Press Release: ZTC Presents Melissa Leilani Larson’s Adaptation of Jane Austen’s_Persuasion_

Classic litePersuasion Production photo #1rature and theater lovers can have something to look forward to this month as Zion Theatre Company is performing Jane Austen’s Persuasion, adapted by award winning playwright Melissa Leilani Larson. The show performs in Salt Lake City at the Off Broadway Theater on  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, ” My introduction to Jane Austen happened at the ripe old age of nine when I stumbled across the 1940’s adaptation of Pride and Prejudice on late night television.  I was completely captivated and never forgot it.  I didn’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 Jane’s world, and thus began my life-long passion for all things Jane Austen.  I consider her a dear friend–just one I haven’t actually met.” Continue reading “Press Release: ZTC Presents Melissa Leilani Larson’s Adaptation of Jane Austen’s_Persuasion_”

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.

Dave Mortensen on crowdfunding a production of Little Happy Secrets

Dave Mortensen is hoping to raise funds for a production of Melissa Leilani Larson’s AML-award winning play “Little Happy Secrets” early next year in Salt Lake City. In order to do so, he is using the crowdfunding website Kickstarter. Intrigued by the notion, I asked him to answer a few questions about the project.

Why did you decide to raise funds for a staging of “Little Happy Secrets”?

I attended the 2009 production in Provo not quite sure how I would feel about the show. I had heard the premise, but really I attended because I knew the director and playwright. The script really impacted me. I felt immediately that this is one of the great pieces of Mormon drama and I knew I wanted to be involved in bringing it to a larger audience. Fast forward one year and I’m now based in Davis County shopping around for a script to produce in Salt Lake City and I remember “Little Happy Secrets.” It’s perfect: a script I believe in, a playwright I’d like to support, and a small enough cast that I think we can manage a quality production at a premiere SLC venue.

Funding then became the next big question. I produce part-time while working during the day in a completely different industry. As a recent graduate the majority of my income goes towards paying debts and saving for car repairs. It’s just not feasible for me to lay down $4,500 for 6 months and risk not being able to make that money back. Theatre is a pretty risky investment and while I’m more than happy to invest my time and resources, I just can’t live in my car in the mean time. Continue reading “Dave Mortensen on crowdfunding a production of Little Happy Secrets”

A brief interview with Melissa Leilani Larson just before closing weekend

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So tell us about the first weekend.

The first weekend went well. We’ve had a little technical craziness but we have overcome it, at least for the most part. I think the show is in a really good place. I feel confident in the cast and in the director, and I’ve been in the booth acting as stage manager so I feel good about that as well. We have a really solid production team and things came together really well in a really short period of time.

The difficulty, as per always, is getting people to come. Getting butts in the seats. I can ply my students with extra credit and bonus points till the cows come home, but even if they all come, it won’t fill our houses. It’s always a gamble; you can feel so good about the show you’re doing, the product you’re putting out there — but if no one shows up, then it’s almost — almost — pointless. Naturally I’ve grown in the process, and I like these characters so it’s a thrill to see them on stage. But I know them so well — I want others to have the chance to get to know them as well.

How has the production’s execution matched your original imagining?

One of my initial goals was to have the play feel filmy so that we wouldn’t have to see any actual film played on stage. The play does have a lot of brief scenes that are connected by title cards — just like silent pictures. One of the nice things about the literal theatre space itself is that it frames things; the proscenium allows for the audience to be separate, and the stage is raised so that you feel like you’re looking up at a screen. There are a couple of scenes in the play that “intercut” with each other — we go back and forth between two locations and two conversations so that questions in one place are answered in the other and vice versa, almost making the two separate scenes into one longer, deeper conversation.

Workshopping the play a couple of years back in grad school, I came to realize how important the live piano was to the show. It lends an air of the period and compliments that idea of framing what is happening on stage — the piano is visible to the audience, but is outside of the main frame. With this production we made the choice to have all of the sound effects in the show come from the piano, and I feel that is a strong and effective choice. I’ve already written into the notes for the play that live music is definitely preferred.

I think we have a great cast. I’m particularly pleased with the two leading ladies in the show. I think they carry it very well between them. I think their characterizations align with my initial imaginings, and that they successfully portray real people. It’s a relief as a writer to see that happen, to make that connection between what is possible on the page and what actually is enacted. So I count myself lucky in that regard.

What sort of feedback have you been getting? And what sort of feedback are you giving yourself (that is, what have you learned that you can apply in future projects)?

The feedback so far has been very positive. There is a review in The Deseret News that came out this week. Also we’ve had two audience talkbacks wherein some great questions have been brought up. People seem to like the characters and the story. They really enjoy the setting for the show — the title cards and the live piano — because it gives the piece a very nice ambience. People are also responding really well to the comical aspects of the piece, which means a lot to me; I’m self-conscious of my attempts at comedy, so it’s really great to hear an audience laugh in the right places.

As far as rewrites go, people like the characters and have actually said they want to see more of them. That the play happens just a hair too fast. Maybe there are a couple of scenes missing, though I can’t quite put my finger on what they are at the moment. It’s been great to see the show on its feet and see things work from beginning to end. Hearing the script aloud and being able to feel out the pacing with actors rather than just myself makes a huge difference in the process. I’ve cut things and rearranged things, and hope to soon figure out where those mysterious phantom scenes might go if I do go about writing them.

Something else along the lines of considering things for future projects: As a woman and a playwright, I try to create solid female roles. At least one, but I usually get away with two or even three. With this project, one of the concepts I started with was for Max and Sam to be surrounded by men, as that’s a proper presentation of the film industry in 1916. A lot of industries, actually. It made sense for the two lead actresses to be surrounded by a cast of, literally, three to five men. Next goal is to try to write a small cast that is all female. What’s it about? I couldn’t tell you. But that’s where it’s going to start.

Just one more question, a practical one: If someone’s in the area and wants to come, are tickets still available? What do they need to do? Will you be signing programs?

LOL. I can sign programs if people want; I don’t know that they will be worth much. The show has four more performances: Friday (the 16th) a Saturday matinee at 2:30, Saturday night, and Monday night. The evening shows are all at 7:30. Tickets are available at the door starting at 6:30 or at any time online at www.provostage.org. There will be post-show discussions after the matinee and Monday evening performances if anyone is interested in those.

AFlickeringLandscape

Spring poetry, Writers for Young Readers venue change, Flickering, Bali and more

Cleaning out the mailbox/list of stuff I’ve been saving for a links post…

Spring Poetry Runoff

If you haven’t yet made it over to Wilderness Interface Zone for the second annual Spring Poetry Runoff, you should check it out. At last count, Patricia has 23 poems from 13 different poets lined up. The runoff is going to go well in to late April this year.

Looking for the Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers Conference?

It’s not being held at BYU this year — but it will be held. Check out the For Young Readers website for details. In brief, it’s going to be June 14-18 at the Waterford School in Sandy, Utah. The high number of active Utah-based writers and illustrators who focus on work for young readers means that you are going to get great panels and good networking opportunities so if you have an interest in the field, check it out.

Flickering hits the stage

Melissa Larson’s next play “A Flickering.” will have performances April 8-19 in the Provo Theatre. Here’s how Mel describes the play: “The play is set in New York in 1916. Max is a young woman trying to break into the infant movie industry while her best friend Samantha is on her way to a successful theatrical acting career. But controversy fuels the success of Max’s first film, at the risk of Samantha’s reputation — and their friendship.” Ticket info and show times at ProvoStage.org.

Island of Bali is Littered with Prayers paperback

Remember the excellent interview and awesome excerpt AMV ran a few months back about BYU musicologist Jeremy Grimshaw’s The Island of Bali is Littered with Prayers? Well Mormon Artists Group has sold out of the limited collector’s edition of the book and so has now brought it out in paperback.

BYU Studies reviews Thayer’s latest

Philip A. Snyder has posted an in-depth look at Douglas Thayer’s latest novel The Treehouse over at the BYU Studies website. Snyder does an excellent job of situating the novel in the context of Thayer’s body of work. He also notes that Zarahemla Books (which has published Thayer’s last two works) will be coming out with a collection of new short stories later this year. And Snyder ends the review with a sentiment I very much agree with: “With Thayer in his eightieth year and contemplating retirement from BYU, now would be a perfect time to reissue his work so general readers, as well as scholars, could review the very fine career of a pioneering writer of Mormon and other western fiction. Thayer and his writing deserve no less than that.” The Treehouse is available from the Zarahemla Books website.

Segullah on the Whitney finalists

Emily M. and Shelah discuss their favorite finalists in each of the Whitney Awards categories over at Segullah. Although I don’t agree with all of their picks (more on that later), on the whole, I think their sensibilities are well in line with those of most AMV readers and am in awe of their ability to read every single finalist. If you are looking to dip your toe in to LDS fiction, Emily and Shelah’s picks are a good place to start.

And that’s all for now. I will continue to post a links roundup from time-to-time, but the best way to receive timely info on the cool stuff that crosses my transom is to follow AMV on Twitter.

Producing Mormon Theater Outside Utah

It isn’t often that an LDS author creates an LDS-themed play that is performed outside of the few venues in Utah that are willing to occasionally perform Mormon works. I have the impression that the timeliness of the topic of the play has a lot to do with interest in performing these works, which makes me wonder, shouldn’t more Mormon playwrights confront topical issues? Or are they and I’m not aware enough?

Continue reading “Producing Mormon Theater Outside Utah”