Blinded by the Fire: Cultural Memory and the Response to My Mormon History Plays

Farewell to Eden_Georgiana and StephenNOTE: This was written for a final paper in my Dramatic Writing MFA Writer’s Workshop class where I was supposed to apply Anne Bogart’s book A Director Prepares to my own  work. Thus the navel gazing…

In her book A Director Prepares, Anne Bogart addresses various challenging experiences theatre artists face in creating their art. In the book she confronts Memory, Violence, Eroticism, Terror, Stereotype, Embarrassment, and Resistance. Although she writes from a director’s perspective, I found them particularly helpful from a playwright/screenwriter’s point of view as well.

Having been both a director and a writer for the theater, I have found both creative processes put me in a similar place intellectually and emotionally (especially when I’ve been a director for my own work, it just seems to be a different step of the same process). Although I will write about how all of these qualities addressed by Bogart have affected my work in future posts, I would like to focus on each of them one at a time. So first on deck for this series of essays is…

Memory:

In her book, Bogart states:

Theatre is about memory; it is an act of memory and description. There are plays and people and moments of history to revisit. Our cultural treasure trove is full to bursting. And the journeys will change us, make us better, bigger and more connected. We enjoy a rich, diverse and unique history and to celebrate it is to remember it. To remember it is to use it. To use it is to be true to who we are. A great deal of energy and imagination is demanded. And an interest in remembering and describing where we came from (p.39).

For me this statement from Bogart has resonance on so many levels. In my work, I’ve focused a great deal on historical drama, especially from my Mormon heritage. My intense interest in Mormon history has bled into a number of my works, reaching back as far as my high school juvenilia. Continue reading “Blinded by the Fire: Cultural Memory and the Response to My Mormon History Plays”

Mahonri Stewart featured in Mormon Artist

Issue 5 of Mormon Artist features an interview with Mahonri Stewart as well as a reprint of his excellent AMV post The Art of Friends, Not Rivals: Shannon Hale and Stephenie Meyer. which was an important corrective, in my opinion, to some of the rhetoric that was flowing around Meyer-as-artist.

In other Mahonri-related news, Nan Parkinson McCulloch’s AML-List review of his new play “The Fading Flower” was posted just a few hours ago. It’s a very positive review, and I have to say Nan deserves major kudos for her enthusiastic support of Mormon theater. She seems to attend every production and review or at least comment on all of them. “The Fading Flower” runs through June 8. For details and ticket information, visit the New Play Project website.

Congratulations, Mahonri. I only wish I lived closer to Utah or was independently wealthy. Sadly, neither situation seems to be imminent. However, if any of you within the sound of my, urrrr, voice, do live in or will be visiting the Intermountain West in the next week or so, you have no excuse.

_The Fading Flower_ Press Release

The Fading Flower Press Release:

Production Information-

Theater Company: New Play Project
Where: Provo Theater Company (100 North, 105 East, Provo, UT)
When: Mondays, Fridays, and Saturdays, May 29-June 8. 7:30 pm evenings, 2 pm Saturday matinees.
Tickets: $8 for general admission, $6 for students and seniors. Tickets can be purchased or reserved @ www.newplayproject.com or through NPP’s managing director Adam Stallard at (801) 691-4494.

General Release-

The New Play Project is opening a much negelected page of Mormon History with the world premiere production of national award winning playwright Mahonri Stewart’s The Fading Flower.

The play centers on David and Hyrum Smith, youngest son of Mormon prophet Joseph Smith and his wife Emma (who was pregnant with David when Joseph was martyred). Having been raised to adulthood when we encounter him in the play, the story tells of David’s courtship with his sweetheart Clara Hartshorn; his support for his brother Joseph Smith III’s role in the Reorganized Chruch of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (now the Community of Christ); and his conflicts with Latter-day Saint leaders in Utah, including Brigham Young and David’s cousin Joseph F. Smith, while a RLDS missionary trying to covert the LDS members in Utah. Continue reading “_The Fading Flower_ Press Release”