Trust

The world premiere of John Woehrle’s new play, “Trust,” will open at The Black Box Theater in St. Cloud on Aug. 4 and run through Aug. 7. Performances will continue at the Lab Theater (the former Guthrie Lab) in Minneapolis through Aug. 28.

In keeping with its commitment to sponsoring and fostering the development of original plays by Minnesota playwrights and composers, The Black Box is honored that Woehrle will open his new play at the theater.

“Trust” follows the trauma of a college student, who in his final semester, is forced to confront clergy abuse that occurred years earlier.

The play focuses on a few pivotal days in the life of Michael Connor in keeping with serious dramatic form. It is tightly written and compact in structure. The characters are few for ease in dramatization and yet complete to convey the trauma and pathos associated with confronting the life-changing abuse. Survival and accountability are at the heart of “Trust.”

The playwright’s dialogue is authentic and succinct which I believe will capture and hold the attention of the audience. Narration of events is unnecessary as prior events are disclosed in conversation between the characters. This technique brings the audience right into the story, making them witnesses to the events that unfold in front of them on stage. The playwright conveys a “freshness” with this writing style that creates the impression that the events are simultaneously unfolding in their presence. Although not audience interactive by producing the work in true black box form (both The Black Box in St. Cloud and The Lab in Minneapolis are real black boxes) the playwright establishes a rapport and intimacy with his audience. That intimacy gives the play its tremendous pathos and intensifies one’s identification with Michael’s internal conflict.

The characters Woehrle uses to convey his message are carefully crafted from today’s catholic academic world. Bright and courageous, they encircle Michael to protect him from the initial disbelief that awareness of clergy abuse often engenders. The contemporary setting and quality of the work not only invites the viewer into the world of disbelief that events like this happen but also creates hope that Michael can overcome the potentially devastating impact of acknowledging, admitting and confronting the reality that, yes, this really did happen. Depression and denial leading to isolation have been the world of this young man as he matured. Woehrle introduces hope and the possibility of recovery through the assistance of dedicated religious and clergy.

The entire work is highly respectful of the characters and the church. It does not descend into denigrating the larger community that is the Catholic Church as is often the case when clergy abuse is discussed and examined. It is an honest portrayal of events without rendering judgment. It is surprising that Woehrle was able to write about this topic and remain true to a portrait of the facts without condemning the institution or the organization. I think in part this occurs because those who come to the aid of Michael Connor are likewise members of the Catholic clergy and religious.

This production to our contemporary society is not unlike “Mass Appeal” was to the ’80s. Dealing with sensitive and controversial topics “Mass Appeal” remained respectful. “Trust” is honest through the playwright’s objectivity in presenting the story. If anyone is to judge, it will be the audience.

Peter Donohue, a lifelong member of Holy Angels and St. Mary’s Cathedral parishes in St. Cloud, has been involved in theater and the arts for more than 50 years. Read more about him on the "Meet Our Bloggers" page.
Peter Donohue, a lifelong member of Holy Angels and St. Mary’s Cathedral parishes in St. Cloud, has been involved in theater and the arts for more than 50 years. Read more about him on the “Meet Our Bloggers” page.

Performance art is alive and well in Central Minnesota

Performance Art is alive and well right here in Central Minnesota; in the city of St. Cloud, in our own Cathedral Church. I was reacquainted with the term Performance Art about 12 years ago when my daughter, Audrey, enrolled in a Masters Program at NYU. Her field of study: Performance Art. Richard Schechner was her mentor and advisor.

When Audrey first mentioned Schechner his name rang a bell but I did not realize how far back and how buried that memory was. When I was at St. Johns in the late 60s Schechner toured a play he produced with Brian DePalma throughout the U S. It was my first experience with Performance Art (a new concept at the time) and with interactive productions involving the audience.

Wikipedia provides the best reference for performance art that I’ve found:

“Performance art is a performance presented to an audience within a fine art context, traditionally interdisciplinary. …scripted or unscripted …spontaneous or otherwise carefully planned with or without audience participation. .. The actions of an individual or a group at a particular place and in a particular time constitute the work.”

Key elements of Performance Art for me include a presentation by an individual or a group within a fine art context often employing multidisciplinary presentations, preferably a major component being live and often having a limited life (a single or limited number of performances).

In the past months, St. Mary’s Cathedral has been the site of some noteworthy performance art presentations. Many of these performances have been under the direction of Eileen Farrell, music director for the Cathedral.

Stabat Mater, presented on a Sunday afternoon during lent reflected on the Blessed Virgin’s sorrow as she witnesses the crucifixion of her Son. Presented by an incredible vocal and instrumental ensemble under Ms. Farrell’s direction the audience viewed historical works of art depicting the Mother’s sorrow projected on the raredos (the best use of the Kazmarcik structure to date). The visual and auditory performance well prepared the audience for the conclusion of lent, Holy Week.

That performance was followed by Via Crucis, a solemn vocal and instrumental rendition of the Way of the Cross. Performed on the Friday before Palm Sunday it is an apropos way to usher in Holy Week and the Triduum.

The Tenebrae Service in the evening on Good Friday begins in a twilight setting moving to a crescendo of percussion instruments from drums to books pounded on the pew and feet stomped on the floor in an attempt to drive away the darkness into which the church has been plunged and to bring back the light, the hope in the Resurrection. Readings from Lamentations and vocal and instrumental performances set the somber mood commemorating the death and burial of our Lord.

On the first of May, during the joyous Easter season, the Cathedral was the site of a joint performance by the Choirs of St. Marys Cathedral and Joan of Arc (Minneapolis) featuring Gospel singer, Robert Robinson. It was no surprise that the audience was so moved by the production that many had tears streaming down their faces. An incredible event, and not the first time it has happened at St. Marys. The two choirs, under the direction of Eileen Farrell and Anna Mae Vagle, Eileen’s sister (no surprise that these two extremely talented women are sisters) set the stage for Robinson’s unparalleled performance.

With this recent history of remarkable performance art productions at St. Mary’s Cathedral one can only look forward to upcoming events including  the Block Party on September 10th; the joint performance of the Mormon Choir and St. Mary’s Choir on November 12th; Music at St. Mary’s Concert on November 20th; The Great River Chorale Concert on December 2nd; and the Ceremony of Carols Concert (SJU) on December 16 and 17. These are confirmed and scheduled with more to be added.

We have an incredible venue of performance art, yes FINE ART, right here in the center of St. Cloud. My congratulations and tremendous gratitude is extended to Eileen Farrell and the wonderful and talented artists she works with at St. Mary’s Cathedral in downtown St. Cloud.

Peter Donohue, a lifelong member of Holy Angels and St. Mary’s Cathedral parishes in St. Cloud, has been involved in theater and the arts for more than 50 years. Also a practicing attorney, he is active with the Black Box, Cathedral High School and St. Mary’s Cathedral.
Peter Donohue, a lifelong member of Holy Angels and St. Mary’s Cathedral parishes in St. Cloud, has been involved in theater and the arts for more than 50 years. Also a practicing attorney, he is active with the Black Box, Cathedral High School and St. Mary’s Cathedral.