Red Herring

Last night, Kish and I joined Dr. Science and the GV Jogger for a night at the theater.  We ventured out into the ongoing snowstorm — without water, mind you — to head over to Franklinton for dinner and then a play presented by Red Herring Productions at the Franklinton Playhouse.

Red Herring Productions is a little theater company with big ambitions.  It seeks to add a significant local resident professional theater company to the mix of Columbus art and entertainment options, and its efforts toward reaching that goal are equally ambitious:  for its 2019 season it is putting on 10 plays at the Franklinton Playhouse.  The Playhouse is located on Rich Street a few blocks west of the Scioto River, in the heart of the renovation and building efforts that are changing the face of Franklinton.  The Playhouse looks to be a commercial building with large, high-ceilinged interior spaces that has been refurbished to serve as a theater.  It’s a small venue — as configured for the play last night, I’d guess it could seat about 40 or 50 people on three sides of the stage — and it provides a very intimate theater experience.  The photo of the set accompanying this post was taken from our seats, which were directly next to the stage, so close that the actors brushed past our crossed legs during their performance.

The play we attended last night, The Gospel According to Thomas Jefferson, Charles Dickens, & Count Leo Tolstoy:  Discord, by Scott Carter, was the first play in the 2019 series.  In the performance, Jefferson, Dickens, and Tolstoy each go through a door immediately after their deaths, and find themselves in a spartan, gray room, equipped only with a metal table and three metal chairs.  They arrive within instants of each other, even though their deaths were almost 100 years apart.  After trying unsuccessfully to leave, they have to figure out who they are and why they are in the room together.  Eventually they realize that during their lives they each developed their own version of the Christian gospels, and in the play the characters, guided by a drawer in the table that mysteriously opens and closes, debate their significantly differing views on who Jesus was and what his actual message and teachings.  I won’t spoil the play for those who might be going, but let’s just say the discussion, and their ultimate confessions about how they didn’t live up to the ideals their different gospels espoused, is related to their ability to finally leave the room and presumably get on with their after lives.

It was an interesting play, with lots of laughs as well as thought-provoking discussion, and was well performed by the actors who played the three characters.  (We particularly liked David Allen Vargo, who portrayed a very flamboyant and conceited Charles Dickens.)  And sitting within inches of the stage gives an immediacy and decided punch to the experience.  As anyone who has seen ancient Greek and Roman theaters knows, you don’t need lots of gilt and fancy trappings — just a few seats, a few actors, and an interesting story will do just fine.

We enjoyed our snowy exposure to Red Herring Productions, and a look at the 2019 season shows there are some other intriguing offerings coming up.  We’ll be back.

 

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The Pope And The Donald

While aboard the papal plane today, flying back from an appearance in Mexico, Pope Francis was asked about Donald Trump’s notion of building a wall between Mexico and the United States.  The Pope said that “a person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian.”  When Trump heard about the Pope’s comment, he replied that it was “disgraceful” for “a religious leader to question a person’s faith.”

pope-mexicoI suspect that the Pope will soon regret his response, if he doesn’t regret it already.  It’s not that the Pope doesn’t have every right to give his opinion on what qualities or actions are “Christian” and what are not — of course he does, because after all this is the Pope we’re talking about.  As the head of a Christian denomination with millions of members spanning the globe, he obviously can, and regularly does, speak about such topics.

In this instance, though, I think the Pope’s comments were ill-advised, because they come in the middle of an American presidential campaign and obviously were directed at a particular candidate.  It seems to diminish the Pope, somehow, for him to weigh in on something so secular and tawdry as an American political campaign.  We’ve come a long way since the days of the Kennedy-Nixon election of 1960 — when John F. Kennedy’s Catholic faith was a big issue, because opponents whispered that he would be taking direction from Vatican City — but the Pope’s comments on a candidate still seem . . . unwise.  When most people associate the Pope with a focus on the spiritual, even a brief foray by him into an increasingly bitter, mud-slinging political campaign is a bit jarring.

And, of course, Pope Francis’ comments just serve to allow Donald Trump to mount his high horse, clothe himself in righteous indignation, and further burnish his reputation as the anti-establishment candidate.  I’m afraid that Pope Francis will learn that anyone who associates or interacts with Donald Trump ends up being tarnished by the experience.  Why stoop to comment about such a person?

 

In A Saxon Grave

The BBC has a story about the discovery of a Saxon grave dating from the mid-seventh century A.D.  The burial site was discovered near Cambridge.

The interesting aspect of the find is that the individual who was buried, thought to be a 16-year-old girl, was found with an exquisite gold and garnet cross on her chest.  Scientists believe that the burial site dates from the point at which Christianity was introduced to the otherwise pagan British Isles, and therefore the cross indicates the girl may have been one of the early converts.  Even more interesting, the girl was buried with a bag of precious stones and a small knife — which indicates that some of the pagan beliefs that the body would need material goods at some point still held sway.  The cross, precious stones, and knife also suggest that the girl was from a noble family, and perhaps even royalty.

Although I think the find is interesting, because you learn a lot about a people from what they choose to be buried with, it always makes me uneasy when scientists invade gravesites.  I don’t care how ancient they may be, human remains deserve to lie undisturbed.

Coming Saturday: Jesus Christ?

Some people are saying that “The Rapture” will happen on Saturday, May 21.  That’s right:  they believe that Jesus Christ himself will reappear in two days, identify the faithful, and take them up to Heaven.

Apparently this prediction originated with an 89-year-old guy from Oakland named Harold Camping, who started Family Radio Worldwide, a radio ministry.  Camping performed some kind of complicated calculations based on his reading of the Bible and concluded — “beyond a shadow of a doubt,” he says — that Saturday will be The Day.  It sounds similar to the work of Bishop Ussher, who performed similar calculations and determined, with scientific precision, that the world began on Sunday, October 23, 4004 B.C.

The Rapture is not quite the End of the World, however.  As I understand the concept, The Rapture describes the event when all humans are judged and those found worthy go to Heaven.  Some believers envision the process as involving people disappearing as they go about their everyday lives.  (If it happens on Saturday, it won’t be a good time to be out driving.)  Then, after The Rapture occurs, the rest of us apparently get to stay on Earth to deal with a period of disaster and chaos and turmoil before the world eventually ends.

Wouldn’t you know it?  Russell is supposed to graduate on Sunday!