MS. REBECCA SHEIR
Welcome back to "Metro Connection." I'm Rebecca Sheir and this week we're talking about faith, acts of faith, leaps of faith and in this next story, what it takes to have and keep faith in the people who are closest to you.
MR. RAY FICCA
"People said there would be things I would regret not asking her. There is one thing I regret not telling her, I wish at that moment, the moment you said everything was all right, that you weren't going to get better, I wish I had said I was proud of you."
We're at a rehearsal for "How To Write a New Book For the Bible," a play making its East Coast premiere at Maryland's Roundhouse Theater this month. This here's the show's narrator, a Jesuit priest named Bill Cain, who returns to his ailing mother's home to care for her.
"You're smiling in your dream. What were you dreaming about?"
MS. MARYBETH WISE
"Willie Mays. I've been dreaming about Willie Mays. I was at Shea Stadium and I was watching Willie make this amazing catch. Say, hey, Willie."
The play jumps around in time a lot, portraying the mother, Mary, when she's 60, 40, 80. And as director Ryan Rilette points out, the play also tells a true story. That of playwright Bill Cain, who's also, yes, a Jesuit priest.
MR. RYAN RILETTE
Jesuits believe that you find God in everything. And one of the things he says in the play that's really fascinating is that priests and writers do the same thing. They point things out. They notice things. They say, look at that thing over there. That's the thing that is different and thus that's the thing that is special, that's the thing God cares about.
But for all this talk of God, Rilette makes clear that "How To Write a New Book For the Bible" isn't what you'd think of as a religious play. I mean, you're not going to see the Garden of Eden or Moses parting the Red Sea. And you're not going to hear a lengthy treatise on the Ten Commandments or the Golden Rule.
As Bill says in the play, people tend to think about the Bible as a rule book for morality. And that's not what it is. What he says in the play is the Bible is a family story. And the message of the play is that every hundred years, every family should look back at their family story and write that down. And that's how we find God. That's how we add our own book to the Bible.
And mind you, Rilette says, not all those stories are going to be pleasant. Take this scene, where Bill comes back to Mary's house and discovers that, in her worsening state, she has inadvertently soiled the living room.
"There was one last stupendous outburst of rage."
"Billie, I'm out here."
"I've been out running errands and avoiding coming home."
"I'm in the kitchen. Look, Billie, Gloria came and did my hair. Doesn't it look nice?"
"I think you should go to the bathroom, Mom."
"Well, I don't have to, Billie."
"I think you should try."
"Billie, what's wrong?"
"The living room. It's soiled."
"The couch, the rug, just don't look, Mom. I'll take care of it. I'll clean it up. You should just go into the bathroom. Okay?"
You know, talking about, where do you find God, and sometimes you find God not in the beautiful things but some of the most difficult things.
MaryBeth Wise plays Mary Cain.
So when Mary and Bill fight each other, that kind of conflict can be revelatory. So it's the line--what is the line about families are a cauldron? No. A family is a crucible.
It's a crucible to turn passion into love.
That's Ray Ficca. He plays the character of Bill Cain. And he says one of his favorite things about "How To Write a New Book For the Bible" goes back to what director Ryan Rilette said before, about how playwright Bill Cain defines God. As opposed to…
Some Charlton Heston bearded presence in the sky with stone tablets…
Cain portrays God as more of…
A spiritual presence in all of us, in humanity, in existence.
Ficca points to this one moment in the play, where Bill's father looks at his son and smiles.
And the Bill character says, you know, I'm always searching for God. And what is God? And I'm paraphrasing. I'm not giving you the lines. But then, my father looks at me with such loving eyes. I can't define what it is. I can't put a name on it, but I think that is God.
So what the playwright does, Ficca says, is he takes religion out of the institution, if you will.
And puts it into almost a humanism thing.
A humanism thing, says Ryan Rilette, that makes your own personal religion, whatever it may be, kind of a moot point.
You know, whether you are a spiritual person or not, whether you are Jewish, Christian, Muslim, it doesn't really matter. The message of the play is to take a really good long look at your family and your relationships with each other. And that's where you find--what is the word I'm looking for for this? That's where you really find the ineffable. You know, that's where you find infinity.
"How To Write a New Book For the Bible" runs at Round House Theatre in Bethesda from April 10 through May 5. To see photos of the cast and to read more about playwright Bill Cain, who, by the way, is a writer on the Washington-inspired TV series, "House of Cards," visit our website, metroconnection.org.
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