Looking for a cultural bargain? Catch the sure-to-amuse staged reading of University of Baltimore prof, playwright, and fiction writer Jonathan Shorr’s short play “Good God!” tomorrow night, June 13, in the Wright Theater in the Student Center at UB as final chapter of the Emerging Voices performance series. Steve Satta directs. The event is free, open to the public, and starts at 7 p.m. Shorr serves as the interim division chair of Applied Behavioral Sciences at UB – he’s also very funny, as you’ll see below.
I talked to the writer about his play and his passion for the craft.
How many plays have you written?
Eight or 10, probably. Most have been audio plays. That’s always been my favorite genre for which to write even though there’s no market for them. When people think of audio plays, they think of 1930’s organ-swells and coconut-shell-hoof sound effects, soap operas and The Lone Ranger and The Shadow radio plays. It would be the same as someone thinking about TV plays as Leave It to Beaver rather than Girls, as Dragnet rather than The Wire. But I love writing for the ear, creating a world in acoustic space. And I like writing for the eye, too. So while my current play, “Good God!” is a “stage” play, I wrote it with various multimedia elements in mind.
What are some comedic plays (written by someone else) you like?
Anything by Woody Allen and Steve Martin. Sondheim’s musicals have a lot of humor. And Edward Albee’s “The American Dream,” has some very funny elements in it, although not everyone would identify it as a comedy.
“Good God!” is based on the Book of Job. Why’d you pick that as a subject?
A friend of mine, the wonderful musician and composer Robbie Solomon, suggested that we collaborate on a musical, and he was interested in Job. I agreed. The hard part was coming up with a concept and not just rewriting the Biblical story as dialogue. Once I did that, I started working on the script, and he came up with four or five songs. We realized that it was going to take a lot longer to put the pieces together in a “real” way and not just as a play that had an occasional song inserted. Neither of us had time then to move it to that next step, so I finished my part as a stand-alone play, hoping that at some point, we’ll get back to the collaborative piece of it.
How can you convey the story of Job in 30 minutes?!
I can convey it in less than a minute: Satan bets God that the only reason Job loves God is that Job’s life has been easy and if enough hardship befalls him, Job will change his tune. It does. He doesn’t. So conveying it in 30 minutes wasn’t the hard part. The hard part was trying to make it not so episodic. And the even harder part was trying to write something about faith and behavior that made sense to me in 2013—and frankly, blind obedience doesn’t.
Without giving too much away, what is your favorite scene in the play?
There’s a great scene in Job in which God finally speaks to Job, but instead of answering his question, “What did I do to deserve this?” God just rants (albeit articulately and poetically) about God’s greatness, about all the Big Stuff God has done and can do. There’s a scene in “Good God!” that I hope parallels that, albeit not nearly as articulately and poetically.
How do you know the director Steve Satta from Towson?
Let me count the ways: He directed a production a couple years ago of another short play I wrote; I’ve seen other of his productions; I knew his husband Patrik when he was a UB student many years ago; my wife was in some yoga classes that he led; and we have various friends in common.
I understand you are remaining hands off where staging/production’s concerned. What do you anticipate (or perhaps fear)?
Short of a full staging of the play, there are a couple production elements that when I wrote it I thought would help it a lot. Because this is a staged reading, I suspect that those elements won’t be present, and so I’m wondering how the production will communicate those things. At the same time, I have great faith in the director and the cast to do wonderful things with the script.
Is it hard to turn your script over to someone else and allow him/her creative control of the presentation?
Yeah! (duh!) I would love to keep control of my work all the way through the process. And yet, I’ve written a play, which by definition is collaborative, with director, actors, set and lighting designers, etc. all contributing their visions and interpretations and expertise, so perhaps I can’t protesteth too much.
Latest posts by B. Boyd (see all)
- Kids’ Singer Goodman-Wood Pairs with Beat Boxer on Monday - September 4, 2015
- Photographer Greg Dohler’s Surreal Sense of Place: At 13.5% Wine Bar Starting Tomorrow - August 7, 2015
- Fear of Injection - February 5, 2014