23 August 2011

Report on the Glen Workshop West

This report was written by guest blogger and Ekphrasian John Alexanderson. Thanks, John!

I returned from Santa Fe, NM and the Glen Workshop [West] on August 7. We had a fulfilling week of open reading, meaninful interaction with other poets, and even quality entertainment provided by Over the Rhine.

I have attended the Glen Workshop in Santa Fe for 6 years and have met many other poets and instructors of exceptional ability. This has led to positive input on my poetry (as well as that of others), constructive criticism, and even disagreement. In my case, I have learned how to view my poetry more critically, yet to be selective about what of others' criticism is appropriate. I believe this is a part of the growth in my craft that I seek.

In addition, other arts are workshopped for the week. For example, there are workshops in painting, film, memoir, songwriting, film, play/screenwriting, and others. The latter would be a good place to workshop Nor Ever Chaste, Sørina’s fine play. The focus of the Conference is Christ, but Christianity in a more ecumenical sense than other conferences I have attened. Nor Ever Chaste would be welcome in the playwriting group, and would probably be praised/criticized respectfully but honestly. Nor Ever Chaste possibly would not be welcome in some secular conferences but might be overly praised in many Christian conferences.

This conference is somewhat costly [see website] but is worth it. In addition, a Glen East conference began this year at Mt Holyoke College in Massachusetts. I will continue to attend Santa Fe because I have relatives there. But, the nearer meeting in South Hadley, I’m confident, is equally valuable to artists of numerous disciplines.

There is a question that is common at most conferences I don’t remember hearing at the Glen Conferences. It is: “are you published.” The tenor of the Glen is ’way beyond just being published. It is clearly focused on an artist’s craft as opposed to his or her “getting off the ground.” The Conference doesn’t directly consider the first steps that many conferences do. For those that are considering writing as an avocation or even a career The Glen may not be the right experience. For those who have been writing for years, or study/teach it in a place of learning, The Glen has a refreshing and mature focus.

For more info, write me at john dot alexanderson dot ja at gmail dot com.

21 August 2011

Ekphrasis Report #11

This post is written by guest blogger and Ekphrasian Marian Barshinger. Thanks, Marian!

On August 7th, Ekphrasis held a special meeting where S
ørina Higgins’ five act play Nor Ever Chaste was read. The reading went extremely well. It was an interactive night of fun as many of us got to get up and engage in the reading. There was a large group (24 people), with many attendees invited outside of Ekphrasis. We were joined by members of Living Hope Presbyterian Church, and also many members of Sørina’s family.

Nor Ever Chaste starts out with the attack of 9/11. With this setting as the backdrop, the play invites us to see how the disaster alters lives and brings lives together. There are many themes of the play: love, marriage, sexuality, differences, and our need for God. Naiant, a nurse, and Stansby, a cop, meet soon after the disaster. Naiant is tired of men, and rejects him at first, surrounding herself with “same”: her female friends, two of whom who are lesbians. Stansby similarly lives in a male community, and two of his friends are gay.

Soon, however, Stansby meets Naiant, and the two of them grow closer as they discuss the meaning of all the themes of the play: specifically marriage and the role of submission in it. In a beautiful montage of scenes, we see the relationship unfold as they both realize that “same” is not ultimately fulfilling, and they both leave their friends.

ørina was inspired to write Nor Ever Chaste after reading To the Virgins, To Make Much of Time by Sharon Barshinger (see Ekphrasis report #10), but decided to tackle homosexuality. Sørina does a very good job of portraying realistic characters and the shaky ground of the lives they had chosen.

This subject came up quite a lot in the post-reading discussion. There were conflicting views on the gay weddings, which were performed at the same times in a nonsensical manner. Some agreed that the ridiculousness was good, and showed that “shaky ground” that S
ørina was attempting to portray. Others disagreed that the display might be considered mocking, especially in light of the recent New York passing of the homosexual marriage law. There was much talk of ways Sørina could improve the wedding scene that would get her point across vividly, without coming across as mocking. Although Sørina pointed out that “I’m not afraid of offending people. One of the points of this play is that they (the secular theatre world) can be extremely offensive, why can’t we (Christians)?”

Another topic of discussion was “Is this play mainstream material?” and “How will audience react to this?” One unique quality to
Nor Ever Chaste is that it is written mainly in verse, which is definitely something our current culture is not used to. Again, Sørina stated, “I want this play to be both watched and read.” I myself was able to follow the reading with a script in hand, and found that Sørina is right. The play will be beautifully visually, but is a true work of literature, and deserves to be read carefully. The subject matters of the play are certainly relevant to today’s society. Naiant and Stansby start out as honest, confused characters to whom many audience members can relate, and learn from their journey.

All in all, the reading and discussion were a success.
Nor Ever Chaste makes us want more Ekphrasis meetings and more masterpieces from Sørina!