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'The Hour Of Great Mercy' Has World Premiere At Diversionary Theatre Thursday

January 31, 2019 1:36 p.m.

GUEST: Miranda Rose Hall, playwright, "The Hour of Great Mercy"

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This is K PBS mid-day edition. I'm Maureen Cavanaugh and I'm JD Hindman and unbearable tragedy. The hope of reconciliation and forbidden love all under an icy Alaskan sky. This story of a gay Jesuit priest leaving the seminary unfolds in the world premiere production of the hour of great mercy opening tonight at diversionary theater. Playwright Miranda Rose Hall join me to talk about her latest work. Here's that interview first.

Can you give us a brief synopsis of the play. Sure. The play is set in a small town in rural Alaska and it begins when a character named Ed who is a Jesuit priest returns to this small town after.

Five years away to try to reconnect with his estranged family and the characters in the play they're dealing with a very I guess a variety of different issues. There must have been a variety of different things that influenced this play. Can you talk to us about those influences.

Shore Well I spent a year living in Alaska the year after I graduated from college. I joined a volunteer organization called the Jesuit Volunteer Corps Northwest. And when I was up there I was thinking a lot about service and I was serving in a long term care and end of life facility and thinking a lot about questions of faith and community and end of life and the kind of intimacy that happens in such an extreme environment. And I'd say that all of those are themes that are taking place in this play and really coming to life for these characters.

And so what are some of the ways that you sort of infused that experience into the play.

I certainly think that my experience of the Alaskan environment the extreme dark the extreme cold the the sublime beauty really informs the environment of this play and there's a sense of kind of scrappy difficult human life unfolding in front of this majestic beauty which was always a dynamic that was at play up there. How do you try to capture that environment on the stage. That's a great question. It was one of my challenges for myself because obviously a play takes place indoors normally in a room with no windows and so evoking the wilderness is always an interesting challenge.

I've tried to write it in two. There's some moments where the characters are outdoors and experiencing a sense of awe. But there's also a kind of chilling ness that pervades everything and there's that kind of stiffness that I think comes off in where some of the characters are emotionally and I think that the play is trying to seek a process of thawing out for some characters who are kind of frozen and stuck in this play has been read in a variety of different festivals including the diversionary spark festival.

But this is the first full production of the play what has it been like to see it fully come to life.

Oh it's so exciting. You know it's amazing to get into a room of actors and designers and a director who are all committed to finding a unique vision and way of animating the work and it's just so exciting to get to see it live in such talented people's imaginations and in bodies you know in in a reading you can sort of get a sense of the characters and you can get a sense of the language and everything but only in production can you get a full sense of of the world.

And you know the play is being directed by Rosina Reynolds What has the collaboration with her been like.

It's been wonderful Rosina has worked in San Diego for a long time and she herself as an actor and I feel in such good hands with somebody who can connect so deeply to these characters and what they're going through and it's definitely an actor driven play and a character driven play and she's really gotten down in the trenches with these actors to figure out what the characters are going through and to to mine for all of the dynamics going on in the story.

And I wonder you know he's seeing it performed led you to make any large changes to the play.

I think it's just been on a pretty subtle level of trying to shape the relationships between characters in the in the play so I haven't you know invented new characters or cut characters or even radically changed scenes.

It's just about you know the more you get to know characters you you can clarify exactly what they're doing in the room and exactly what they're trying to to do to and with the other characters in the scene whether that's trying to express love and compassion or ask for help or ridicule them and it's it's been exciting to just kind of fine tune the ways that they are pursuing those actions and what do you hope those who see the play take away from it.

Well I hope that they feel a connection to these characters and like they've bonded with a cast of people who are going through some serious highs and lows of their lives. I hope that people laugh. There are definitely comic moments even though it is. A drama but I really hope that people feel a sense of connection and compassion and hopefully by the end a sense of grace and you know in talking about Alaska.

You talked about the environment and you know it's kind of rough.

It's tough on the body.

Physically it's rough but there's a lot of beauty there too. Totally is did that sort of come out in the way these characters are shaped at all sort of.

Definitely. I think you have to have a sense of humor to survive up there because it's such an intense experience and so I think that that kind of resilience comes through in a lot of these characters.

I hope I've been speaking with playwright Miranda Rose Hall talking about the hour of great mercy her latest work. MIRANDA Thanks. Thank you. Our of great mercy runs through March 3rd at diversionary theatre.