In humanity’s endless quest for truth, we will often analyze the finer points of a scientific theory or split scriptural hairs, but at the end of the day, questions both cosmic and personal remain connected, for better or for worse.
New play Creating Claire, written by Joe DiPietro and directed by Terry Veal, brings science and religion — systems of belief so often in cultural conflict — to center stage and examines how people operate within them.
With its four-person cast, Creating Claire offers a micro-level portrait of macro-level issues as the titular Claire (Angie Duke) moves from a cursory knowledge of the Bible gleaned only from weddings and funerals to an intensive spiritual journey based on the intelligent design theory.
Claire’s questions seep into her work as a docent at the local natural history museum and create conflict with her boss Victoria (Mary Sue Backus).
As Claire spars ideologically with Victoria, she also negotiates her relationship with her autistic teenage daughter (Lauren Mylin) and her teacher husband Reggie (Kevin Moore). Belief systems clash on multiple levels when Victoria fires Claire, who retaliates by suing the museum.
“There’s a lot of intricate relationships throughout the show that support each side,” Veal said.
Veal became interested in theater in the fourth grade after attending summer classes and has been involved ever since. He has retired from teaching theater at Classen School of Advanced Studies.
As both actor and director, Veal has worked with Carpenter Square every year since its inception. The script for Creating Claire appealed to him because of its nuance and complexity.
While Veal noted that the play marks a departure from playwright DiPietro’s normal style of familial comedies such as Memphis and I Love You, You’re Perfect, Now Change, he found the uncharted territory appealing.
That’s not to say that Creating Claire is a humorless battle between science and religion; rather, the play represents both equally and in sometimes humorous ways. When dealing with such heady subject matter, Veal said that moments of levity are necessary.
“You can only go for so long in a drama without something to relieve the tension or the anger,” Veal said. “You have to have something.”
Quips from Victoria and Reggie help alleviate the dramatic intensity, but they also point out the humanizing role that theater can play in discussions of belief and truth.
“What I like about the play is that it doesn’t preach one way or the other about science versus religion,” Veal said. “It really balances both sides.”
Creating Claire’s unwillingness to proselytize makes it easy to highlight the human elements that inform any ideological curiosity. As she questions the fundamental nature of the universe and human experience, Claire also encounters difficulties in her relationships with those closest to her.
Claire’s marriage hits some rough patches, and she struggles to connect with her daughter, who is trying out a relationship of her own with a boy she met online.
The play’s emphasis on relationships also benefits from Veal’s familiarity with some of the cast.
Previously, Veal worked with Angie Duke and Mary Sue Backus at Carpenter Square and directed Lauren Mylin at Oklahoma Children’s Theatre.
Because of the play’s small cast, Veal said he got to know the actors very well.
“This cast has been absolutely incredible. They are word-perfect, and they’ve been delightful,” Veal said.
Although Creating Claire deals with themes surrounding the instability of identity and the ability of belief systems to disrupt relationships, Veal said such performances came out of camaraderie.
“We had fun. I think that’s a big part of it,” he said. “You have to at least have a good time doing this.”
In order to create a play that is about different levels of creation, Veal said he worked through an extensive process that began when he read the script for the first time. His subsequent readings revealed different options for blocking, props, music and sound effects.
In order to create a seamless presentation of its concepts, the play includes minimalist design and unobtrusive transitions between its many sets. Jay C. Shardt designed the lighting, and Ben Hall worked as set designer.
Veal said that blackouts between scenes could easily break the play’s momentum, so the play uses a crossfading technique for fluidity. As for the stage design, Veal worked with simple options that tie into the play’s themes.
“I wanted to keep it simple. The set basically is two tables and three chairs,” Veal said, noting that dialogue and props would help position the actors in each new setting.
He described the stage background as an indigo blue patterned to look like the cosmos on one side and starbursts on the other.
From its backdrops to its essential thematic investigations, Creating Claire strives to make the cosmic personal, and vice versa.
“I hope people go out discussing,” Veal said. “That’s what it’s really all about.”
Creating Claire runs 7:30 p.m. Thursday and 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday at Carpenter Square Theatre, 800 W. Main St. Tickets are $5-$20. Call 405-232-6500, email email@example.com or visit carpentersquare.com.
7:30 p.m. Thursday and 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday
Carpenter Square Theatre
800 W. Main St.
Print headline: Staging skepticism, Carpenter Square Theatre presents Creating Claire, a play that shows the humanity behind ideological battles over science and religion.