Playwrights Wrestle with GodGAMBIER, Ohio (April 4, 2008) A panel of playwrights will explore the intersection of faith and art in a two-day College event in April at the Bolton Theater.
Prompted by her own spiritual journey, playwright Molly Rice, visiting assistant professor of drama, has spearheaded planning for "Playwriting, Spirituality and Religion." The event on April 11 and 12 includes five New York City-based playwrights, representing various religious traditions.
Issues of faith and dramatic writing are central to the panel discussion, which will be moderated by Rice. The event also includes readings by the playwrights and Kenyon students.
"I have the God gene," Rice said. "But I was not brought up in a religious tradition. I did a lot of exploring on my own. That gave me a lot of freedom to find my own concept of God. It's a very real relationship to me." Christian texts, the lives of the saints, and medieval theater structures inform Rice's work. Her plays include "Don't Stop" and "The Ghost of Don Juan."
Capturing a relationship with an invisible supreme being in a visual medium is a playwright's challenge, she said. "Those of us who imagine a visual embodiment of our spiritual beliefs, how do we make those flesh?"
Panel members will also discuss how playwrights convey religious inspiration to audiences not familiar with some religious traditions, how playwrights manage the religious biases of an audience, and how they handle conflicts between personal beliefs and the tenets of organized religions.
These are the participating playwrights:
Jason Grote, who is Jewish, has written "1001," "Maria/Stuart," and "Box Americana." A production of "1001" closed recently at Page 73 in New York City. The play suggests "The Arabian Nights" and includes a contemporary romance between an Arab and a Jew.
Quiara Hudes wrote the book for the Broadway musical "In the Heights" and was a 2007 Pulitzer Prize finalist for "Elliot, a Soldier's Fugue." She brings a Roman Catholic and Afro-Caribbean religious perspective to the panel.
Dael Orlandersmith, who speaks to Christian and Eastern religious traditions, was a 2002 Pulitzer finalist for "Yellowman." Orlandersmith won an Obie Award for the 1995 play "Beauty's Daughter," in which she starred at the American Place Theatre in New York City.
Bina Sharif, a Pakistani Muslim, wrote "Afghan Woman," an examination of the life of a Muslim woman, and "Democracy in Islam," a play about the stereotyping of Muslim culture. Also an actor, Sharif has written and directed more than twenty plays.
Nathan Wright, a Mormon, is collaborating with the New York-based company Theatre of the Emerging American Moment on "Architecting," a family saga that ranges from the American Civil War to the war in Iraq. The play will premiere at the National Theater of Scotland later this year.
The schedule in the Bolton Theater includes a reading of short plays by student playwrights at 9:00 p.m., April 11; a reading of play excerpts by visiting playwrights at 3:00 p.m., April 12; and the panel discussion at 8:00 p.m., April 12. All events are free and open to the public.
Rice organized the event with the help of David Lynn '76, editor of the Kenyon Review and professor of English; Vernon Schubel, professor of religious studies; and the Rev. Karl Stevens '95, Episcopal chaplain to Kenyon College. The event is funded by the Board of Spiritual and Religious Life, the Department of Religious Studies, and a Teachers Teaching Teachers grant.