Monday, July 8, 2013

Performing Our Faith - Hope for Catholic theater

I took part in the Performing Our Faith conference over the weekend. I helped a little to organize it (just a little) and provided the music for the Masses.

The goal of the conference was to bring together Catholics involved in theater to see if there's a way to encourage more Catholic theater. There are some troupes or performers out there - St. Luke's, Quo Vadis, Kevin O'Brien, etc.) - but they are scattered. What if there was an organization uniting them together, annual conferences and festivals, and contests to help encourage, support, and evangelize?

The conference was small - Fourth of July weekend was a rough time to get people together, and some of the working performers had commitments that put bread on their tables. But I was impressed by the caliber of the people, the energy, and the ideas. Among those ideas, is having a short pro-life play performed in Washington in conjunction with the March for Life this January, and a festival next August in Washington - the JPII Catholic Theatre Festival. Those plans have to be finalized, of course, but they may just come off.

We did have a one-act play contest as part of this conference - more than 60 scripts were submitted -  and we had a staged reading of the winning play. It was a good play - but as part of it one character dropped f-bombs and talked about sexual encounters with women. It made sense in terms of the character, but being read at a Catholic conference, in a retreat house to an audience that included a small child, I felt uncomfortable. I did raise the problem the next day and suggested that we needed clear guidelines on what's acceptable in Catholic drama - but I did so awkwardly and I think I may have done more harm than good. At least one other participant did bring up the issue of clearer guidelines later - more diplomatically than I did - and folks seemed to accept that.

I have hopes for this group and their aims, though I'm not sure yet if it will succeed. I do think it's a worthy effort.

But as I sat there, I realized that I just didn't fit. Oh, I've written, directed, and acted in plays, but theater is a collaborative effort, as would be an organization like this. I'm not a group person. And with the festival being based in Washington, well, I hate travel and being away from home. (For the conference I could have stayed at the retreat center where it was held, but I chose to stay home, driving back and forth 50 minutes each way to take part.)

I will continue to write plays and act, but I don't see a formal role for me with this new group.

Interestingly, the director who staged the reading for the conference was someone I've known for years and whom I recommended to the conference organizers. After the reading, we chatted, and he told me about two productions (one Shakespearean) in the works, then asked if I'd be interested in acting in them.


Pax et bonum

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