So, munching our English muffins, we return to the question of choice, and to the man who won't choose between the demands of art and the strictures of the ministry. Wright believes that in theory, his notion of reality is the same whether he's wearing the art beret or the seminary cap. "In each case, I'm working so that people can have fun, can feel more creative and more empowered to have a part in the ongoing work of culture-making," he says.
In practice, though, he suggests the playwright tries to be true to a feeling, a thought--and, I would add, an aesthetic. The sermon writer, meanwhile, must create something true to "the claims of a community--not only in the present, but across time. You can stretch those claims, you can push them, you can use the tradition to challenge the tradition. But you have to be true to your understanding of what the Christian tradition is."
Apparently, then, it's a responsibility to one's message that distinguishes the sermon from the secular song. Later Wright talks about an idea he has for a play about Paul, the Jew who persecuted Christians before Jesus appeared to him on a road, the Christian who saw his vision of Jews and Christians uniting come to naught, the man who died in jail. How do you make peace with the destruction of your beliefs and dreams, asks the dramatist--also a former Jew turned Christian. When you give up one belief for another, or watch a conviction wither for lack of support, does that mean it was a lie? Paul may be a Christian figure, Wright avows, but this play would not bear a Christian message.
"This is a visionary's problem, a human problem, not a Christian problem." I'm not as certain. If what he's really saying is that Christian art doesn't doubt, doesn't despair--well, why shouldn't it? Didn't Wright just argue that, with Mark, the stumbling path was the real path?
Near the end of our talk, Wright mentions how glad he is to be performing Mark at Patrick's Cabaret just before it moves to a new space. In a way, he says, the recital will complete a sort of career trajectory. It was there that he and friend Peter Lawton began the Tropicals and played some of their favorite shows. A few times Wright returned to do long, wandering monologues based on biblical texts--sermons that were true, he says, to nothing but himself.
"Patrick [Scully]'s energy, and by extension that of the people gathered with him, is really humane." He chuckles, as if at an amusing memory. "A lot of the dividing lines that are drawn in life get erased at Patrick's Cabaret."
Craig Wright will bring the Gospel of Mark to Patrick's Cabaret at 7 p.m. March 28; (651) 698-0682.