A play by Heidi Schreck
director Tricia Rodley
“Her table is hunger.” Though this is a line from Hadewijch’s poem about paradoxes of love, it is also a fitting introduction to Margery Kempe. I suggested Creature for UT’s season dealing with “code” because Margery Kempe spent most of her life trying to “crack the code” of faith’s mysteries and miracles. Margery’s hunger – on many levels – is something I feel tangibly when reading The Book of Margery Kempe. Heidi Schreck has rendered Margery’s voracious search for faith in Creature as well, sometimes heartbreakingly, but also with so much humor.
In her author’s note for the published version of Creature, Heidi suggests the play is “a kind of collision between the contemporary and medieval imaginations.” With that guidance, we are not attempting to stage Margery Kempe’s life, but rather to envision this story about a period of her life. While there are plenty of historical accuracies, there are also contemporary liberties taken. We have considered the Hope an environment in which the play can unfold with an audience. The design has been undertaken with the “collision” in mind, and also with a shared effort toward theatricality that allows for both expected and unexpected reveals.
Though singing is mentioned in the script during only one scene in the church, Heidi encouraged my choice to try that convention throughout. The musical direction and singing have been approached with a willingness to tackle modernized Middle English carols and songs – not your everyday iTunes sort of endeavor. The Choir has become a conduit between the play and the audience. Through music, lyric, and movement, we hope the Choir encourages our audience to experience the play from different perspectives, especially as its integration may be both soothing and jarring from moment to moment.
Early in our process, we were lucky to have Heidi take part in a weekend of rehearsals. She was able to try a few rewrites for this production. She also helped us delve deeper into our individual relationships with these characters and into our shared relationship with the play. I am reminded of that work each time our Stage Manager, Hallie, begins her emails with something like, “Hello, Creatures.” This play is a shared journey…of creatures. It is not only about Margery’s quest for faith, but it also suggests how that quest may have impacted the people who loved her and wanted to be loved by her. As in theater, life’s personal journeys are so often shared journeys.
You are the next phase in our shared journey with this play. Creature has its own mysteries and miracles. It often challenges perceptions of authenticity with little reassurance. We have tried to allow such mysteries to exist in all of their ambiguity. If that is bothersome, I ask you to consider the title of the play, which always helps me. We human creatures live ambiguously somewhere in between animal and spirit, no matter how we may try to define our differences from other animals or come nearer to our gods. In its mysteries, Creature encourages you to consider your own quest for faith – of whatever kind – a quest that is surely authentic, mysterious, ambiguous, and creaturely.