A New York Pioneer, Falling
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An Invitation Out by Shualee Cook

April 17 - May 3, 2015

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Chuckling loudly, Bishop Desmond Tutu announced on an NPR interview: “Ours is a God of Surprises!”

Indeed.

When I started writing what eventually turned into the play FALLING, I wasn’t planning on writing a play. Maybe a non-fiction piece on parenting a teen with severe autism. Maybe a poem exploring my grief/joy as my older son moved away to college.

But the words just wouldn’t cooperate. Kept turning into scenes. Scary truths started spilling out on the pages, turning aspects of my reality into fictional honesty.

And I had to decide – would I surrender to the process? Would I take the chance of exposing myself, my family, my theatre company, to potential ridicule? Could I go to the deep places where fear and faith do battle? Could I really tell the truth?

Challenged by a colleague who said, “Just write and see what happens,” I wrote some more about what I sometimes jokingly refer to as “Extreme Parenting” (A Fabulous New Sport Coming to an Arena Near You!). I didn’t think that this story would be very interesting to anyone not raising a teenage son struggling with autism, but I wrote anyway.

I hired an amazing director and cast of actors. We worked, I rewrote, we argued, I rewrote – and then it opened. And then it sold out. We extended the run, twice, and still it sold out. And then it was optioned for a production Off-Broadway – which is now scheduled to open October 15th at the Minetta Lane Theatre.

And I realized that this isn’t a story about Autism. It’s a story about loving someone who is hard to love.

And we all have that in our lives, our families. (Just realized – God kind of models that sort of love - for us. Hmmmm.)

So I’m off on this adventure to New York – starting in September I’ll be there for rehearsals with the same Director and a great new cast. I feel a little like the pioneer women in the show I’m currently directing, who have to face down the wolves; except my wolves are the fear factory in my head telling me that I’m going to let down all the investors, friends and family who believe in the show. Or, perhaps worse, that I’m going to be successful and turn into something self-centered and false.

And God chuckles, I’m sure. When I flew out to Manhattan to participate in auditions for the show, I sat in the rooftop terrace of my hotel, reviewing plans for the following day. Something pulled my attention from my papers – a movement above me – and I watched in amazement as a single white feather casually fell on my table. I was sitting under a large canopy. There were no birds around, and no other feathers to be seen anywhere.

Those of you who have seen Falling will understand the significance of that symbol. For those of you who haven’t seen it, you’ll have to trust that it was a confirmation of God’s grace.

Surprise!

Mustardseed Blog

That Question, and This Answer

by Shualee Cook

As the first production of An Invitation Out creeps closer and

closer, one question has been making frequent appearances in the

many conversations where I can’t shut up about my play - “So how’d

you come up with the idea for this?” And I usually answer with

something short and tag line-ish to avoid going into the longwinded,

embarrassing truth that the origins of this show extend

all the way back my gawky teenage years in the quiet mountain town

of Paradise, California (yes, the name is mostly ironic). One of

the first leading roles I ever got in my high school drama

department was in Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest.

And yes, it’s one of those plays that gets performed so often (and

usually rather badly) that many theatre folk roll their eyes at

the very mention of it. But coming to it fresh was electrifying. I

was immediately intoxicated by the language, the wit, the plot’s

effortless combination of intelligence and utter silliness. The

style of it very quickly clamped onto my fancy, and never let go.

My high school drama program was pretty amazing, looking back, and

in my freshman and sophomore years, I’d already been exposed to

Shakespeare, Tom Stoppard, and Jean Giraudoux. Wilde was the

fourth and final nail in the “maybe I want to be a playwright”

coffin, and I was done. The year that I performed in Earnest was

also the year that I wrote my first play.

 

Flash forward more years than I’m comfortable admitting to, and we

arrive at the heyday of Facebook and Twitter. As countless posts

skittered across my computer screen, I started to notice a trend -

a sizable number of the things getting “liked” or shared around

were quick, two or three sentence attempts at humor or cleverness,

a form that Oscar Wilde made his public reputation from. “Always

forgive your enemies; nothing annoys them so much” “Fashion is a

form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six

months.” “The world was my oyster, but I used the wrong fork.”

Seriously, Oscar Wilde would have OWNED Twitter. 21st century

social media had found a new stage for the witty epigram, had in

fact turned the internet into one gigantic Victorian dinner party

with everyone rushing to come up with the best zinger of the

night. All of the sudden, the archaic 19th century drawing room

comedies I’d been obsessed with since high school felt more

immediate than ever, and seemed a natural form to use to explore

an online world of clever dandyism gone mad. The idea was a simple

one: I would write a Wildean drawing room comedy, but in a chat

room instead. From there, the story gushed out very quickly, a

look at the future inspired by the past that would hopefully shed

some light on the present. So there you have it, how I came up

with this. And now, if we happen to bump into each other, you’ll

already know the answer to your question, and won’t be subjected

to me rambling on about high school theatre productions and longdead

playwrights, and we can share a perfectly lovely sigh of

relief.

 
 

 

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