How to Write a New Book for the Bible

Yesterday, Drew and I went to see How to Write a New Book for the Bible, by Bill Cain, at Berkeley Rep. I worked with Bill on two shows at Marin Theatre Company – Equivocation and 9 Circles. (Kent Nicholson, who directed How to Write a New Book…, also directed 9 Circles. Kent and Bill are great together – I think that this play wouldn’t have been as good under another director’s hand.) 

Bill was a very active part of both of MTC’s rehearsal processes, and consequently we spent a lot of time together. He is a very sweet and very quirky guy, and was always willing to talk to me about whatever – writing, theatre, etc – and after one conversation about self-editing, he showed me a draft copy of How to Write a New Book…, and the ridiculous amounts of notes he scribbles on every single page. I really liked working with him.

I don’t know what I was expecting from How to Write a New Book…, really – I knew the show was about the death of his mother and that it was highly autobiographical. Bill is a Jesuit priest, and religion is always a main character in his shows.

I’ve never seen a show at Berkeley Rep before. First of all, I loved the theatre – it was their thrust stage, which is a really interesting space. At about 5 minutes til curtain, the house manager (?) came in and announced the whole space, “Feel free to scoot inwards for a better seat,” and then Drew and I watched a bunch more people come in, and we decided that that announcement was the worst idea ever.

As for the show itself…it was about the death of his mother, and it was highly autobiographical. It created a lot of feelings in me. Feelings about writing, about religion, about family, about theatre, about God, about life, about being in rehearsal with Bill and hearing pieces of these anecdotes. I sort of loved the use of the small set, and the staging. The actors (2 playing themselves through the whole thing, and 2 playing multiple characters) were stellar.

There was a Bible passage that was repeated several times throughout the play – I’m not sure of the speaker or the location. But I believe it’s Peter or Paul, and it’s along the lines that “All things come together for the greater good.” (Uncle Pastor, help with this? Book of Acts, maybe?) In the play, Bill (the character – but also sort of the writer) repudiates this. I personally tend to think that all things do work together and work out – but I know that Bill would argue with me on that, and have lots of good examples and probably Bible verses to back it up. So I probably wouldn’t start that argument.

How to Write a New Book for the Bible is only playing through Nov 20th. I fully recommend it to anyone who can go in the next week.

We’ve seen a lot of theatre over the last 6 weeks. I probably walked out of this one with the most residual feelings at the end. Highest commendation?



Filed under Awesome, Memoir, Religion, Self improvement, Sentiment, Theatre, Writing

2 responses to “How to Write a New Book for the Bible

  1. David (Uncle Pastor) Hamilton

    It’s from St. Paul’s letter to the Romans, chapter 8, verse 28 (which I have copied with its full context, below…) As to the question of what it all means – yeah, there are different ways of interpreting it. It seems to be in a context that is meant to encourage the reader to have Hope (i.e., trust and confidence) that the struggles of her/his life are not going to be the defining thing; but that whatever awful things might happen (and clearly Paul does NOT intend to suggest that God is the one who MAKES the bad things happen to us), God can bring good out of evil. It seems to me to be saying that not everything that happens to us is good, or even God’s will, or “fate” if that’s a word one wants to use. I guess I take that to mean that everything that happens to us is not necessarily “purpose-full” – that sometimes, you know, stuff just happens – but that in God’s mercy and grace, God can take all those random things, and even the worst of them, and make something good come out of it. There’s a subtle difference there. Think of the inner strength that comes (sometimes) from hard times, or grief; or the sense of community that emerges when a group of people go through some disaster together. You might never be thankful that the bad thing happened, but you might learn to be thankful to God for the good thing that came out of the bad thing. So it’s not meant so much as some universal, philosophical truth, but as a statement of faith (even in the face of any and all evidence to the contrary.)

    Here’s the verse, and what comes after:

    28We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. 29For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn within a large family. 30And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified.
    31What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? 32He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? 33Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. 35Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36As it is written,
    “For your sake we are being killed all day long;
    we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.”
    37No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

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