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'The Saint Plays" Take Center Stage

As the 2010-2011 theater season revs up, audiences in the Washington, D.C., area can anticipate a newsworthy event: a production of The Saint Plays by Erik Ehn, an experimental dramatist whose elusive, poetic and sometimes hallucinatory plays are deeply informed by his Catholicism. Now the head of the playwriting division in Brown Universitys theater department, Ehn is an artist whose works are far more often admired than actually staged. But Factory 449, a theater collective in the nations capital, will present The Saint Plays Sept. 17-Oct. 10.The production will actually be a selection of Ehns saint playsas I noted in a profile I wrote of him for American Theatre magazine a few years ago, Ehn has declared that he intends to write plays in honor of as many individual saints as he possibly can during the course of his life. (This is a guy who also once asserted, quite seriously, that St. Teresa of Avilas The Way of Perfection should be taught in every theater administration class.) Lets hope that the production goes well, and that it will do a little to raise the profile of a most unusual writer.

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Enjoyed your article very much. Not sure the plays would be for me, though. Thanks.

Chesterton said that Christianity has not failed. It has not been tried. "Practicing Catholics usually mouth these words unaware or unwilling to believe, that they have not tried it either. The problem has always been that Christians don't act like they are redeemed, As Nietsche observed. Is the answer to parade saints or to exemplify being a Christian. A recent book, "Un christian" shows that Christianity is taking a greater beating than ever because Christians, by and large, have not still tried Christianity.The findings in UnChristian are the result of extensive polling by the Barna Group. Large slices of the American population, ages 16 to 29, view Christianity as "antihomosexual," "judgmental," "hypocritical," "too involved in politics," "sheltered," and "insensitive to others"--with some interesting variations. Can it be true? Are we really this awful? By and large, yes.The basic message of Un Christian" is that so called Christians are not doing a good job of following Jesus.

FWIW - my experience as a theatre-goer and theatrical amateur from long, long ago is that the plays with the strangest, least-promising sounding premises can make for engaging theater. Plays about saints' lives don't sound very "commercial", but in the right hands (writers, directors, actors, producers, etc.) they can be riveting. (GB Shaw's effort stands up pretty well.)The flip side is that premises that sound hip, timely and commercial can frequently be a waste of everyone's time, talent and treasure.