Blogs by Bahais

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Mark Perry’s Story – Drama Circles and On a Rooftop with Bill Sears

Scene from a Dress for Mona

Mark Perry, a multiskilled theatre practitioner, educator and Baha’i has woven together his training, and Baha’i identity and values to express stories which potentially enrich, move and motivate audiences in plays like “A Dress for Mona” and “On the Rooftop.”  However, as he explains:

 I’m certainly interested in stories that are not explicitly Baha’i. No, I’m not interested in taking kitchen sink drama to its natural conclusion, but I am interested in probing how different  cultures view each other, how people negotiate this material world we’re in, how and why people have conflicted spiritual understandings or purposes, this kind of thing.   

            Mark Perry (Interview with Paul Newell, North Carolina Playwrighting group) 

At thirty-five he has already had a wealth of training and experience in the arts of theatre, acting, writing and producing.  Like many Baha’i youth, Mark Perry did a year of service and counts this a period of enlightenment and confirmation

. . . . when I went to Africa for six months on a youth service project. It really opened my eyes to the idea that where I’d come from, America, was not the end all and be all of thought. My time in the Kalari desert, encountering African Baha’is in the villages there-it was amazing.  (Interview with Paul Newell, North Carolina Playwrighting group) 

It is not surprising that in the last five years he has taken an interest in encouraging other Baha’is, especially young people, to express themselves in drama through the founding of Drama Circles. 

**

June: First of all, thanks for agreeing to this interview Mark. I have worked a bit in youth drama, I also was involved in some radio drama and wrote a play several years ago which was workshopped at a conference but did not get it fully produced.  Your site reinspired me to revisit and consider working back in the performing arts but especially to express stories with spiritual values and from the Bahai community and Bahai history and contemporary stories. 

Mark:  I’m so glad that you felt inspired by the website to venture back into drama and especially Bahá’í inspired drama.  Someday, I hope the website will be even more helpful and more inspiring, as we continue to work towards realizing the mission statement.  But one foot in front of the other…

June: What is your background in drama/theatre?  How long have you been involved with it?  What makes you passionate about it compared to other art/creative forms? 

Mark: I’m serving a life sentence in drama as far as I can tell.  As I recall, I first got bit by the theater bug at twelve when I saw my Junior High school’s production of “My Fair Lady. ” I was in awe of the phenomenon of theater, the magic that was going on in the room.  The next year I tried out for the musical, and that was that.  My mother claims that when I was six, we went to see a play and I told her “that’s what I’m going to do with my life.” I don’t remember that far back.  I’m now 35, have a B.A. in theater arts, and an MFA in playwriting.  I live in a university town in North Carolina (in the south of the United States.)  I teach playwriting part time for the university and elsewhere.  The rest of the time, I’m either writing or doing something with the Faith.  (Or goofing off, flitting from one distraction to the other, but I’m really trying to stop that.:-)  So I write and teach mostly, but I also act and direct, and by necessity produce.

June: What led to the creation of the Drama Circle concept?  Can you tell me the story of it? 

Mark: I started the Drama Circle officially in 2002 with the immediate goal of producing “A Dress for Mona” here in North Carolina.  It had been my thesis play from graduate school and had just been published, and I felt if no one else was going to produce it, I should, and so I did… with lots of help.Since then, we’ve also produced the Bill Sears play and sponsored a couple of playwriting contests.  The other big thing is the “Drama Circle”—a course that combines theater training with spiritual principles as enunciated in the Bahá’í writings. We’re working now with junior youth, and the results so far are very promising. The name “Drama Circle” most simply comes from the idea of a study circle teaching drama. The principle of the circle though is inherent in my view of this kind of work.

June: Where is the drama circle group based?  Where else have you toured to other than US and UK(?) 

Mark: The Drama Circle is based here in North Carolina, and also in cyberspace. It’s not so much a consistent company as a mission statement with me as its chief protagonist and probably its biggest obstacle as well. My wife Azadeh is my biggest supporter in this work, and I have many friends and colleagues near and far who at one time or another have been a part of the “Drama Circle.” For Mona, we had 60 people involved.  For the Bill Sears play, probably 20 or 25.  Now with the junior youth, they feel a certain ownership as well, so you see how it works.  The Bill Sears show has been performed a total of 30 times I believe in 23 different cities in the U.S.,Canada and also Dubai. Maybe one of these days, we’ll make it Australia. My wife and I were married there five years ago and it’s getting about time we returned to visit her family.  “A Dress for Mona” has been produced by a handful of other companies, all Bahá’í, including Kingfisher Theatre who toured the show to about fifteen cities in the U.S. and Canada. 

June: What other art forms have you worked in? 

Mark: As for other art forms, I have experience with music, especially in composition for theater productions. I play guitar and at one point wanted to be Eric Clapton, but eventually I gave up on that, and have been trying to concentrate my energies to entirely on Drama, and more specifically on playwriting.

June: How do the youth involved in the Youth Drama circle enjoy the concept?  How do they hear about it and get involved?  What are some of their backgrounds, cultural etc.? 

Mark: As I said, the youth seem to really enjoy the drama circle.  We live in an A cluster, and so all the kids that participate are either Baha’is or they’re kids who are invited by Baha’is.  As we go into the future and become more involved with integrating the Drama Circle concept into the junior youth programs called for by the House of Justice, my hope is that many more non-Baha’i children will be able to participate.

June: Can you tell me a bit more about where the idea to write the Bill Sears play came from?  How long did it take to write and what kind of preliminary work did you do for it? (I love God Loves Laughter and did my honours English Thesis on the Writing of Bill Sears and Spiritual Questing) 

After the production of “A Dress for Mona” in March 2003, I picked up “God Loves Laughter” and started reading and started laughing. I thought I might be able to do a short five to ten minute piece for a Baha’i meeting in June, and I did, but it continued to grow throughout the summer. By August, I had a draft ready and I read it at Green Acre Baha’i school in Eliot, Maine. I continued to work on the play throughout the Fall, at the same time arranging for production in spring 2004. The script was ready by, say, December, and so the next three or four months were dedicated to learning the part and the infinite details of a theater production. As for my process in writing it, the first thing I did was just to go through the book and pick out sections that I liked. Then I started looking for connections in my own life and a central story and themes to tie it together. I’d say up to 40 percent of the play is the words of Mr. Sears.  The rest is my language tying his story together. I’m very fond of the play, which is good as I hope to continue performing it in the years to come.

I’m working on writing two plays currently: one on the subject of Bahá’í marriage, and the other is not a specifically Bahá’í play. 

June: Can you tell me a bit more about the playwriting competition/request for submission (saw this on the site?)- how long in duration the plays should be, for how many actors (to be economical) and what kind of stories interest the group?   

Mark: That playwriting competition has been suspended for now. The thing that became apparent was that there is not a wealth of well-developed full-length scripts out there in the Bahá’í community, or if there are, we weren’t receiving them. And so, the mission is to build up the capacity and inspire people to start writing. Perhaps we will be able to have more play contests in the future. 

MARK PERRY PLAYS & PRODUCTIONS (SELECTIVE LIST)

* On the Rooftop with Bill Sears. (2003;1M) Based on the life of 1950s TV personality, William Sears.2004–Present TOURING (22 cities), arranged by Kingfisher Theatre (Nazareth, PA)2004, AprPRODUCTION, produced by The Drama Circle (Durham, NC) 

* A Dress for Mona. (2001;4F,4M) A dream leads 16 year old Mona to dedicate her life to serving humanity, but how could she know how far her resolve would be tested? (Based on a true story.) 2003, Dec      PRODUCTION, produced by One World Bahá’í Youth Workshop (Washington, DC)2003, Sep-Nov   TOUR (East Coast), produced by Kingfisher Theatre (Nazareth, PA)2003, Aug      PRODUCTION, produced by the Banani School for Girls (Zambia &Malawi)2003, Mar  PRODUCTION, produced by the Drama Circle (Durham, NC)2001, Mar      PRODUCTION, produced as part of University Gallery Series (Iowa City, IA) 

* The Donkey Play. (2001;1F,1M) A clown show based on the Biblical story of Balaam and the Ass. 2001, May PRODUCTION, produced as part of Iowa New Play Festival (Iowa City, IA)

 * House Divided. (1999;6F,6M) A brutal racial incident shakes a small New England town.    1999,May STAGED READING, as part of Iowa New Play Festival (Iowa City)

MORE REFERENCES

Interview with Mark Perry

Drama Circle Scripts 

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Go before me

I love visiting this poetry blog and John has been doing some reviews of some of the other poets work shared in our compilation.

the Book of Pain

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I need no photograph to remember you
as you snowshoed that night,
you in the pool of your lamp with me stumping behind,
the cold wrapping around us tighter than the dark,
the snow falling so fast it clacked and flapped
in the otherness that hung all around.

Go before me dearest, go before me,
this trail won’t last forever.
And while I can taste the evening at its end,
I can also hear the voices of our loved ones
calling as ever they did, enigmatically, softly—
but still, calling. So yes, dearest, go before me;
I’d rather you content in the warmth and the glow
than anything I could ever want.
Leave the cold to me, please,
go before me.

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The setting for this poem was the wonderful winterscape of Ashland, New Hampshire, where my wife, Lyn, and I took a skiing/snowshoeing vacation some years back. The incident that was the generative spark for this poem was a…

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A Sense of Wonder

I am exploring writings on nature to prepare an essay for a competition. Baha’u’llah loved nature.  My next few blogs will mainly be photographic blogs of wonders in nature as I am so busy with other writing projects.

Ripple Poetry

DSC_8609 City Beauty – June Perkins

For Rachel Carson

Rachel says
open your children to wonder
about birds
together learn each ones song
and their many names
as you  wander  their land
maybe imagine flying
to their tree top
homes.

Rachel says
imprint in them
the story of the sea
the delicacy of balance even on the rugged shorelines
through them knowing
its biography
as if it’s their best friend.

Rachel says
listen to the wind
find the names of each wind
so you can read its personality
warm or cold
and know when you should
stay away from the sea
and when you can embrace and nurture
it.

Rachel says
open to them to wonder
so they will not pass by this world
without knowing it calls
to us
from stars to shoreline
moon dust to leaves.

Rachel leaves her love of nature
on the shorelines of our present
each…

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Recommended link: Happiness is in the Mind

Peter reads some interesting texts.

Everybody Means Something

Seven IllusionsI am moving after years of only using a meditation based on following the breath, which serves to keep me reasonably grounded, to practising mindfulness meditation, which is designed to go somewhat further. It’s for this reason, I think, that I am on the look out all the time for hints and ideas to help me move forwards.

There is a recent post on Karen Wilson’s blog which hits a very important nail on the head for me about why attempting to achieve such a goal is so important, and why we need to be teaching it in schools as Layard and Clark suggest in their book Thrive. It deals, amongst other things dear to my heart, with the need to balance left- and right-brain modes of thinking as per Iain McGilchrist’s excellent book The Master and his Emissary.

I also downloaded her book recently and have just begun to read it: it contains many…

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Woman

Such an outpouring of poetry from Carol.  She is constantly exploring her world through this art form.

WritersDream9

Rich in Inner Beauty. Rich in Inner Beauty.

Feminine energy wild and free

Interior filled with running wolves

Giving of herself oft times alone

In her soul there lives a rolling sea

 

Powerful like the soaring hawk

Flexible as a slithering snake

She is everyone and everything

Arching a rainbow, straight a stalk

 

Able to know with a quiet knowing

Seeing with her eyes tightly closed

If we believed in her she could rule 

 Dear God’s love keeps her glowing

 

The moon she follows adoringly

Sun she copies in her brilliance

Stars of wisdom light her colored eyes

Cycling through her phases powerfully

 

Some call her goddess as of old

Humility prevents her mind’s reality

Her womb calls upon her at times

For children her own choice as told

 

When this world does embrace

Let her go be herself she’ll surprise

What she can do to set things aright

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People

Carol connects poetry with her spirituality.

WritersDream9

Little People. Little People.

Since I was a child

Really really wild

Afraid of nothing

One thing fearing

People of any age

Agoraphobia my page

Trapped in my house

Like a shy little mouse

Afraid I am to this day

In my own home stay

Prayers help me much

Brave I become with such

Fill my heart with divine

Love for all fear not in mind

Entering fill my soul with love

Facing people is a shove

Gets me started socializing

Have to be there compromising

God is with me all the time

His love so really really fine

So I have conquered fears

Now I have much fewer tears

The frequency of my smiles

Greater relaxing for a little while

 

 

Become an advocate for

people with mental illnesses!

No more shaming! 

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