Religious beliefs clash and perspectives are challenged in Zion Theatre Company's production of "A Roof Overhead" -- a play exploring the conflict between a Mormon family and an atheist who are thrown together and struggle to find common ground. "A Roof Overhead" opens Monday evening at 7:30 in the Little Brown Theatre in Springville.
The play, written by national award-winning playwright Mahonri Stewart -- also the founder and producer of Zion Theatre Company -- was first written over 16 years ago while Stewart was in high school. The script has been revamped and updated to include current issues on the political, religious and secular front.
"It was a very different play then, but the same basic structure and dynamics were there," said Stewart. "It stemmed from a point in my life when I was in dialogue with a friend about faith, secularism and the cultural blind spots on both sides. The play's story reemerged recently when the same tensions existed in my life after moving away from Utah and creating a wider web of secular friends."
The show's inciting event, Stewart said, involves a woman named Sam Forest, an atheist, who moves into the basement of a Mormon family, the Fieldings. "It causes an uncomfortable disruption to all of their lives," he said. "The lack of understanding and accepting between the two eventually creates devastation from which none of them can recover."
Rebecca Minson, who plays the role of Sam, commented on her character, whose belief system is polar opposite to that of the Fieldings.
"She's a very passionate and strong-willed woman," Minson said. "Life has thrown her a few curve balls and her experiences have brought her to the logical conclusions for which she fights. She has found an enemy in religion and doesn't want anyone to suffer the way that she has. Both sides encounter just how wide their cultural divide is and strive to see if this rift between their worlds is a permanent scar, or if there's hope for tolerance, understanding, even love. The conclusions they reach on that front are not as clear cut, simple or easy as one may first assume going into it."
"Roof Overhead" explores cultural differences, opposing world views, ideological extremes -- and searches for ways to bridge those gaps.
"It addresses how religious people and secular people have this cultural tension that is tearing them farther and farther apart -- tearing at the seams that knit together the common humanity that we all share," Stewart said. "I believe how God perceives each of us is very different than how we perceive each other. Stepping out of our own personal prejudices and cultural blind spots allows us to gain some of that perspective."
No matter what perspective you take, however, Minson said the message of the story is clear: "No matter what our neighbor says or does or doesn't do, they are still our brother and we should love them. It's a struggle to forgive sometimes, but it's beautiful and perfect when we do."