‘Glacial Genes’ a different romantic comedy

If we can behave humanely with each other, you won't have to kill my kids and I won't have to kill yours. — Molly Tinsley
Molly B. Tinsley
Molly B. Tinsley

I met Molly Tinsley at Bloomsbury’s coffee shop. Energetic yet very soft-spoken, her friendly, down-to-earth manner belies her PHD in English, her 20 years as a professor of English literature at the Naval Academy, two books of fiction and her text on creative writing. Molly’s play, “Glacial Genes,” is now playing at Oregon Stage Works.

“Glacial Genes” is a story of a romance that blossoms in a sperm bank in the months leading up to Christmas at the beginning of an ice age. The bank’s director is “concocting designer babies,” while the world confronts “inescapable doom,” a side effect of global warming.

EH: The play is hilarious.

MT: The central focus isn’t satire. The play creates a world suspended between comedy and darker issues. It dramatizes what happens when things are going totally down the tubes. We just live our lives, we just insulate. Denial is a survival mechanism.

EH: How is it to hear actors say your words?

MT: It’s amazing. You write scenes for a play, and until you hear them, you don’t realize — every work of art has gaps or lapses — in fiction, the reader fills in the gaps, but in a play the director and actors do. I find that plays on stage wind up offering a richer experience than fiction.

EH: What is the theme of “Glacial Genes”?

MT: It is the sacredness of life. We have to honor our very finite span on earth. I am absolutely anti-war. The fact is war doesn’t settle anything. All it does is sow the seeds for the next war, over and over throughout history the cycle of fear and revenge continues. These primitive impulses that we have got to get beyond. We don’t need them anymore. To survive we don’t need to go out to kill the mammoth.

EH: But human beings are not mammoths.

MT: That is the enemy. As soon as you vilify and objectify a group of human beings they might as well be mammoths.

It’s not a finite pie. We don’t have to play a zero sum game here. We could try the game where the more you share the bigger the pie. These concepts are taking hold in business. They also involve moving away from a hierarchical structure into networking, away from this notion that the humane treatment of others is not in your self-interest. It is, obviously it is. If we can behave humanely toward each other, you won’t have to kill my kids and I won’t have to kill yours.

Of course it’s idealistic to think these changes can happen quickly. Unfortunately, fanaticism and ignorance will try to subvert any process of peace. But we can’t give up on trying. Education can change culture. I still have faith in education.

But I guess I’ve drifted from the subject. It must be the urgency of these times. In “Glacial Genes” I partly wanted to take a critical look at genetic engineering for human beings; it’s got its downside, the side that treats children as commodities, accessories, instead of complicated, hungry souls. My main character exhibits a dangerous kind of elitism, with her concept that you can perfect the human race.

Family is another theme, maintaining human connections and expanding, rising above tribalism. We need to see ourselves in each other. As the Buddhists say, “Pretend everybody’s your mother.”

On stage

Swami Beyondanda, the cosmic comedian, recently performed at the Unitarian Center here in Ashland. The place was packed with an audience that rocked with raucous laugher all night long.

Swami is a punster extraordinaire who “learned to pun at the Punjab.” When he was asked, “What is love?” he replied, “Love is like the loaves and fishes. If someone comes into a room with some, everyone leaves with some.”

And we did.

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