I am drawn to Crooked for a wide-variety of reasons. As an Anglo-Bengali American who used to reside in Mississippi, I understand the bizarre world Lanie and her mother are in. I was friends with the immature, hyper-religious girl whose parents told her naught. I also know the environment that does not understand those who are physically different. Try being the kid with dark skin and hair in a classroom where no one resembles you. It’s an odd experience. I witnessed how the church possessed the power to foster an extreme culture. I know the culture that turns a blind eye away on bullying.
A year and a half away from Mississippi, working on a play dealing with these issues allows me to re-examine my identity and the world I grew up in. It’s personal – but fascinating! I have to ask myself though, is it too close for comfort?
Crooked is the story of a mother and daughter who move from Madison, Wisconsin, to Oxford, Mississippi. The parents recently divorced because of the husband’s mental instability. In this “foreign space” (as director Michael Osinski puts it), Lanie befriends and establishes a romantic relationship with an extremely religious girl, Maribel. Michael excellently described Crooked as a story of processing grief and what people turn to in times of crisis.
Throughout the quarter, I’ve been grappling with my aesthetic of social justice and the aesthetic of Crooked. Do they fit? Am I forcing them together? I thought of the timeless Vincentian question: “What must be done?” But the question I should have asked all along was – what is this play already doing?
Crooked tells an honest, coming-of-age tale about people who would be overlooked by mainstream society. Catherine Treischmann crafted a play that’s free of bias. Maribel could easily be denounced for religious ferocity. But she is instead a lamb who truly wants the best for people. Lanie’s dramatic relationship with her mother and the crazy stories she writes could easily be judged. However, her search for identity is painfully clear. At the core, the three main characters are good people. I would go as far to say Lanie’s father is a good person. (He did not want to kill Lanie, but his disease did.) There is no one to hate, no absolute villain. I think that is honest. After all – are there absolute villains in life?
Sarah Gubbins, a Chicago playwright, described dramaturgs as those who hold the artistic integrity of a production in his or her hands. Can I do that with Crooked?
I believe that because I am so familiar with the world of the play, I can. The team of dramaturgs has been researching Free Holiness. In brief, Free Holiness stems from the Wesleyan-Holiness movement, a small denomination of Christianity with independent churches, and a patriarchal culture, emphasizing a literal interpretation of the Bible and sola scriptura. Some of their beliefs include:
•Holiness is God’s standard of living for all of His people. (Luke 1:75)
•Confusion is of the carnal mind, for God is not the Author of it (1 Cor. 3:3/14:33)
•After coming into possession of the Holy Ghost, or the Spirit of God, if for any reason He the Holy Ghost, should depart from anyone of us, there will be no redemption of that person neither in this world or the next world to come (Heb. 6:2-10)
•For those who have been enlightened to the truth of God’s words and have repented, and have tasted of the Heavenly Gift, and become partakers of the Holy Ghost, if they should willfully transgress the Law that God has made with his people, there is no second repentance, nor redemption. (Heb 10:26-31)
•That the sisters should abstain from the use of make-up that would cause them to look, in appearance, like the women of the world.
•Women should be silent in the affairs of the church (1 Cor. 14-34)
-(“Our Belief.” http://www.valhermosoholinesschurch.org/our_belief.html)
For the dramaturgy team, this denomination is far from ordinary. I am personally aghast that women should be silent in church affairs. Do I disagree with Free-Holiness? Absolutely! I could easily have a spirited debate about what I find theologically faulty. But, just as I hold my views, so do they. I cannot ignore the fact they are human, possess the dignity of a person, and sincerely hold these views. I cannot label them as “other.” With my experience in the South living with people with extreme views, I have an interesting perspective to religious fierceness.