By Byrne Harrison
Name: Carol Carpenter
Play: Sweet, Sweet Spirit
Relationship to production: Playwright
I grew up in a tiny oil town with nothing to do but watch the pumping jacks. A very eccentric Southern Belle from Sweetwater, Texas swooped into town and opened a drama academy called DreamTenders. All the town's misfit teenagers joined. She was the playwright funded by the town's oil family and we were her company actors.
Who are your biggest influences?
My family and our cultural history. In literary terms: Horton Foote, Larry McMurtry, Sam Shepard, Cormac McCarthy, Annie Proulx. I love the kindness and consciousness of Anna Deavere Smith. I also am influenced by country and western songwriters, populists, conspiracy theorists and Baptist preachers. I'm an American politics junkie - I'm completely obsessed with watching and reading far left and far right-wing thinkers (emoters). I bounce between Glenn Beck and Lawrence O'Donnell. For a dose of sanity I turn to Jon Stewart and David Brooks.
What is your show about?
Sweet, Sweet Spirit is the name of popular church hymn. The play is about a conservative evangelical family that have to ask some really hard questions of themselves and each other after the father beats his gay son to near death. He's facing trial, has disgraced his respectable family, and has left them with the overwhelming task of figuring out who should raise the kid in his final teen years. It's about the complexities of faith, culture, family and community in a rapidly changing world.
What inspired you to write it?
Watching different people in my life, particularly those who are in their 60s and older, come to terms with my sexuality. I have great respect for traditional people and cultures - I'm from New Mexico, where tribal peoples are central to the culture -- and I see my own land-based, white, evangelical family as analogous in certain regards: Tradition gives meaning and shared values and a sense of place and belonging. I miss this in my own life. But tradition also brings great limitations, particularly when it comes to accepting and adapting to change of any kind. So diversity is not so easily accepted there. When I came out of the closet, it was really hard for me in this regard. But as time as passed, my family members have, in their own individuals ways, come to terms with who I am and in some cases have really embraced me in ways unfathomable just ten years ago. Seeing first-hand the pattern of the human capacity to change -- and in one of the most conservative regions in the country -- inspired this story.
Why was it important to you to be part of an eco-friendly theatre festival?
Because it's pioneering and visionary.
Planet Connections donates a portion of the box office for each show to a charity. What charity has your production chosen and why?
P-FLAG: Parents & Friends of Lesbians and Gays.
What's next for you after Planet Connections?
I'll be returning to the American Southwest Theater Company next fall.
And finally, if your play was food, what kind of food would it be?
Sweet, Sweet Spirit
Friday, June 24 at 2:00PM
The Robert Moss Theatre
440 Lafayette Street