The Story Behind the Photo: "How to Write a New Book for the Bible"

Linda Gehringer
 | Aug 06, 2021
How to Write a New Book for the Bible
Linda Gehringer, Jeff Biehl and Tyler Pierce in How to Write a New Book for the Bible by Bill Cain (2012). Photo by Henry DiRocco.

About ​​​How to Write a New Book for the Bible

“Write about what you know.” Bill Cain took that advice, and this is the dazzling result—a play about a family so appealing that you want to find a comfortable chair and settle down in their living room. When Bill comes back home to care for Mary, his often maddening (but always funny) mother, he tells the family story as it unfolds—in evocative flashbacks. The memories are both bitter and sweet, for this is a family with its own set of commandments. They squabble, yes, but even their arguments are beguiling.

Linda Gehringer has been in more than 20 productions at South Coast Repertory—in addition to readings for NewSCRipts and the Pacific Playwrights Festival. She had already been involved with How to Write a New Book for the Bible by Bill Cain (2012), directed by Kent Nicholson, as the play developed and ​had two productions at two other theatres before ​SCR produced it. She fell in love with this story of a strong, feisty elderly woman at the end of her life.

What moment does this depict?

We worked on this particular moment over and over—it comes early in the play, soon after we meet my character, Mary Cain. She is dying of cancer and her son has come home to take care of her. He thought his mother needed a cane or some assistance for walking, but she was not happy about it at all. In fact, she ended up kicking the medical helper, who came to test her, across the room.

How did you work to make this moment happen?

It was, of course, funny—but it had to be believable. Like so many other moments in that play, Mary had enormous strength for someone who was dying, so there was always a balance that could be hard to find. We wanted her to be as funny as possible but always so real—and, of course, so heartbreaking. This moment happened because of everyone involved—the director, the playwright and the actors. It was a wonderful ensemble group where people felt free to express their opinions.

What’s the power about this moment?

This was such a victory for her—and emotionally it was so satisfying because she stunned them all.

Anything else you’d like to say?

This is such a wonderful memory. I can still hear the audience laughter from this moment and when we finally got it right, it was so right. This was a beautiful play.