Wednesday, May 18, 2016

on a roll producing quaker plays...i started out doing one on deadline, for a quaker conference on religious education - it's margaret fell's 400th birthday, and they wanted a play about her. one problem here is that any given play assumes a certain number of characters - in the absence of actual kids, I make up whoever I think ought to be there - and then, when you have actual kids who are willing to perform, you may have a different number, more or less, than those who appear in the play. the plays frequently have parts for little kids, which could be expanded, but it's a bit harder to put on a play with fewer than those who are written into it, since it takes some doctoring of the script. but, having written the play, i am now free to let them doctor it as they wish. i have never made demands on how my plays are actually used.

so, having a burst of energy from having finished Silly Poor Gospel: The life and times of Margaret Fell, i then turned my attention to a project that has been simmering on my desk and aggravating me for many years. a few years back i encountered a very interesting and well-written little tome called Down in my Heart about conscientious objectors in wwII. I was interested in them because, in my lifetime, it has not been hard to see through various wars and decide that you believed in peace as opposed to, say, trying to find someone to kill in iraq. in wwII however the nation was united and hitler was clearly the personification of evil. i say 'clearly' as an american; i'm not so sure it would be so clear if you were german. it is certainly clear to those of us who are jewish, or have jewish relatives or friends, etc. and around 1942, when this book/play is set, it was pretty clear what hitler was doing in europe. so being a conscientious objector was not really a very easy choice.

my play, Down in Our Hearts, sticks fairly close to the book, though it has a quaker character that the book doesn't have. in the end i kind of collapsed characters, since i figured there was no way most religious education programs could find more than about seven men and one woman, all teenagers of course, to do such a thing. the odd thing about this play is that almost all of the original characters, straight from the book, are men. although meetings are free to get young women to play men, still, i didn't want to push my luck or overload it.

i'm almost done with Down in Our Hearts. it's about ten pages; i'm in a stage where i rest and then go back and reread it with a fresh eye. while i'm on a roll like this i might stick with quaker plays and produce a few more; ideas that i'd dredged up earlier appear below. but more likely (these are the golden days - kids are still in school, but i'm free, every morning, to put all my energy into writing whatever my soul desires - and this will carry on for about another week) i will turn my attention to two other unfinished projects that have been cluttering up my mind: the autobiography, and the novel. there is also the collation of significant work writing that i've done, one on language as a self-organizing system, and other simple essays related to language acquisition. all of this has been just irritating me - mostly because i lost a summer, last year, and was unable really to finish any of it.

but i get some good feeling from returning to the quaker play business. i'm not sure if anyone else reads them or produces them; i produced maybe seven or eight for our small meeting in illinois, and ran totally out of steam, unable to keep doing it. it's much harder, for me, to produce them than to write them, but the problem, for me, is that if you write them without the children in mind you'll have a kind of misfit of kids to characters, whereas if you already know who's going to play whom, you'll have some fun making parts that totally fit the characters.

the religious education conference is set for richmond on june 10, and i have said very clearly that i'm not going. i am tempted though. i'd have to abandon my family for a few days, and, in general, getting in and out of cloudcroft is much more difficult than lubbock. it would not be practical at all. but the various possibilities of continuing to write quaker plays have attracted my attention. maybe here i can list out what i know about the possibilities that are out there.

Rufus Jones, famous Quaker during WWII - I actually don't know what he did in WWII, but since I'm steeped in WWII research at the moment, perhaps I can find out;
Cadbury and the Quaker chocolate dynasty - this guy actually bought a farm outside Birmingham (UK) and built a town, in an attempt to provide enough room and a reasonable living circumstance for his workers. interesting!
Scattergood School and its housing of refugees in WWII - another one from WWII, one that I know a little about already, though I don't know of what kind of dramas might have come out of the experience.
the Quaker who became bad, spent money, went around the world, etc. (forgot his name - still don't know his name, and not sure that, even through looking through my e-mail, I can find it...might have to ask some friends)
Quakers in the Civil War, starting with the southern IN quakers as in Friendly Persuasion, pressured to join the battle in one way or the other, and eventually drawing people's ire from supporting one side or the other surreptitiously. in fact, the American Revolution provides some ways to look at this situation - what happens to quakers during wartime, when, by refusing to fight, they are automatically assumed to be helping the enemy.
Finally one that occurred to me recently was Kenyan Quakers, specifically those involved in the World Conference in 2012, which had a big brouhaha over acceptance of gays. the dilemma here is that Kenyan Quakers are actually a majority worldwide - there are far more there than here - yet homophobia is rampant in the African continent.

Don't know if I'll grab one of these and run with it - in some ways, i'll be glad to finished with Down in Our Hearts, get it on the website, get it off my desk. it's an interesting dilemma.

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