Here in the DC area this July, there is what can only be described as an abundance of plays on stage, both from our year-round theatre companies, and the mega-Capital Fringe opening tonight. But in Frederick, MD, the big news is the METLab Plays festival at Maryland Ensemble Theatre. Don Thompson’s The God of this World, a romance between a young woman and an alien and the generational fireworks that sets off is being given a full, if short, run (July 9 – 19). Not being able to cover this premiere ourselves, Mr. Thompson kindly responded to questions, starting with the story:
The God of this World tells essentially a very ‘relatable’ story of a mother and father who have issues with their daughter’s choice of a boyfriend. In this case, the boyfriend just happens to be an extraterrestrial from the Pleiades star system who hovers in a spaceship over his girlfriend’s Manhattan townhouse in the fourth dimension. Her parents, who are as a rule fairly tolerant and liberal, go absolutely ballistic when it comes to their daughter’s supposed relationship with an alien. The story becomes sort of a modern ‘Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner’.
– Tell us about the moment where you said to yourself: “I just have to do this!”
The idea for the The God of this World came to me slowly about five years ago. Usually the title of a show will come to me first, then impressions of scenes, and a general sense of what I want to do with it. I knew I wanted the play to be a comedy, and I knew ultimately I wanted it to be about human choice. The power of human choice.
– Why this play now?
The play is important now because there is a lot of hatred in the air. I wanted to write a play that countered all of that. That spoke of love and reconciliation, but not in a sentimental or clichéd way. I also have an interest in the subject of extraterrestrials, because I happen to believe that it is simply impossible that we are alone in the universe. So the thought came to me: what would they think of us? What would an advanced civilization think of us?
– What have you been learning about yourself during rehearsals?
I always learn during rehearsals that I’m pretty far from perfect. Actors have a great sense of the natural and what works. They can help you shape dialog and make it be more believable. As for the director (Gene’ Fouche’), she helped me anticipate issues with audience reaction and to tweak dialog and characters accordingly. So what you write on the page and what is delivered can vary. But I’m very happy with the outcome. The show is great fun to watch. The cast is incredible and the show is really well staged.
– If you won a Tony for this show, who would you thank?
If I were to thank anyone for inspiring this show it would be Mike Nichols and Elaine May – the mother and father of modern comedy.
THE GOD OF THIS WORLD
July 9 – 19
Maryland Ensemble Theatre
31 W Patrick St
Thursdays thru Sundays
Details and Tickets
– What do you want the audience to leave feeling or thinking about?
At the end of the day I’d like the audience to consider about how life is fundamentally about choices, and that we are not victims – that our choices matter and can shape the reality we live in. We shouldn’t be so resigned to things ‘as they are’ because there are a lot of problems in the world that demand we don’t accept things as they are. I try to tell these things in a way that is entertaining and funny, and gentle, with a dose of wisdom from the elders. At the end of the day we should just try to be kind to one another – that’s a good place to start.
Don Thompson is a playwright, producer and essayist. His plays have been produced from coast-to-coast, including acclaimed productions in New York (off Broadway) and Los Angeles. He first collaborated with Maryland Ensemble over 10 years ago with Democracy: A Work in Progress, a non-linear play about the origins and outcomes of democracy. As a film producer, Thompson’s productions and co-productions have screened internationally, winning awards at festivals such as Sundance, Movies that Matter and Berlin, among others. Thompson continues to produce and promote documentaries and narrative features that have a uniquely independent perspective. Don is happy to be working with the MET again and premiering his most recent play, The God of this World.