“What’s a nice Mormon girl like you doing writing plays like this?”

Melissa Leilani Larson is an award-winning playwright and screenwriter whose work has been seen on four continents. Her first book, Third Wheel: Peculiar Stories of Mormon Women in Love was released this week by By Common Consent Press. BCC Readers can purchase the book here for a 20% discount using the code QNTEGAHB. The Kindle version can also be purchased here.

 

cover-third_wheel-5,25x8in-coverFaith is a funny thing. It really shouldn’t work. Yet we’re always putting it to the test—even without thinking about it. We don’t doubt that a friend will pay back the money she owes; that a babysitter will show up when he said he will; that a new episode of our favorite show will air when expected. We assume that engines will start, that planes will land safely, that refrigerators will stay cold and that mangoes will be sweet.

Faith cannot exist without doubt. The two are sides of the same coin. One can outweigh the other and that balance can teeter back and forth, but the two are connected. They keep each other in check.

For me, doubt manifests itself in a constant array of questions. I often battle self-doubt: Is this play good enough? Will I make it to the next round? Will the studio read past page five? Will anyone walk out?

It would make sense, then, to expect faith to manifest when those questions are answered. But questions often lead to more questions, deeper and layered and complicated. Questions tend to multiply while answers grow scarce.

It’s easy to get caught up in the fact that we don’t always get the answers we want. That’s where faith gets real for me—figuring out how to be happy with the answers I have despite knowing they are incomplete.

Plays are about character. We go to the theatre to see character form—to see it shaped by choice and altered by circumstance. We see watch as decisions are made—wise or poor but always significant. Ultimately we go to the theatre to see lives changed.

There is a power in live performance that doesn’t exist in other media. As an audience member, all of your senses are in play. Your whole body is engaged. Something shifts when an actor is within earshot—sometimes as close as an arm’s length—of an audience. The light is different, the air is different. Emotions are heightened. Everything is more tense, more physical, more real.

Drama allows us to have compassion for those whose pain is different than our own. Not more or less, but different. The best plays ask the hardest questions. They push us to be compassionate. To be better people.

I initially wrote Little Happy Secrets because the majority of LDS coming out stories were male. But then I realized that Claire and I had a lot in common, and I walked so many miles in her shoes that people mistook her story for mine. How can a woman reconcile her faith with her emotions? How will my family react? Will God still accept me if I feel differently?

Pilot Program is a different beast, touching an unexpected nerve. As a single woman in a culture of marriage, where do I fit? How do I get where I need to all by my lonesome? Is plural marriage the only way for me to obtain celestial glory? What if I say no? Then again—what if I say yes?

The theatre is a sacred space. It’s an arena for asking and exploring hard questions. Its very existence relies on faith. Every time you file into a theatre, the one thing asked of you is that you suspend your disbelief and accept the world of the play. For a little while, you let yourself believe the unbelievable. That’s faith in a nutshell.

Comments

  1. Jason K. says:

    I’m really excited to read these!

  2. I read Third Wheel in one sitting yesterday. I genuinely could not put it down. These treatments of difficult subjects by an extremely talented and sensitive writer are eye-opening, thought-provoking, and heart-wrenching. I can’t recommend the book enough.

  3. I don’t know if I’ll be able to read “Pilot Program” after watching it last year. But I truly believe everyone else should read it. It would help leaders and members understand that there are some theological knots regarding polygamy that we need to untangle and this contributes greatly to problematic rhetoric about women in the church. It would change things. It’s that powerful.

  4. I ordered this on Amazon but two days is just too slow. Thankfully, there are excerpts on Mel’s website. So good. Can’t wait.

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