Monday, December 4, 2006

This is what the StarTribune Really Thinks About the Catholic Church!


Fo play is not faux pas by the U

Those who cry "Catholic bashing" doth protest too much.

Playwright Dario Fo would enjoy immensely the furor some have tried to create over a theater at the University of Minnesota staging his play, "The Pope and the Witch." Fo, you see, is the world's greatest clown, and this dispute would give him a great deal to chuckle about.

Fo, the 1997 Nobel laureate in literature, uses big, puffy comedic bats to batter at the doors of large institutions on behalf of the little guy. In this case his target is the Catholic Church. He makes serious, anarchistic points that he wishes the audience to ponder -- about justice, dignity, poverty, corruption, power -- but just as fervently he wants the audience to laugh. And it usually does. Previous stagings of "The Pope and the Witch" have won uniformly charmed reviews. The play, the reviewers agree, is a hoot.

Understandably, many Catholics don't find "The Pope and the Witch" funny at all. Which is why Archbishop Harry Flynn respectfully asked university President Robert Bruininks to cancel the play. Just as respectfully, and also correctly, Bruininks declined. Were Bruininks directing plays, he very well might have taken a pass on staging "The Pope and the Witch." But Bruininks' job is running a university, not evaluating plays. That's the province of Robert Rosen, a respected artistic director at Theatre de la June Leune who will direct "The Pope and the Witch." Given that neither Fo nor Rosen is a loony numskull, Bruininks had to allow the show to proceed. Interfering would have violated freedoms at the heart of a university's mission.

The Catholic Church is a large, wealthy and exceptionally powerful global corporation with a scandal-studded history and a practice of involving itself in the political and social affairs of many nations. Those factors make it an obvious and appropriate target for political satirist Fo. "The Pope and the Witch" has been around for 17 years and hasn't brought the church down yet. This staging at the University of Minnesota is unlikely to do that either. But it is likely to offer its audiences a great deal of laughter and penetrating questions about the uses and abuses of power. StarTribune

In 17 years this extremely un-funny play has been performed only a few times in the U.S., a tribute to the fact that most directors have far better taste than the virulently anti-Catholic Robert Rosen.

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