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Archive for May, 2010

When it rains it pours! I also thought I would update everyone on my MA project! I had to turn in my proposal the day I arrived back from Easter break. I thought  instead of just describing it… I would just include it! Sound like a plan? I thought so… Here it is! Oh, and it WAS accepted and I got the supervisor I wanted which was AWESOME! Now… I’m completely unleashed to write away! One day soon, I will update you all on the new bits I’ve written.

MA Project Research Proposal

The Project

I intend to explore the interconnectedness of religion and person catastrophic events in one’s own life by focusing on the question, “In times of personal crisis, why do humans tend to turn away from or embrace religion, an archaic lifestyle guide for modern man?”  During times of crisis, why do questions of religion come into play for a great number of people? We look to God for answers or ask God for a reason. After tragedy, we hear things like, “it was God’s will,”  “he’s in a better place,” “God works in mysterious ways,” etc.   Why is religion so wrapped up in tragedy? Though my thesis question addresses religion as a whole, I will be focusing my project on Christianity since that is the religion with which I have the most experience and knowledge. I thought it would be better to direct my efforts toward the religion in which I could best represent with accuracy, honesty, and credibility.

My intention is to explore this relationship of tragedy and religion in dramatic form. I will be writing a play revolving around two women, one a Christian, the other without faith. Both women are in therapy after suffering a personal loss. One has just lost a parent; the other is being accused of assault and battery. Both women will be on stage for the duration of the show, both talking to an imaginary therapist. The stories of the women will be intertwined as they will be told simultaneously. After much soul searching and thoughtful deliberation, each woman will find herself arriving at the opposite end of the religious spectrum. One will lose her religion while the other will find faith, each woman finding hope and comfort in her respective decision.

Secondary Research

Religion is a topic that attracts a lot of attention from writers, philosophers, and theorists and there is no shortage of material for me to research. I have compiled a list of books to help me along in the process of finding the focus of my own work. I do not wish to rewrite what others who are more experienced and clever than me have already written. I merely wish to take in as much knowledge as I can on the subject of religion to move my mind in the right direction for my own work. I will include the citation for each book as an excerpt from a review of the book which I have obtained from Publisher’s Weekly at publishersweekly.com.

  • Black, L. (2009). Me of Little Faith. New York, New York, USA: Riverhead Trade.

“Black, the popular comedian, actor and author, offers a series of essays focused on his so-called spiritual journey in which he struggles to comprehend his relationship to God.” (“Publisher’s weekly: reed,”)

  • Burleigh, M. (2008). Sacred Causes: the Clash of Religion and Politics, from the Great War to the War on Terror. London, UK: Harper Perennial.

“In a dazzling display of erudition, British historian Burleigh completes his two-volume    chronicle of the interaction between religion and politics in Europe from the French Revolution to the present.” (“Publisher’s weekly: reed,”)

  • Ellis, S. (2010). Cling to Me Like Ivy. London, UK: Nick Hern Books.

“Samantha Ellis’ play was inspired by a chance remark by Victoria Beckham in 2004 which sparked a crisis within the Orthodox Jewish community about the wigs worn by married women.” (“Publisher’s weekly: reed,”)

  • Greene, G. (1961). The Potting Shed. New York, New York, USA: Penguin.

“The 1957 English play, The Potting Shed, a 3-act play and a psychological family drama that carries themes of marriage, faith, religion, resurrection, betrayal, deception.” (“Publisher’s weekly: reed,”)

  • Kushner, H.S. (2004). When Bad Things Happen to Good People. Anchor.

“A Jewish rabbi facing his own child’s fatal illness, deftly guides us through the inadequacies of the traditional answers to the problem of evil, then provides a uniquely practical and compassionate answer that has appealed to millions of readers across all religious creeds.” (“Publisher’s weekly: reed,”)

  • Lewis, C.S. (2001). A Grief Observed. London, UK: HarperOne.

“A very personal, anguished, luminous little book about the meaning of death, marriage, and religion.” (“Publisher’s weekly: reed,”)

  • Lewis, C.S. (2001). Mere Christianity. London, UK: HarperOne.

“The late Lewis, Oxford professor, scholar, author, and Christian apologist, presents the listener with a case for orthodox Christianity. This is definitely not the shouting, stomping, sweating, spitting televangelist fare so often parodied; Lewis employs logical arguments that are eloquently expressed.” (“Publisher’s weekly: reed,”)

  • Miller, D. (2004). Searching for God Knows What. Nashville, TN, USA: Nelson Books.

“The book covers a great deal of territory: Miller’s walking away from God as a teenager and returning to his faith; the competitive nature of human relationships, painfully demonstrated through junior high memories; the meaning of morality and religion; the essence of true Christianity.” (“Publisher’s weekly: reed,”)

  • Vardy, P. (1999). The Puzzle of God. London, UK: Fount.

“A clear, well-written guide to philosophical thinking about God. Starting with the question of what it means to say we believe in God, and looking at the nature of truth, Peter Vardy goes on to examine ideas about God and their influence on Christian thinking.” (“Publisher’s weekly: reed,”)

Primary Research

I plan on doing a lot of reading on the subject of finding/discovering/losing/exploring the idea of religion and Truth with a capital “T” in order to find the logic behind both sides of the religious continuum. I am hoping the reading will show me how intelligent, thoughtful individuals can position themselves at such extremes. I will be utilizing other avenues of research as well such as interviews with believers and non-believers alike, listening to Christian radio programs, as well as music inspired by religion and topics of faith.

I was fortunate enough to decide on a topic for this project months ago. Thanks to this extra gift of time, I have already done a considerable amount of planning and preparation. Over the past few months, I have made it a point to bring up my thesis idea in many conversations with friends, family and even complete strangers. I have been pleasantly surprised to find out that most people are very passionate about religion, either by way of trying to tell me about their faith in hopes of converting me or by proving to me that it is complete and utter rubbish. I have found very few people who are like me, unsure of the logistic possibilities of a Truth with a capital “T”, but are willing and even excited to hear about the thought processes on either side of the religion argument.  Most of the inspiration for what I have already written has come from conversations embedded in normal, everyday peoples’ passions on the subject.

For instance, my optometrist is a Christian married to an agnostic. She now finds herself at a crossroads regarding the spiritual environment, in which she should raise her two young children. She wants to be a good and responsible Christian mother while still recognizing her husband’s wishes on providing a realistic idea of faith and life for their children. Then there is my new friend, George, who I met as he was preaching the word of God in Victoria’s Square which he does every Saturday morning. George is now a Christian and became so after his wife left him some ten years ago. Prior to that experience he had considered himself an atheist, a decision which excommunicated him from his Islamic family. Another friend of mine from my undergraduate university discovered she is actually Jewish after her first year at Yale Divinity. These are the stories that have inspired me to write about this topic.

Necessary Arrangements

In order to complete this project, I will need access to the afore mentioned books on the subject, most of which I already own. As far as the conversations with individuals on the subject of religion, all I will need is my own social skills and gumption!

Writing Experience

I feel confident in my writing abilities. I attended William Jewell College, an American liberal arts university, for my undergraduate degree. There I wrote, on average, five to ten essays a semester except for three months when I studied at St. Andrew’s College of Oxford University under Dr. Francis Warner, Dr. Barry Webb, and Dr. John Jackson where I majored in Shakespeare and minored in the History of the Tudor State focusing on the reign of Queen Elizabeth. During this time I wrote considerably more and achieved the marks of Alpha Beta in Shakespeare and Alpha Minus in the History of the Tudor State.

As for playwriting, I have written multiple plays which have been performed. I wrote the ten minute plays, Memories and a Plate of Shitty Food and What Happens when you Cross a Hearse on the Side of the Road? which were performed by members of the World of Theatre II class in the Spring Showcase in 2007 at William Jewell College. I also wrote a one act play entitled The Coffee Pot Wars which was performed by the World of Theatre V class for Fall Showcase in 2008 at William Jewell College.

Excerpts from the Rough Draft of the Project

I have also chosen to include some pieces of the project I have already written.  Over the past few months as ideas occurred to me, I would write and expound on the thought until I reached a place that I believed could be integrated into the play itself. Here are a few of those bits that I hope give an accurate portrayal of my voice as a playwright.

  • “On the street where I evangelize on Saturdays, there are six evangelists, all on ONE street! It’s like we’re all in a competition. “No, no… You don’t want to listen to that Susie down on New Street… (whisper) She’s Episcopalian… Oh and Bob on High Street? He’s getting WAY too over the top with that new megaphone and the Roman candles at his feet representing the fiery depths of hell… too flashy.”
  • “You know, when I say it like that, it makes Christianity sound like some sort of pyramid scam. We are recruited by Christians to become Christian in order to recruit more Christians to Christianity. And the one who brings in the most new members wins some magical prize. It’s like cashing in your tickets when you leave Chuck E Cheese. ‘1,000 plus salvations!?!?! Congratulations! You get to sit next to the right hand of God on every Tuesday during the month of February!’ or ‘Oooh… Only five salvations? …Here is the complete set of the Apostle action figure series. You don’t even have to collect all twelve!’ It’s like we’re all in a fiery frenzy around here searching for 3rd party souls to save. Because let’s be honest, no one wants the Judas Iscariot action figure despite his accessories of thirty pieces of silver…”
  • “What IS happily ever after? Do two people just sit around holding hands and smiling all day until 9:30 at which time they eat an entire cheesecake, never get fat, and then go to bed? Are you allowed to pee in happily ever after? If you can in fact pee, does he have to go with you to hold your hand? What happens when you have to wipe? What happens when he dies? Are you supposed to be happy for ever with the memories of your dead husband until you keel over too? How can you be happy every Tuesday night when you remember that the next day is trash day and you stare at the trash can that has gnats flying around because there are leftover chunks of Friday’s tuna sandwich at the bottom and all you want to do is holler to him upstairs so he will take it out for you but you know he isn’t there? Do you holler anyway? I am desperately afraid I will always be lonely.”
  • “I have a recurring dream. I get to Heaven and take a test a lot like at ACT. I pass so they let me in and I’m surprised to find out that God IS actually Morgan Freeman. Turns out, he is racist and THAT’S why Africans have had it so hard all throughout history. He also used to be anti-Semitic but changed his mind when he saw Sophie’s Choice… Good movie.  Meryl Streep IS amazing, isn’t she?”
  • “What are you supposed to do without your mom? I can’t go shopping, I can’t put up a Christmas tree, and I can’t even go into the kitchen on Sunday mornings. She’s there. My mom is in the tile. If I walk into that room, she’s going to touch my feet from the floor. The cabinets are going to laugh like her. The appliances won’t work without her. They told me. They’re on strike. My father won’t buy food. He says, ‘She would have bought it better.’ And the thing is, she would have. I know exactly what he means. I’m not well.”
  • “In times like this, why do we try so hard to comfort children? We tell them, ‘It’s okay, Grandma is in Heaven so she can always watch over you like an angel. Now she can be with you all the time instead of just part of the time.’ Why do we tell kids that? I think its so parents convince their kids that they’re always being supervised so they won’t disobey even when they’re alone. ‘Don’t skip washing up before dinner, Grandma’s watching! Don’t forget your chores, Grandma’s watching.  Don’t touch yourself there, Grandma’s watching!’ Did you know I used to not be able to climax during sex because all I could think of was my grandmother sitting in the corner of the room? The weird thing is, she was judging my technique… So we think we are comforting our children when in reality, we’re giving them complexes because their dead grandmothers are better in the sack than they are.”

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Hello all!

I deeply apologize for neglecting my blog for as long as I have. It’s been a crazy year to say the least. I guess I should update you all on what has happened since… November?!?!? Dear lord…

For our Classical project we did As You Like It. I played the part of Rosalind which was SO much fun! It’s one of those roles that every actress would LOVE to play at some point in her career so I felt fortunate to have the opportunity. I thoroughly enjoyed the process as I do enjoy classical work very much. It was received well which was nice as well.

After that module was completed we began our workshop production. Our course director picked Ghetto by Joshua Sobol for that module. It’s a play about a Jewish ghetto in Lithuania during WWII. In the ghetto, a theatre company is started and the company produces plays not only for the other Jews in the ghetto, but even for the German troops. It is a wonderful story and I suggest reading the play for anyone who hasn’t. It was a strong ensemble show which allowed all of us to show our strengths in unique ways. I played two characters. One was the librarian of the ghetto who, when they were gathered by the Nazi’s and forced into the ghetto one night, my character picked up and carried all the books he could when others were helping people. He started the library the next day. He kept a detailed journal of the events during his time there. His journals were later published and were the basis of Sobol’s play. My other part was an ensemble character. I portrayed him as a 15-year-old boy who was trying to take care of those around him, but in reality, he was just as frightened himself of the whole situation. I enjoyed this module SO much. I loved the play, my parts, and especially our director. We were directed by a man named John Adams and I cannot tell you how much I enjoyed working with him. He had a very laid back style which I received well. We didn’t start rehearsals until after 10 most days and he let us out early most of the time as well. He also introduced me to my new favorite acronym. P.O.E.T.S. Piss off early, it’s Friday. I liked working with the man, very much! Here is a link to the production photos as well. Enjoy! http://www.bsa.bcu.ac.uk/Galleries/ghetto.html

Now we are in rehearsals for showcase. This is when all of the graduates of BSA put together a one minute speech and a 3 minute scene with a partner. We will be taking this showcase to London on Tuesday, May 18th for casting directors, agents, and so on. It’s a stressful process to say the least… Looking for pieces, finding scene partners, pitching material, getting material shot down, finally finding material, auditioning with it, having it shot down AGAIN, finding ALL NEW material… And so on. We are finally all sorted. I am doing a speech from Eurydice by Sarah Ruhl, a modern adaptation of the Greek myth. It really is a lovely speech. She’s talking about her husband, their relationship, and what it’s like to love and be loved by an artist. My scene is from Boys’ Life. It’s easy, cute, and funny. This has REALLY been a stressful process though. Everyone is so anxious about agent interest, whereas I’m not sure if I want it. Not to say I’m expecting 27 agents to be knocking down my door, not at all. I just don’t know if I want to stay here to work.

That brings me to the biggest part of this year. It’s been difficult to say the least. I’ve been homesick, lonely, and… well… homesick! This year has really made me think about what’s important in life. Yes, I love performing and acting. The performance realm is the only place I can see myself being happy; however, I miss my family and home. I like who I am with that support system in place. I feel a bit like a fish out of water here.  Don’t get me wrong, I’ve enjoyed my training and I’ve met/worked with so many wonderful artists who otherwise I would have never had the opportunity to meet, but I think in the long run, I work better, feel happier, perform more honestly when I’m in an environment like home, where I have a loving and familiar support system.

 I DO have friends here, but the thing is, I’ve never been friends with many actors. I struggle spending so much time with actors. I would consider myself more of a thinker and it’s been difficult to be around people with such high energy levels and performative natures.  Again, don’t get me wrong. I DO have friends and I DO legitimately like the people I’ve met here. They are wonderful, caring, and above all, talented artists. It’s just a different kind of environment that what I’m used to. I’m used to having my life, and then I go to the theater to work. I see actors at work but then I go back to my real life with different kinds of people, a variety of people. Here, I’m working/living/spending my free time with the same people. That’s what’s been the most difficult part of it I think. At Jewell, I had so many different networks of people with which to associate. Here, it’s JUST the acting school.

This brings me to my current dilemma. It’s showcase time. If I DO receive agent interest, do I stay and try to work here? In this business, work is NOT something you turn down. However, if I stay, get a flat in London, and do the starving artist thing for another year or so, who’s to say my personal life won’t be any different? What if I’m just as lonely that way as well? And if it is, is it worth it? Being happy is a funny thing. This year has made me really think about this one question. Is it possible to be happy both personally AND professionally, especially as a woman in this business? It’s a difficult place to be.

So yeah, that’s been my year to now. Looking back, I DO think I’m happy I came here. I’ve had wonderful training from a brilliant faculty. It has taken its toll on me emotionally though. I’m glad I’ve done it, but July is looking mighty fine at the moment. 🙂

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