EXCERPTS FROM THE INTERVIEW
Below are excerpts from July 2, 2017 Herald-Mail Media interview with Everything is Wonderful playwright, Chelsea Marcantel.
Read the full article by Christal Schelle
In “Everything is Wonderful,” playwright playwright Chelsea Marcantel asks the audience if they would be willing to forgive the unforgivable to find peace for both parties.
Inspired from the Werner Herzog documentary “From One Second to the Next,” which chronicles the deaths of four children who are killed when the buggy they were in was hit by a driver who was texting.
“That’s where I first started really started thinking about an ideal culture that really had a lot of forgiveness for people outside, but very little tolerance for deviation within,” she said “I thought about a lot of ways to tell the story and I did a year’s worth of research and travel and interviews. And I eventually came back around to this car accident, because it’s such an insular world it would have to be this big rupture for the community to let the outsider to come in.”
There’s also an opening for resolution. If there’s a person who feels they committed a huge travesty and there’s some huge transgression if they didn’t get punished for it. And they go seeking that punishment and get forgiveness. It sounds like very fertile ground for how you deal with that then. I feel like we’re not used to seeing that radical forgiveness or accepting it.”
To research the Amish, Marcantel said she did a lot of reading as well as watching documentaries, as well as “terrible Amish realty shows.” She traveled to Lancaster, Pa., as a tourist, too, as an outsider looking into their world.
“It’s very hard especially if you don’t have business connections to get into a family’s world,” she said.
She also read first-person accounts written by people who had left the sect, but she took them with grain of salt as she knew they weren’t completed unbiased. Throughout it all, she had to find a balance from both sides of who the Amish are as individual people as well as a community as a whole.
“I feel like I’ve been through all three stages from ‘This is weird’ to ‘Oh my god, they’re really nice; they have all the answers,’ to ‘oh no this is terrible; everything is wrong is this,’ to ‘they are people living their lives and they have a right to live their life, some of it they get right, some of it they get wrong.’ They’re just like any other faith-based group. It works for a lot of people and it doesn’t work for a lot of other people.”
What Marcantel found is that Amish, in a way, are “an interesting barometer for the rest of American society because they’re going to keep doing what they’ve been doing for hundreds of years.”
“They’re not trying to be anachronistic; they just won’t change. We change and the way we view the Amish as a culture changes decade to decade,” she said. “Right now, everyone is like ‘oh it’s it beautiful and simple’ and wish we could all live so fetishly positively. During World War II they were vilified because they’re pacifists and none of them went to fight overseas. There was a lot of trying to shut down their schools and harassing them. And they’re doing exactly right now what they were doing then. It’s just that the climate in our country right now thinks that it’s very honorable and respectable, whereas in the ‘40s we felt they were very cowardly and moochers. I think it says more about how we view us, not them. They’re going to stay where they are.”
Everything is Wonderful hits the stage at Everyman Theatre beginning January 29th, through March 3rd, 2019.