Eric Samuelsen bids farewell to the #SeasonOfEric

Eric Samuelsen has written for Plan-B Theatre Company for a decade where, in addition to the #SeasonOfEric, his plays MIASMA, AMERIGO and BORDERLANDS also received their world premieres. It’s very rare for a fully professional American theatre company to devote time and resources to new work by local playwrights. It’s exponentially rarer for companies to do entire seasons devoted to the work of a single playwright. I expect, rarest of all, would be for companies to market that season using the playwright’s first name. So: the Season of Eric. And I’m Eric; apparently sufficiently known (or at least notorious) to warrant not just a season of my work, but a marketing campaign based on my first name. It’s immensely flattering and a tremendous honor. Obviously, the greatest five events in my life were when I married Annette, and when each of our four children were born. I’m not kidding when I say this: The Season of Eric comes sixth. We started off with GHOSTS. My PhD dissertation was on Henrik Ibsen, most of my scholarly publications were on Ibsen; I’m an Ibsen guy. And I can say this unequivocally; I love GHOSTS. And of course the ending of the play is powerfully and movingly tragic. But I’ve seen GHOSTS in production many times, and I’ve always felt there was something essential missing. Humor. Dour old Ibsen, the stuffy Victorian moralist. As I translated the play, I kept cracking up; I loved Ibsen’s subversive satirical wit. In our Script-In-Hand Series production, we only had a few days to rehearse, but it was so thrilling to hear laughs in the house....

5 Mormon women (and one guy) weigh in on 3

The world premiere of Eric Samuelsen’s 3, the final installment in the #SeasonOfEric devoted to his work, run through Sunday, April 6.  Limited tickets available here. This play is about all the Mormon women I know and love, beautifully written, brilliantly acted. It was a painful, insightful pleasure to watch. – Lisa Butterworth I loved the multilayered character development of every one of the main characters in each of the three plays of 3. Their friendships and marriage relationships were explored at increasingly deeper levels as each character faced a personal or relationship crisis. I have very little in common with the life circumstances of the protagonists, but had no trouble understanding and empathizing with their struggles. For me, the plays were extremely cathartic, and perfectly balanced the potentially painful exposure of deep flaws in LDS social/religious structures with acknowledgement of those structures’ positive aspects and the complexity of each woman’s ties to the faith & culture. It’s a must-see for anyone with an LDS background! – Emily Peterson I’ve felt marginalized, objectified, and unwanted in my 20 years as a member of the LDS Church, and the women in 3 gave voice to the things I’ve been struggling to explain since I decided to walk away. The play left me in tears, not only for the characters themselves, but for me. Stephanie, Teresa and Christy were pitch-perfect. Their performances were versatile and nuanced. I would see it again in a heartbeat. – Grace Miller I loved 3. The writing, acting, and production were incredible. It presented authentic LDS women’s stories, and the questions those stories raise, in a...

Stephanie Howell's blogospheric pep talk inspired by 3

Stephanie Howell has previously appeared in Plan-B’s BASH: LATTER-DAY PLAYS, THE ALIENATION EFFEKT, THE END OF THE HORIZON, all 10 SLAMs and Eric Samuelsen’s BORDERLANDS. Sometimes I think I’d like to move to a desert island. Raise my kids far from the external pressures of modern society. Away from photoshopped models and the social media frenzy – where everyone questions and compares and desperately hopes to come out “on top.” The quest for perfection has reached stratospheric levels. Spend 5 minutes with a group of college-bound high school kids desperately racking up volunteer hours, AP classes and better-than-4.0 GPAs, (all the while angling to post the cutest selfies) and it becomes clear that the situation is not unique to adults. Or Mormons. Or even women, for that matter. It’s utterly pervasive. But alas, a desert island is not in my future. And so, I push back against the craziness. Resist the temptations of a world obsessed with appearances and comparisons and unrealistic expectations and ideals. Which brings us to my “Blogospheric Peptalk.” Addressed to whom? My kids? Myself? Brandie and Janeal and Sherilynn – my characters in 3? Who knows. But here it is. Life is messy. Even when it looks like it’s black and white, scratch the surface and you’ll find grey and green and purple and orange and violet and a splotchy jumble of splattered colors. Embrace the mess. Accept the chaos. Colors are pretty. Even when they’re not easy. Make your own choices. Sometimes you’ll be right and other times you’ll be wrong. And sometimes (because life is messy . . . see above) you’ll be...

Teresa Sanderson on the meaning of 3

Teresa Sanderson received the 2013 City Weekly Arty Award for “Best Local Theatre Performance” for Plan-B’s ERIC(A), which also toured to Good Company Theatre in Ogden, United Solo Theatre Festival in New York and Theatre Out in California.  She has also appeared in Plan-B’s PUSHING THE ENVELOPE: AN EVENING OF ONE-ACTS, ANIMAL FARM, TRAGEDY: A TRAGEDY, THE ALIENATION EFFEKT, EXPOSED, DI ESPERIENZA, MESA VERDE and all six RADIO HOURs (most recently Eric Samuelsen’s EPISODE 9: FAIRYANA). Therefore you are to be perfect, as your Heavenly Father is perfect. Matthew 5:48  As I have been rehearsing Eric Samuelsen’s new play 3, I have talked to more than one active Mormon woman who talked about this notion, that they are always striving for perfection. An admirable goal, but I worry that we beat ourselves up trying to achieve it, get caught up in the minutiae, worry about how it looks and forget the important stuff. When we put that kind of pressure on ourselves it is easy to blame society, or men, or the Church. But the truth is women are very hard on themselves and I worry that the goal is unachievable. During the rehearsal process, we have talked a lot about this idea of perfection and Christy Summerhays shared a definition I think I could live with. The Hebrew word (tam or tamim) doesn’t carry the meaning “without flaw” as the term perfection does in English. It means “complete” or “mature” or “healthy.” I have always been leery of perfection, in fact, on my script for ERIC(A), the play I did for Plan-B last season, I have written in my...

Cheryl Ann Cluff on diving into Eric Samuelsen's 3

Cheryl Ann Cluff is directing Eric Samuelsen’s 3 as part of the #SeasonOfEric.  She is the Managing Director of Plan-B Theatre Company, which she co-founded in 1991.  She has designed sound for nearly every Plan-B production since 2000 and has directed MESA VERDE, THE SCARLET LETTER and SUFFRAGE, as well as every episode of RADIO HOUR, most recently EPISODE 8: FAIRYANA, also by Eric Samuelsen. If you chance to meet a frown, Do not let it stay. Quickly turn it upside down and smile that frown away. No-one likes a frowning face. Change it to a smile. Make the world a better place by smiling all the while. This song, for those who don’t know, is a song called “Smiles,” and it is taught to young children in the LDS Church. I sang it many, many times, a long time ago in what feels like a galaxy far, far away.  And now I have been singing it in my head pretty much every day for the last couple months. To me “Smiles” illustrate, as 3 playwright Eric Samuelsen stated so well in his blog posting last week, how “Mormonism can be obsessed with public relations, with how things seem, with appearances.” It also helps explain how members of this church are sometimes guided towards a path of hyper perfectionism at a very young age, especially the women. And I think it does partially come from church doctrine and many times from women themselves who apply a lot of pressure on each other. I found an amazing transcript of a KSL-TV one-hour documentary that was published by Sunstone Magazine. It’s...

Eric Samuelsen on writing 3

Eric Samuelsen has been writing for Plan-B for a decade: seven SLAM plays, two Ibsen translations presented as part of the Script-In-Hand Series (A DOLL HOUSE and GHOSTS) and six world premieres (MIASMA, AMERIGO, BORDERLANDS, NOTHING PERSONAL,RADIO HOUR EPISODE 8: FAIRYANA and CLEARING BOMBS).  The 2013/14 #SeasonOfEric is fully dedicated to his work. 3 consists of three short plays in which Mormon women quietly confront and examine their own culture. Mormonism is my life-long spiritual home. But loving a culture does not mean blinding oneself to its limitations. And chief among those limitations is a deeply rooted culture of sexism, of patronizing patriarchy. And above all, Mormonism can be obsessed with public relations, with how things seem, with appearances. Often critics outside our culture point to the fact that Mormon women are not allowed the Priesthood. Well, what does that mean? Both more and less than our outside critics understand. The Mormon understanding of ‘Priesthood’ is complicated and difficult; Mormon women participate in public worship and have some leadership role in Church proceedings. No, Mormon sexism is quieter than that, subtler. And it’s tied to issues of body image and sexuality, it’s tied to that focus on the way things look to the world. So the three plays of 3, each with casts of three actresses, begins with that number: three. Three is an iconic number in Mormonism. We believe in a Godhead of three persons; not the Christian trinity, but three distinct individuals, each of them Gods. We’ll sometimes describe ourselves as monotheistic, but it isn’t really true; we worship an odd sort of Divine Committee; three Gods...

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