By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
Lonely Planet plays through December 20. Call (214) 871-3300.
Want a little light Yuletide entertainment so you can remove your shoes, switch off your brain, and float for a while in an isolation tank of commercial homilies about "good cheer" and "loving your fellow man"? Then you should at all times stay at least 100 yards from the Bath House Cultural Center on December 16, when newly formed Ground Zero Theater launches with a staged reading of Didymus, Dallas actor-playwright Cameron Cobb's ambitious and, some might say, radical retelling of the Resurrection of Christ. Didymus has already received a workshop production at Southern Methodist University and another staged reading as part of the summer series at the Undermain, where Cobb is an artistic associate. Ground Zero, a fledgling company co-founded by Dallas actress Kimberlyn Crowe, operates under the umbrella of The Promethean Project, which seeks to develop an appreciation of theater in many different forums, including the classroom.
"This is the snowflake at the top of the mountain that has turned into the abominable snowman of a nonprofit organization," Crowe declares with great passion of Didymus. "When I saw Cameron's play, I said, 'This is too damn good not to be produced.' The process has also been wonderful because Cameron understands that the play is not finished yet. He says [playwright and frequent Undermain collaborator] John O'Keefe once told him of finishing a script, 'Sometimes you have to kill your babies,' referring to entertaining parts of a play that just aren't germane."
Crowe, who will direct the Bath House run-through, was not the only one impressed with this Didymus draft--some terrific Dallas actors, including Bruce DuBose, Greg Gormley, Jeremy Schwartz, David Stroh, and Frances Fusilier, have committed to the reading. Cobb's play begins soon after The Crucifixion and concerns a conflict between the apostles Peter and Didymus "Doubting" Thomas, the archetypically faithless mortal who refuses to believe the sight of the risen Christ, going so far as to want to jab his fingers into Christ's wounds to test their corporeality. In Cobb's retelling, Peter wants to rob Christ's tomb and bury the body because the prophecy of the son of God must be fulfilled; Jesus' disciples and followers must believe he has returned from death, and Peter doesn't want to take chances. Didymus is less an unbeliever here than one who contends that such literal demonstrations of faith and inspiration are beside the point--the bugbear of faith is believing in something you don't know to be true.
"This play takes these two characters down to the human level," Crowe insists. "It's difficult for Didymus to believe, because it's difficult for us to believe. It's a daily struggle to trust in some intangible higher power. Cameron's play is about the burden of faith, and the consequences of faith. In that sense, it's not a 'Christian play'; this isn't a story you would want to stage inside some nice little church. There are certain elements some might consider blasphemous."
As far as Crowe is concerned, Didymus is just the first public example of the kind of work Ground Zero and its umbrella organization, The Promethean Project, want to accomplish. Cobb's play will receive its first full production in the spring of 1999, and a slot is open in October for another show. Ground Zero is beating the local, state, and regional bushes for strong new scripts on any subject and wants those who believe they possess such work to contact them ("We're not going to do a play just because some guy in Dallas wrote it," Crowe confirms). In addition, Crowe is working on creating a workshop for playwrights and an educational project to get a theater artist into public-school English-as-a-second-language classes once a week for a project in which students will write, direct, and act in a production designed to help meet TAAS objectives.
"People bemoan the sorry state of our society, but they never stop to consider how the diminishing of the liberal arts as a serious study has affected this," Crowe insists. "What people are saying [by shortchanging the arts] is, 'The arts are not related to our conduct in society.'"
Didymus is read December 16 at 7:30 p.m. at the Bath House Cultural Center. For more information or to submit scripts to Ground Zero, call (214) 827-5746 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.