What I want you to know. Which is everything.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Arizona: a Place Without Daylight Savings Time

There is a family who lives in Phoenix, Arizona. They are what many would consider to be part of the religious, Christian right. They are pro-life, anti-gay, support the war in Iraq and believes everything that George W. Bush tells the country because they believe that he is the Christian man he says he is. They are also licensed handgun owners. They don't approve of drinking, smoking, cussing, or movies that have any of these things. They cannot afford to send their kids to the private Christian school in Phoenix and so they home-school their kids. They don't want their kids to be exposed to the above mentioned things, which are discussed openly among students at the local schools. They believe that Hollywood is corrupt and within the clutches of the devil and that books should be banned if they discuss sex. This family strongly believes in the literal interpretation of the Holy Bible, the New Testament and the Old and that it is a direct instruction manual directly from the hand of God himself. Football is great, nudity of any kind is pornographic.

Now, they have one daughter who has just returned from her Freshman year at a conservative, Christian university in another state, and a son who is of middle school age, although he is above grade level in reading and math, due to an accelerated rate in homeschooling. The daughter has just been informed that she can't go back to school because of finances, although her parents are relieved because she returned with questions about faith and life that she had never had before. While intelligent, the son is very unsocial, and has difficulty dealing with children his own age.

Enter two young men. One is an old friend of the family. Since he has been away at college he has challenged his own beliefs and loosened his grip on some of his previously held restrictions. While he remains very much rooted in faith, he has liberalized his interpretation of both Christian doctrine and biblical interpretation. The other young man is a friend of the first from college. He doesn't know the family from Adam and is only there with his friend for one night as a stop over as they drive to Los Angeles. His experience with Christianity is a much more relaxed version than either the family or the first young man. His family attended church on a regular basis and were even involved in activities such as the youth group and Sunday school. But, his family was very liberal in their beliefs and did not adhere to much of what the church traditionally frowned upon. It was no secret that his parents were social drinkers and that they voted for Democrats. As this young man grew older he was encouraged to question morality and his faith. He continually searched for new meaning and relevance in the way that the Bible was to be interpreted as well as the role of God and Christ in modern life. Nothing was taken for granted or written in stone, but everything was subject to scrutiny by the opinion and relevance to one's self. Through his journey this young man stood firm and even reaffirmed his belief in Jesus Christ, but instead of seeing the Bible as a set of rules he generally studied it as a book of inspiration and knowledge. He saw Jesus as a liberal and a radical, there to break the rules in the name of bettering mankind, not following them for the sake of the status quo.

Amidst the conflicts present at the arrival of these two young men there must be a story worth telling. First you have the introduction. The family sees the first boy as he once was, and assume that the new boy is the same way. The first young man accepts the family for what they are and always have been, while the new boy is simply turned off from the family completely upon meeting, or very soon after. The one night the two boys are to stay at the house the new boy is able to convince the original boy that they need to vacate the premises until the family is asleep and out of their hair. They end up going out and drinking too much, resulting in a car wreck and a near fatality for the first boy. The second boy returns to the home to get help while the other is taken to an area hospital and eventually his parent's in L.A. The second boy is left to deal with this family that he didn't particularly want to stay even one night with. All the while the family is going through trauma of their own. The daughter is being very difficult; swearing, arguing and continuing a relationship with a boy that the parents do not approve of. This difficulty is heightened by the fact that the mother and father are attempting to shelter the young son from the drunken visitor, the unruly college student and their own bickering. On top of this the mother's plans to keep a liberal congressman from speaking at the local school has come crashing around her as the other mothers decide that they would rather have their kids pose for pictures with a politician than stick to their convictions.

The daughter and the new boy just want to get out, the parents want things back the way it was, and I can't figure out what to do next.

Help me end my play.


Rob Currie said...

I'm no playwright but I would imagine something to the extent of the conquer of conservatism. The daughter and the liberal college lad leave together for a better and brighter future, away from the dreary and dismal Arizona horizon. The congressmen speaks at the school. The son begins to question things for himself. (Takes it upon himself to enlist in public education?).

Well, thats what I would like to see from develop from the provided story line.


jocelyn said...

Is the daughter dating the second boy (the liberal one) or another rebellious guy? It might make it more intense for it to be the liberal guy. I see the resolution coming from the son. As someone in the family who is intelligent and hasn't rebelled, he has credibility with the family and could probably establish credibility with the liberal guy because he's intelligent enough to see that most arguments have more than two sides and that life is complex and multivalent. I think finding some way for them to compromise, or at least find a way to live with each other, is a bit more believable than one side winning and the other side losing...if you set it that way, then audiences will feel like you're just pushing your own agenda rather than revealing truth in human relationships.

On the other hand, sometimes people who are fundamentalist cannot see outside of their set of values, so if it's not within the characters to change their minds, maybe the daughter can see that there is value in some of their opinions and she can act in way that is respectful toward them but still true to her own beliefs...

I don't really know, not knowing the characters at all. Those are just some thoughts. Sounds like an interesting play! Hope it goes well.

By the way, who got married in Abilene this past weekend?

Dave said...

Whydo they have to live in Arizona? I mean, seriously, c'mon man...I think I go to church with 100 families like this one, or a not to distant variation of them. Holy Crap! I am a minister to those families...Holy Crap! I am the post-modern/emergent Christian they all fear! Holy Crap! I am hungry.

Keep working on it, sounds like a story that needs to be told, though some will just hold there hands over their ears, close their eyes and chant loudly "Form not function, form not function".

PS to Rob Currie. "Dreary and Dismal"? Arizona is awesomeful. I mean come on man...you live in Texas, talk about dismal. No need to rebutt, because I'll just reply, thanks for Dubya.

Kyle said...

To answer some of Jocelyn and Rob's questions, I don't want it to be a conquest of conservative over liberal or vice versa. These people are who they are and I agree that it shouldn't push one agenda over the other. When I first wrote it that came across and so I changed it quite a bit.

Jocelynn, the second boy just met the daughter. She is dating a guy named Scott who I only briefly mentioned but has a couple of substantial scenes. He is kind of a jerk and we get the impression that he may be a drug dealer or something. Anyway, it's pretty obvious that he doesn't love the daughter and is using her. In her naivity she is having sex with him and thinks that he is going to let her move in with him. He is older and worldly. Which is why the parents don't approve. Not that they would approve of most anyone.

I'm trying really hard not to make the parents seem too over the top obnoxious. In fact, I do like them, they are great people, I'm just afraid that they seem unreal or forced. As far as the young son is concerned he is too young to really make any difference in the main plot, but I'm thinking of adding an element of him with the neighborhood kids. Is that too cliché?

Thanks for your input. It helps.

We were in Abilene for Natalie Walker's wedding.

jocelyn said...


That does help clarify some. I don't know about the neighborhood kids/younger son thing. That's probably a scene you'll have to write and then rewrite and then decide if it's too cliche...at least that's usually my experience. :o)

So if the main plot has to be resolved by one of the adults, wouldn't it be interesting for it to be one of the parents? There's the stereotype of the fundamentalist Christians who won't bend, so what if you spun it differently where the parents were ultimately the ones who gave grace to their daughter (us liberals like to think we are always the grace-givers, it seems).

And what if the dad was the one to extend the grace rather than the mom (sometimes we expect the maternal bond thing). What if the dad has a talk with his daughter about the boyfriend--it could start out heated and all that, but then maybe they could find out some of the deeper issues that are driving her to act this way. Maybe she's having trouble shaping her own identity, maybe she feels stifled by their beliefs, maybe she's deeply insecure and needs a man to love her, etc. If the dad could see her with eyes of compassion instead of judgement, maybe his heart would soften and he could find a way with his wife to see his daughter and the liberal guy that's staying at their house with newfound grace...realistically, they won't accept a lot of the actions, but maybe they can still love the kids.

I don't know, Kyle. Again, it's hard to know for sure since I haven't read the script. Don't you wish you could be a part of a writer's workshop all the time? I know I do. There are so many things that I get stuck on and I wish I had someone who could say, "That's really good" or "that sucks" or "you need to develop this more."

I figured it was Natalie's wedding. My friend Kate and I couldn't think of anyone else from that group of friends who would be getting married. Hope you guys had fun!

Jason said...

First of all, great idea. It sounds like you have a good basic structure.

Second, it also sounds like you have a TON of stuff going on here. Is it possible that the ending might emerge in your mind if you simplify the story? The value differences, the car accident, the daughter and her rebellious boyfriend, the son and his issues; that's a lot. Maybe you can bring it all together in a good way that makes sense, but I could also see it as a hinderance.

Third, about the ending, I think this story would not be as good if it had a positive ending where all of the loose ends were tied up and everyone came to agree about ideology. That doesn't happen, and I don't think it would make for as good of a story. I think the resolution, however, should come from the liberal outsider, not that he produces some wisdom that solves everything, but he provides the mechanism through which resolution is achieved. Otherwise, why is he there? He is a primary vehicle of change, and I think that should be reflected one way or another in the ending. I can't say exactly what that is because I don't know what the point of the play is. What are you trying to say? What themes are you exploring? Why would I want to see this play? Even if you aren't pitting conservative Christian ideology against liberal Chrisitan ideology, I think what happens in the end should emerge from these questions.

Deana Nall said...

Have the characters die one by one throughout the play so that once they're all gone, you have to end the play. Hey, it worked for "Legends of the Fall."

Chad said...

Dealing with life is messy. A child returning home challenging assumptions leads to conflict and tension that is often unresolved (speaking from experience). I agree with Jason - such a story probably doesn't need an ending that resolves the conflict among the characters. Of course I'm no playwright, but I do listen to many people struggling with their views as compared to their parents and know the lifelong struggle that can create.

Kyle said...

I appreciate everyone's comments. They really do help. When writing a play, or anything I suppose, the hardest thing is not being able to step back from the story or situation and judge it subjectively. I'm very lucky to have friends and collegues that will give me honest opinion on subjects that can be touchy. As long as people aren't mean, but honest, I love any kind of criticism. I'm pretty apt to dish it out, so I guess I should be.

Dan Carlson said...

I'd love to help, but I'm going to need you to assign some names to the numerous characters in the setup. The new boy, the original boy, the first boy: give them names, or even numbers, so I can keep them straight. I'm pretty stupid, and I need all the assistance I can get.

Anonymous said...

I would have the wife crack, the Christians who are having the politician to school get to her and also maybe the school finds a scholarship to help the boy go there where he kind of gets off-track too, the way of the sister at college. That would make the husband odd man out (use violence of football/television games to get to him) and when he moves into the "new", more liberal fold, the story is over. I wouldn't make it about conservatism versus liberal but more about growth/change and flexibility.