Monday, October 24, 2011 @ 7 pm
A love letter to Kaufman and Hart
An oddball play with a twist toward 21st century problems
Director Mark Fossen
Cast Michael Gardner, Mark Gollaher, JJ Peeler, Teresa Sanderson, Richard Scott, Cassandra Stokes-Wylie
A NIGHT WITH THE FAMILY is a comedy surrounding a character-driven, dysfunctional family who has gathered together in Salt Lake City. Playwright Matthew Ivan Bennett describes his script as "a love letter to the Kaufman and Hart, an oddball play with a twist toward 21st century problems." In A NIGHT WITH THE FAMILY, we meet: Donald- a New Age hoarder, Diane- a micromanager and a cougar, Antoine- a French-Canadian modern dancer and soon-to-be stepdad, Bree- a Mormon convert whose husband has an internet porn addiction, and Donny- a newlywed with anxiety attacks. We meet a family..... full of advice.
We are thankful to the Jarvis and Constance Doctorow Family Foundation and the Dramatists Guild Fund for their generous support of SLAC's New Play Sounding Series program.
"When I was in my early 20s, my attitude about my family was that I was so obviously, completely, deeply, and intrinsically different from them. In my early 30s, my attitude is that I used to be a dumbass. Family is so much a part of who you are, it's impossible to see sometimes. A NIGHT WITH THE FAMILY is a play about a family in crisis (or a whole family involving themselves in a son's crisis), how we directly sabotage each other even as we're trying to help, and how relationships are always, always messy--and, mercifully, hilarious."
Matthew Ivan Bennett is the Resident Playwright of Plan-B Theatre, where he's premiered several plays. BLOCK 8, his play about the Japanese-American internment at Topaz, was supported by the NEA. His radio adaptation of FRANKENSTEIN received the Best Feature Program award from the Utah Broadcasters Association. His works have appeared at Chicago's Circle Theatre, at Hunger Artists in LA, and in the Source Festival in Washington DC. He's published in Smith & Kraus' 161 One-Minute Monologues from Literature. He acted in the SLAC production of Harold Pinter's THE CARETAKER. Matt earned a Bachelors' of Theatre Arts at Southern Utah University.
We thank the Jarvis and Constance Doctorow Family Foundation and the Dramatists Guild Fund for their generous support of our New Play Sounding Series program.
FREE READING: Monday, April 25th at 7 pm
As they get their grandmother's house ready for her 90th birthday party, Rosie and her brother wonder if their estranged father will show up after a 20-year absence. The wondering turns into a series of fantastical and bittersweet encounters that explore who their father was, why he left, and what the rules of marriage should be.
Director: Tracy Callahan
Company: Dan Beecher, Teri Cowan, Darrin Doman, Cheryl Gaysunas, Terence Goodman, Tracie Merrill
Life without father: memories sweet and sad at Salt Lake Acting Company reading | Salt Lake City Theater Examiner | Jenniffer Wardell | April 18, 2011
FREE READING Monday, April 26th @ 7 pm
Directed by Alexandra Harbold
Company: Michael Behrens, April Fossen, Bijan Hosseini, Deena Marie Manzanares, Melanie Nelson
TWO WOMEN * TWO COUNTRIES * TWO GENERATIONS
The play is both a story told on a Persian carpet and a piece of political history, set in the United States and Iran between 1979 and 2009. In Tehran in 1980, Ann is an American hostage and Shirin, an Iranian revolutionary student, is one of her captors. Thirty years later their daughters, Emily and Azadeh, meet accidentally in an empty classroom at Columbia University during the visit of the Iranian President Ahmadinejad.
"I wrote the play, inspired by what is happening in Iran these days- especially what is happening to the women, their passionate heroism, what they've lived through and what they are willing to do in honor of their country. I wanted to remember my life there, when I lived in Iran, more than thirty years ago, to give meaning to my memories and to try to understand what I didn't understand when I was a young woman living there. The play though, isn't a memory. It's a re-evaluation. And it's a question. Actually, it's a lot of questions."
Ms. Cahill has received many awards for her work, including the Jane Chambers Playwriting Award, a Connecticut Commission on the Arts Playwriting Award (twice), a Massachusetts Artists Foundation Award, a Rockefeller Grant, a National Endowment for the Arts New American Works Grant, and a Drama League Award. Her plays include THE STILL TIME (Georgia Rep/Porchlight Theatre, Chicago), WOMEN WHO LOVE SCIENCE TOO MUCH (Porchlight), HENRI LOUISE AND HENRY (Cleveland Public), SLAM (Plan-B Theatre, UT), and the screenplay DOWNTOWN EXPRESS, a film for David Grubin Productions in NY. With composer Michael Wartofsky she wrote the book and lyrics for THE NAVIGATOR and FRIENDSHIP OF THE SEA; with Deborah Wicks LaPuma she wrote DAKOTA SKY (Olney Theatre), WATER ON THE MOON (Signature Theatre readings), and CAPTIVATED (Kennedy Center New Works Festival). Other musical works include the opera CLARA, FATAL SONG, and A TALE OF TWO CITIES: PARIS AND BERLIN IN THE TWENTIES (all Maryland Center for the Performing Arts).
Coverage from Salt Lake Theater Examiner - Salt Lake Acting Company previews the future with reading of The Persian Quarter
Photo Credit: Shadi Ghadirian, Qajar 1998
Spark noun. a trace or hint | inspiration or catalyst | an ignited or fiery particle, something that sets off a sudden force | anything that serves to animate, kindle, or excite
The Essential Rumi
introduction by Coleman Barks
The ecstatic, spiritual poetry of Rumi
Blood and Oil: A Prince's Memoir of Iran, from the Shah to the Ayatollah by Roxane Farmanfarmaian and Manucher Farmanfarmaian
Iran was the first country in the Middle East to develop an oil industry, and oil has been central to its tumultuous twentieth-century history. A finalist for the PEN/West Award, Blood and Oil tells the epic inside story of the battle for Iranian oil. A prominent member of one of Iran's most powerful aristocratic families--so feared by Khomeini that the entire clan was blacklisted--Prince Manucher Farmanfarmaian was raised in a harem at the heart of Iran's imperial court. With wit and provocative detail, he describes the days when he served as the Shah's oil adviser and pioneered the partnership that resulted in OPEC. Beautifully written and epic in its scope, this scintillating memoir provides a fascinating history of modern Iran.
The Hand of Poetry: Five Mystic Poets of Persia, lectures by Inayat Khan
Poems by five Persian writers are accompanied by a discussion of the poems and the background of each poet
The Ayatollah Begs to Differ by Hooman Majd
The grandson of an eminent ayatollah and the son of an Iranian diplomat, journalist Hooman Majd is uniquely qualified to explain contemporary Iran's complex and misunderstood culture to Western readers.
The Ayatollah Begs to Differ provides an intimate look at a paradoxical country that is both deeply religious and highly cosmopolitan, authoritarian yet informed by a history of democratic and reformist traditions. Majd offers an insightful tour of Iranian culture, introducing fascinating characters from all walks of life, including zealous government officials, tough female cab drivers, and open-minded, reformist ayatollahs. It's an Iran that will surprise readers and challenge Western stereotypes. In his new preface, Majd discusses the Iranian mood during and after the June 2009 presidential election which set off the largest street protests since the revolution that brought the ayatollahs to power.
Understanding Iran: Everything You Need to Know, from Persia to the Islamic Republic, from Cyrus to Ahmadinejad by William R. Polk
William R. Polk provides an informative, readable history of a country which is moving quickly toward becoming thedominant power and culture of the Middle East. A former member of the State Department’s Policy Planning Council, Polk describes a country and a history misunderstood by many in the West. While Iranians chafe under the yolk of their current leaders, they also have bitter memories of generations of British, Russian and American espionage, invasion, and dominance. There are important lessons to be learned from the past, and Polk teases them out of a long and rich history and shows that it is not just now, but for decades to come that an understanding of Iran will be essential to American safety and well-being.
Persian Mirrors: The Elisive Face of Iran by Elaine Sciolino
As a correspondent for Newsweek and The New York Times, Elaine Sciolino has had more experience covering Iran than any other American reporter. She was aboard the airplane that took Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini to Tehran in 1979 and was there for the Iranian revolution, the hostage crisis, the Iran-Iraq war, the rise of President Khatami, and the riots of the summer of 1999. In Persian Mirrors, Sciolino takes us into the public and private spaces of Iran and uncovers an alluring and seductive nation where a great battle is raging -- not for control over territory, but for the soul of its people.
Daughter of Persia: A Woman's Journey From Her Father's Harem Through the Islamic Revolution by Ssattareh Farman Farmaian
As founder in 1958 of the Tehranok/per book School of Social Work, Sattareh naively believed, "If one only avoided politics, one could achieve something constructive." After two decades of humanitarian efforts in Iranian family planning, day care, vocational programs and aid to the poor and prisoners' families, she was arrested in 1979 by Khomeini's machine-gun-toting teenage minions. Branded an "imperialist," she narrowly escaped execution and now lives in the U.S. The 15th of 36 children, Sattareh revered and feared her "all-powerful" father, a prince and governor. This dramatic if restrained autobiography, written with freelancer Munker, describes her patriarchal upbringing and her education at UCLA. She belatedly realized that "keeping our mouths shut let the Shah do what he wanted." Her memoir is actually most effective as a political document. She powerfully condemns the Eisenhower-backed coup that toppled democratic premier Mossadegh and installed ruthless dicatator Reza Shah Pahlavi, whose fascist secret police were trained and financed by the CIA. The Shah's corrupt, unjust regime, she graphically demonstrates, fueled explosive resentment that found an outlet in Khomeini's fanaticism.
All The Shah's Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror by Stephen Kinzer
With a thrilling narrative that sheds much light on recent events, this national bestseller brings to life the 1953 CIA coup in Iran that ousted the country's elected prime minister, ushered in a quarter-century of brutal rule under the Shah, and stimulated the rise of Islamic fundamentalism and anti-Americanism in the Middle East. Selected as one of the best books of the year by the Washington Post and The Economist, it now features a new preface by the author on the folly of attacking Iran.
Further reading and links
Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books
By Azar Nafisi
Every Thursday morning for two years in the Islamic Republic of Iran, a bold and inspired teacher named Azar Nafisi secretly gathered seven of her most committed female students to read forbidden Western classics. As Islamic morality squads staged arbitrary raids in Tehran, fundamentalists seized hold of the universities, and a blind censor stifled artistic expression, the girls in Azar Nafisi's living room risked removing their veils and immersed themselves in the worlds of Jane Austen, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Henry James, and Vladimir Nabokov. In this extraordinary memoir, their stories become intertwined with the ones they are reading. Reading Lolita in Tehran is a remarkable exploration of resilience in the face of tyranny and a celebration of the liberating power of literature.
The Complete Persepolis
By Marjane Satrapi
Here, in one volume: Marjane Satrapi's best-selling, internationally acclaimed memoir-in-comic-strips.
Persepolis is the story of Satrapi's unforgettable childhood and coming of age within a large and loving family in Tehran during the Islamic Revolution; of the contradictions between private life and public life in a country plagued by political upheaval; of her high school years in Vienna facing the trials of adolescence far from her family; of her homecoming--both sweet and terrible; and, finally, of her self-imposed exile from her beloved homeland. It is the chronicle of a girlhood and adolescence at once outrageous and familiar, a young life entwined with the history of her country yet filled with the universal trials and joys of growing up.
Edgy, searingly observant, and candid, often heartbreaking but threaded throughout with raw humor and hard-earned wisdom--Persepolis is a stunning work from one of the most highly regarded, singularly talented graphic artists at work today.
The Ecstatic Faith of Rumi, Speaking of Faith with Krista Tippett on NPR, December 13, 2007 [53:00 audio]
FREE READING Monday, February 15th @ 7 pm
Directed by Alexandra Harbold
Company: Alexis Baigue, Daniel Beecher, Michael Behrens, Daisy Blake, Holly Fowers, Mark Gollaher, Jayne Luke, Tracie Merrill, Nick O'Donnell, Josh Thoemke
"I started writing the play in response to people always calling me a Luddite, not knowing, like most people, the origin of that term. I do not now nor ever have owned a cell phone or BlackBerry. I tell people it's to keep myself free from constantly being reached by people, but must admit there is perhaps a fear of technology altering my universe. Looking up the history of the Luddites, I found it was based more than just fear of technology changing, it had a very real personal effect, the loss of jobs and the start of the Industrial Revolution in England and thus in Western Civilization. The Revolution started in the Midlands and the North, and those factories created social changes, good and bad. Dickens in HARD TIMES writes about how the factories can destroy families as well as create wealth.
Anyway, the more I read and researched, the more I was struck that the Luddites were considered early Terrorists. They used the tactics of modern day terrorists, creating fear and often using violence to fight back. The government suspended many laws and rounded up suspects to fight the fear of the Terrorists. The more you learn about the Luddites the more parallels one finds to today's situation. Very eerie and very exciting. And perhaps because I too fear and distrust much of the technological revolution I found myself relating to, even sympathetic to the Luddites. But they were terorists, who destroyed property and killed people. How could I sympathize with murderers? And yet I was torn. That made me re-examine the terrorists today. As Byron actually said to Parliament, to ignore them or dismiss them is just as dangerous. In order to fight them we must understand the cause for their hate and revenge. That is not to say we can condone their violence, I don't. But we must know them, like the Luddites, to keep our safety and our freedom. To merely fight fear with fear will never completely work. Lots to think about and that's why I think the subject of the Luddite rebellion is so rich and compelling. Maybe it will make a compelling, provocative play."
~ Playwright Keith Reddin
KEITH REDDIN (Playwright) Plays include: LIFE AND LIMB, RUM AND COKE, BIG TIME, NEBRASKA, LIFE DURING WARTIME, BRUTALITY OF FACT, ALMOST BLUE, ALL THE RAGE, FRAME 312, BUT NOT FOR ME, HUMAN ERROR, and THE MISSIONARY POSITION. Adaptations include: BLACK SNOW, THE IMAGINARY INVALID, HEAVEN'S MY DESTINATION, and THE LEES OF HAPPINESS by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Screenplays include: ALL THE RAGE and the cable features THE HEART OF JUSTICE, MILKEN, and BAD GUYS (TNT). His plays have been produced at NY Public Theatre, Manhattan Theatre Club, Playwrights Horizons, The Atlantic Theater, NYTW, The Goodman Theatre, LaJolla Playhouse, Yale Repertory Theatre, Berkeley Rep, Woolly Mammoth Theatre and The Donmar Warehouse in London.
Above Right: Engraving of a rioting mob of Luddites, British workers who were opposed to increasing mechanization of jobs, as depicted by 19th Cent. illustrator Phiz (aka Hablot Knight Browne)
ALEXIS BAIGUE(Byron/Thomas) Other credits include: SATURDAY'S VOYEUR '09 (+8), GOODNIGHT DESDEMONA (GOOD MORNING JULIET) (The Salt Lake Acting Co.), THE BOYS IN THE BAND (Wasatch Theatre Co.), BEYOND THERAPY, THE SEX HABITS OF AMERICAN WOMEN (Pygmalion Productions), ANASTASIA (StageRight), SURFIN' SAFARI (Desert Star Playhouse), JACQUES BREL IS ALIVE AND WELL AND LIVING IN PARIS (TheatreWorks West), NO EXIT (Symeon Studio), WIT (Emily Company), DEAR WORLD (Sundance Summer Theatre), SUMMER AND SMOKE, CABARET, RHINOCEROS, QUEEN CHRISTINA, ANTIGONE, THE RIMERS OF ELDRITCH, LOYALTIES (University of Utah), YOU CAN'T TAKE IT WITH YOU, THE TREE OF LACE (Salt Lake Community College), staged readings of MOTHER COLLEGE, THE LIVELY LAD, BUNBURY, THE CANCER DIARIES, CHARM (S.L.A.C.'s New Play Sounding Series), THE UNDERPANTS, THE VIOLET HOUR, THE LAST SUNDAY IN JUNE, MY NAME IS RACHEL CORRIE (Utah Contemporary Theatre), WISH UPON, BOX KITE (Avalon Isle), RECTUM! (hosted by First Unitarian Church & S.L.A.C.) plus television, radio ads, and cinema, including THE VAPID LOVELIES (2009 Slamdance and Inside Out Toronto Film Festivals). The readers of Q Salt Lake voted him "Most Faaabulous Actor".
DANIEL BEECHER(William/Coldham/Davids/Park) Daniel Beecher is happy to be returning to SLAC, where he was last seen in this season's THE CARETAKER. Also at SLAC, he's done several readings and played Antoine in An Empty Plate in the AN EMPTY PLATE IN THE CAFÉ DU GRANDE BOEUF. Dan attended the University of Utah's Actor Training Program. While at the U, Dan played John in SUMMER AND SMOKE, Bassanio in MERCHANT OF VENICE, Carl Magnus in A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC, Snug in A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM, and what feels like innumerable other parts, mostly in the Babcock Theater. Elsewhere around town, Dan has been seen in A VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE, ROSENCRANTZ AND GUILDENSTERN ARE DEAD, KING LEAR, MACBETH, THE THREE MUSKETEERS, and PETER PAN (in which he played Nana the dog and the crocodile- favorites) at Pioneer Theatre Company. He played Orlando in AS YOU LIKE IT, Tybalt in ROMEO AND JULIET, Sebastian in TWELFTH NIGHT, and Banquo and Macduff in MACBETH all at Salt Lake Shakespeare. Other local credits include ROMEO AND JULIET at Pinnacle Acting Co, and DIRTY BLONDE with Utah Contemporary Theatre. Outside of Utah, Dan studied at the Chautauqua Institution in New York, where he played Orsino in TWELFTH NIGHT, and several parts in THE DINING ROOM. Film and television credits include Incident at DARK RIVER with Helen Hunt and Mike Farrell, and several independent films including VAPID LOVELIES, which he helped write and associate produced, and which has been accepted into several film festivals internationally.
MICHAEL BEHRENS(Robert/Fitzroy/Weaver) Michael is very happy to be returning to SLAC. Previous SLAC appearances have been as Tom in SIX YEARS, Michael in ROUNDING THIRD, Jaisu in POLISH JOKE and Bill in LOBBY HERO, as well as two SATURDAY'S VOYEURS. You may have seen him in PRIDE & PREJUDICE at Pioneer Theatre Company as well as HENRY V, THREE MUSKETEERS, COMEDY OF ERRORS, PEER GYNT, ST. JOAN and THE MISER. Other favorite roles include Hamlet for TheaterWorks West, Lloyd in NOISES OFF, Sydney in LIGHT UP THE SKY, Froggy in THE FOREIGNER, Jane/Lord Edgar in THE MYSTERY OF IRMA VEP, Durdles in THE MYSTERY OF EDWIN DROOD, and Clotaldo in LIFE IS A DREAM all for Creede Repertory Theater. Michael can be seen and heard in countless radio and television spots as well as film. Michael is a graduate of The University of Utah's Actor Training Program and is a proud member of the Actor's Equity Association.
DAISY BLAKE (Gwen) Daisy Blake is thrilled to be part of this reading of Keith Reddin's PROPHETS OF NATURE. As an actress, her plays include POLISH JOKE, HOLD PLEASE and BIG LOVE with Salt Lake Acting Company, STOP KISS, LIVING OUT and POPCORN with Pygmalion Productions, TALKING WALES I and II with Utah Contemporary Theatre and Kate in THE TAMING OF THE SHREW with Salt Lake Shakespeare. She's also appeared in a couple of SLAMs for Plan-B Theatre and has directed a piece in Student SLAM as well as co-directing the first Project Fabulocity with Tooth and Nail Theatre. She also teaches classes at Theatre Arts Conservatory. Other acting work includes voicing Dandelion in the XBox 360 game Amped 3 as well as other video games, commercials and short films. Daisy has a drama degree from Bristol University in England and works in communications and audience development at Salt Lake Acting Company.
MARK GOLLAHER(Ryder/Noble/Fitzwilliams/Bailey) Mark Gollager is excited to be working at Salt Lake Acting Company again, where he played Charles in THE CLEAN HOUSE, Peter Woodburn in ICE GLEN, and has appeared in BEAST ON THE MOON, INCORRUPTIBLE and F.F. THE BRONTES. Some of Mark's other roles include: Harold hill in THE MUSIC MAN and Captain Hook in PETER PAN at the Egyptian Theatre Company, Lumiere in BEAUTY AND THE BEAST and The Lion in THE WIZARD OF OZ at Tuchacan, and Hamlet in HAMLET, Bobby in COMPANY, Eilert Luvborg in HEDDA GABLER at the Rose Wagner. He has also worked in many productions at Pioneer Theatre Company including: EVITA, MACBETH, JULIUS CAESAR and CYRANO DE BERGERAC. Mark has also performed with the Utah Symphony narrating PETER AND THE WOLF, RUMPLESTILTSKIN, and Limmony Snicket's THE COMPOSER IS DEAD AND wrote, directed and performed two dramatized concerts based on the lives of Beethoven and Brahms. Aside from acting, Mark works as the Art Specialist at Cottonwood Elementary, and freelances as a professional storyteller and illustrator.
JAYNE LUKE (Charlotte/Mrs. Noble/Drake) is so happy to be returning to SLAC this spring in the premiere of Kathleen Cahill's CHARM. Other appearances at SLAC were in BOY, SATURDAY'S VOYEUR '04 and '05, KIMBERLY AKIMBO, BIG LOVE, BEARD ON AVON and WHITE MONEY. She has also appeared at the Hale Center Theater in Orem in OVER THE RIVER, the Grand Theater in TRIP TO BOUNTIFUL, Pioneer Theatre Company in THE PRODUCERS, the Egyptian Theatre in CABARET, and played the role of Ruth in Plan-B Theatre Company's production of FACING EAST which was performed at the Rose Wagner in SLC, Theatre Rhinoceros in San Francisco and Off-Broadway at Atlantic Stage Two in New York City. Jayne is the Artistic Director of Walk-On, Inc. which produces the Senior Theatre Project that tours plays for, by and about seniors to community and senior centers and residential facilities in Utah.
TRACIE MERRILL (Anne/Walker) Tracie has performed locally as well as regionally, including various Shakespeare companies. Salt Lake credits include Plan-B's SLAM and DI ESPERIENZA, SLAC's ICE GLEN, an early rendition of POETRY OF INTERIORS and Hale Centre Theatre's RAINMAKER. Other favorites include Rosalind (AS YOU LIKE IT), Aphrodite/Psyche (METAMORPHOSES) and Marquise Therese (LA BÊTE). A proud member of AEA, Tracie has an MFA from UT-Knoxville, a diploma from Weber-Douglas Academy, London and a BA from UNC-CH.
NICK O'DONNELL (Prince Regent/Gaskill) is thrilled to be working with Salt Lake Acting Company again for this reading of PROPHETS OF NATURE. Last season, he doubled as Stephen Hawking and Jesus in END DAYS and Buisson and Verbeek in THE OVERWHELMING. Nick has also done stints at the Pioneer (JULIUS CAESAR) and Plan B (SLAM '08). A graduate of Carleton College, Nick worked in Minnesota with the Children's Theater Co., Theatre de la Juene Lune, Frank Theater and the Jungle Theater. In the Northwest, Nick performed with Seattle Shakespeare Co., Wooden O, Book-It Rep, Montana Shakespeare in the Parks and Seattle Children's Theater. When not taking care of his 2-year-old daughter, he had been caught writing a travel guidebook on NYC & designing theater posters. Nick recently started work on a Psychology PhD at the U, examining storytelling and moral development.
JOSH THOEMKE(Hammond/Compton) Josh Thoemke received his BFA from Virginia Commonwealth University prior to relocating to the West coast. There he became a founding member of the award winning Theatre Banshee, and could be seen on assorted, canceled television series. He could also be heard as the voice of Dark Adventure Radio Theater. Having performed on both the East and West coasts, Josh has made the natural progression to the Inner Mountain West, where he recently made his Salt Lake City debut in Meat & Potatoes' production, SHADOWS OF THE BAKEMONO.
HOLLY FOWERS (Reader) Holly has performed locally in ELEEMOSYNARY and ROMEO AND JULIET with Pinnacle Acting Company, and SEARCHING FOR DAVID'S HEART with the new Shalom Theatre Company. She also recently wrote and performed a piece called "This May Take Many Clicks" with Dance Theatre Coalition as part of the Eve Celebration at the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center. Some of Holly's Seattle credits include CLOUD NINE, OEDIPUS, MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR, EDUCATING RITA and MACBETH. She is very happy to be a part of this reading.
ALEXANDRA HARBOLD (Director) At Salt Lake Acting Company, Harbold acted in SIX YEARS and ICE GLEN and is a member of SLAC's Communications & Audience Development team. Recent directing credits include THREE DAYS OF RAIN, RABBIT HOLE, ROMEO & JULIET (Pinnacle Acting Company), BLACK AND WHITE (Plan-B Theatre's 2009 And the Banned Slammed On) and POETRY OF INTERIORS (Dance Theatre Coalition's Proving Ground Concert). She is currently participating in Plan-B and Meat & Potato Theatres' Directors' Lab. Upcoming projects include directing Script-in-Hand Series readings of new plays by Elaine Jarvik and Matthew Ivan Bennett, UCT's reading of Kurt Proctor's THE TURQUOISE WIND, and for Plan-B's 2010 And the Banned Slammed On.
Principally because of her extraordinarily beautiful music, the passionate and iconoclastic mystic Hildegard is almost as well known today as she was in her own 12th Century. Then, she was famous throughout Europe for her visions, the only woman to have her writings read aloud in synod by the Pope, himself. Hildegard is preparing to complete her book of revelations and present it to the Holy See when a penitent named Richardis arrives at her monastery and profoundly disrupts her world. VIRTUE tells the story of what happened.
Tim Slover's plays have been produced off-Broadway and in professional regional and university theatres all over the US and in Canada. The Fulton Theatre in Lancaster, PA, commissioned and premiered two of Tim’s plays, TREASURE (2004) and LIGHTNING ROD (2006). In 2006 he was appointed writer-in-residence at nearby Franklin & Marshall College. In the fall of 2008 his play, JOYFUL NOISE, received a staged reading at the Hampstead Theatre’s Michael Frayn Space in London. DESPISED, his screenplay of JOYFUL NOISE, is optioned by Slickrock Films. His new eight-part radio drama, THE CHRISTMAS CHRONICLES, will air December 2009 on KBYU FM.
Tim’s writing awards include the Grand Prize, 65th Annual Writers Digest Writers Awards; the Christopher Brian Wolk Award for Playwriting Excellence (Abingdon Theatre); a Cine Golden Eagle; a Freedoms Foundation George Washington Honor Medal; and a Hopwood Award for Best Play. His plays are published by the Samuel French Co. and Encore Performance Publishing; other of his writing has appeared in the National Biography of American Theatre, Sunstone Magazine, and been published by Signature Books and Silverleaf Press.
VIRTUE was written in association with the Penn State University School of Theatre, and further developed in the New Plays Workshop of the University of Utah’s Department of Theatre and writers groups in Salt Lake City and Provo. (Thank you, everyone!)
VIRTUE was given a staged reading in London last June as part of the Arch 468 Propects Series. Tim is an associate professor in the Department of Theatre at the University of Utah.
I first became aware of Hildegard through the transcendant vocal music which she claimed came to her, along with the rest of her visions, directly from the "Living Light," an avatar of God. If you listen to the cd which I heard first, A Feather on the Breath of God (Hyperion), you can decide for yourself whether or not she was telling the truth. Intrigued—more like intoxicated—I sought out her writings and accounts of her life. Two books stood out: Hildegard of Bingen: the Woman of Her Age, by Fiona Maddocks (Doubleday), and a particularly lovely translation of some of her writing (including Scivias, which is important to the story told in VIRTUE), Hildegard of Bingen: a Spiritual Reader, by Carmen Acevedo Butcher (Paraclete Press). In both books, Hildegard seemed so present, as though she had a foot in the 12th Century and a foot in our own time. Yes, she wrote recondite visions, difficult to appreciate in our day, but she also penned books of herbal medicine (for which the New Agers fervently claim her) and midwifery. And I loved her story: enclosed as an anchorite at the age of seven, freed from her cell and made a prioress of young women by thirty, a reluctant but eventually prolific visionary all her life.
It was the visions that mattered most. They compelled her towards heterodoxy, even iconoclasm, as they led her towards doctrine and practice unique in her, perhaps any, day. Women in monasteries, she learned from the Living Light, were Queens of Heaven, and they should look like it; so she dressed her nuns in white robes and gold jewelry; she took off their veils and adorned their heads with gold crowns. Music, she learned, was the speech of angels. So she wrote the world’s first opera, as well as its first morality play: The Play of the Virtues ("Ordo Virtutum"). Greenness ("viriditas") was what God loved best, she was told by her celestial muse, and so she praised fecundity in all its forms. As Thomas Cahill points out in his excellent Mysteries of the Middle Ages (Anchor Books), Hildegard was "no prude, and she makes no attempt to mask or excuse the sex and violence that inhabit her" (p. 96).
No wonder then that Hildegard’s human interactions were somewhat fraught. Imagine being the unfortunate man who tried to channel and control her talents, as her abbot, Cuno, did. (In a letter to him, she once accused him of being "a busybody, digging in the private business of others.") How would it have been to be Volmar, the faithful monk who worked alongside her for decades, taking down the visions she received and transliterating them into a Latin more elegant than she possessed? One account of his life speaks of a moral struggle he had early in his career with Hildegard. Was he in love with her, or did he want to strangle her? Or both?
But most fraught of all was her relationship with a young aristocrat named Richardis, who came to her monastery of St. Disibod and shook her profoundly. A vision Hildegard received soon after her arrival speaks of "a beautiful girl, bareheaded, with dark hair wearing a red tunic that flowed about her feet": in the vision this is Ecclesia, the Church, but it is also clearly this bewitching girl. And in the Ordo, Richardis gets translated again, this time into Anima, the Soul of mankind. When the young novitiate was forcibly taken from her, Hildegard’s heart broke, and she prosecuted a letter-writing campaign of pain and outrage which even reached the Pope. To Richardis, herself, Hildegard wrote of her distress "because of my love for a certain noble individual.… Now let all who have grief like mine mourn with me, all who have had such great love in their hearts and minds for a person as I have had for you." A love letter, surely.
Piety and passion, profound spirituality coupled with unabashed sensuality, a love for the Church and an absolute commitment to the searing personal visions which led her away from some of its doctrines: these are the paradoxical hallmarks of this remarkable medieval woman. For all those on a spiritual quest in our own difficult age, hers is not a bad star by which to steer.