On Saturday, April 27 at 8 pm and Sunday, April 28, 2019 at 2 pm in celebration of Channing’s Baltimore Sermon “Plays on Principle” written and directed by Pat Montley, will be performed at the First Unitarian Church’s Enoch Pratt Hall, 514 N. Charles Street, Baltimore, MD with support from a Creativity Grant from the Maryland State Arts Council.
Tickets are available online.
“Plays on Principle” is a collection of seven 10-minute plays ask the big questions about morality. They include “The Cutting” which looks at the inherent worth and dignity of every person, “Just Deserts” which deals with justice, equity and compassion, “Life/Choice” which focuses on acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth, “Foxholes” which is a free and responsible search for truth and meaning, “March!” which looks at the right of conscience and the use of the democratic process, “Enough!” which studies the goal of world community with peace , liberty and justice for all and, finally, “Rachel Carson Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea” a biodrama about respect for the interdependent web of all existence through a snapshot of Rachel Carson’s life.
The cast includes Christine Demuth, Chris Edwards, Finn Leigh Eng, Melissa Feliciano, Layla Hodge, Timothy Johnson, Michelle Lee, Richard Peck, Vernon Rey, Molly Ruhlman, Owen Sahnow, and Sally Wall.
I had a chance to interview the playwright and director, Pat Montley.
Montley has had 20 plays published, separately or in anthologies or textbooks (Samuel French, Playscripts, Meriwether, Heinemann, Applause, Dramatic Publishing, Prentice-Hall, ICWP, Blue Moon Plays, Dramatics Magazine). Her plays have enjoyed readings at the Kennedy Center, Baltimore Center Stage, Rep Stage (MD), and the Abingdon Theatre (NYC), and productions at the Nebraska Repertory Theatre, the Manhattan Theatre Source, the Harold Clurman Theatre, the Nat Horne Theatre, Baltimore’s Theatre Project, and the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. She was one of 50 playwrights nationally commissioned by Center Stage to write a monolog for its “My America” project.
Her work has been supported by a Kennedy Center Playwrights’ Intensive, by residencies at the Millay Artists’ Colony (NY) and the Djerassi Resident Artists Program (CA), and by grants from the Deutsch Foundation, the Maryland and Pennsylvania Arts Councils, the Shubert Foundation, the Mary Roberts Rinehart Foundation, and Warner Brothers. Montley has a Ph.D. in Theatre (University of Minnesota) and has taught playwriting in Baltimore (UMBC, Goucher, and Johns Hopkins) and at Chatham University in Pittsburgh, where she chaired the theatre department and directed some 40 productions.
What motivated you to write these plays and were they all written in the same time frame?
Unitarian-Universalism does not have a creed; there are no dogmas everyone is expected to believe. But we do have Seven Principles we affirm. * It was these Seven Principles that drew me to Unitarian-Universalism sixteen years ago: their humanist ethics, their insistence on social justice, the absence of religious dogma. So, when the time came to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the First Unitarian Church of Baltimore, I proposed to the Bicentennial Committee to complete seven ten-minute plays—one related to each of the principles—and to produce and direct these plays as a fundraiser, using mostly performers from our congregation. It just seemed like something that I—as a playwright and former theatre professor—could do for the church, for an audience, and for Unitarian Universalism.
Four of the plays were written in the last two years—specifically for this project. Three were written earlier but were appropriate for this project.
What do you want the audience to take away from them?
I hope these plays provoke moving emotional experiences as well as thought and discussion…and appreciation for the seven principles.
How did you find your cast, in one paragraph?
Most of the cast are members of our congregation whom I recognized as having talent and invited to participate. Several are also in the choir so have a performance background. Others have performing experience in the Baltimore community.
Are you connected with the First Unitarian Church? If so how and why did you choose it as a venue for your plays?
I have been a member of First Unitarian for 16 years, have served on the board, taught in the Religious Education program, and chaired the Worship Committee. For 13 years, I wrote and conducted an annual Winter Solstice Ritual at the Church. My nonfiction book, “In Nature’s Honor: Myths and Rituals Celebrating the Earth” was published by Skinner House Books. Currently, I serve as a worship associate, as Coordinator of Ushers, and as one of the cooks for the meals our church prepares for Our Daily Bread soup kitchen.
As the director, did you allow your cast to improvise or did you stick directly to the script?
As you can imagine, as the playwright, I’m a little partial to sticking to the script!
*Seven Principles of Unitarian-Universalism:
Unitarian Universalist congregations affirm and promote seven Principles, which we hold as strong values and moral guides. We live out these Principles within a “living tradition” of wisdom and spirituality, drawn from sources as diverse as science, poetry, scripture, and personal experience.
- 1st Principle: The inherent worth and dignity of every person;
- 2nd Principle: Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;
- 3rd Principle: Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations;
- 4th Principle: A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;
- 5th Principle: The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large;
- 6th Principle: The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all;
- 7th Principle: Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.
For further information on the productions go to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 410-685-2330.