Written by Sherry
Friday, 25 May 2007 09:14
This is great.
John Allen's Friday article is on New York's Storm Theatre and their "The Karol Wojtyla Theatre Festival, which we have blogged about before on ID. (http://www.stormtheatre.com/index.html)
The Festival is up and running now through June 17, so if you are in the New York, check it out.
Allen's interview emphasizes that this theatre is a realization of the Church's call, so emphasized by JPII, on the secular mission of lay apostles:
The deepest legacy of John Paul II, however, may be less expressed by a small theatre company staging his plays, than the fact that the Storm Theatre exists at all. As its 47-year-old co-founder and artistic director, a devout Catholic named Peter Dobbins, puts it: "The purpose of this theatre is to lead people to God."
Utterly unplanned by anyone in ecclesiastical officialdom, Dobbins' Storm Theatre is precisely the sort of spontaneous, grass-roots evangelization of culture that John Paul hoped to set loose -- confident in the Catholic message, audacious in its determination to "set out into the deep." Since 1997, the Storm Theatre has staged a series of well-reviewed productions. Some, such as "Murder in the Cathedral" and "The Power and the Glory," have explicitly religious themes, but more often they're secular works with a spiritual and moral undertone.
In a sense, the Storm Theatre is John Paul II's ad extra> model of the lay vocation in action. Dobbins isn't interested in reading at Mass, or working in a chancery; his more daring aim is to redeem the entertainment industry from the inside out.
The Wojtyla festival, it should be said, is hardly the lone religious presence on Broadway. Nearby is the Jewish Actor's Temple (which bills itself as a "Cool Shul"), as well as a Church of Scientology. On the Catholic side, St. Malachy's Parish on 49th Street, also known as the Actor's Chapel, serves New York's artistic community. The Storm Theatre itself rents space from the Episcopal Church of St. Mary the Virgin, built in 1894 as a physical expression of the tenets of the Oxford Movement -- an impulse which famously helped launch John Henry Neman's journey into the Catholic church.
In various forms, however, these are all ministries to theatre people. What makes the Storm Theatre unique is that, in effect, it's a ministry by theatre people.
Dobbins grew up in Philadelphia, where he attended Roman Catholic High School and Temple University. He developed a vocation for the theatre and drifted away from the faith. (As he puts it, "I lapsed pretty spectacularly.") Dobbins ended up in the prestigious Fine Arts program at Southern Methodist University in the late 1970s, whose all-star alumni include Kathy Bates, Powers Boothe, and Beth Henley. He said he went through a conversion experience triggered by being tossed out of SMU when he hit a wall as a student.
Ironically, Dobbins said he was led back to Christianity through the ubiquity of Eastern spirituality in the entertainment world.
"There's a lot of Eastern stuff that gets taught to you as an actor, relaxation techniques and so on. I began reading about Buddhism, and it was great, but when I picked up Christian writers, I found that they take it to another level. I always felt that Eastern spirituality goes in a circle, whereas Christianity breaks through it -- like a Cross, infinity in both directions."
Concretely, Dobbins said the books of C.S. Lewis were his point of departure, but what sealed the deal was reading Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton -- whose work Dobbins described as "Lewis to the zillionth power."
"This theater would never have existed if I hadn't read that book," Dobbins said. "It was literally like having a brain explosion."
Gripped by Chesterton's capacity to express the faith, Dobbins decided he wanted to try to do for the contemporary theater what Chesterton had done for early 20th century English letters. His Storm Theatre, founded in 1997, takes its name from a line in Shakespeare's "Titus Andronicus": "Now is a time to storm; why art thou still?" (Dobbins believes Shakespeare was a "great Catholic playwright.")
Read the whole piece (http://ncrcafe.org/node/1131)and be inspired.