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In the play, Bill tells the audience, “Ritual is a good form of prayer for a writer.” Here are just a few of the audience replies to the third question we asked in our New Book lobby display.
What rituals do you have in your life?
- I get out of bed at 5:27.
- Grace at supper (say thanks), Rachel Maddow at night, & church on Sunday
- Sunday morning NPR & New York Times
- I write at least a page a day. Usually more.
- I drink a perfect martini everyday at 4 p.m.
- Always have Friday night Shabbat dinner with friends and family.
- Bring coffee to wife in bed in morning.
- Going to the theatre with my mom. Taking my daughter to the theatre.
- Each year, on the day after Christmas, my daughter and I join a larger group to sing Handel’s Messiah. It’s become an important ritual for us.
- I kiss my dog and my husband everyday—in that order!
Here’s our second edition of the How to Write a New Book for the Bible post-it note sharing extravaganza. And if you didn’t read the last post and are wondering what we’re talking about, here’s a brief recap:
In the spirit of the New Book notion that the “ordinary isextraordinary,” we wanted our audiences to share with us stories andrituals of their own lives.
Read below for a few of their answers to our second question.
What do you wish the Bible said? OR What are you glad it says already?
- Love God. Love yourself. Love others.
- Don’t believe everything you read.
- If God is infinite, why aren’t there infinite ways to reach her/him?
- Deut 1:31 (paraphrased): And you have seen how God cared for you, like a father for his child, all the way until you came to this place.
- All people are created equal.
- Homosexuality isn’t an abomination.
- The kingdom of God is within you.
- Tonight free pizza for everybody! We are tired of the holy bread!
- Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
- You know? I don’t really know; I’ve never read the Bible actually. I do have a friend who just finished. Cover to cover. It took a year exactly.
Check back tomorrow for our last post that shares some of our patrons’ answers to “What rituals do you have in your life?”
In How to Write a New Book for the Bible, playwright Bill Cain asks questions that speak to the heart of every family. A recent Crosscut review characterized it this way: “What Cain wants us to see is the intense sacredness of ordinary life as wellas the significance of the lives of ordinary people, of their living andtheir dying.”
In the spirit of this notion that the “ordinary is extraordinary,” we wanted our audiences to share with us stories and rituals of their own lives. We invited patrons to answer three questions—inspired by the play—and share those answers on post-it notes that they’d leave on our lobby display.
The response was overwhelming! Front of house staff had to replenish thepost-it note supply often and many patrons lingered in the lobby aftershows to read every note stuck on the board.
Read below for a few answers to our first question.
What is the most important rule of your family?
- Do your best—in all things.
- There are no points off for loving.
- If talking is good, yelling is better.
- Living well is the best revenge.
- Keep the women fed.
- Don’t get hit by a car.
- It is okay to make mistakes.
- This moment is holy.
Stay tuned for future blog posts that share audience answers to “What do you wish the Bible said? OR What are you glad it says already?” and “What rituals do you have in your life?
It’s been gone for nearly 15 years, and I still miss Nothing Sacred like I miss fifth-grade recess. Nothing Sacred was a TV drama that shone brightly — and briefly — during the 1997-98 season on ABC. Some conservative Catholics thought America ought not to be exposed to programming about a priest who questioned his church’s doctrines and his own faith. At the same time, it was heaven on earth for me, a Seattle P-I television critic who had once thought he might become a priest. ABC pulled the plug a few episodes shy of a full season; the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, which deemed the show deeply offensive and had urged a boycott of any company that dared sponsor it, claimed victory. Nevertheless, Nothing Sacred received a Peabody Award and a Humanitas Prize for its rich affirmation of human dignity. Here’s what I wrote at the time:
It is sad irony that Nothing Sacred, the most catholic of shows, faces excommunication. Nowhere is there a more universal, all-inclusive series that speaks so eloquently to the “values” that critics of mainstream television harp on. … Sure, Father Ray is a liberal priest, but his compassion and generosity of spirit in the face of ecclesiastical paradox are the central elements in Nothing Sacred, not his politics. Unlike other values-oriented programming, the character development is deep, the writing thoughtful and clear, the plots provocative and often surprising.
I mention this because the show’s creator, Bill Cain, is the author of How to Write a New Book for the Bible. True to Cain’s intellectual nature — he’s a Jesuit priest with a fine sense of what constitutes community — Nothing Sacred was all about discovering the love and compassion that exist in a family. This is precisely the essence of How to Write a New Book for the Bible. The difference here is that the family is Cain’s own insular family, not an entire parish. read full post »
Finding the Extraordinary in the Ordinary: Q & A with Actress Linda Gehringer on Creating the New Book Family
In How to Write a New Book for the Bible, playwright Bill Cain recounts his own experiences caring for his ailing, spirited mother, Mary. In the show—both for the first run at Berkeley Repertory Theatre and now in the co-world-premiere at Seattle Rep—nationally renowned actress Linda Gehringer takes on the role of Mary in the show.
We sat down with Gehringer to discuss what it’s like to work on a world premiere, originate the role of Cain’s mother, and bring to life the intimate story of a real family.
Q: What’s it like to work on world premiere, versus a previously published script?
LG: Working on a brand-new play—it’s so full of freedom, for sure. You don’t have cobwebs in your head, nobody else has them in their head, so there is an absolutely open sense of freedom. In terms of your expectations about your performance, all you’re worried about is really making that play work, rather than thinking, “Oh my gosh, her Blanche was like this, what is my Blanche going to be?” So I always find that very exciting. On the flip side, you don’t know what you have. So, until you tell that story in front of an audience, you really don’t know.
Q: Since it is such a personal play, can you talk more about how much Bill helped you create Mary Cain? Did he specify particular habits and mannerisms or give more general behavioral notes?
LG: More often Bill would tell us that “this is how she’d handle a situation” or “it wasn’t that dramatic of a moment. It was a simpler moment.” I do feel like Bill very much helped me invent her. It wasn’t about me, I mean I clearly look nothing like her, he wasn’t even expecting that. It’s more from the inside. His mother is constructed very much like my mother. Now if you met the two of them, you wouldn’t think they’re anything alike, but there’s a sense of fierce dignity, a sense of not giving up, a sense of—I want to say cheerful in spite of it all—but not a “oh, everything is going to be fine” kind of person. She’s realistic.
Q: Would you say those traits you just mentioned are what you admire most about Mary’s character?
LG: Yes. It’s funny, we had a couple of talkbacks at Berkeley, and people said, “This is so interesting because this is really about ordinary people. Most plays are about extraordinary people.” And I thought, “I don’t think of her as ordinary. I actually think of her as kind of heroic, and kind of extraordinary.” But I understand, she lives in Syracuse, it’s just her little life. But yeah, there is something about her grabbing for life, as she’s dying, and then when she accepts that she is . . . she just lives every moment until it’s gone.
Q: Can you talk more about the rehearsal process of How to Write a New Book for the Bible?
LG: Every time I’ve touched this play the rehearsals have had an intimacy about them—in the stories Bill tells about his family, the way everybody else shares, the way I talk about my mother and her loss. I mean everybody is kind of naked in a way. I think it’s a group of actors, thankfully, who have no problem doing that. So, from the beginning everyone was quite open. And there were struggles—there were struggles even figuring out how to stage the play. You’re standing on stage and you change forty years or time and place shifts. And that stuff was hard to figure out.
So our rehearsals were long, they were intense, they were full of laughter. Those guys are so funny. All five of them are so funny. I’d say it was a very loving environment, but sort of like the family too. It’s not like it wasn’t without its fight. You know, everyone fought for their place within the play. It’s a good thing. You want people to have opinions. And you want people to have fight as much as you want love and cooperation and laughter.
Q: Did the script get rewritten often when you were at Berkeley Rep?
LG: The script has not changed a great deal since the first time I read it. I did a number of readings of this play with different casts. Bill talked to each group very intimately about the people in the play—his brother and his dad, and not just his mom and that experience, but all the other experiences that are discussed in the play. So it’s great having him there. And it’s curious—it’s always curious in a new play—when you’re working with the playwright because you feel like they give you so much information and you think, “Huh, I wonder what that’s going to be like when that person isn’t there.” But it seems like plays find their way no matter what. A great play lives without its playwright in the room.
Q: What do you hope audiences will take away from the production? Why should they come?
LG: I actually feel like it’s a celebration of life, as opposed to a visit to death. I really feel like it’s a tribute to family, it’s a tribute to life—I think that’s why you laugh so much. And I think most people leave thinking about and loving their own families. I’ll never forget the first time I read it at the Ojai Playwrights Festival. At the end of the piece, after we read it, there were all these young directors, playwrights – guys – and they’re all saying (with great emotion), “I’m going to call my mom!” I think that’s what we want people to leave with. But it’s a positive feeling. It’s definitely a positive feeling. It’s not like losing someone is something that any of us can avoid. It will happen. It is part of our lives. And I think he gives great tribute to that in this piece.