One of the very best things about living in Louisville is the Humana Festival of New American Plays at Actors Theatre. For a few weeks, we get to see brand-new theater, and we love to talk about it. (At least, the people I know love to talk about it.)
The play that everybody was talking about this year — and not necessarily in a good way — was “Evocation to Visible Appearance” by Mark Schultz, my guest this week. The show was baffling, strange, and dark, even with touches of humor. I interviewed Mark before getting to see the play myself, and it turned out to be one of my favorites of the festival.
Mark is an accomplished playwright, and he’s also an Episcopal priest, which might surprise anyone who saw his play, with its references to the devil and its closing blast of black metal. In person, he is gregarious and friendly, with a booming laugh. But it’s clear that he’s a big thinker, very serious about both of his jobs, all the while being pretty uncertain about the fate of the world.
On his fondness for black metal and its incorporation in his play:
“With black metal, that lack of beauty is intentional. It’s an intentional rejection of anything that anyone might think of as a sound that can be recuperated for a political project, or a social project, that looks like life as usual. So it’s a very intentional provocation. I think it’s also very cathartic, in a way, particularly if you’re feeling very doomy, to have someone articulate these sort of horrible things, but in this horrible way.”
On getting some encouragement, as a child, from Ray Bradbury on his writing:
“He was just a really beautiful, wonderful guy. The amount of grace it takes to see someone, to witness them, not for the sake of affirming them, but just for the sake of the beauty that’s involved in listening and seeing. I think the miraculous comes in many ways, and the grace of the miraculous comes in many ways that we don’t often recognize in our day-to-day lives.”
What he learned from seeing Reza Abdoh’s play “The Hip-Hop Waltz of Eurydice” in 1990:
“You didn’t have to tell a story that went linearly, you could tell a story that was like a tree. You could have an event that wasn’t like walking from one end of a hallway to another, but was like coming into a room and having all the doors suddenly blown open. That was amazing, just amazing.”