Strangers and Pilgrims

Season 1 – Death of the Prophet Joseph Smith

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Saints Volume 1, The New Play Project, and Soft Skills

For Christmas, my sister-in-law Rushell gave me a copy of Volume 1 of The Saints — the new history publication about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Volume 1 essentially covers the life of Joseph Smith. You can, actually, buy a copy of the book — or you can read it for free, too.

I enjoy reading it, to see what they said, what they didn’t say, and how they framed their story.

The history of one man’s life, especially Joseph Smith’s, is so complicated and has so many nodes and anecdotes and story lines running through it that it’s hard to give one straightforward narrative structure to the life, or the events surrounding the death.

So, their telling of the story is very similar to mine in a lot of ways, and different in a few ways — so I enjoy seeing how they did what they chose to do.

I’m aware of two of the writers listed in the book — James Goldberg and Melissa Leilani Larson.

I became aware of James when he was involved with the New Play Project in Provo, Utah years ago. I was an undergraduate student studying film at BYU and was writing plays, too. I had submitted a play for one of their shows — to be produced — my play was a comedic retelling of the Story of Adam and Eve’s fall. I don’t think it was an irreverent take on it. But, it was dry humor. And, I thought this play was really good.

Anyway, I’m sure James doesn’t remember this, but I submitted the play to be included in their show, and it wasn’t included. And, I was furious, and shocked. Because, I knew it was good. I thought it was good. And, I thought I was a good writer, and I didn’t understand how my play wasn’t selected.

So, I found a phone number for the New Play Project, and called up, because I wanted to get to the bottom of why they rejected the piece. So, I call and James answers the phone. I had seen him around BYU at a few things — at a few readings or performances or something., But, I’d never spoken with him. But, you know I knew people who knew him. You get it. And, he, I guarantee had and still has no idea who I am.

Anyway, I’m on the phone with him, and I’m like, “Man. this short play is good. How did this not get picked up by you guys?” And, he said that it was good, but they didn’t choose it. So, I keep pestering him, and he goes on to explain that they already had an Adam & Eve play that was chosen for this block of plays, and that they couldn’t have 2 Adam & Eve plays.

Actually, I knew the guy that had written the other Adam & Eve play — Davey Morrison. He and I were film students together. And we used to read each others stuff that the other one was working on. Davey actually ended up taking that play and turning it into a web series that is currently on Amazon Prime. I’m pretty sure I linked to it in a previous blog post, too.

Anyway, my first reaction to James saying they couldn’t have 2 Adam & Eve plays was, “why not?” But, I just said, “Yeah. but, mine is good.” And, he said that, essentially, the other playwright, who wrote the play, had workshopped his play with the New Play Project for months, and gone to all the weekly or monthly meetings, and was involved in a lot of the direction of the organization, and had been around a lot of the people, and that his was the Adam & Eve play that was going to be chosen / produced.

And, I think about this moment a lot.

A) It’s insane i had the gall to call someone up and argue about why my play wasn’t chosen for their production.

B) Regardless of whose Adam & Eve play was objectively or subjectively better written play, the one that got produced was the one whose writer had networked, intentionally or not, into the production side of things. This story reminds me on a regular basis that a lot of getting things produced, or made, or seen, or even looked at — whether you’re trying to sell a story, or trying to get a job — isn’t about the quality of the material objectively. It’s about who you know, how you’ve networked in.

That’s neither here nor there. It’s just how the world works. The soft skills are, often times, more important than the heard ones.