Seminarians show acting talent in ‘Murder and Mariolatry’

| Susan Klemond for The Catholic Spirit | April 10, 2014 | 0 Comments
From left: Seminarians Andrew Thuringer, Benjamin Wittnebel and Jeffrey Baustian of the St. Paul Seminary rehearse a scene from the play, “Murder and Mariolatry,” an adaptation of G.K. Chesterton’s novel, “The Ball and the Cross.” The play was written and produced by another seminarian, Kyle Kowalczyk.  Dave Hrbacek / The Catholic Spirit

From left: Seminarians Andrew Thuringer, Benjamin Wittnebel and Jeffrey Baustian of the St. Paul Seminary rehearse a scene from the play, “Murder and Mariolatry,” an adaptation of G.K. Chesterton’s novel, “The Ball and the Cross.” The play was written and produced by another seminarian, Kyle Kowalczyk. Dave Hrbacek / The Catholic Spirit

When a Catholic and an atheist duel over religion in a new play produced by seminarians at the St. Paul Seminary School of Divinity later this month, there may be murder and Mariolatry (excessive veneration of the Virgin Mary) on a University of St. Thomas stage. There also will be humor, according to the cast.

Six seminarians and a female UST student will offer three performances of the new comedy, “Murder and Mariolatry,” during the final weekend of April at the university’s Brady Center. The play is an adaptation by second-year seminarian Kyle Kowalczyk of G.K. Chesterton’s 1909 novel “The Ball and the Cross.”

This year’s production, along with another of Kowalczyk’s plays that seminarians performed last year, represent the revival of a seminary theater tradition from the earlier years of the last century, according to Karen Laird, the seminary’s marketing and communications coordinator.

Kowalczyk decided to adapt the novel by the English writer and apologist Chesterton because of its message about faith and tolerance, as well as its “witty dialogue and fun fighting.” It is the story of a duel to the death over an article perceived as derogatory toward the Blessed Mother.

“The world that they live in is not open to this kind of religious expression,” Kowalczyk said. “We [today] don’t talk about religion. We certainly don’t fight about it. They’re mostly on the run as they continue to try to enact this duel.”

Working together

The play gives seminarians and students a chance to collaborate on something creative for the greater good of the seminary, Kowalczyk said.

It’s an opportunity to get to know seminarians in a different way, said cast member and first-year theology seminarian Ben Wittnebel, who portrays more than 12 characters, including a police officer, paperboy, older man and lunatic.

“We just get to grow in friendship or get to know each other better and that will sustain you as a priest.”

The play is good for the seminary overall and shows that seminarians lead a well-balanced life, Laird said.

“This really brings out a whole different side of some of the seminarians who otherwise wouldn’t have done this before,” she said. “It also shows that we have really well-rounded men who bring in a lot of talents to the seminary and who will ultimately bring a lot of talents to the priesthood.”

Serious and funny

Chesterton takes on with humor matters we’re sometimes afraid to talk about, Wittnebel said.

“In the modern world we’re not really trained to talk about these things so we can get scared and defensive and so we back away,” he said. With the right training, “we can talk about these things in a way that’s respectful [and] loving, but also in a way that’s not afraid to push back and challenge.”

Cast member and St. Thomas senior Sarah Ennis is the only woman and non-seminarian cast member and plays a number of roles, including the love interests of each of the men in the duel.

She said she appreciates that the play brings up interesting points about what it means to be Catholic and how we live that out. “The ironic and beautiful juxtaposition of humor but also the serious content of the play I think just makes it brilliant.”

While “Murder and Mariolatry” asks serious questions about religion, tolerance and engaging in dialogue, it’s also funny, Ennis said.

“As we continue to rehearse I would say that we’re still laughing,” she said. “In fact I think it’s getting even more humorous as we go.”


Want to go?

What: “Murder and Mariolatry”

When:

  • 7:30 p.m., Friday, April 25
  • 7:30 p.m., Saturday, April 26
  • 2 p.m., Sunday, April 27

Where: Brady Educational Center, University of St. Thomas, St. Paul.

Tickets: Free, but must be reserved. Visit http://www.spstheatre.org to reserve tickets or for more information. The play contains sword fighting and is best suited for ages 12 and older.

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Category: Faith and Culture