‘A Man for All Seasons’ looks at the life of St. Thomas More

| February 12, 2014 | 0 Comments
Charles Numrich, left, who plays Sir Thomas More’s good friend the Duke of Norfolk, reads a scene during an early rehearsal with Gabriele Angieri, who plays Sir Thomas More. Dianne Towalski / The Catholic Spirit

Charles Numrich, left, who plays Sir Thomas More’s good friend the Duke of Norfolk, reads a scene during an early rehearsal with Gabriele Angieri, who plays Sir Thomas More. Dianne Towalski / The Catholic Spirit

Religious liberty and separation of Church and state are topics that have made headlines lately. But these issues have concerned people for hundreds of years.

Open Window Theatre’s next production, “A Man for All Seasons,” which opens Feb. 14, is the story of Sir Thomas More — who became St. Thomas More in 1935 — and his struggles with these same issues in the 1530s.

“We’re dealing with some interesting issues today regarding the government’s role or control over issues of personal belief and conscience,” said Jeremy Stanbary, the theater’s artistic director. “This play really grapples with those issues and deals with those issues in a very dramatic way.”

Written by Robert Bolt in the late 1950s, “A Man for All Seasons” has been performed on Broadway and was made into an Academy Award-winning feature film in 1966 and a TV movie in 1988.

The play concentrates on the historic events surrounding Sir Thomas More, the chancellor of England, beginning in 1529. At the time, King Henry VIII was pursuing a divorce so he could marry Anne Boleyn. More disapproves, but keeps silent. Parliament then passes an act requiring subjects to swear an oath to King Henry’s rule in England over the Church and to the validity of his divorce and remarriage. More refuses to sign the oath and is eventually put to death for treason.

“He was toeing a very fine line, but it was a line of silence,” Stanbary said. “He was trying to save himself and his family and his conscience and his soul and everything through a very guarded silence, really using the law to his advantage. And he did it perfectly and yet, in the end, it of course didn’t save him.”

Intimate setting

The Minneapolis theater’s black box space puts the audience just feet from the actors.

“You lose that sense that you are watching a show so much as you feel like you’re in the room, you’re part of show, and it really comes alive.” Stanbary said. “The audiences are constantly remarking that they feel like . . . they were right inside the room with the actors in the show.”

Charles Numrich, who plays the Duke of Norfolk, More’s best friend, looks forward to seeing how the audience reacts to the intimate setting. Last season, he appeared in “Mercy Unrelenting.”

“Having performed here before and seeing the impact this space has on people . . . it’s going to be very interesting to feel the audience reactions,” he said.

Director Joe Hendren worked with Stanbary to scale back the production to fit the space.

“We try to explore the idea of just stripping away all the extra, the extraneous surface and really getting at the characters and exposing the humanity of the characters,” Hendren said. “That’s something that really appealed to me.”

Although the story is based on real events, it’s not an historical document. It takes place over six years, but has been condensed into two hours. Changes were made to move the story along and make it more interesting.

To simplify the story, More’s family includes only his second wife Alice and his daughter Margaret. None of his other four daughters or his first wife are mentioned. Doing so makes the relationship between the characters stronger, said Hendren.

“As much as time has changed, human nature hasn’t,” Stanbary said. “Human nature is the same, and I think that there is a lot that can be learned and drawn from the characters in the show and the display of human nature . . . and how people deal with dramatic and remarkable and grave circumstances.”

Dates and ticket information

When: Feb. 14 – March 16. Thursday, Friday and Saturday performances at 7:45 p.m., Sunday performances at 2 p.m.  An additional 2 p.m. matinee will be on Saturday, March 15.

Where: Open Window Theatre, 1313 Chestnut Ave., #102 in Minneapolis.

Tickets: $14 to $24, with discounts for advance tickets, students, seniors and children; available at openwindowtheatre.org or by calling (800) 838-3006.

Doors open 40 minutes prior to each performance.


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Category: Faith and Culture