“After the opening of #MormonInChief, we adjourned to a nearby bar for the opening night party. About halfway through the party, a woman introduced herself to me and asked what I thought about the play. Since it was clear she didn’t know I was the author, I quickly turned the question back on her. She responded enthusiastically that she’d really liked the show (sigh of relief) and added, “I didn’t expect it to make me think so much.” I wasn’t quite sure how to take this, but she went on to explain that she thought she had her mind made up about politics and religion (Mormonism in particular), that there was little this play could show her that she hadn’t already considered.
“But your experience was different than you expected?” I asked.
“Definitely,” she nodded. “It’s all so much more complicated than I thought.”
I certainly agree with this woman that the issues addressed in #MormonInChief are complicated. The play discusses not only religion and politics but the very concept of belief, of following something or someone greater than oneself. This natural instinct to follow is both an asset and a liability in each of the characters’ experiences and and, I suppose, if I can leave audience members with that realization I’ve done my job.
But this woman went on. “It just gave me so much to think about and talk about. I have so many questions now.”
These, to me, are the magic words. Because, above all, I want audience members to think, to question, to doubt, to examine. I want them to throw out their tired assumptions along with their playbills and empty water bottles on their way out of the theatre. This is what the writing process is like for me and what great art does to me and for me.
Eventually, I came clean to this party guest about who I was and she gave me the customary congratulations. But I enjoyed my moment as an audience member, connecting with a stranger over the questions posed by a play we’d just seen. That, I remembered, is why I do this crazy little thing called theatre.”