Announcing the 2017/18 Script-In-Hand Series sponsored by Lee & Audrey Hollaar (click here to reserve your free-but-required tickets)!
by Carleton Bluford
author of MAMA (2015)
I was thinking about growing up in a place that is predominately occupied by the Mormon religion.“The Church” has always been in the news politically, all of my friends have been affected by it in some way or another, and there really is no escaping it if you choose to live in the Beehive State.
Most of my friends are very liberal and have ended up turning their backs to the Church. However I grew up with many Mormon friends who are still Mormon who were kind to me, nice to me, loved and didn’t judge me, and stood up for me on many occasions. Sometimes even saving my life, literally. They have families and jobs and they seem very happy. Whether they are or not is not for me to decide, as there are two sides to every story.
So in writing THE PRIESTHOOD, I wanted to discuss a very controversial event in the Church’s history examining those two sides. I also wanted to make it deeply human because, in the end, talking about spirituality and the soul is very personal.
The Church’s 1978 decision to allow blacks to hold the priesthood is called a revelation from God. Some people say the Church just bent from heat of the strong political and racial environment of the time. Some people embraced it with open arms, and some of those people were black. This has always been interesting to me because, on a personal level, there are things about the Church that I do not agree with or understand but, on the other hand, there are things that I believe to be right and good. This is how I feel about most religions: they are all trying to accomplish the same moral goal but have different ways of going about it and are all claiming their way is the right one. That sounds very much like business strategy to me, that sounds very much like man, and I have never fully trusted man. I’ve seen men do amazing things and I’ve seen men do terrible things, all under the guise of wanting to help.
In the end, I feel you have to follow your heart and listen to that little voice inside you that guides you and have faith. Is there one true religion? Are there multiple heavens? Will you have virgins when you die? None of us really know, but as long as you accept what I believe, and I accept you and your beliefs; as long as you don’t try to kill someone or emotionally guilt them into your way of thinking; as long as you spread your light but don’t force it, I believe we can all live together in all of our infinite diversity.
Love is love no matter your religion.
Love is the constant in everything.
Maybe my play is about finding a higher love.
by Melissa Leilani Larson
author of PILOT PROGRAM (2015) and THE EDIBLE COMPLEX (2016)
In the fall of 1851, a lone horseman riding north from Salt Lake found a wagon train near the Bear River. The horseman was Major Howard Egan, a friend and bodyguard to Brigham Young. On this particular day in late September, crisp and cool among the pines, Howard found an old friend on that wagon train: James Madison Monroe.
Howard and James had known each other for years, first meeting in the 1840s in Nauvoo, Illinois. Eyewitnesses that day said they talked for roughly half an hour. Then Howard drew his revolver and shot James in the face, killing him almost instantly. Howard declared, “Gentlemen, I have killed the seducer of my wife… Vengeance is sweet to me.” He mounted his horse and returned to Salt Lake City, where he turned himself in to the sheriff.
Howard’s trial for James’s death lasted an hour. It took the jury fifteen minutes to acquit him. It was Utah’s first murder trial, and for years afterward the case was taught as an instance of “mountain common law.” Howard believed that he was doing right by his wife, his family, and his church by pursuing and killing his wife’s lover—and the court agreed with him.
The story is fascinating. A brilliant historian friend introduced it to me (thank you, Brittany Chapman Nash), mentioning that it might make good fodder for a play. So I dug a little deeper.
Yes, there is a play here. But it’s not the play people are expecting.
Tamson Parshley Egan, Howard’s wife and James’s lover, was the link between the two men. But when I searched for more information about her, what I found was a cipher—a presence and an influence rather than a character. I found stories about her from before the affair and recollections from her children years afterward. However, when it comes to the famous murder of her lover, Tamson’s voice is virtually absent from the record. The history is fascinating, yes. It’s also dominated by the men who told it—the friends and admirers of Tamson’s cuckolded husband.
MOUNTAIN LAW is a very new play. It has a ways to go. But even in these early stages it’s clearly become Tamson’s play, and I’m glad for it. I want to give her a voice in her own history, even if I can only guess at what she might have said or done.
The play attempts to recreate events and decisions in Tamson’s life that could have contributed to Monroe’s eventual death. But really the play has left history behind, evolving into something else altogether—a poetic meditation on isolation and loneliness and boredom. Tamson is a young woman alone in an unforgiving wilderness. When James comes into her life, she is basically a single mother doing her best not only to make ends meet, but surviving from one day to the next. That was the story that hit me harder than gun-slinging or courtrooms. That was the story that I knew I needed to tell.
We at Plan-B hosted a gathering of Theatre Artists of Color in June of 2017. The desire to tell stories authentically came up multiple times throughout the gathering. So we organized a writing workshop with Utah’s most produced playwright, Julie Jensen, to be held in November and December of 2017. Julie will teach the basics of the craft; the writers will write; we’ll craft select pieces into an evening of short works.
Click here to reserve your free-but-required tickets to the 2017/18 Script-In-Hand Series.