Yesterday I wrote about my experience with New Play Project, a non-profit theatre organization based in Provo, UT. We have been around for 4 years now with the main purpose of helping to promote, produce, and perform new plays in the Provo area. I have been with New Play Project for 3 years now and I have loved every minute of it. My story is very similar to most who are involved with this company.
In July of 2007, after moving to Provo, UT to attend BYU, a friend of mine living at the same apartment complex invited a bunch of us to go see a set of short plays that he was in. I went and enjoyed it immensely. A few weeks later he invited me to come audition for the next set of short plays, so I did. I’d been looking for a theatre group to get involved with, and this was just what I was looking for. I was cast as two characters in two different short plays. And since I had a Blazer and could haul stuff, I volunteered and offere to help haul the set and props. As part of that I also helped build the set. I enjoyed being able to be helpful in putting on this set of plays. After the show I was approached by one of the founding members of New Play Project and asked if I wanted to be Technical Director. “What’s that”, I asked. I was told that I’d be in charge of the technical aspects of the plays, sets, props, scene transitions, etc. “So, basically, I’ll be doing what I’ve been doing, only now I’ll have a title?”, I asked. “Exactly!”, came the reply. And that’s what I’ve done ever since. I have acted in a few plays, but mostly I have been behind the scenes, even learning a lot about lights and sound and running the show from the booth.
And I have seen that pattern repeated in so many with New Play Project. One comes to see the show as an audience member, then one shows up at auditions for the next set and becomes an actor, and then one does what one can to help the organization be better. I would say that most of the people who are very much involved with New Play Project started out as audience members, or as friends of people who were involved who just showed up and said “What can I do?” And that is why New Play Project works. It is a bunch of us who love theatre getting together to do theatre so that those who love to see theatre can see theatre.
And so, after four years we have produced quite a few plays. Most have been very well received and enjoyed, some have even won awards. Tonight, and continuing this weeked and next (Friday, Saturday, and Monday nights at 7:30, see details here), New Play Project is producing a “Best of New Play Project” show, with five of the most loved plays we have produced: Adam and Eve by Davey Morrison, Foxgloves by Matthew Greene, Gaia by Eric Samuelsen, Burning in the Bosom by Melissa Leilani Larson, and Prodigal Son by James Goldberg. You know these plays are going to be good!
These are also some of my favorite plays. I loved Adam and Eve and Gaia when they were first produced, at different times, and I think it will be very interesting to see both of these plays performed together. Adam and Eve is a play about our first parents (obviously) dealing with their recent expulsion from Paradise and their sudden mortality. It is also mostly about their relationship, and by extension all relationships. I love the dialog in this play, the honest openness they have when they talk about their condition and the tender way in which they refer to each other. I love this play. And I love Gaia, which presents a conversation between Eve and Lucifer, but before the Fall, before Adam and Eve even came to Earth. In this conversation we see Lucifer, who became Satan, as he begins to doubt and find flaws with the Father’s plan, and we see Eve, just as faithful as we would expect from the Mother of All Living, who tries to help him realize what he’s doing and what he’s becoming. It is a fascinating topic to contemplate, that Lucifer must have known Adam and Eve before he became the Tempter, that he worked closely with them, and with the Father, yet somehow he missed something that allowed him to accept the Father’s plan.
That is the strength and the beauty of these plays: their ability to cause the audience to think. Sure, you can sit back and just watch an enjoyable evening of theatre and never think about it again. And I’m sure you would still enjoy the plays, they are still very funny and engaging. But there is more to it than that. Take Prodigal Son, for example. Again, one of my favorite plays, and the winner of the 2008 Association for Mormon Letters Award for drama. It only has three characters: Son, Father, and Girlfriend. I love its simplicity, its focus on characterization, and the way in which it takes a familiar concept (the Prodigal Son) and turns it completely around. The play is about a father who, having lost his wife, also lost his faith and so raises his son with no religion. As the son finds a girl he loves, who happens to be LDS, the same religion his father abandoned, and starts to believe what he learns about the Church, he begins to feel like he is, in a way, betraying his father. That beautiful dynamic is what makes this play so powerful. The Prodgial Son is not prodigal because he is falling away from the Church, he is prodigal because he is turning toward a Church that his father has already rejected. This play also has one of my favorite monologues, as the father explains to the audience how he feels about his lost faith. He compares his lost faith to a lost limb that is gone forever and cannot ever be ‘refound’, but still produces occasional phantom pains.
All of these plays deal with spirituality, some even deal with specifically LDS characters, but there is a universality of human emotion and of relationships that allow these plays to be enjoyed even by those who are not members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Come see the show, bring your friends and you will come away with something to discuss, I guarantee it. And to help with that, New Play Project has a long-standing tradition of having a talkback after each show, where we encourage audience members to stay and talk about what they experienced. We bring the directors and playwrights on stage and let the audience talk and ask questions. This is why I love New Play Project, because it fosters discussion. And that is why you have to come see the show this weekend, and then you can tell all your friends just how great it is so that they can come next weekend!
We hope to see you there!