History Theatre to perform “Sisters of Peace”

| March 15, 2019 | 0 Comments

The McDonald sisters, pictured in an undated photo, are the subject of the play “Sisters of Peace,” which will be performed at the History Theatre in St. Paul March 23-April 14. Courtesy / History Theatre

Four sisters who grew up on a farm near Watertown, joined religious life and protested for peace are the subject of a play that will be performed at the History Theatre in St. Paul.

Set to run March 23-April 14, “Sisters of Peace” depicts how the four Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet became major peace activists in the Twin Cities and beyond. Sisters Brigid, Kate, Jane and Rita McDonald, all retired, have been working for peace for more than 30 years.

Los Angeles-based playwright Doris Baizely wrote the play at the request of History Theatre artistic director Ron Peluso, who had often seen the sisters’ weekly vigils on the Lake Street Bridge in Minneapolis. Barbara Berlovitz, a part-time theatre professor at Augsburg College in Minneapolis and the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, directs the play.

The theatre hosts plays and musicals that explore Minnesota history. Baizely said she sees a strong local significance to the four sisters’ peace work.

“I know when I went to the reading (of the play) in St. Paul in January (2018), … the house was full,” said Baizely, who teaches theatre part time at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. “The sisters stood there and greeted every one of the hundreds of people who came in to hear the reading. I think they’re very well-known and loved in the community.”

From left, Sisters Kate, Jane, Rita and Brigid McDonald of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet remain active in the local peace movement. Courtesy / History Theatre

Baizley wrote the play over a two-year span, which included interviewing the sisters and studying their lives. Four actresses play the sisters while another four performers play the other characters. The plot moves back and forth between their upbringing and peace efforts, including the sisters’ arrests for civil disobedience while protesting.

“I think they’ve given a lot of comfort to people in pretty dangerous situations,” Baizely said. “They’ve even made friends with the police in certain situations.”

The play also delves into the sisters’ theological opinions, some of which conflict with Catholic Church teaching.

Sister Brigid, 86, and Sister Jane, 84, still rally for peace at the Lake Street Bridge every Wednesday, holding signs and singing songs of peace.

“It’s so deplorable,” Sister Brigid told The Catholic Spirit about war. “To me, it was connected to everything. I really feel if we use the trillions and trillions of dollars (another way), we wouldn’t have homelessness, poverty and alcoholism.”

Sister Kate and Sister Rita are in their 90s and don’t make it to the bridge regularly due to health concerns. Over the years, the four sisters have also rallied for peace at Honeywell Corp. in Minneapolis, the State Capitol in St. Paul and the U.S. Army School of the Americas in Fort Benning, Georgia.

“Ninety-some percent of being active is showing up, so I want to show up and be present as long as my feet can take me there,” Sister Brigid said. “Because I think presence is a power with people coming together and an energy. I believe in making peace energy because there is a lot of war energy going on.”

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