Tuesday, April 26, 2011


Borderlands marks a place of intersection, a liminal space where roads end but new paths begin, where [new] horizons reveal themselves but also where collisions do us harm. I'm a believing, practicing Mormon, and Mormonism is at its most essential a religion that preaches literally endless human possibilities, eternal progression, and growth. But we Mormons face tremendous pressure to conform, to fit in, to obey, to define ourselves in certain quite limited ways. It is, for many, a religious culture of public orthodoxy and quietly whispered rebellion. And so we carve out spaces for ourselves, and we meet in those spaces, and we come out to each other. We come out. Sunstone Magazine is one such space, where we brave the borderlands––this play came in part from reading back issues of Sunstone.

But where to set it? And then I thought of a used car lot, the one commercial space in American culture where prices are contingent; the one place we still bargain. The very act of car buying is also liminal, but also sort of sleazy: the game of salesmanship, the give and take, the creating of quickly disposable narratives strikes me as quintessentially and disreputably American. Cars represent the transcendent open road of Kerouac and Hunter Thompson and Tom Wolfe. And Dale Earnhardt: go to any Christian bookstore in the South or Midwest, and see the two big displays on competing tables: the vulgar eschatology of Left Behind, and Dale Earnhardt––prints of him being raptured out of this wrecked #3 car. Cars represent mobility and portability and of course the possibility of instant death. And freedom, and life.

So I wrote a play about coming out, about cars and salesmanship, about death and God and sexual desire. And a space, perhaps a mini-van, where we dare to tell ourselves the truth, and where we are appalled to find how little it sets us free.

The foregoing is from the introduction to BYU professor Eric Samuelsen's new play, Borderlands, published in the March 2011 edition of Sunstone Magazine. Get yourself a copy of this play, Gentle Reader. You won't regret it. It's one of the best pieces of Mormon-themed art I've read in a long while.

The premier production of the play, by Salt Lake City's Plan-B Theatre Company, just closed this month, after being forced to extend the run another week to meet the demand created by rave reviews.

Samuelsen continues to be humane, insightful, and a force to be reckoned with.

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