In this post I want to share a little bit of the “making of” my new play After Hymn! in the lead up to its premiere in Red Deer on March 11 – 12, 2016.
I also want to invite you to get tickets while you still can. The first round of tickets went fast, so 200 extra tickets have been issued for each performance. You can find out how and where to get them here.
Looking to the past
I found myself chuckling on a morning walk as the sun went through the motions of its breathtaking, daily routine in the eastern sky. I was laughing to myself about how grateful I am that our recent election only had a 78 day political campaign (long enough for us Canadians). Not the never-ending 18 month slog the candidates are undergoing in the fight for America’s vote and the White House.
I don’t know about you, but I find it hard to look away from the southern political antics. While much of my news consumption is on global politics and its implications for the future, my writing and research have been looking to the past.
I’ve been escaping the present to the mid-40s as I explore the Dutch resistance during the Nazi occupation of Holland in World War II for a new screenplay.
And I’ve spent considerable time jumping through the last few centuries to learn about the “making of” the great songs that have shaped our culture for my new play After Hymn!
What sparked this new work
As I sit here thinking back on the one particular trigger – the spark that ignited this story – I can’t remember it. Time catches up with us all, I guess, especially writers. And when I was commissioned to write this new play, time looped its rope around me and pulled into a survey of hymns from the last few hundred years.
I grew up singing hymns, reading the metered rise and fall of each note from hymn books with blue covers as the aging choir, robed and stoic, led the congregation during the liturgy. But I never knew much about the stories behind the writing of such songs.
However the ‘making of’ things always fascinates me. Of careers: how great women and men stumbled into and mastered their craft. Of a great novel: how deeply the author had to dig and what they found when they were burrowing. Of a Caramel bar: how Cadbury wraps the smooth, golden centre in the delicious outer milk chocolate.
In the same way, I found the stories behind the hymns incredibly fascinating.
Meet the blind woman who wrote every hymn you’ve ever sang
For me, the development of a story is a confluence of things, like three or four tributaries, at some point joining into a greater stream. Somehow, I found myself writing about a teenager who wants to be a rockstar.
I’m a sucker for a theophany, and I also thought that it’d be fun to subtly connect the storyline from last year’s successful play, That Towering Cross, to this year’s production. Martin Pewbury, is the great-nephew of an aunt he never knew, a woman named Anna (the main character in TTC) who became an incredibly famous and successful performer.
It’s in his deceased, great-aunt Anna’s estate where Martin meets some of the people who wrote or inspired the hymns and songs so many millions have sung through the ages. The characters Martin meets include Fanny Crosby, who was known in her day as the Queen of Gospel Song Writers, a woman who wrote almost too many songs to count.
Learning about this blind poetess and political activist led me to other writers, including the hymn writer whose work first inspired Ms. Crosby to write sacred songs. The story flowed from there.
As with any “making of” I can’t of course give away too much, because the point is to encourage you to go and see the play.
And so with Martin I hope the audience will go on a fascinating, albeit whirlwind, adventure that scratches the surface of a few of the unique individuals and narratives responsible for some of the songs that have inspired and invigorated hearts and minds for centuries.
Other Plays by Andrew Kooman
Haunted by anguished voices, a lawyer poses as a john to build a legal case against a brothel trafficking girls into Bangkok. Can he win the trust of a young prostitute and convince her to risk her life for the sake of justice?
History: 2011 Premiere in Calgary, Alberta | 2012 Canadian Tour
Learn more about the play
She Has a Name is a polished, well-acted production of a play with an urgent message about human trafficking.
If you truly love theater, you must see this play. And I promise you, it is a play you will carry with you long after the lights have gone up.
Bravely, She Has A Name isn’t a simple-minded empowerment document, First World to the rescue. It builds suspense. Will Number 18 be newly victimized by activists as their prize witness, a sacrificial lamb to the larger campaign to build a case against human traffickers? Let’s just say, that’s when social-action theatre takes the longer view.