The countdown continues…we are now 6 weeks away from the opening of our new home and the first preview of Sixty-Six Books.
Celebrating the 400th year anniversary of the King James Bible and featuring a remarkable range of playwrights, poets, songwriters and novelists, Sixty-Six Books will fill every corner of the building with contemporary responses to some of the oldest stories ever told.
We are counting down with a different blog each week written by one of the creatives behind the production. This week the blog is brought to you by the fantastic Christopher Shinn who is writing a response to the Book of 2 Thessalonians.
1) Have you ever encountered/read the Bible before? If so, what is your first memory of it?
I was raised Episcopalian. What struck me most as a kid was the way Jesus interacted with others. I found him a very compelling and mysterious figure -- particularly in his compassion and gentleness.
2) Was there a particular word/image/passage or hook from the Bible that you used as a springboard for your piece?
In 2 Thessalonians there is the word "katechon" -- it is the subject of a great deal of theological writing as Paul's meaning isn't entirely clear and it lends itself to many interpretations. In his book I See Satan Fall Like Lightning, Rene Girard writes that it is "that which contains the Apocalypse in the twofold sense of the word as noted by J.P. Dupuy: to have within itself and to hold within certain limits." I was fascinated by the two meanings of "containing" -- it seemed very rich on the psychological level. Although I can't claim to fully understand this concept in its Biblical context or on the theological level, the research I did opened up psychological territory inside me that felt very alive and complex.
3) What’s the first thing you did when starting to write your response? (eg made a cup of tea, read the passage over and over, wrote a particular line, figured out the structure…)
As I read 2 Thessalonians and commentaries on it, I tried to translate it from theology to psychology. When it began to resonate on a personal level -- when I could imagine my own private apocalypse, as it were, and why I might choose to believe in the ultimate goodness of such a destructive force -- the characters and scene came swiftly.
4) Did the creative process for SIXTY-SIX BOOKS differ from your usual writing process? If so, how?
I wrote the piece as I always write -- what was different was measuring what was happening in my own psyche to the Biblical text itself, and wondering if there were truths in the text that I had not located in myself. In that sense it wasn't unlike reading a great work of art, where even as we are affected by it we are also wondering if there is much more wisdom in it than we can process or be conscious of.
5) Is there a response that you are particularly looking forward to seeing - why?
I'd love to see how writers tackle the most famous stories. Those would have scared me. With a relatively little-known book I felt great freedom. Had I received one of the more popular books of the Bible I think I would have felt totally stifled!
Christopher Shinn lives in New York. His plays include Four, Other People, The Coming World, What Didn't Happen, On The Mountain, Where Do We Live, Dying City, Now Or Later and Picked. In 2009, his adaptation of Hedda Gabler premiered on Broadway at the Roundabout (American Airlines Theatre). His awards include an Obie in Playwriting (2005) and a Robert Chesley Award (2002). Shinn teaches playwriting at The New School for Drama, and his play Four is being turned into a movie by Joshua Sanchez. www.christophershinn.com