict between these two cultures in the best way I can. Searching through these plays has been at times uncomfortable, often challenging (in both the positive and negative aspects of that word), and at choice moments even enlightening and inspiring.Â However, itâ€™s made me doubly sensitive to how Mormons are represented in such stories, as well as tender hearted towards those who are caught between the monoliths of these cultures, especially those who identify with both. Continue reading “Tensions: Representations of Mormons in Secular Drama and Gay Identity in Mormon Drama”
Classic literature and theater lovers can have something to look forward to this month as Zion Theatre Company is performing Jane Austenâ€™s Persuasion, adapted by award winning playwright Melissa Leilani Larson. The show performs in Salt Lake City at the Off Broadway Theater onÂ Sept. 7, 8, 14, 15, 21, and 22 at 7:30 pm.
Jane Austen has had enduring popularity and resonance, despite the couple of centuries that have passed since her debut as a novelist. The director of Persuasion, Sarah Stewart, is one of the many who have been passionate fans of Austen, so she brings a personal investment to the production, â€œ My introduction to Jane Austen happened at the ripe old age of nine when I stumbled across the 1940â€™s adaptation of Pride and Prejudice on late night television.Â I was completely captivated and never forgot it.Â I didnâ€™t realize it was a book until I received it three years later as a Christmas present. Once again, I had the peculiar delight of being swept into Janeâ€™s world, and thus began my life-long passion for all things Jane Austen.Â I consider her a dear friendâ€”just one I havenâ€™t actually met.â€ Continue reading “Press Release: ZTC Presents Melissa Leilani Larson’s Adaptation of Jane Austen’s_Persuasion_”
Tonight in Provo, New Play Project begins a series of shows featuring five of their most popular plays:
â€œA Burning in the Bosom,â€ by Melissa Leilani Larson â€œFoxgloves,â€ by Matthew Greene â€œGaia,â€ by Eric Samuelsen â€œAdam and Eve,â€ by Davey Morrison â€œProdigal Son,â€ 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 alsoÂ 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” (12) but all five of these plays are excellent and worthy of your attention (12456). (Seventh witness via William Morris.)
Go and witness for yourself (Sept.Â 16-20 and 24-27, 7:30pm; $7 general admission, $6 students with ID).