Fortuitously, Jeremy Stanbary's new play, Paul of Tarsus, has been scheduled to appear in its world premier next week at the newly designated National Shrine of St. Paul (known to most of us as the St. Paul Cathedral.
As the Year of St. Paul draws to a close this month, a new one-man theatrical production based on the life and writings of the apostle will have its world premiere at the Cathedral of St. Paul.
According to playwright Jeremy Stanbary, St. Paul’s story “is one of true humanity, of a great man and a great saint.”
Stanbary, founder and director of the internationally known Epiphany Studio based in Minneapolis, received a commission from the cathedral to write “Paul of Tarsus” as a way to recognize the conclusion of the jubilee year dedicated to Paul, originally announced by Pope Benedict XVI in June 2008.
The production, suitable for all ages, also will feature an original musical score composed and recorded by James Biery, the cathedral’s music director.
As he began the process of writing the play, Stanbary said “first and foremost, I prayed a lot” before delving into the writings of St. Paul for both information and inspiration.
“There is such a richness and depth to his work,” Stanbary said. “I learned a great deal about many aspects of his character and his personality and discovered what a complex man Paul really was.”
The context of the play takes place during Paul’s final imprisonment in Rome. “He is writing his last letter to Timothy, and through a series of flashbacks we see his conversion experience, missionary journey and eventual martyrdom,” explained Stanbary, who assumes the role of St. Paul in the production.
Stanbary believes audiences will see in St. Paul a man who recognized his own sinfulness and weakness.
“Paul had a profound understanding of the redemptive value in suffering,” Stanbary said. “He knew that Christ worked powerfully in his life through his own weakness. There was nothing particularly ‘superhuman’ about Paul. He was an ordinary man, and I believe that is something that everyone can relate to.”
As a reflection on Paul’s life and writings, the play offers insight into what it means to truly be a disciple of Christ, Stanbary said.
If you go
What: “Paul of Tarsus: Apostle to the Gentiles”
When: Performances: Thursday, June 25 at 7:30 p.m. and Friday, June 26 at 8 p.m., Cathedral of St. Paul, 239 Selby Ave. in St. Paul.
Tickets: $12 for adults, $8 for seniors, students and religious.
Tickets are available at the cathedral office, (651) 228-1766, or by calling Jeremy Stanbary at (651) 336-3302.
Tickets are also available at the door prior to the performance.
For more information about Epiphany Studio, visit www.EpiphanyStudio.com.
Being able to perform “Paul of Tarsus” in a sacred space such as the cathedral is both a joy and something of a challenge for Stanbary.
“It is very symbolic and beautiful and heightens the connection to sacred drama within the church, an art form that has existed since the Middle Ages,” he said. “At the same time, there are practical things to consider like voice projection. I’ve done two previous plays at the cathedral so we definitely know what to expect.”
Going on tourStanbary is hoping to have the opportunity to mount a touring production of “Paul of Tarsus” in the coming months. “We’ve already been asked to bring the show to Thunder Bay, Ontario, in 2010,” he said.
Having performed at both World Youth Day ‘08 in Australia and World Youth Day ‘05 in Germany, Stanbary has amassed many contacts and would welcome the chance to bring Paul’s story to a wider audience.
“His life and his writings are such a great example to all of us,” Stanbary said. “St. Paul’s discipleship in Christ is a true source of encouragement.”