Episode 70: Little Happy Secrets with Melissa Leilani Larson

Tom and Glenn are joined by Melissa Leilani Larson, the playwright of the play “Little Happy Secrets”. We talk to Melissa about her controversial play and some of her thoughts surrounding it.

Links:

“Little Happy Secrets” – The Audio Play: http://tinyurl.com/bj95hr

Fundraising effort to get “Little Happy Secrets” in Salt Lake City: http://tinyurl.com/2cgfgw5

Melissa’s Blog: http://melissaleilanilarson.wordpress.com/

Little Happy Secrets on Facebook: http://tinyurl.com/2d86uqd

Episode 70

49 comments on “Episode 70: Little Happy Secrets with Melissa Leilani Larson”

  1. Pingback: mormon expressions. « casseroles on the porch.

  2. Swearing Elder Reply

    Best. Intro. Ever.

    Nice work, Glenn. I loved the Chris Farley impression. Priceless.

    As for the play, I wish I would have watched it first to be able to follow the discussion better. I’ll go listen and return and report.

  3. Swearing Elder Reply

    Best. Intro. Ever.

    Nice work, Glenn. I loved the Chris Farley impression. Priceless.

    As for the play, I wish I would have watched it first to be able to follow the discussion better. I’ll go listen and return and report.

  4. Swearing Elder Reply

    I’ve now listened to the play. Really, really great. I hope you don’t mind if I tell a story:

    I didn’t go to BYU, but I dated a woman from the Y for a while. Out of the blue she disappeared. Didn’t show up to a date we had. Didn’t return my calls.

    I finally caught up with her and said, “What the frick?”

    She apologized. Said she was going through a rough time. She said she was sorry for not communicating with me.

    We went out again. Had a nice dinner. We were sitting on the couch talking. I said, “Can you tell me what happened? What was so rough?”

    “Well, there was…”

    Long pause.

    “Someone else?”

    “Yes.”

    “Who is he? Someone else you used to date or someone you met?”

    Long pause.

    “She.”

    “What?”

    “She.”

    “Oh.”

    • Swearing Elder Reply

      Last night I was chatting with someone who saw this story and thought I was being dramatic in the spirit of Leilani’s play.

      Nope. This is a true story.

  5. Swearing Elder Reply

    I’ve now listened to the play. Really, really great. I hope you don’t mind if I tell a story:

    I didn’t go to BYU, but I dated a woman from the Y for a while. Out of the blue she disappeared. Didn’t show up to a date we had. Didn’t return my calls.

    I finally caught up with her and said, “What the frick?”

    She apologized. Said she was going through a rough time. She said she was sorry for not communicating with me.

    We went out again. Had a nice dinner. We were sitting on the couch talking. I said, “Can you tell me what happened? What was so rough?”

    “Well, there was…”

    Long pause.

    “Someone else?”

    “Yes.”

    “Who is he? Someone else you used to date or someone you met?”

    Long pause.

    “She.”

    “What?”

    “She.”

    “Oh.”

    • Swearing Elder Reply

      Last night I was chatting with someone who saw this story and thought I was being dramatic in the spirit of Leilani’s play.

      Nope. This is a true story.

  6. NightAvatar Reply

    I totally felt “the spirit” while listening to the clip where Claire describes secrets – especially towards the end. Chills up and down my spine, goosebumps on my arms and legs, etc. Awesome! I wish it really *Were* the spirit, but of course I don’t believe in that any more. But at least it effected my brain in the same way the “spiritual experiences” I’ve had as a believing member did. So that must be a good thing. 🙂

    • Carey Reply

      Yes, you can feel the spirit in many different forms. That doesn’t neither proves nor disproves anything. You are simply left to decide for yourself the origin.

      You seem to relish in this fundamental discovery as you mock others who choose to believe that the feelings they feel the promote “good” come from “God”.

      Perhaps this the proper form that mockery, I’m still on the fence whether this is or not.

      • NightAvatar Reply

        What the heck are you talking about???

        Where is there even the slightest form of mockery in my post?

        You have some serious issues, though I suppose I should sympathize since it surely is partly the church’s fault. I hope you find your way soon.

        • Carey Reply

          I did, and still do, read your previous post as mocking those that attribute those feelings as “the spirit” — however I do know that its often hard to tell one’s true intent and meaning from these quickly written posts, so maybe there is some other way to interpret what you said without it mocking others. If that is the case I stand corrected.

          As for my “serious issues”. That does sound serious — but I stopped blaming the church and my parents a long time ago, suggest you do the same. It truly is liberating.

          • NightAvatar

            All I wrote in my first post was that Melissa’s play hit something in me that made me feel good – and that as a believer I would have credited those feelings to “the spirit”. While not believing I can credit them to simply “a good feeling” or something good.

            It seems to me that you are looking for something to criticize or complain about. You always post on here with this holier than thou attitude, pretending you have some kind of guru’s wisdom about all things LDS, and frankly it rubs me very much the wrong way. I don’t like you, but try to tolerate you because I figure you have a messed up life, or had a bad childhood, upbringing or something and so I try to love you in spite of yourself.

            “I stopped blaming …. and suggest you do the same.” REEKS of conceit, and simply pisses me off. Keep your fortune cookie wisdom to yourself. I have no use for it.

            Good day.

          • Carey

            For some reason I can’t Reply to the comment below — so I’ll just reply here.

            Your explanation below about the spirit and feeling good isn’t the way I took what you originally wrote, and I did try to convey that in my last reply, but I guess I didn’t help my case when I ended in way I did.

            Not to escalate this any further but I used the exact same language/tone and conceit as you did in your reply when you said I had “serious issues” and “hope you find your way soon”.

  7. NightAvatar Reply

    I totally felt “the spirit” while listening to the clip where Claire describes secrets – especially towards the end. Chills up and down my spine, goosebumps on my arms and legs, etc. Awesome! I wish it really *Were* the spirit, but of course I don’t believe in that any more. But at least it effected my brain in the same way the “spiritual experiences” I’ve had as a believing member did. So that must be a good thing. 🙂

    • Carey Reply

      Yes, you can feel the spirit in many different forms. That doesn’t neither proves nor disproves anything. You are simply left to decide for yourself the origin.

      You seem to relish in this fundamental discovery as you mock others who choose to believe that the feelings they feel the promote “good” come from “God”.

      Perhaps this the proper form that mockery, I’m still on the fence whether this is or not.

      • NightAvatar Reply

        What the heck are you talking about???

        Where is there even the slightest form of mockery in my post?

        You have some serious issues, though I suppose I should sympathize since it surely is partly the church’s fault. I hope you find your way soon.

        • Carey Reply

          I did, and still do, read your previous post as mocking those that attribute those feelings as “the spirit” — however I do know that its often hard to tell one’s true intent and meaning from these quickly written posts, so maybe there is some other way to interpret what you said without it mocking others. If that is the case I stand corrected.

          As for my “serious issues”. That does sound serious — but I stopped blaming the church and my parents a long time ago, suggest you do the same. It truly is liberating.

          • NightAvatar

            All I wrote in my first post was that Melissa’s play hit something in me that made me feel good – and that as a believer I would have credited those feelings to “the spirit”. While not believing I can credit them to simply “a good feeling” or something good.

            It seems to me that you are looking for something to criticize or complain about. You always post on here with this holier than thou attitude, pretending you have some kind of guru’s wisdom about all things LDS, and frankly it rubs me very much the wrong way. I don’t like you, but try to tolerate you because I figure you have a messed up life, or had a bad childhood, upbringing or something and so I try to love you in spite of yourself.

            “I stopped blaming …. and suggest you do the same.” REEKS of conceit, and simply pisses me off. Keep your fortune cookie wisdom to yourself. I have no use for it.

            Good day.

          • Carey

            For some reason I can’t Reply to the comment below — so I’ll just reply here.

            Your explanation below about the spirit and feeling good isn’t the way I took what you originally wrote, and I did try to convey that in my last reply, but I guess I didn’t help my case when I ended in way I did.

            Not to escalate this any further but I used the exact same language/tone and conceit as you did in your reply when you said I had “serious issues” and “hope you find your way soon”.

  8. Sam Andy Reply

    I thought the play was very well done — well written and well acted. It captured the depth that Mormonism goes into peoples’ lives, hearts, psyches, everything, and how much that essence is shaken when a fundamental human trait conflicts with it. I really hope it makes it to SLC for a broader audience. That brings me to a question I had while listening to the podcast. Melissa, when it is acted on stage, will it be like watching actors do a radio broadcast, just reading their lines into microphones, or will it be fully acted out, with sets and props, etc.?

    I enjoyed the podcast discussion and I think all three of you did a good job of exploring the issues and characters. Good job ME team and Melissa!

    • Melissa Leilani Larson Reply

      Thanks, Sam. Great question. The play is actually very theatrical — meaning it’s well suited to being performed on stage. It will be fully staged, memorized, and acted with props and costumes. The radio version was an experiment that turned out well. 🙂

  9. Sam Andy Reply

    I thought the play was very well done — well written and well acted. It captured the depth that Mormonism goes into peoples’ lives, hearts, psyches, everything, and how much that essence is shaken when a fundamental human trait conflicts with it. I really hope it makes it to SLC for a broader audience. That brings me to a question I had while listening to the podcast. Melissa, when it is acted on stage, will it be like watching actors do a radio broadcast, just reading their lines into microphones, or will it be fully acted out, with sets and props, etc.?

    I enjoyed the podcast discussion and I think all three of you did a good job of exploring the issues and characters. Good job ME team and Melissa!

    • Melissa Leilani Larson Reply

      Thanks, Sam. Great question. The play is actually very theatrical — meaning it’s well suited to being performed on stage. It will be fully staged, memorized, and acted with props and costumes. The radio version was an experiment that turned out well. 🙂

  10. NightAvatar Reply

    Melissa, I went to Kickstarter (an AWESOME concept!) to pledge you up to $50 but see it doesn’t accept Paypal payments. That is my only option right now so I’m afraid I will simply have to wish you luck. I wouldn’t be able to see the play anyways (I live in Europe) but was thinking of giving tickets to a couple of my gay friends living in SLC.

    Anyways, I really hope you get this off the ground and wish you the very best! It sounds like a great play and even though I think you’re attitude towards gays in the church is somewhat unrealistic and depressing (deciding to live a life “alone” but not “lonely”), I certainly respect you and can hear that you are a very intelligent, good person.

    Yours truly,
    Rich

    • Melissa Leilani Larson Reply

      Thanks for your comments, Rich. I’ve been thinking about this for a bit. I guess the idea of being “alone” is one of those things that Claire and I have in common. I am single, straight, and 34. I don’t date a lot; I never have. Is it unrealistic for me at this point to know that I will live my life alone? Sure, I could get married. I could enter a serious relationship, I could turn a corner and meet Mr. Right. So far it hasn’t happened, though; and looking at my track record, I don’t think it’s going to. You’re right, it is depressing, but it’s also my life. I do get lonely; I’d be lying if I said otherwise. But I find other things to do, other things to think about. Maybe that’s just me?

      • Jacob Brown Reply

        To me there is an important difference between being single because you are gay and being single when you are straight. The homosexual has basic desires and emotional needs that are evil and perverted. The straight person may be shamed for not being married yet, but their desires and emotional needs are considered honorable and righteous.

        Consider this. An unmarried straight person can date, hold hands, kiss, and be openly in love with someone of the sex they prefer. A homosexual doing these things would be breaking the Law of Chastity.

  11. NightAvatar Reply

    Melissa, I went to Kickstarter (an AWESOME concept!) to pledge you up to $50 but see it doesn’t accept Paypal payments. That is my only option right now so I’m afraid I will simply have to wish you luck. I wouldn’t be able to see the play anyways (I live in Europe) but was thinking of giving tickets to a couple of my gay friends living in SLC.

    Anyways, I really hope you get this off the ground and wish you the very best! It sounds like a great play and even though I think you’re attitude towards gays in the church is somewhat unrealistic and depressing (deciding to live a life “alone” but not “lonely”), I certainly respect you and can hear that you are a very intelligent, good person.

    Yours truly,
    Rich

    • Melissa Leilani Larson Reply

      Thanks for your comments, Rich. I’ve been thinking about this for a bit. I guess the idea of being “alone” is one of those things that Claire and I have in common. I am single, straight, and 34. I don’t date a lot; I never have. Is it unrealistic for me at this point to know that I will live my life alone? Sure, I could get married. I could enter a serious relationship, I could turn a corner and meet Mr. Right. So far it hasn’t happened, though; and looking at my track record, I don’t think it’s going to. You’re right, it is depressing, but it’s also my life. I do get lonely; I’d be lying if I said otherwise. But I find other things to do, other things to think about. Maybe that’s just me?

  12. Gail F. Bartholomew Reply

    Melisa thank you for writing this play, it is beautiful. I cried. I personally have many people close to me that are homosexual and struggle with the trail of Mormonism. I am Mormon and love the church, but for gay members the Mormonism in their life if a huge trial for many reasons. One of the big ways we in the Mormon culture perpetuate the prejudice or homophobia that is real with in our Mormon culture is the language we choose to use about homosexuality. Tom, Glenn, and Melisa you all are trying to be caring about homosexuality and homosexuals, but this pod cast while great and done well it is also a glaring example of how we in the Mormon culture unwittingly perpetuate the prejudice. Melisa you refer directly to the euphemism that we use for homosexuality, same sex attraction. This is a term suggested by Elder Oaks in 1996. He reasons that we should only use the words gay or homosexual to describe thoughts or feelings not a person, because to do so would imply that they would not have any choice about their sexual behavior. So according to his logic I as a heterosexual man has no choice but to sex with woman, which is bunk. This use of euphemism is very similar to the euphemism used during the 1950’ and 1960’s by well intentioned people about blacks. When we as a society used terms like negro or colored they were not blatantly bigoted, but using a none equivalent term than we do for the majority implies pathology and inferiority. So if white people are white and black people are not black but colored or negro it is like I am to polite to use the real term, because it is a little vile. The use of these terms perpetuated the prejudice against blacks in our country. Just as the use of language like same sex attraction perpetuates the prejudice that is alive in well in the Mormon culture. In the Harry Potter books Albus Dumbledore explained to Harry that he should not refer to Valdimort as “you know who” because fear of a name promotes fear of the thing its self. We in our culture that are afraid to just say people are gay, lesbian, or homosexual promote fear of people who are homosexual or fear of being or becoming homosexual. The fact is people do not catch this sexual orientation. People are what ever orientation they are, and until we as a culture embrace this fact homosexual members will struggle with the trial of their Mormonism.

    • Glenn Reply

      I understand what you are saying. Language and word-choice are always defined by our own interpretations and biases, and it is generally safer to err on the side of euphemism as opposed to dysphemism. But I think Mel did a brilliant job of capturing the emotion and psyche of a person who would probably define herself along Elder Oaks’ definition — that the attraction does not have to be acted on. That seems to be Claire’s struggle as a TBM who wants first and foremost to be a good mormon as defined by the Brethren –who thinks that wanting something that you “can’t have” is a sin. That’s her mindset and her cross to bear — universally applicable or not. But so very real and imperfect and contradictory and human.

      And perhaps Dumbledore was being a bit self-serving in his response to euphemism, belying his own somewhat closeted status.

      • Gail F. Bartholomew Reply

        Glenn,

        Great comment. I thought the play did a great job of dealing with this issue without perpetuating harmful language. I think the play deals with the issue in a very truthful way. I was referring to how three very open people in the very well done pod cast past inadvertently used language that perpetuates the prejudiced.

        • Melissa Leilani Larson Reply

          Thanks for your comments. I apologize if the vocabulary I used was offensive; that was not my intent. Unfortunately I don’t always think before speaking. One of the major advantages of writing is revision; too bad I can’t apply that to conversation.

          • Gail F. Bartholomew

            Melissa,

            Thank you for what you have written. I cried listening to it. I think that men relate to it as well as women is because you captured something universal: the beautiful experience of loving someone and wanting someone. It is that dance we each do in side, knowing you truly want this person to be happy, but you also just want them. The fear that our wanting them may not be what makes them happy. Your play so wonderfully helps us understand that no mater what our sexual orientation is that orientation is a deeply central part of our human experience.
            I am sorry. My comment was not to point out offence. I believe an inherent part of our Mormon culture makes homosexuality alien. I believe unless we all do what we can do to stand up and say this is what is wrong in our culture it will not change. You have done this in a Marvelous way with your play thank you. I am attempting to do this when I try to educate about the language we use. I wish I could us my language to do this as skillfully you have used yours.

        • James Goldberg Reply

          I think the use of “same-sex attraction” can actually be helpful, especially in a Mormon context, because “homosexual” is often used in a way that makes it seem like the most important part of a person’s identity. If we say “John is homosexual,” we’ve defined him. If we same “John deals with same-sex attraction,” it’s one of many components of John’s life. If you talk about “homosexuals,” it can sound like you’re talking about a separate and distinct group. If you talk about “people with same-sex attraction,” it’s more clear that these are regular people.
          If your intent is to treat “homosexuals” as a separate group of people and gain greater acceptance for “them,” “homosexual” may be the right term. But I think a better strategy, one this play takes, is to help audiences realize that some of the wonderful, kind, interesting people around them right now are probably negotiating their own personal relationship with same-sex attraction.

  13. Gail F. Bartholomew Reply

    Melisa thank you for writing this play, it is beautiful. I cried. I personally have many people close to me that are homosexual and struggle with the trail of Mormonism. I am Mormon and love the church, but for gay members the Mormonism in their life if a huge trial for many reasons. One of the big ways we in the Mormon culture perpetuate the prejudice or homophobia that is real with in our Mormon culture is the language we choose to use about homosexuality. Tom, Glenn, and Melisa you all are trying to be caring about homosexuality and homosexuals, but this pod cast while great and done well it is also a glaring example of how we in the Mormon culture unwittingly perpetuate the prejudice. Melisa you refer directly to the euphemism that we use for homosexuality, same sex attraction. This is a term suggested by Elder Oaks in 1996. He reasons that we should only use the words gay or homosexual to describe thoughts or feelings not a person, because to do so would imply that they would not have any choice about their sexual behavior. So according to his logic I as a heterosexual man has no choice but to sex with woman, which is bunk. This use of euphemism is very similar to the euphemism used during the 1950’ and 1960’s by well intentioned people about blacks. When we as a society used terms like negro or colored they were not blatantly bigoted, but using a none equivalent term than we do for the majority implies pathology and inferiority. So if white people are white and black people are not black but colored or negro it is like I am to polite to use the real term, because it is a little vile. The use of these terms perpetuated the prejudice against blacks in our country. Just as the use of language like same sex attraction perpetuates the prejudice that is alive in well in the Mormon culture. In the Harry Potter books Albus Dumbledore explained to Harry that he should not refer to Valdimort as “you know who” because fear of a name promotes fear of the thing its self. We in our culture that are afraid to just say people are gay, lesbian, or homosexual promote fear of people who are homosexual or fear of being or becoming homosexual. The fact is people do not catch this sexual orientation. People are what ever orientation they are, and until we as a culture embrace this fact homosexual members will struggle with the trial of their Mormonism.

    • Glenn Reply

      I understand what you are saying. Language and word-choice are always defined by our own interpretations and biases, and it is generally safer to err on the side of euphemism as opposed to dysphemism. But I think Mel did a brilliant job of capturing the emotion and psyche of a person who would probably define herself along Elder Oaks’ definition — that the attraction does not have to be acted on. That seems to be Claire’s struggle as a TBM who wants first and foremost to be a good mormon as defined by the Brethren –who thinks that wanting something that you “can’t have” is a sin. That’s her mindset and her cross to bear — universally applicable or not. But so very real and imperfect and contradictory and human.

      And perhaps Dumbledore was being a bit self-serving in his response to euphemism, belying his own somewhat closeted status.

      • Gail F. Bartholomew Reply

        Glenn,

        Great comment. I thought the play did a great job of dealing with this issue without perpetuating harmful language. I think the play deals with the issue in a very truthful way. I was referring to how three very open people in the very well done pod cast past inadvertently used language that perpetuates the prejudiced.

        • Melissa Leilani Larson Reply

          Thanks for your comments. I apologize if the vocabulary I used was offensive; that was not my intent. Unfortunately I don’t always think before speaking. One of the major advantages of writing is revision; too bad I can’t apply that to conversation.

          • Gail F. Bartholomew

            Melissa,

            Thank you for what you have written. I cried listening to it. I think that men relate to it as well as women is because you captured something universal: the beautiful experience of loving someone and wanting someone. It is that dance we each do in side, knowing you truly want this person to be happy, but you also just want them. The fear that our wanting them may not be what makes them happy. Your play so wonderfully helps us understand that no mater what our sexual orientation is that orientation is a deeply central part of our human experience.
            I am sorry. My comment was not to point out offence. I believe an inherent part of our Mormon culture makes homosexuality alien. I believe unless we all do what we can do to stand up and say this is what is wrong in our culture it will not change. You have done this in a Marvelous way with your play thank you. I am attempting to do this when I try to educate about the language we use. I wish I could us my language to do this as skillfully you have used yours.

        • James Goldberg Reply

          I think the use of “same-sex attraction” can actually be helpful, especially in a Mormon context, because “homosexual” is often used in a way that makes it seem like the most important part of a person’s identity. If we say “John is homosexual,” we’ve defined him. If we same “John deals with same-sex attraction,” it’s one of many components of John’s life. If you talk about “homosexuals,” it can sound like you’re talking about a separate and distinct group. If you talk about “people with same-sex attraction,” it’s more clear that these are regular people.
          If your intent is to treat “homosexuals” as a separate group of people and gain greater acceptance for “them,” “homosexual” may be the right term. But I think a better strategy, one this play takes, is to help audiences realize that some of the wonderful, kind, interesting people around them right now are probably negotiating their own personal relationship with same-sex attraction.

  14. Eric Reply

    I loved this play. As I listened to Clair I completely felt for her and I think that this happened because you were able to make her so real. But I don’t see Claire (if there were a sequel) being happy unless she can find love in a relationship with another woman.

  15. Eric Reply

    I loved this play. As I listened to Clair I completely felt for her and I think that this happened because you were able to make her so real. But I don’t see Claire (if there were a sequel) being happy unless she can find love in a relationship with another woman.

  16. Reina Reply

    I don’t feel like I am adding anything new to what has been said but… The way that Claire prays, the way that she thinks, the way that she never comes out and uses the words “gay” or “lesbian” even in her own head is so authentic. Very well done. Thank you.

  17. Reina Reply

    I don’t feel like I am adding anything new to what has been said but… The way that Claire prays, the way that she thinks, the way that she never comes out and uses the words “gay” or “lesbian” even in her own head is so authentic. Very well done. Thank you.

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