Church & State is a fast-paced, seriously funny take on faith, politics, and “The Twitter.”
It’s three days before Charles Whitmore’s Senate re-election and he’s decided to finally tell the public exactly what’s on his mind, no filter. What could possibly go wrong?
Recently nominated for three L.A. Ovation Awards (Best Original Play; Best Production, Intimate Theatre; and Best Lead Actor in a Play), CHURCH & STATE was named one of the Top Ten L.A. Theatre Productions of 2016 by The Huffington Post.
Originally developed with Artistic Director Ralph Meranto at JCC CenterStage, CHURCH & STATE was first produced as a National New Play Network Rolling World Premiere by The Skylight Theatre in Los Angeles, June 24 - September 4, 2016, and JCC CenterStage in Rochester, October 22 - November 6, 2016.
This play began as a germ of an idea shortly after the shooting massacre at Virginia Tech in 2007. I went to UVA (Virginia Tech's “football rival”) and the images on TV of candlelight vigils by Cavaliers for their rival Hokies touched me profoundly. Then Tucson happened, and I watched the news, riveted and angry. Then Aurora. And I watched again, riveted and angry. Then Newtown. And I'd had enough. A month later, in January 2013, I had a first draft of what would eventually become Church & State. On paper, the topics of this play (religion, guns and politics) seem heavy. But a heavy drama about heavy topics doesn't interest me. What interests me is a play that gets to the heart of the people around these issues. And when you write about people, you can't help but let them be funny and sad and honest, heartbreaking and uplifting all at the same time. Because isn't that what being human is? And because of that, I don't think this play works without the humor. And the humor doesn't mean anything without the heart. To me, comedy and tragedy are not two ends of a single line, but two points right next to each other on the same circle.
While most writers hope that their work will live forever, my dream for this play is that it will become obsolete. And many years from now people will read it and think, "How quaint! Americans used to argue about gun control." But as the news incessantly reminds us, these mass shootings are not going away any time soon. They have become our new normal. Orlando was a stark reminder of that. For now, I hope this play raises questions, sparks debate, makes people laugh, cry, and laugh while crying. And of course I hope it moves people in some way. Perhaps enough to take action with their voice and vote and bump the needle ever so slightly in the conversation about gun violence. But most of all, I hope this play speaks to your heart. Because, for me, that's the only reason to write anything: to speak to each other's hearts.
- Jason Odell Williams, June 2016