Matthew Ivan Bennett: Creating MESA VERDE

This blog entry also appears in the February 2011 issue of CatalystMagazine. MESA VERDE is a play for sisters, mothers, daughters and anyone that’s ever faced their family dynamics and walked away wiser. It follows Tamara and Tabitha, two sisters who come together when one of them falls sick, allowing them to finally air their feelings about their mother, the way she died, the way she lived and taught them to live. MESA VERDE is about seeing the joy in our broken relationships and releasing the past. I start work on a play with a simple image. Even if the image isn’t literally onstage, I like having an unframed “oil painting” in my head of what the play is viscerally, mythologically and emotionally. When I shuffled in for SLAM 2006 (Plan-B’s 24-hour theatre festival) I was shown a black-and-white slide projection of an ancient, wooden ladder reaching through darkness to a square of light. That image was the seed of the now full-length play MESA VERDE. I was head over feet for Mesa Verde State Park as a boy. What kid wouldn’t want to live on a cliff side? I remember dashing ahead of my family to clamber down into a kiva and standing there in a dim, hair-raising silence. I knew I was in a church of sorts. I knew that the clergy had called on different gods than my clergy; gods under the earth. But most mysterious was the question of why the ancients left Mesa Verde…Why would they ever leave that gorgeous red fortress? I still wonder. So the ladder image, my memories, and my questions...

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