October 17, 2005

The Glory That Lies Beneath; My Play's World Premier

I recently attended a symposium of roughly 30 writers, directors, and producers who call themselves “Christian.” For five days we talked about our voice, explored the nature of the Christian Artist and tried to determine how God wanted this group to speak to a world in need.

In addition, five brand new plays were read in front of the entire group for analysis and possible production. Welcome to Justice, my first play, eight years in the making, saw its “world premier” (of sorts) at Stone Mountain, Georgia.

The Historic Tattoo
Stone Mountain State Park is an anomaly among anomalies, a beautiful natural wonder upon which the leaders of a failed secession have been etched in grand fashion. Upon viewing the granite mound I couldn’t help but wonder if even local natives don’t second-guess the decision to permanently brand such a beautiful place with a memorial honoring ideals that few still uphold. No matter how skillfully Robert E. Lee, Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson, and Jefferson Davis were etched into the side of this enormous rock, the image feels like an embarrassing tattoo proclaiming undying love to a previous girlfriend.

The park that surrounds the memorial is a hodge-podgery of kitsch and culture-gone-by. A sky ride, a riverboat, a 19th Century shopping village, amphibious tour buses and an oddly placed carillon are just a portion of the sundry attractions of this park that can’t decide if wants to celebrate history, nature or commercialism.

The rock itself however, is the main attraction and despite the carving that a Yankee like me has trouble appreciating, it is a geological marvel. The granite mound juts up 825 feet into the air and covers 583 acres. It is the world’s largest piece of exposed granite. But what is even more interesting is the part of the mountain that can’t be seen. The mountain continues 10 miles down into the Earth. When Atlanta was constructing its subway, some 15 miles away, outcroppings of the mountain often interfered.

God, the Stage Mom
On the first day of the symposium, we were given time alone to let God answer a number of questions through prayer time and scripture. The first of these questions was “What breaks the heart of God?”

I left our hotel and walked to the lawn that sits long and green in the shadow of the civil war icons. As I opened my Bible, I found myself in Romans 8.

Verse 18, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.”

When I’d read this verse previously, my cognition trailed off toward the end. I assumed it simply meant “we’re sad now, but some day we’ll be happy.” But on the lawn that day, I read the end of the verse. “The glory that will be revealed in us.” It’s not saying we’re just going to be happy, Paul is saying that incomparable glory will be revealed in us. And of course, if it’s going to be revealed, that means that it’s there now, it’s just hidden.

I have a four-year-old son who is the most adorable creature known to man, with, perhaps, the exception of my two-year old son. I love watching people fall in love with him. I tried to imagine what it would be like if I had to watch him meeting people with his glory hidden, wearing a mask or smelling like fish. I’d be dying to rectify the solution so that people might see his glory as I do. God must be like a stage mom as he watches us, wishing he could come and straighten our tie, or give us a boost of confidence so we can shine for Him. God answered my question. Seeing us walking around with our glory hidden is what breaks the heart of God.

Shining Like the Sun
Thomas Merton says that if we could see each other as God does, we’d realize we’re all walking around shining like the sun! We have no understanding of the beauty that lies within us. Seeing only a part of our own glory, we build sky rides and 19th Century shopping villages to distract those who might cast their gaze upon us.

I sat on the lawn that day doubting the scope of my God’s love, not comprehending how God could see humans as so precious. I closed my eyes and I prayed this prayer:

“God, let me see someone as you see them.”

When I opened my eyes, I looked to my right and saw two middle-aged women walking down the lawn. There was nothing unique about them, but for a few moments, God let me see them through his eyes, and they truly did shine like the sun. I knew nothing about them, but I sensed His immense love seething through me for these women. Then, I imagined God looking down on me with those same eyes, and I wept.

He sees me, not just the small piece of exposed glory, but the glory that runs ten miles deep. I returned to the symposium a changed man.

The Reading
The next day was my reading. And the play that has consumed my imagination for the last quarter of my life was “passed on” by the producers that were there that day. However, the general consensus was that while they were not particularly interested in the script, they were very interested in the author.

They didn’t like the carving, but they were impressed with the rock. The old me might have been quite saddened by their decision, but the new, glorious me understands that below the surface, there is an infinite supply of granite upon which to carve my next work.


James Currie said...

You continue to impress me with your use of setting as metephor. It recalls in my mind, that little gem that transformed renewal week, "The Bridge." You ARE 10 miles deep. Thanks for sharing.

MLE said...

Sorry about your play--it is tough when you put so much time into something like that! However, thanks for the amazing insights and wisdom!

jhyshark said...

Oh, shucks, but this can't be the end of the road for good new plays... there must be other possibilities for having it produced and other roads to having it noticed, eh? Yup, love your writing, and description of that "tattoo." My sentiments toward it aren't even that kind. Not that it's confederate, but as "art" it doesn't seem to work with the rock, but to have defaced it.

DanBuck said...

The play is far from dead, I just need a break fom it before going at it again. If you look at my more reent post you'll see some good feedback from one of the producers who was there, who is becoming a good friend.

I suspect it will get produced in 2007 by or somebody else. But for now, I need to start something new. I don't wan this play to become my Moby Dick.

jhyshark - do I know you? You're welcome here, but I was curious how you found me.

The Piko Screenwriting Fellows said...

Hi Dad, This is Chris Hansen from they Symposium. This was a great post, great descriptions of our time in Atlanta. Please do not be discouraged in your writing - and DO NOT STOP. I am a film person and I have had very little exposure to theater so I did not have much I felt I could say during the symposium.... but let me tell you this... after a couple of weeks of being back there are two images I remember from the five play readings - the cliff the friends sat on in the first play and your underground prison. I thought the concept, themes, metaphores, etc were excellent. I thought the characters were excellent. Work on the plot, logic, feasibility, structure, believability, etc and SHAZAMM!!!

glow said...

I found your blog thru art and faith site. Wow, you have such a great balanced connection with our Lord and his spirit of the world etc.
I've really enjoyed reading "all" your news etc. I Especially liked your little article on how we break Gods heart in hiding our God given light under a basket so to speak.
I have also prayed for years God would allow me to see folks through his eyes. It IS amazing. It truely has helped me stand fast in troubled places through out my life with others. Just judging some one by the worlds viewpoint usually ends up being to harsh on someone when God shows you how he sees them and basically what they need from their fellow human beings on the planet for healing etc..

Thanks for sharing your insights and heart. You got a good one !