More than a year ago I started doing research about Peoples Temple and Jim Jones because I wanted to create a theatre piece inspired by the tragedy. Despite the plans I wrote about in my last contribution to the jonestown report, I haven’t finished the play. In fact, the play is still in its infancy. It’s not because I have lost interest, rather I have started to feel a heavy sense of responsibility to represent the humanity of the situation.
It is most important to me that whatever this theatrical creation wants to be, that it be respectful above all to the members of Peoples Temple. This is, perhaps not surprisingly, where I have felt suffocated. More than 900 good people who wanted to change the world lost their lives in Jonestown and, while I know it is almost impossible to represent each person, I feel the need to do so. Otherwise, what do we have to learn that we don’t already know?
I am continuing to explore and continuing to ask hard questions of myself and others. I am continuing to search for a creative way to characterize the humanity in this tragedy and inspire a true sense of compassion for the men and women who wanted to live a better life. I am nearing the end of my comfort zone with this material, and I have a feeling that is where the art will begin.
(Meghann Williams lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)