History and happenstance

Sometimes happenstance finds its way into history–our personal histories, our national histories, our artistic histories.
Main Entry: hap·pen·stance
Pronunciation: \ˈha-pən-ˌstan(t)s, ˈha-pəm-\
Function: noun
Etymology: happen + circumstance
Date: 1897

: a circumstance especially that is due to chance

hap·pen·stance adjective

That’s the definition from merriam-webster.com, but if you search for happenstance online you’ll find plenty of other things you might never have heard of otherwise–a 2000 movie driven by ‘the butterfly theory,’ a bit of acoustic Americana music and a publishing imprint specializing in poetry chapbooks. Start your search engines…

I had a bit of happenstance of my own Saturday night while James and Lizabeth were taking in a Diamondbacks game complete with fireworks (the aerial kind–I haven’t yet asked them about any excitement on the field). I had a million things on my mind. News coverage focused on Afghanistan. Final fact checking on some print pieces for an upcoming issue of the magazine.

I happened on the education section of the Arizona Theatre Company website, where I found “The Kite Runner” play guide, compiled and written by literary manager Jennifer Bazzell and dramaturgical intern Laura Farrell-Wortman.

“The Kite Runner” opened ATC’s last season but the play guide is still available, which seems a good thing given how few of us have a really good handle on the collision of history and happenstance that’s come time and time again to Afghanistan and the region.

With so many peddlers of pseudo-history afoot these days, it was refreshing to find a resource that’s descriptive rather than defensive or derogatory. When searching for historical perspective, you could do a lot worse than our country’s finest theater companies.

I spent the eve of this important American holiday learning more about one of the countries in which we’ve invested our time and our treasure with tragic consequences for military families who’ve lost loved ones in the fight.

I wish I’d thought to incorporate play guides many years ago when I was a homeschooling parent.

As I explored “The Kite Runner” play guide, I learned more about Afghanistan in modern history–its geography, its many ethnicities, the evolving role of the Taliban in the region, the Islamic religion and more.

Who needs a remote control when you have a mouse?

I also learned how history and happenstance brought together the author of the bestselling novel titled “The Kite Runner” with the playwright who would take the story to the stage. It’s a fascinating story in its own right.

I didn’t make it to ATC’s production of “The Kite Runner” last season, but I’ve learned my lesson. Miss an ATC production, and you miss a lot.

To learn more about Arizona Theatre Company’s 2010-2011 season, which you’ll be able to enjoy in Tucson or at a newly-renovated (it’s still in the works) Herberger Theater Center in downtown Phoenix, visit them online.

While you’re there, why not get a little history fix?

There’s no telling where it might lead you…


Artwork by Susan Cornelius

Note: I recently learned of another case of happenstance in our midst, thanks to “Marginalia,” the magazine of the Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing at Arizona State University. Check out their Summer 2010 edition to learn how MFA creative writing faculty member Melissa Pritchard experienced a bit of her own happenstance when editors with Oprah Winfrey’s magazine learned of a story Pritchard wrote after traveling to Afghanistan. Then follow the link from ASU to the O. The Oprah Magazine article to enjoy Pritchard’s work.

Coming up: More new season announcements, Artists and advocates gather to talk shop, Kids sing and dance their way to the big screen

Update: Arizona Theatre Company has several employment opportunities noted on its website, including Development Director and Marketing Director. To learn more visit: http://www.aztheatreco.org/index.html?topbar.html&0 (ATC says “no phone calls, please”). The ATC website also has a section that lists volunteer opportunities.


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