The early days of Christianity, when Christians met in secret and communicated via cryptic symbols to avoid persecution by the Roman emperor Nero, is the focus of a new play featuring George Drance, S.J., artist in residence in Fordham’s Theatre Program.
The play, *mark, is a solo performance of the Gospel of Mark, the oldest of the four Gospels, which was traditionally performed aloud—from start to finish—to give courage to what was then a “community of quiet rebels.” Father Drance will tell the Gospel under the guise of a street artist, in a reflection on early Christians’ use of graffiti—such as the ichthys, or fish symbol—to indicate where they could safely meet.
|George Drance, S.J., performs in *mark
The play “allows you to have a little bit of a sense of the underground nature of what Christianity was in the first century,” Father Drance said. “Street art culture today is still a little bit of an underground movement. So using that equivalency, it’s kind of as if the world and the experience of first-century Christians were happening today.”
The asterisk in *mark symbolizes, among other things, another bit of ancient graffiti that it resembles: the first letters of Jesus Christ’s name, in Greek, superimposed on each other, he said.
The play is meant to capture the original urgency of the Gospel’s words.
“I’ve always been intrigued by the experience of what it must have been like to have heard the Gospel for the first time, and knowing that Mark was a Gospel that was traditionally performed, it’s always been kind of a desire of mine to explore that,” said Father Drance, who conceived the idea for the performance.
The show will take place Thursday through Sunday for three weeks, beginning Thursday, May 29, at the LaMaMa First Floor Theatre, located at 74A East 4th Street in Manhattan, between Bowery and 2nd Avenue. The show starts at 7:30 on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, and at 2:30 p.m. on Sunday.
Tickets are $18 general admission or $13 for students, and can be purchased at theLa MaMa website, or by calling its box office at (646) 430-5374 or (212) 475-7710.
The play is presented by La MaMa E.T.C., a world-renowned cultural institution devoted to supporting theatre artists, in association with the Magis Theatre Company’s Logos Project. Father Drance is the theatre company’s artistic director.
The show is directed by Luann Jennings, founder and director of the Church and Art Network, with original music by award-winning composer Elizabeth Swados.
— Chris Gosier