(Laura Axelrod's note: The topic of deity is an aspect of Pat Gabridge's work that I find intriguing. I wondered if he felt free to write about it, or if he encountered hostility about the subject. As always, the comments section is open, if you feel so inclined to contribute. There is one more segment that deals with theater and books.)
Both projects involve discussions of deity, in different terms. In “Tornado Siren,” Victoria Thomas doesn’t believe in God. Your play, “Fire on Earth,” deals with the Tyndale Bible. Do you find that to be a theme in your work? Are people open to discussions about it? Do people believe ever try and persuade you to believe the same things they do about it?
That's an interesting question. I think it's a theme in some of my work, including my plays Reading the Mind of God (about astronomers Kepler and Tycho), and The Prisoner of St. Pierre (an historical one-act). For Tornado Siren, I was interested in the idea of someone who initially saw reality as very fact-based with no room for the mystical, being confronted with things which clearly defied rational explanation. She struggles with this throughout the book, but oddly, I think it's her relationship with Ben, it's love, that makes her willing to open herself to the possibility of the world ultimately being beyond her understanding, but not in a dogmatic way.
In Fire on Earth, we have a direct examination of faith and the extremes to which it can be tested. In some ways, Tydnale and his friends were the religious extremists of the day--rather than exploding themselves up as suicide bombers, they offered themselves up as martyrs. I'm curious about the depth of faith required to offer one's life up to torture and death, as well as what it takes on the other side, also by people who feel they know God, to be willing to burn someone at the stake (a quite horrible death) in order to preserve their sense of order and power, but also using faith and God as a justification. I think, in doing an historical piece, sometimes it's hard not to take sides with characters whom you grow to deeply love and admire over years of research. I've struggled to keep a sense of balance in the Bishops, who were just so ruthless in their persecution of heretics/reformers.
I've had more discussions around faith and religion around Fire on Earth than I have with Tornado Siren (for obvious reasons). I wouldn't say that people have tried to persuade or convert me. I like hearing different points of view. My writers' groups have had some very interesting discussions around Fire on Earth and the Catholic point of view and Thomas More, etc, in ways that very much helped me in shaping the play. (For the record, I grew up Catholic.)
Can we look forward to more books from Pat Gabridge?
I hope so. My agent is currently trying to find publishers for two of my novels, one a piece for adults (about a married couple of compulsive movers, whose marriage ends up on the rocks when one of them decides she doesn't want to move anymore), and a second book, a middle-grade novel for kids, about a granddaughter, her grandfather, and some buried treasure. (Both deal with the topics of race and adoption, which are elements I explore in much of my work.)
I'm currently writing an historical novel about Robert Smalls, a black Civil War hero from Charleston and Beaufort, SC, who had some important adventures during the war (and after). I'm about 2/3rds of the way through a rough draft, with hopes of finishing a rough version by autumn.