2007-03-16 — JewishJournal.Com: Arts in L.A.

Whether it’s business or religion, the ‘Fat Pig’ playwright tells it like it is
By Naomi Pfefferman, Arts & Entertainment Editor
Neil LaBute. Photo by Lisa Carpenter

During one of many cringe-worthy moments in Neil LaBute’s play, “Fat Pig,” a cad chastises a co-worker for dating a plus-sized woman named Helen.

“I don’t understand you taking God’s good gifts and pissing on ’em,” the cad, Carter, warns his colleague, Tom.

Tom is handsome and successful, and Helen is simply considered too fat to grace the arm of a corporate player. It doesn’t matter that she is smart and funny — she is a “cow,” a “sow” or “off-the-charts gross,” according to office personnel.

“I’m not saying … that she shouldn’t meet somebody,” Carter adds, “but it should be a fat somebody, or a bald one. Whatever. Like her.”

The scene sports the kind of nasty, brutally honest dialogue audiences have come to expect from LaBute, a playwright and filmmaker who has been both lauded and reviled for his warped morality (some would say, amorality) tales. The auteur — who will turn 44 on March 19 — has been called a misogynist and a feminist, a moralist and a misanthrope, for cruelty fests that dissect gender politics and the slimier aspects of human nature. “I do like to poke my finger in a mess and see what happens,” he says, chuckling, in his West Hollywood office one recent morning.

“Neil is a button pusher, but he does explore the underbelly of us all,” says Jo Bonney, who directed “Fat Pig’s” successful off-Broadway run in 2004 and 2005 and will direct its West Coast premiere at the Geffen Playhouse May 11-June 17.

“You emerge from his plays praising him for the metaphoric slap in the face or simply wishing you knew where he lived, so you can hunt down the bastard and deliver a literal slap of your own,” New York magazine noted in 2004.

In person, the writer is a study in contrasts and contradictions. He is alternately mischievous and irreverent, imploring and earnest — but so charming, even endearing, that he seems likelier to elicit a smile than a slap.

Heavyset and bearded, wearing a red-checked shirt and a mop of black curls, he has the kind of friendly, rumpled appearance that would no doubt raise eyebrows among the image-obsessed characters of “Fat Pig.” Until recently he was a practicing Mormon, but he left the faith after years of conflict with fellow Latter-day Saints.

“My kids were raised in the church, and they hate almost everything I write,” he says, with regret.

Yet a sign in his office unapologetically proclaims the name of his company, Contemptible Entertainment, and the writer-director looks like a proud parent as he surveys the posters from “LaButeville” that cover the walls of the room. With relish, he notes that the largest image — the one closest to his desk — depicts the nastiest character he has ever created: Chad Piercewell from LaBute’s 1997 debut feature film, “In the Company of Men.” In that movie, the fictional Piercewell convinces a colleague to seduce and dump a deaf secretary as a symbolic act of revenge on all women — and for sport.

Other posters advertise LaButian fare such as the sexual musical chairs saga, “Your Friends and Neighbors,” in which a brute excoriates a lover for bleeding on his 300-count cotton sheets, among other not-so-friendly exchanges. “bash: latterday plays,” spotlights murderous Mormons; “Some Girl(s)” follows a soon-to-be-wed commitmentphobe who visits ex-girlfriends to “apologize” (and to seek material for his new book); and “The Mercy Seat” revolves around a man who would have died in the World Trade Center attacks had he not skipped work for adulterous sex.

“I wouldn’t necessarily want all these guys as friends,” LaBute admits. “They’re extremes; I often write in extremes.”

But then again, he hopes he’s not just a “purveyor of [grotesquerie] — that it’s not just, ‘I really like to see people suffer,'” he says.

LaBute prefers to view himself as a chronicler of transgression, and of how ordinary people can tumble into ethically questionable territory. He believes in what the late Holocaust scholar Hannah Arendt called “the banality of evil” and says he “ascribes to the effect that banality can have on an audience — that cool, calculated moving forward, one step at a time, until you cross the line. It’s the insidiousness of it, you know; it doesn’t take much to go there.”

As John Lahr once wrote in The New Yorker: LaBute “brings to his observations about human nature something that other contemporary American writers have not articulated with such single-minded authority: a sense of sin.”

To understand LaBute’s preoccupation with sin — and casual brutality — one has only to ask him about his childhood in a town outside Spokane, Wash. The model for many of his male “beasts,” he says, was in part his father, Richard, a volatile truck driver who infused the house with a sense of menace. The elder LaBute was also handsome, charming and seductive. But when LaBute’s father returned home, the writer recalls, “You never knew what would set him off, and it was that unpredictability that created fear.”

Occasionally the trucker’s tantrums escalated into punching or slapping LaBute and his mother.

“My father may well have been bipolar, and helped by medication, but he wasn’t someone who would have ever sought that kind of help,” LaBute says. “He was always a person who blamed the other party…. I know my father had a rough upbringing, but there’s always an excuse, unfortunately.”

Because LaBute’s home was “a tough house and a small house to grow up in,” he sought safe havens outside the family circle. He escaped into his school’s theater department — and into services and Bible study classes he attended, alone, at a nondenominational church walking distance from his house. “[The atmosphere] gave me a sense of quiet, of peace and especially of community — everything I had been missing growing up,” he says.

LaBute chose to attend the Mormon Brigham Young University, in Provo, Utah, because, “It seemed as far away as I could get from my father, not just geographically, but spiritually — a place he wouldn’t follow.”

LaBute converted to Mormonism in the 1980s, before he married Lisa Gore, a family therapist who was deeply involved in the faith and eventually held a church office.

“I was never the most devout or straightforward of the flock,” he says. “I like to say ‘I was practicing, although I needed more practice.'”

“But I don’t think I would have stayed had I not gotten something out of the [religion],” he adds. “I certainly had questions about the church, but I didn’t find its structure or history to be problematic.” LaBute cites the Mormon belief that theological history was engraved on golden plates and buried in ancient times: “While that might sound outlandish to members of other religions, I’m like, ‘Yeah, what about an ark of the covenant? A Garden of Eden?’ The Mormon stories are no more outlandish.”

When LaBute returned to Brigham Young to earn his doctorate in the early 1990s, he squabbled with officials who found his work brilliant but scandalous.

Administrators locked him out of the theater to prevent the staging of “Lepers” (later the play and the film “Your Friends and Neighbors”). LaBute was allowed into the building only to give an exam in a class he was teaching — and then he cheekily cut the test short in order to show his play.

At Brigham Young, he also directed a student production of David Mamet’s “Sexual Perversity in Chicago,” after removing the expletives to meet university standards.

“Mamet would’ve been horrified,” he says. “But I tried to maintain the sense of the play without the overt language. Even to advertise it I had to create a subversive kind of poster; it was so lavishly decorated that you couldn’t read the title.”

The tension between LaBute’s work and his faith also played out in his personal life. In the late 1990s, his wife phoned him on the first day of his “Neighbors” shoot, to beg him to cancel the production. LaBute has been reported to have said that his work created great stress in his marriage, but he was not about to let anyone dictate what he should write. (LaBute said he is still married, but declined to say anything further.)

Mormon officials mostly left him alone until his 1999 trio of playlets, “bash” (later a 2001 Showtime production), depicted clearly Mormon characters hurting babies and homosexuals. LaBute was summoned before a 15-person tribunal and interrogated.

“It was upsetting because I felt misunderstood and misread,” he says. “I understand that Mormons have a defined sense of what art should be and the kind of art that Mormons should be making. It should be uplifting, even if there is a darkness to it. I agreed that one can write dark things that still show a moral side, and I said that’s what I think I do.”

LaBute said he had intended “bash” to show how even devout people can commit atrocities; he made the characters Mormon “because I was too lazy to research other religions.” He agreed to refrain from writing about Mormons ever again.

Nevertheless, LaBute was disfellowshipped, which he describes as “a kind of limbo where you can work back into the good standing of the church or toward excommunication. In my case, the issue raised enough questions and made me angry enough that I did nothing about it for a while.”

The author decided to withdraw his church membership around 2005, when he was informed that his excommunication was imminent. “It was like quitting before you get fired,” he says. “But I realized that it was actually better for my kids to have a father who wasn’t a member of the church than what they considered a bad member.”

The decision was also best for LaBute: “When I finally focused on the fact that I was making R-rated movies, and Mormons aren’t supposed to attend them, I had to say ‘I’m hustling here, I have to choose one or the other,'” he recalls. “You go along, and you hope nobody busts you on it, but then you bust yourself. It wasn’t really a brave choice, it was just a choice, and in the end it was relatively selfish — I was just doing what I wanted to do.” The conflict between one’s personal and private life is also a central theme in “Fat Pig.” In the play, the fictional Tom may give up the love of his life because he can’t stand the heckling from his co-workers.

“The play explores how we struggle with our convictions and whether we can follow our heart rather than our fears,” director Bonney says. “It makes us question how we behave in groups and the way we judge people.” “Fat Pig” began percolating as LaBute lost 60 pounds on a low-carb, heavy-workout regimen several years ago.

“I wasn’t feeling so hot. I looked like shit. I was tired of wearing the same pants,” he writes in the introduction to the play. He browbeat himself with the mantra, “Stop eating so damn much, you fat bastard!” As his weight dropped, he wrote, he “discovered the preening fool who was living just beneath the surface of my usual self.” LaBute surreptitiously patted his behind to see if it had grown firmer.

“I also noticed that I was writing less and less,” he says.

Eventually, the author, a self-proclaimed stress eater, returned to his Pringles and the aforementioned pants.

LaBute says he’s particularly curious about how Angelenos will respond to “Pig” because “this city is very much about beautiful people trying to look more beautiful.”

“But the play is primarily a study of human weakness,” he insists.

“Tom is not someone who misuses his power, like many of my other characters. He hurts a couple of people along the way, but it’s because he lacks strength. His worst crimes are being a follower, being soft, someone who can’t stand up for what he believes in.”

So what is LaBute’s weakness of choice (besides junk food)?

“I invest much more time in work than in living,” he says, sheepishly. “On the page, people get bloodied, but I pull the strings. It’s a safer place to be.”


  1. Kevin Barney March 22, 2007 at 7:42 pm

    A number of years ago Neil’s membership record came into my ward. Apparently he had just moved from Indiana to the Barrington, Illinois area. I was the Executive Secretary at the time. I knew who he was (I had seen all of his movies and some of his plays); no one else had a clue. So I intended to assign myself as his home teacher; I figured I would be able to protect him.

    Unfortunately, the address on the membership record didn’t seem to exist. I think it was actually further north, which was out of our boundaries. So I never got the chance.

    I really wish that would have worked out, and I could have been his hometeacher.

  2. John Dehlin March 22, 2007 at 8:29 pm

    That would have been sweet. You would have been great for him, Kevin!!!

  3. Phouchg March 22, 2007 at 9:09 pm

    The state of arts in Mormon Culture is appalling. TBMs would rather watch tripe like “The Singles Ward” and “Saturday’s Warrior” than any of LaBute’s challenging work. So many Mormons settle for mediocre swill that can barely qualify as “art”.

  4. Marie March 22, 2007 at 11:44 pm

    Help us, Obi Wan Dutcher — you’re our only hope! Pop a few Prozacs and come on back — we need that Joseph Smith movie…

    Even worse than the lack of artfulness is the lack of emotional and spiritual complexity. You could argue that a lot of scripture has little literary value but is of great spiritual value to real, complex people living in the real, complex world. The same cannot be said of most Mormon “art” which cannot seem to find its way out of “The Truth will rescue us from all loss, and if not from all loss, then from all grief.”

    Why do we gobble up such tripe when not even our doctrine preaches such nonsense? There’s got to be a place for Mormon art between LaBute’s unmitigated cynicism and Jack Weyland’s treacle.

  5. Hellmut March 23, 2007 at 8:46 am

    I think that I understand why people are uncomfortable with Neil LaBute’s work. LaBute is doing Lord of the Flies, a book that I couldn’t bear to finish, all the time.

    I couldn’t finish William Golding’s master piece because I recognized the awful truth that he revealed about human nature. I could justify not finishing Lord of the Flies because I had previously recognized the truth in the book. Since I could not finish Lord of the Flies, I sympathize with those who find LaBute’s work troubling and feel threatened by it. However, as a community we have to realize driving LaBute away does not only hurt him but it hurts us.

    William Golding reintroduced skepticism about human nature to socialism, LaBute to Mormonism. In that sense, their message about the fallen condition of humankind is ultimately Catholic.

    Although I doubt that his stake president understood that LaBute’s message is a Catholic one, I suppose that one could construe that to be a sacrilege from an orthodox Mormon perspective. However, the fact that Mormon orthodoxy cannot recognize the value of LaBute’s work uncovers a fatal flaw of our view of the world.

    Utopians such as Mormons and socialists have a hard time tolerating argument’s about humanity’s fallen condition because it deflates their illusions of progress. And yet no one needs Golding’s and LaBute’s message more than the utopians, who rely on their illusions to justify unkindness, abuse, and domination in the pursuit of perfection.

    It is unfortunate that LDS church courts do not appear to have the capacity to induce the reflection to recognize the nature of LaBute’s work. Like Golding before him, LaBute reveals that evil is easy. That is a message that a people aspiring to goodness ought to embrace because we need it.

    Because Golding made his readers uncomfortable, he deserved the Nobel Price for Literature. LaBute deserves the gratitude of Mormons for making us uncomfortable. They deserve our admiration because they are more courageous than most of us or at least more courageous than me.

    Ultimately, LaBute’s merit transcends the Mormon experience and our community. Although he seems to care about our opinions, he does not need us. But we as Mormons need him to become better citizens and disciples.

    Those who dared to condemn his work to protect their religion only succeeded in cutting off their proverbial noses in spite of their faces. On the other hand, if qzed is right and LaBute’s work remains Mormon art regardless of how authorities might feel about it then it is up to the Mormon audience whether or not our community will reap the benefits of his art.

  6. RoastedTomatoes March 23, 2007 at 8:51 am

    My wife and I saw a production of “Fat Pig” here in Chicago a month or two ago. It’s an amazing play. One thing that really caught my attention about it was that the characters felt palpably Mormon — in fact, they felt like recent BYU graduates.

  7. Ian Cook March 23, 2007 at 11:10 am

    I agree that perhaps Mormon art should become a little more elevated, but can’t it be done in a way that doesn’t compromise our Morals. Nudity, Sex, Language, why does it have to be prevailant in this art? There have been several of Neils plays/movies that i’ve read about sound really interesting, but then they always include Nudity, exessive language ect. It always stops me from watching. Is there no other way?

  8. Phouchg March 23, 2007 at 11:25 am

    Nudity, sex, and language are part of the human condition.

  9. William Morris March 23, 2007 at 12:05 pm

    I think that the didactic work LaBute did in bash is actually important for Mormons. I think that most Mormons should read or see the plays — even if LaBute was just being lazy in his choice of religion to assign the characters.

    However, I find the moaning about tripe and the poor taste of Mormons to be a bit of a tired trope. There are a lot of Americans, including cultural elites, who don’t like LaBute’s work. The same could probably be said of Evenson*.

    The more I delve in to the world of Mormon culture, the more it would seem that, as with many things, we’re just not that exceptional — analogues can be found all across the spectrum of Mormon taste.

    Even if there is exceptionality, the onus is on the artist and the critic to educate the audience. But that takes a level of charity and civility that none of us pundits/producers of art/”sophisticate” consumers really seem to have the patience for (I don’t have it).

    Yes, educating the audience sounds horrible paternalistic. Yes, Mormons need a more robust critical culture (Wayne Booth noted this back in the early ’80s — prophesied, in fact).

    I’m not super-optimistic about this project, though. I think we are just too late to the game as a culture and a people. We should have been at the LaBute stage in the ’70s, I think.

    * Dutcher is another story. His treatment by the Mormon audience(s) and some of his comments because of it are tragic, imo (albeit not entirely unpredictable). Mainly because he was really trying to reach the “mainstream” Mormon audience.


    Of course they are part of the human condition. How and in what context they are portrayed is also part of the human condition, and there is nothing wrong with setting limits. We all do. The key is that those limits be consistent and that people still consume well-crafted art and that we all be a bit more civil in how we present our limits so that hopefully we can all take a few more chances in what we consume. For more, see my post on Mormons and media consumption.

  10. Trevor March 23, 2007 at 12:39 pm


    Great post. One question, though. Why suppose that his perspective on human nature is somehow driven by a certain theology (Catholic) rather than calling it humanist? Or perhaps LaBute never consciously adopted a particular theology or philosophy in his choices? Maybe he is simply exploring certain aspects of the human condition? Just curious about your choice there.

  11. Hellmut March 23, 2007 at 1:22 pm

    That’s a fair point, Trevor. Neil LaBute would probably not call himself Catholic. Yet in my opinion, LaBute’s images are the most easily reconciled with the Catholic doctrine of the fall.

    Renaissance and enlightenment philosophies have been typically more optimistic about human nature. Perhaps Jean Jacques Rousseau was most radical in his optimism about the abilities to educate evil out of human beings and to create a harmonious society.

    With respect to the cornucopia of a utopian enlightenment society, it is no accident that the minister Thomas Robert Malthus busted Rousseau’s bubble by pointing out that population growth would eventually catch with progress. As a theologian, Malthus appreciated that the human condition did not allow for perfection (by the way, it was Malthus that inspired Darwin’s theory of adaptation).

    In light of the historical controversy, I like to group those who are willing to admit to the imperfections of human nature and the human condition as Catholics. In the narrow sense of the word neither Malthusm and Darwin nor LaBute and Golding were Catholics but they reassert a mindset that has historical roots in Catholic, and thus non-Mormon and anti-enlightenment, doctrine.

    It is my impression that many protestant groups, in some Luther himself, did expect utopian progress from the reformation of the gospel just as Rousseau expected reason to liberate human nature. Mormonism shares several of these utopian aspects.

    I have to admit that this is painting with a very broad brush but I find the distinction between Catholic and utopian mindsets useful.

    On the other hand, of course, it is ironic that the Catholic saint Thomas More was to coin the term utopia. That indicates that one would probably have to revise the distinction once one were to take a closer look at various texts within the relevant religious texts and artworks.

    At this point, my response is only pragmatic: if Catholics can be utopian, why can’t Mormons be skeptical about human nature?

    What do you think?

  12. RoastedTomatoes March 23, 2007 at 2:32 pm

    There are a lot of Americans, including cultural elites, who don’t like LaBute’s work.

    Good point, William. Behold Metacritic scores for LaBute’s films:

    In the Company of Men: 81
    Your Friends and Neighbors: 70
    Nurse Betty: 69
    Posession: 52
    The Shape of Things: 59
    The Wicker Man: 36

    Certainly not universal acclaim for anything other than LaBute’s first film. Something that I find ironic, however, is that one major trope in LaBute’s negative reviews (starting with his second film) is that the films are too moralistic. He’s caught in a middle zone, isn’t he? Too moralistic for American cultural elites, but too willing to depict immorality for Mormons.

  13. William Morris March 23, 2007 at 3:21 pm


    He is totally caught in the middle zone. It’s also probably exactly why I wasn’t able to dismiss him after reading several of his plays — even though that’s what I was prepared to do going in to the reading.

  14. Hellmut March 23, 2007 at 5:40 pm

    Of course, his plays are moralistic. In our tradition, we tend to associate what’s right with what feels good.

    Neil LaBute is not about feeling good.

  15. Trevor March 23, 2007 at 5:56 pm


    You are right to complain about the ‘poor Mormon taste’ trope. I imagine that individually plenty of Mormons have good taste. Certainly we cannot write off all Mormons as consumers and purveyors of schlock, but I do believe that as a community we observe certain strictures that tend to shape our collective aesthetic repertoire. In other words, while we may individually create or consume a broad variety and quality of ‘arts’, when we come together, there are definite limits to what we generally accept as a community, and often harmless schlock fits those demands quite easily.


    Ah. Now I see how you are approaching the issue. Makes sense. I tend to see LaBute’s experiment with the worst in human nature as very contemporary in perspective and execution. Personally, I wouldn’t see LaBute’s exploring that worst as intentionally fitting within a theological tradition, but your training in this area is much better than mine.

  16. Marie March 23, 2007 at 7:53 pm

    I do cherish that utopian notion you describe in wishing that this audaciously grand faith of ours might tend toward creating artistic and intellectual adventurousness in the majority of church members — that it would automatically purge us of our hunger for empty calories. Unrealistic, I guess. But to clarify, my complaint is not so much with what other Mormons choose to consume arts-wise, but more that our mass turning away from the work of our better artists means that they cannot thrive. And it’s of special interest to me that they do thrive because Mormonism has a slant on reality that is powerful and unique and that I think could be the foundation for important art that would resonate with those both inside and outside of the LDS community. I don’t expect that any Mormon Miltons or Shakespeares will draw crowds any bigger than Milton or Shakespeare do at present. And of course, when art is a commodity there’s no way to separate art production from art consumption. But the utopian in me wishes we could :)

    Of course, there’s a always no-strings patronage system. Any Huntsmans out there wanna endow a fund for struggling LDS artists?

  17. Trevor March 24, 2007 at 12:59 pm

    That oft-repeated quote about Mormon Shakespeares is on my list of statements that I would prefer to see much less of. Why? How many Shakespeares are there anyway? There is one, and his international stature is arguably unsurpassed. I think we should be pleased to have the artists we do have rather than fantasize about besting the best there have been. Many wrote tragedy in ancient Athens, but we have a precious few examples of the art from three of its artists (Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides)–the three that someone chose to canonize the century after they had passed away. I tend to think that our dreams of cultural grandeur are narcissistic. Mormons will be recognized as having contributed to the arts under the larger rubric of American arts, something I find quite appropriate for an American religion.

  18. Cat March 24, 2007 at 11:49 pm

    There is little likelyhood that there will be any artistic renaissance within the Mormon community as art cannot be correlated.

    Artistic excellence derives from angst, from a delving into the deep inconsistencies and questions in the human condition. The Church, as an institution, is adamant about plastering a happy face on a perfect community of bland families. Where is the art to spring from?

    Is there any possibility of artisic depth to develop in an organization that has placed sexual purity (enforced by a network of Honor Code snitches) above all else at its center of highest learning, and has actively dicouraged philosophical debate? In a community that displays paintings of a blonde, blue-eyed Jesus and endless sketches of temples as the highest form of “art” in it’s meeting houses? In a community that defines “different” as “evil”?

    Just exactly where is this Mormon art to spring from, and when it does how will it escape the disciplinary actions of the bretheren when it is found not to be faith-promoting?

  19. fox March 25, 2007 at 6:50 am

    Innovators in the sciences and the arts often must take risks in their writings. Could Darwin be a Mormon and still publish “Origin of Species?” Should a Mormon novelist be held as morally responsible for the actions of her/his fictional characters?

    Since risk-taking could potentially culiminate in the removal of one’s Church membership, maybe it would be best if we taught our children not to be innovators or risk takers. Hmmm. Something is wrong with that. Zion will certainly have arts and sciences.

  20. Tatiana March 25, 2007 at 10:55 am

    This is a great thread! I never feel much comfort when people point out that Mormons are no more …. whatever…. than anyone else. We have the restored gospel! We have the personal companionship of a living God. I hold us to a higher standard than anyone else.

    LaBute’s stuff sounds really interesting, and we truly should embrace what makes us morally uncomfortable if we want to learn the most and progress the fastest. However, overtly moralizing art doesn’t usually appeal to me, since the artist’s judgement is pretty much always as flawed as that of the characters. Also, moralizing art tells us what we should think about something, in a heavy handed way. It rather insults our own intelligence and moral feelings, by assuming we must be overtly taught. I prefer art that presents a story, and leaves it up to us to think what we think about it.

    This is sort of similar to the thing Tolkien pointed out about allegory (like C.S. Lewis’ fiction) versus history, real or feigned (like Tolkien’s) with its varied applicability to our situation. In the second lies the freedom of the reader.

    However, not having seen any of LaBute’s stuff, I want to ask people into which category they think he falls. Is he didactic and overtly moralizing? Or does he leave it up to the audience what they should think?

  21. Hellmut March 25, 2007 at 2:16 pm

    This is a great thread! I never feel much comfort when people point out that Mormons are no more …. whatever…. than anyone else. We have the restored gospel! We have the personal companionship of a living God. I hold us to a higher standard than anyone else.

    Does this mean that driving unpopular artists out of the LDS Church is justified or not? Who has to measure up to those standards? The members or the leaders?

  22. Tatiana March 25, 2007 at 4:02 pm

    Oh, I meant that we should show tolerance for artists being honest about our flaws. It was a response to William Morris saying that Mormons have no worse taste than many other groups. Hellmut, I agree with your post #5 entirely.

  23. DavidH March 26, 2007 at 5:05 pm

    I do not care for LaBute’s work. Of course, there is a lot of excellent art, music, literature and theater that I do not care for either.

    It puzzles me how a disciplinary council could impose discipline on the basis of a play–even a play that portrays Church members in a very bad light. If writing negatively about members of our religion were considered “apostasy” or somehow or other violative of Church disciplinary standards, then the writers of the Book of Mormon (not to mention the writers of the Old Testament) would be in danger of losing their membership.

  24. k l h March 27, 2007 at 10:29 am

    Dig this Orson Scott Card quote (from [https://www.ornery.org/essays/warwatch/2007-03-18-1.html here]):^)

    “I’m a Mormon public figure, of sorts, and I know a few others. And I’m aware of exactly how the Church hierarchy deals with public figures.

    “A writer like me is a constant target of meddling middle-level bureaucrats who seem to think that their job in life is to afflict me for anything I write that wouldn’t be appropriate to put in a Sunday school lesson. But in all the years of low-level harassment, the actual Church authorities, in Salt Lake and locally, have always stood by my right to do my job as I see fit.

    “Government figures are more like sports figures in the way they get treated: Mid-level Mormons suck up to them mercilessly. But, once again, the higher-level authorities leave them alone to do their jobs.”

  25. k l h March 27, 2007 at 12:19 pm

    And this from an interview posted today over at the blog Feminist Mormon Housewives–

    Idahospud, FMH: “What do you have to say about the power of subversion and its role in women’s history? Does it have a place in Mormon women’s history? Should it?”

    Carol Lynn Pearson: “I just Googled the word ‘subversive’ and found: ‘Intended or serving to subvert, especially intended to overthrow or undermine an established government: “Sex and creativity are often seen by dictators as subversive activities” Erica Jong.’
    “Subversive is probably a good word for my own creativity, though not entirely accurate. I want to expand our system, not really overthrow it.”

  26. Yve April 22, 2007 at 11:44 am

    Oh Please! If you all seriously think that we Mormons, as a people, are not exposed to the nastiness and ironies of this world, YOU are the naive. Simply by being alive, I have witnessed and have been a victim of many atrocities. And, while I do agree that it is important for everyone to acknowledge them, it is not necessary to dwell on them.
    Art is, certainly, an amazing avenue to help bring people out of denial. Most of it has increased my capacity to love and understand others’ circumstances. But, there has also been a grand portion that was simply a plain waste of precious time.
    Art is very personal – and most often therapeutic for the person who has created it. It can help someone dispose of the darkness in them OR help them find the joy. Just because someone created it, however, does not mean that everyone needs to be exposed.
    The Lord has given us standards, through the LDS church organization, that are to help a majority. When we agree to live them, it is hopefully understood that, while one may not personally have a weakness in a particular area, perhaps a brother or sister does. He is all-knowing & asks us to help eachother avoid things that He perfectly knows would hinder happiness. The Lord does see & interact with us as individuals, but, we are not on earth alone. It takes a male & a female to create another human being. The 2 must unify in order to do this – whether naturally or artificially – it takes both. A child lives – only if there is someone to nourish it. – we ARE here to help eachother learn to become positive contributors to our own existence and others’.

    I have never read or seen Neil’s works. Some of his subjects sound interesting – and perhaps could help a few people. But, most sound like subjects that have already come up many times in real life. My close friends agree, there is no need to seek art/entertainment that will confirm the negative side of everyday living.

    Which brings me to:
    As for “trite” Mormon art/entertainment. As I just wrote, most of us are already exposed to the nastiness of this world in our real lives on a daily basis. Why should any of us WANT or NEED to SEEK OUT movies, plays, museums, read books or listen to music that infuses our brains with even more?

    I DO enjoy art that makes me think deeply – but, in our society today, I believe THERE IS a GREATER NEED for things that uplift. : o}

    My generation – the “TV, latch-key kids” need more exposure to genuine, unselfish LOVE.

  27. Rose May 13, 2007 at 4:36 pm

    I find LaBute’s works something to make me think, no matter if I like them or not; and I find some of them make me very uncomfortable. My question is this: where did you find the information on “Lord of the Flies??” It’s not on IMdB nor anywhere else. Unless you work for him, and have access to his personal agenda, how is this a known ‘fact’? I think he’d do an amazing job with that type of moral tale.

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