Drama of Word and Gesture | Benedictine College

Drama of Word and Gesture

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

(ATCHISON, KAN.)  -  As part of John Paul II Days at Benedictine College, the Benedictine Department of Theatre & Dance is hosting a dramatic reading without costumes or sets of ALL of John Paul II’s dramatic works.  This first-of-its-kind event (nobody has ever attempted to perform all these pieces in one sitting) is set for Thursday, April 24, in the Raven Roost inside the Haverty Center.  The reading, titled “Drama of Word and Gesture: A Dramatic Reading of Pope John Paul II’s Complete Plays,” is set to begin at 3:00 p.m. and run for more than seven hours.  Following a week of special events, John Paul II Days will culminate with the naming of the college’s Student Union as the St. John Paul II Student Center on April 27, just hours after the canonization.

“John Paul II believed that theatre was a privileged place where we encounter humanity through a living word,” said Dr. Edward Mulholland, assistant professor in the Department of Modern Foreign and Classical Languages and the coordinator of the event.  “To commemorate this aspect of his life, we are holding a dramatic reading of all of his theatrical works. I don’t know if they have ever been done all together before.”

 When Karol Wojtyla was a young man in college, and as a seminarian, he participated in a clandestine theatre group called the Rhapsodic Theatre.  The group met to present important Polish works as a cultural resistance to the Nazi occupation during World War II.  The works were performed as dramatic readings, without costumes or much stagecraft. Wojtyla was later to write several pieces himself, ranging from full plays like “Job” (a retelling of the biblical story) and “The Jeweler’s Shop” (his most famous work, brought to the big screen in 1989 starring Burt Lancaster, Olivia Hussey and Ben Cross) to shorter, more meditative pieces like “Radiation of Fatherhood” which included longer, reflective monologues.

“John Paul II’s understanding of theatre is key to his understanding of liturgy, where we encounter the Word Incarnate,” Mulholland said. “His experience of theatre as an actor and playwright helped him as a Shepherd, where he preached to audiences of millions, always with the awareness that he was the bearer of a message that he had to embody.”

Many students and faculty members are participating in the dramatic reading. Benedictine sophomore Diane Gorrell and freshman Peter Olson have worked especially hard to help coordinate the effort by copying and distributing scripts and assigning parts, among many other tasks.

The approximate schedule is as follows:

  • 3:00-3:30: Introduction and "Drama of Word and Gesture"
  • 3:30-5:15: Our God's Brother
  • 5:15-5:30: Break
  • 5:30-6:30: Radiation of Fatherhood and Reflections on Fatherhood
  • 6:30-7:30: Job
  • 7:30-9:00: The Jeweler's Shop
  • 9:00-10:00: Jeremiah

Founded in 1858, Benedictine College is a Catholic, Benedictine, residential, liberal arts college located on the bluffs above the Missouri River in Atchison, Kansas.  The school is proud to have been named one of America’s Best Colleges by U.S. News & World Report as well as one of the top Catholic colleges in the nation by First Things magazine and the Newman Guide.  It prides itself on outstanding academics, extraordinary faith life, strong athletic programs, and an exceptional sense of community and belonging.  It has a mission to educate men and women within a community of faith and scholarship.

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