The discussions Paul Selig and I have had about MYSTERY SCHOOL focus on our shared fascination with the many varied, and oftentimes wonderfully odd ways that people around us are struggling to have faith in the fallen, resolutely secular world we live in as we near the end of the century. The women Paul has imagined all exemplify a powerful and widespread hunger for some contact with the numinous. Each one of them is in the process of making some contact with an invisible world which might offer transcendent spiritual experience – ecstasies and raptures which were almost taboo in the maddeningly solid, toxic and prosaic world they wake up to daily. What appealed powerfully to me upon first reading MYSTERY SCHOOL was the seriousness with which Paul has examined this yearning for a spiritual life. In our work with the piece’s actress, we will be at pains never to satirize or “send up” these women. Obviously, the piece must entertain, and in many instances the rebellious, outrageous, oddball spirit of the characters must play comically. But this goal must be accomplished without sacrificing the dignity or the complexity of the characters. The aim is to introduce women which arty, self-conscious would-be intellectuals like myself might at first be inclined to dismiss and then reveal them as genuine seekers – adepts in mystery schools of their own devising – questing after a way of life which just might include greater spiritual sustenance than the next trip to the mall or the new fall lineup on NBC. Might the experience of MYSTERY SCHOOL ultimately offer an audience – inclined at first to consider these women a little silly, a little weak, and a little stupid – something resembling a genuine spiritual experience? In order to achieve this rather ambitious end, we will be thinking about the five monologues as a dramatically structured sequence. We would begin with what we consider the spiteful, exclusive and rather unhealthy fervor of the woman we meet in TONGUES, then touch bottom with the well-educated, well-mannered despair of the woman who gives us SIDE SHOW, and finally rise into the expansive arms of Dr. Edie. We hold two questions in our mind as we contemplate our time in Utah: 1) Do these five pieces comprise a complete evening?; and 2) Would additional material increase the work’s emotional impact? Although our shared instinct is that the current sequence is the most effective one, we are ready to learn otherwise. Although we won’t be working to realize a scenic design in Utah, we will be pondering the tension between specificity and neutrality which will drive the design process when the piece is actually produced.
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