Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Catherine Trieschmann's Crooked
Redemption and Sacrifice

Redemption is an exchange.  
We redeem our luggage by handing over the claim ticket.  
A deceiver redeems credibility by telling the truth.  
Or a better fiction.

And the fictions we tell as acts of redemption can be newly framed or borrowed. 
In Crooked, a fourteen-year-old girl crippled by trauma manages her changing world by creating her own fictions.  She writes stories.  And tells lies to fit the occasion.  She meets a sixteen-year-old girl who has stories of her own, borrowed from the world of her father, regarding the moral struggle between sin and salvation, the devious temptations of Satan, and rituals of penance and observance.

The justice of redemption resides in the fact that what is claimed belonged to one in the first place.  Yet it still requires faith that the reward is worth the trade-off.  
There’s the luggage, or reputation, or soul: something reclaimed.  
And there’s the thing we trade:  something rendered.

Something sacrificed.

Monday, February 23, 2015

A Word from the Puritans

“Suffering is not good for writing.  Suffering is good for depression.  Reading is good for writing.”

So says a mother to her daughter in Catherine Trieschmann’s Crooked. 

If she were a Puritan, she might have added, “Satan is good for writing.”

The Puritans who settled on our East Coast in the 17th Century believed that Satan was a daily presence in their lives, a spirit that looked for opportunities to enter into and to corrupt their souls.  It had plenty of opportunities.  The open mouth for a sneeze or a yawn was a door that fit just right—unless a fellow Puritan had the presence of mind to utter “Bless You,” which would ward Satan away just in the nick of time. 

The mischief of Satan was everywhere present.  Curdled milk?  A new loaf of bread that mysteriously fell flat in the oven? An infestation of weevils in the garden?  A child slow to speak?  All Satan’s work, to which the appropriate blessings and ceremonies were applied.

One tool against Satan was vigilance:  one had a better chance of warding off the lord of darkness if one watched everywhere for him and kept good records of what was going on.  Thus Puritan neighborhoods were plagued by continual gossip and rumor—in itself ironic, since gossip was regarded as sinful, a form of idleness (and there is no playground more popular with Satan than idleness).  But one could privately keep a watch out for Satan by keeping a diary, recording the events of one’s day, no matter how small and routine, so that the writer could look for moments when Satan might have been invited.  This form of vigilance eventually became a historic boon:  Puritan families left diaries that have given us impressively detailed accounts of their daily lives.

In Trieschmann’s Crooked, you meet a 16 year old girl who has a lot to teach you about Satan.  Take notes if you like.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Southern Gothic, anyone?  Want that with a leg of deep fried chicken?  A mint julep?

In the world of literature, think literary giants like Edgar Allan Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, William Faulkner, Carson McCullers, Flannery O’Connor, or popular writers like Holly Black, Rachel Hawkins, Karen Russell, or the children’s writer Maggie Stiefvater. 

And now Catherine Trieschmann, in her play Crooked, which Virago Theatre Company is staging from Feb. 20 to March 1 at The Flight Deck in Oakland.

The genre of Southern Gothic presents characters distinguished for being unstable, “damaged,” or darkly unorthodox in their perspective.  As these characters conflict with their traditional, restrictive mainstream cultures, we are caused to examine some of the unstated tenets of those cultures, and their “logic.”   

In Crooked, you meet two such characters—the 14 year old girl whose body is literally contorted from the tensions she has experienced and perhaps inherited; and her new friend, the 16 year old girl who feels driven to introduce people to Jesus so that they will be saved after the horrible tragic deaths she envisions. 

Characteristic of Southern Gothic literature, the point is not really about the dark uniqueness of these girls.  It’s about the world they inherit from us.

From us.