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Posted 24 Feb 2001   For week ended May 14, 2000
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Sent on Mormon-News: 12May00

Summarized by Kent Larsen

'Two-Headed' Opens For Three-Week Run In New York City
Kent Larsen 12May00 A4

NEW YORK, NEW YORK -- Horrific things happen in the lives of many people, and the struggle to live with horrific events is a frequent topic in the theater. Many plays present their characters with real-life horrors; murders, war, lunacy and similar events, and then watch how the characters deal with those tragedies.

In "Two-Headed," her first play about Mormons, playwright Julie Jensen takes on horrors within the community in Southern Utah, where her two characters grow up in the wake of the Mountain Meadows Massacre and amid the practice and persecution of polygamy. The play opened yesterday off-Broadway in New York City at the Women's Project Theatre.

Jensen says that she called the play "Two-Headed" because her characters, along with their community, are two-headed about their recent history and their society. They have private knowledge of the horror of Mountain Meadows Massacre, but in public, they never mention it, choosing to pretend it never happened. The play delivers what its title suggests, giving a two-headed view, both the public face and the private thoughts, of the Mountain Meadows Massacre and of polygamy.

The play has just the two characters, Lavina and Hattie, who are 10-year-olds when the play opens, just days following the 1857 massacre. By the end of the first scene, Lavina has told the little she knows about the massacre to her friend, Hettie, and shares with Hettie some of the spoils. As the play progresses, we meet the two girls at 10 year intervals, and in each meeting we see them discuss both the massacre and, as they marry into polygamous relationships, the difficulties of less than perfect polygamous marriages.

The core of the play is these conversations between the two women as they struggle with their knowledge. During these discussions, the two women take on the two roles implied by the title; Hettie, the quite, self-controlled and more reserved of the two, fills the role of the public face, while Lavina, who is impulsive and intense to a nearly lunatic degree, displays the private thoughts and feelings that the community of the time might have had. But in spite of these roles, it is clear that both women are still "two-headed" about the issues, unable to say publically everything they feel, and still showing a clear public face.

Following a preview of the play on Tuesday, May 9th, Jensen discussed the play with a predominantly non-LDS audience. Although she grew up an LDS Church member, Jensen no longer considers herself a member of the LDS Church. She says the idea for the play came to her when she thought about what might have happened to all the things that the victims of Mountain Meadows had with them as they journeyed toward California. And the play does reflect on this aspect, as the spoils of the massacre become a prop, reminding the two women repeatedly of the massacre and their conversations about it.

However, at the discussion about the play, Jensen found herself giving more of a history lesson than discussing the play. Questions from the audience centered on Mormon history and why the massacre happened. The audience also asked about polygamy and how women accepted it. In general, Jensen's answers were honest and fairly accurate. And like the play, the answers portrayed the complexity of these troubling issues, giving a two-headed view of Mountain Meadows Massacre and of polygamy.


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