Open Window Theatre offers values-based performances

| Susan Klemond | November 10, 2011 | 0 Comments
Jeremy Stanbary

Jeremy Stanbary works with an actor during a rehearsal of “The Trial of Ebenezer Scrooge” Nov. 5 at the Open Window Theatre in Minneapolis. Performances begin Dec. 2. Photo by Dianne Towalski / The Catholic Spirit

When Ebenezer Scrooge takes the stage next month at the Open Window Theatre, there won’t be commercial breaks or video screens. Nor will the lead character in “The Trial of Ebenezer Scrooge,” a sequel to Charles Dickens’ classic “A Christmas Carol,” give parents reason to worry.

In an increasingly digital world, faith-inspired productions like this one at the new Minneapolis theater offer a family-friendly, human connection not found in the new media, said theater co-founder Jeremy Stanbary, a performer and playwright best known for his traveling dramas about Blessed John Paul II, St. Paul and others.

“I think live theater today really has the potential to impact people in a more profound and deeper way than really any other time in human history because of this digital age we live in,” he said.  “We live in such an electronics and digital age that I think even if they’re not fully conscious of it people hunger and thirst for the personal connection more than ever before.”

Imbued with Christian values

With the aim of creating that connection through theater that’s intimate and interactive and that reflects Catholic and Christian values, OWT launched its inaugural season this fall with a series of plays designed to inspire theater lovers.

“Our vision here is to produce fuller ensemble theater, to be able to produce a wider variety of plays, not simply secular theater but theater that’s not always explicitly religious, and yet everything we do here, all the plays that we produce here, will be imbued with Christian values, Catholic virtues and values, and will have a redemptive quality.”

The theater is the newest venture of  Stanbary and his wife, Sarah, parishioners at Holy Spirit in St. Paul who continue to perform their traveling productions while also working to impact the broader Twin Cities culture at their 100-seat, 2,300-square-foot-theater.

Putting down roots means the Stanbarys are building deeper relationships with area parishes, churches and other community groups.

“We really want the local Christian and Catholic community especially to feel some sense of ownership over this, feel some sense of pride in having a truly Catholic values professional theater here in the Twin Cities,” Jeremy Stanbary said.

Also based at OWT are the Stanbarys’ E-Rhapsody Catholic Youth Theater, which is in its sixth season teaching drama to 40 third-to-12th-grade youth; and the Echo Dance ballroom dance school led by Sarah Stanbary, an actress and former competitive ballroom dancer.

Window to the divine

Open Window Theatre is committed to transcendent qualities and redemptive values. The theater takes its name from the idea that art is a window to the divine and presents God’s truth, beauty and goodness.

That means acknowledging human problems and offering solutions, as Blessed John Paul II wrote in his 1999 “Letter to Artists.” By contrast, secular theater sometimes glorifies problems without giving answers, Jeremy Stanbary said.

“In a culture that tends to be pushing every boundary in that regard to see just how lewd and crude we can get, I think part of what we’re trying to do here is reach out to the culture at large, to be a light in that darkness, to hold ourselves to a higher standard but, at the same time, not shy away from exploring the darkness and the problems of the human condition,” he said.

Throughout December, theater-goers can watch Scrooge put the ghosts of past, present and future on trial for their efforts to convert him in this festive play with a message.

OWT’s season continues in 2012 with a drama about the life of St. Edith Stein in February, the story in March and April of the Passion of Christ as seen through the eyes of those he touched, and J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Hobbit” in April and May.

See http://www.openwindowtheatre.org or call (651) 955-9123 for performance dates and ticket information. Those who can’t afford regular ticket prices can pay what they are able for Thursday performances.

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Category: Arts and Culture