I never took a class in playwriting or theatre history at BYU from Eric Samuelson, but I was still sad to hear that he recently had to take early medical retirement because of an illness, an incurable muscular degenerative disease called polymyositis. While I don’t know him well, I know he has inspired a generation of writers to do their best work.
If there is a plus side to this bad news, it’s that Eric has found time for blogging, and his posts are as insightful as they are entertaining. You’d think his posts would be weighty matters, and some of them are. But pop culture frequently makes an appearance. He even recently blogged about this season of American Idol, a show he loves, which surprises me, but in a good way. (Sample: “My wife and I think Steven Tyler, in that rock star regalia, looks like the scariest old woman in the nursing home.”)
He tackles theological matters with equal alacrity. Here’s his recent take on baptisms for the dead, a concept peculiar to our faith and one that has attracted a lot of negative attention lately. Eric thinks we should do a better job at defending the practice. (He calls it “the most remarkable theological innovation of any Christian church of the 19th century,” and makes a compelling case.)
He is a frequent participant in SLAM, a 24-hour festival. Here’s how he describes it:
What happens is, we show up at the theater at 8 on a Friday night, are given headshots and resumes for three actors (sometimes up to five, but this year, three), are shown a set, and, most of the time, are also given a title. We then have to write a ten minute play using those actors, that set, and that title, a hard copy for which we deliver the next morning at 9. The actors rehearse all day, and perform, off-book, that night, at 8.
He recounts the full experience in a recent post, Playwriting Without a Safety Net.
It is with pleasure that we welcome Eric, a father of four who makes his home in the Utah County area, to MDB, and look forward to following his blog, Mormon Iconoclast.