Last week I had the honor and pleasure of seeing my production of The Jeweler's Shop by Karol Wojtyla performed at the First Things office.
In my curtain speech, I tried to give the audience a context for this extraordinary piece of theater:
Growing up as a young man in Poland, Karol Wojtyla had two great loves: his great love of the theater and his great love of God. As we now know him as Pope St. John Paul II, we see how his life was shaped by the latter love. But for many years he was deeply involved in the theater, even helping to found the underground Rhapsodic Theater group in German-occupied Kraków. The Rhapsodic Theater, often known as a Theater of the Word, would perform in hidden, intimate venues, like the apartments of the actors themselves. Our hosts tonight, First Things, have provided just such an intimate venue. The Jeweler's Shop is written in the minimalist Rhapsodic style, as the only props are wedding rings and the only location is in front of the titular shop, from which the wise and mysterious Jeweler watches the intersecting stories of three couples.
The performance was well received: Audience members commended the cast's liveliness and tenderness in bringing the theologically saturated play to life. I'm particularly honored by accolades from Dominican friars and a scholar from the John Paul II National Shrine—people familiar with the Pope's thought remarked on how exciting it was to see his philosophical and pastoral concerns embodied onstage in the sometimes perilous journeys of three marriages. Here are some photos of the production, though of course they can only give you a taste of the Theater of the Word:
First Things has offered me many blessings, as I wrote last year. And now First Things has generously hosted The Jeweler's Shop and really made the production possible (if you've followed this blog closely, you may remember when I sent out a casting call for the play in March). The magazine has allowed me to share the blessing of this play with many others. This is the goal, of course, of all the art events hosted in our New York office, be they art openings, chamber concerts, or plays. If you missed The Jeweler's Shop, never fear: We hold events in our space very frequently. Next week, photographer Frank Dobbs is opening an exhibit here of his New York Street photography, capturing day-to-day life with a view to highlighting human dignity in every passerby.
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Alexi Sargeant is a junior fellow at First Things.