The strange power of hope
SAMC premier As Little Children
by Keri Langley
Hope. It is a powerful, often strange force that keeps us moving one foot in front of the other, even when life’s sad, tragic circumstances tell us to just give up. Hope is, sometimes, even defiant in the face of loss and death. And so it is in As Little Children, a new play making its world premiere this month on the SAMC Theatre stage at Trinity Western University.
TWU commissioned SAMC alumna M.J. Eden to write the play. Eden graduated from SAMC (TWU’s School of Arts Media and Culture) in 2010 with a degree in Theatre, and went on to work at, among others, Pacific Theatre and Rosebud School of the Arts (who staged Eden’s acclaimed The Selkie Wife under the name E.G. Mahoney) before moving to the mecca of North American theatre and performing arts, New York City. Eden chatted with the Light Magazine last month, on the phone from her home in Brooklyn, just outside NYC.
The play, which Eden has been working on since June 2014, came about after she got an email from SAMC Chair Angela Konrad earlier in the year, looking for alumni to write about the nature of reality.
“I wrote a proposal and a sample scene and they loved it,” shares Eden, 26, about how she began writing the story. “As Little Children is about a little girl, Aline, whose father drowned in the river a year earlier. She’s clinging to the belief that he’s still alive, because there are some mysterious circumstances around his death.”
The girl holds on to a defiant hope, partly due to the fact that her father’s body was never found. Adding further depth to the subject of hope is the girl’s mother, who, while not quite believing her husband is alive and being careful not to add to her daughter’s want for the impossible, harbours a deep longing that it could be true.
Eden brings strong imagery and visions into the play, adding texture and dimension to a story that points to the strangeness of God, whose presence is at once very real, yet also quite unexplainable. One such example includes the central presence of an apple tree. Gnarled and old, in the dead of winter, the tree is peeling, and bare of leaves. And yet, startlingly and strangely, apples still cling to its otherwise lifeless, crooked branches.
Eden says the tree very much brings God to the play, and she has felt it herself as a playwright – pouring out words and working on scenes, listening for His voice. Often times, she says God has been silent as she has written and revised. And this, she notes reflects much of the theme of her play. “He has been withholding as I write this,” she shares, adding that through the difficult process of writing this play, she has felt much like Aline, searching for her father. “It’s about the longing that He is real, and that He speaks to us in the face of silence. We are longing to hear God and to see His presence when we are in the season of silence. And, God doesn’t always manifest in the way that we want Him to. We have very specific expectations for how our lives are supposed to go and how God is supposed to appear.”
Eden’s professional career includes television and independent film appearances. As a writer, Eden has had plays produced locally and internationally. The Selkie Wife, was produced twice in Canada and had its U.S. premiere within a year of its original production, at the 2011 Vancouver Fringe Festival (produced/performed by Eden). She also creates stories for children: in 2013 she produced and directed five short plays for Westside Church Children’s Ministry.
As Little Children, directed by Kate Muchmore is a play dealing with important Christian themes – clinging to defiant hope in the middle of great weariness, and terrible loss. The play premiers on SAMC’s stage (at Trinity Western University), running January 27 to 31. For more details, check out twu.ca/theatre. Tickets are $8, plus taxes and fees. For the best rates, contact the SAMC Box Office at 604-513-2121, ext. 3872.