Pilot Program: The Restoration of Polygamy, Fertility Pressure, and Faith


Photo credit: Rick Pollock


What would you give up to be considered a “good” feminist? Think long and hard. Now imagine you are asked to interrupt your current monogamous relationship and bring in a third-party. Could you do it? That’s the question asked of Abigail (played by April Fossen) and Jacob (played by April’s husband, Mark Fossen), but their question is: What would you do for your church? Melissa Leilani Larson’s Pilot Program opens with an achingly silent scene between LDS Church members Abigail and Jacob. They have just been asked to take part in the Church’s “pilot program” to restore polygamy.

The expected plot trajectory is for Jacob to push his wife into the arrangement, but Larson defies expectation with Abigail. Abigail, a smart and cynical college professor (perhaps a Mormon feminist?) is the one who feels a “blossom of warmth” in her chest, and immediately calls a former BYU student, Heather to begin the couple’s proposition. If Jacob is going to have another wife, Abigail wants to choose.

Without giving too much away, let me just say that you’re in for a gut-wrenching journey of exploration. How much could you endure for your faith, and is the decision truly about God, or it some other social pressure? Pilot Program explores infertility with Abigail and Jacob. Mainstream heterosexual culture constantly pressures women to become mothers, but throw in a dash of Mormonism, and the pressure to conceive triples. After three miscarriages, failed in vitro fertilization, and stalled adoption plans, it seems that Abigail invites Heather into her otherwise blissful marriage to punish herself for infertility.

April and Mark Fossen are married offstage, and not surprisingly, play their married characters perfectly. Heather (played by Sussanna Florence Risser) does a remarkable job–you manage to like a character who anyone in the audience could reasonably hate (I know she was invited, but I wanted to call her a home-wrecker?). Plan B’s Jerry Rapier always stuns as the director, and Pilot Program is no different.

Pilot Program runs from April 9-19th at the Rose Wagner Theatre, and tickets are quickly selling out. Make sure to get yours before they’re gone, and gather up your favorite Mormon faithful, feminists, and other friends to go see this funny and thought-provoking play.


Weekly Feminist Happenings April 7th-13th

the medusa collective

Tuesday, April 7th

Screening of Food Chains: The documentary “Food Chains,” which follows a group of south Florida tomato pickers as they fight for humane working conditions, in the face of a $4 trillion global supermarket industry. Director Sanjay Rawal will take part in a Q&A session after the screening. Presented by the Utah Film Center. Details: Starts at 7 p.m. at the Salt Lake City Public Library – Main (210 E. 400 South, Salt Lake City).

Premiere of As One: Utah State University will presnt “As One,” a one-act chamber opera that chronicles the experiences of a transgender person as she emerges into harmony with herself and the world around her. “As One” also features the Fry Street Quartet. Details: For tickets, contact the CCA Box Office located in room L101 of the Chase Fine Arts Center, call 435-797-8022 or visit arts.usu.edu..

Wednesday, April 8th

LaDonna Redmond–Food Justice: As part of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences’ Tanner Talks series, LaDonna Redmond will speak in Old Main 115 on the Utah State University campus. A Chicago native, Redmond became involved in the food justice movement when her young son developed food allergies and she found it impossible to find quality organic produce in her West Side neighborhood. Details: From 11:30-12:50 p.m.

The Medusa Collective: Urban Lounge will present Medusa Collective featuring Salvia Plath, Officer Jenny and Strong Words. The Medusa Collective’s mission is to support and unite female and non-binary musicians and encourage better gender representation in the Provo music scene. Details: Starts at 8 p.m. at the Urban Lounge (241 S. 500 East, Salt Lake City).

Thursday, April 9th

Extreme Affordability Global Health Lecture–Nicholas Kristof: A two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for The New York Times, Nicholas Kristof is an extraordinary thinker, human rights advocate, and chronicler of humanity. A seasoned journalist, he has traveled the major roads and minor byways of China, Africa, India, and South Asia, offering a compassionate glimpse into global health, poverty, and gender in the developing world. Kristof has lived on four continents, reported on six, and traveled to more than 150 countries, all 50 states, every Chinese province, and every main Japanese island. He’s also one of the few Americans to visit every member of the “Axis of Evil.” A bestselling author, in his most recent book, A Path Appears, Kristof and his wife Sheryl Wudunn look around the world at people who are working to make it a better place, and show readers the numerous of ways this work can be supported. Details: Starts at 7 p.m. Purchase tickets here.

Wrenched: The documentary Wrenched, which profiles a new generation of environmental activists carrying on the fight started by Edward Abbey and his “Monkey Wrench Gang.” Following the screening, a panel discussion will take place, featuring: Patrick Shea, former BLM director and legal counsel for activist Tim DeChristopher; Kim Crumbo, director of conversation for the Grand Canyon Wildlands Council; Sara Dant, professor of history at Weber State University; and moderator Leslie Thatcher from KPCW. Part of the Reimagine Western Landscapes Symposium, presented by Utah Open Lands and the University of Utah College of Humanities. Details: Starts at 7 p.m. at The Prospector (2175 Sidewinder Drive, Park City).

Pilot Program: Plan-B Theatre Company will present Melissa Leilani Larson’s “Pilot Program,” April 9-19, 2015. What if you were called to serve in the restoration of polygamy? You could blog about it. An intimate look at first love, second wives and last chances. Details: Buy tickets here. 

Friday, April 10th

5 Lesbians Eating A Quiche: Silver Summit Theatre Company in conjunction with A-Muses announces the regional premiere of “5 Lesbians Eating a Quiche,” April 10-26, 2015. With the ever-present threat of nuclear war looming over them, the widows of the Susan B. Anthony Society for the Sisters of Gertrude Stein meet in a renovated community center for a special annual event, where the prize-winning quiche will be declared in a much-anticipated ceremony. Adult themes, sexual innuendo, some language. Visit here  for information.

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Is There Sisterhood in Mormonism? Plan B Theatre’s “3”

Photo Credit: Rick Pollock

Photo Credit: Rick Pollock

I was fortunate enough to attend Eric Samuelsen’s 3 on Saturday night, and I can’t give my recommendation enough. The show is running through April 6th, and it is imperative that you attend. Grab your favorite feminist, preferably your favorite Mormon feminist, and run down to the Rose Wagner Theater to experience three short plays about Mormon women confronting their culture.

Before I get to the stories, I have to gush that, as usual, Plan B knocked their set design, lighting, and sound out of the park. The set was one of the most elaborate I’ve seen from this company, and it was so many things: hilarious, culturally significant, and I don’t know, just perfect. The lighting and sound were astonishing, and don’t even get me started on the costumes! Pillip R. Lowe nailed the costumes. Nailed. Them.

Then there are the stories. Three tories born from the brilliant mind of Eric Samuelsen, an active member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (only a member of the church could write with such poignant acumen). You’re in for a real treat with: Bar & Kell, Community Standard, and Duets. Each play features the same three actresses, Stephanie Howell, Teresa Sanderson (you may remember her from her stunning performance in Eric(a)), and Christy Summerhays, but you don’t even realize it by the time the next play starts, because each woman perfectly embodies her new character.

In Bar & Kell, the title women take on a “pet project” in their neighbor Brandy. Brandy is a mother to three, with a live-in, abusive boyfriend. She doesn’t have a GED and she isn’t actively attending church anymore. The woman try to groom her, scrub her, and prep her for a proper life in their LDS community. This short really calls into question the bonds women form–are we trying to help our sisters, or are we trying to help ourselves? Prepare to laugh your ass butt off with this one. 

Community Standard follows the jury deliberation of a high-profile obscenity trial. It’s in this play that Stephanie Howell’s character Janeal really makes us questions our assumptions and she highlights a great paradox in LDS culture. Janeal, a devout Mormon wife, is forced to watch pornographic films to determine whether or not a local movie store was renting films congruent with the “community standard.” While watching these films she’s struck by something too familiar: the performance of women who endure in spite of discomfort, and the objectifying gaze of the men involved. Just because it isn’t porn, is that the community standard? This one is a real conversation starter. Get ready to get in deep with your favorite Mo Fem after the show.

By far the most emotional play for me was Duets, a haunting story about Sondra (brilliantly played by Christy Summerhays) and her husband, who is having an affair with a man. The play documents the trauma of trying to change sexual orientation too well, and its culmination is devastating. Duets was so powerful that I forgot for a moment how much I had laughed during the previous two plays. My personal emotional experience was augmented when I looked over to see tears streaming down the face of a silver-haired gentleman to my right. Keep some tissues on hand for this one, because it might hit too close to home.

I could go on and on about the delights of Samuelsen’s 3, so I’ll force myself to stop, but not before I urge you one more time to buy tickets and go see this play. It’s an important piece of work for our community, and I’d love to hear your thoughts and share your reviews. I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.



Weekly Feminist Happenings October 22nd-28th

Feminist Happenings in SLC

Thursday, October 24th

Westminster Presents a Diversity Lecture “Building a Stronger Trans* Community: How to Support Trans Communities in the Struggle for Equality:” Bamby Salcedo is the keynote speaker during Pride Week at Westminster. During her presentation, Salcedo, a nationally recognized trans Latina woman who advocates for the trans community, will speak on meaningful ways to support and advocate for trans communities.

In addition to her work with the Translatin@ Coalition and the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, Salcedo is the creator of Angels of Change, a calendar that provides young trans and gender nonconforming people with a positive image. Salcedo has been awarded the Connie Norman Leadership Award from Christopher Street West LA Pride, the Women in Leadership Award from the City of West Hollywood, and the Trailblazer Award from the Stone Wall Democratic Club.

Details: From 12-1:30 p.m. at Westminster College in the Bill and Vieve Gore School of Business Auditorium (1840 South 1300 East).

Plan B Theatre Company presents “Nothing Personal:” World premiere by Eric Samuelsen. Susan McDougal, Kenneth Starr, the abuse of power: an exploration of the loss of civil liberties and the human rights violations that have disfigured our culture. Details: Visit ArtTix for ticket information. 

Global Community Dialogue Series: The Utah Refugee Coalition is sponsoring this monthly dialogue series. This month the topic is “The Refugee Story”. Ali Abdikadir will be speaking and sharing his story as a refugee. Please RSVP to Elise Reifschneider at ereifschneider@utahrefugee.org or 720-323-0568. Details: From 6-7:30 p.m. at the Salt Lake City Public Library (210 East 400 South Conference Room A).

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Reykjavik: A Review


Last night Salt Lake City’s Plan B Theatre Company hosted the Pulitzer Prize Winning author Richard Rhodes for a free reading of his play Reykjavik. The play is an intimate look at the 1986 summit talks between President Ronald Reagan and Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev. Reagan (Robert Scott Smith) and Gorbachev (Jason Tatom) exchange personal stories between their heated discussions of how to eliminate nuclear weapons. Rhodes created the play from a combination of Soviet and United States transcripts taken at the summit talks, and a fresh dose of his imagination.

Rhodes exquisitely crafted the narrative from otherwise droll transcripts, and Smith and Tatom brought his words to life. Reykjavik dramatizes and compartmentalizes a moment in history that would be otherwise unpalatable to many—particularly a younger generation. Sitting against a simple backdrop of the words “Reykjavik” the two men hunker down at a table and benches for seventy-five minutes of dramatic discussion. Ultimately, the famous talks in Iceland didn’t produce a treaty, but the two men were closer than any of their predecessors to the goal of complete nuclear disarmament (a fact that compelled Rhodes to write the play).

For someone of a younger generation, some of the references were lost, but instead of feeling lost, Reykjavik makes me want to learn more about our country’s relationship to nuclear weapons. Almost more important than last night’s play was the post-show discussion between Richard Rhodes and playwright Mary Dickson. Rhodes explained how the United States spends $31 billion dollars per year protecting an arsenal of weapons that we claim we will never use. He hopes for a time when we no longer store nuclear weapons.

He acknowledged how we can’t uninvent the bomb, but shared with the audience steps all nations can take to decrease the likelihood of their use. In particular he talked about dismantling pieces of the bombs and storing them in separate facilities. Depending on how the process is undertaken, it could be six months before any one country can put together a bomb for use. By dismantling the bombs and forcing countries to piece them back together, the worst that can happen is it takes months for the world to arrive at exactly the space we are now.

Words aren’t enough to describe the success of last night’s production of Reykjavik, but at the very least we must say “thank you” to Plan B Theatre Company and Richard Rhodes for sharing such a compelling story at no cost.