Monday, March 26, 2007

The Scrutiny Passion: St Olaf's, Minneapolis, March 29-30

St. Olaf Worship & Sacred Music Series presents

The Scrutiny Passion

Jeremy D. Stanbary, playwright
Nicholas Lemme and Dr. Lynn Trapp, composers
Thursday, March 29 Friday, March 30 7:00 pm

See the debut of an all original, collaborative Performing Arts project between Catholic Theater Production Company,
Epiphany Studio Productions, and the St. Olaf Worship & Sacred Music Series. Featuring internationally known actors Jeremy Stanbary and Maggie Mahrt, this drama brings to life the Passion of Jesus Christ through the eyes of three gospel figures who were changed forever by their encounter with the Messiah: the Samaritan woman at the well, the man born blind, and Mary, the sister of Lazarus. The play reveals deep insights into the human condition, the mystery of suffering, as well as God’s infinite mercy and love, in light of the arrest, passion and crucifixion of Jesus Christ.

Tickets $10 per person. Call 651-336-3302, or visit

Jeremy Stanbary pondered and prayed over his new project, searching for a way to make three Gospels come alive in a theater performance. As St. Olaf’s playwright in residence studied the stories — the Samaritan woman at the well, the blind beggar whose sight was restored, and the sister of Lazarus who witnessed his raising from the dead — he began to contemplate a powerful question.

“I thought, ‘How would these people have viewed the Passion?’ ” Stanbary said. “How would they have understood and struggled with Christ’s arrest and crucifixion in light of the miraculous encounters they had with Him? That’s how I decided to make the play about the passion of Christ, doing it from the whole new perspective of these key Biblical figures.”

The project, “The Scrutiny Passion,” combines Stanbary’s drama with the music of Dr. Lynn Trapp and Nicholas Lemme in a unique collaboration. The three-act production will premiere in the church sanctuary of St. Olaf on March 29 and 30 at 7:00 pm.

Stanbary, founder and executive director of Epiphany Studio Productions, came to St. Olaf a year ago at the invitation of former pastor Fr. Eugene Tiffany. He hoped to create a project with the parish and found his ideal vehicle in “The Scrutiny Passion.” Trapp is St. Olaf’s director of worship and music, and Lemme is a parish music minister, RCIA sponsor, composer and musician.

The project is grounded in Stanbary’s unique brand of Catholic theater. His inspiration is the “Theater of the Word” founded by Karol Wojtyla during the Nazi occupation of Poland. The future Pope John Paul II wrote plays that explore our shared human experience and our relationship with God, in a style that exalts the divine word through the beauty and power of the spoken word.

Stanbary has emulated that artistic vision in plays such as “Lolek” and “Alessandro.” In “The Scrutiny Passion,” the
music of Trapp and Lemme adds another dimension to the work. Their score functions not as background, but as another voice in the ensemble, deepening and enhancing the drama of the Passion as seen through fresh eyes. Six musicians and several vocalists will perform the score — written for string quartet, organ, clarinet and voice — as the three actors tell their stories.

“This particular thing doesn’t exist anywhere,” Trapp said. “This goes to another level of art with liturgical drama. Jeremy was already doing that, and adding live musicians is just another step on the road.” Lemme and Trapp wanted their music to express a rich sound and emotional range to compliment Stanbary’s script. The playwright found his inspiration through prayer and reflection on the Gospels, which led him to consider the unique perspective each of his three characters would offer because of their profound personal experiences with Jesus. The Samaritan woman reflects upon Jesus’ arrest and condemnation; the beggar follows Him as he carries the cross; and Mary, the sister of Lazarus, contemplates Jesus’ crucifixion and death.

“I thought about basic human questions such as, what internal struggles would these people feel and what insights would they have?” Stanbary said. “By drawing the audience in to relate to each character, the goal is to get past the cookie-cutter way we understand the Passion today. It’s almost like you are there with them, which makes
the story more personal.”

Stanbary performs his work around the country, and the music for “The Scrutiny Passion” will be recorded so he can take the production to locations without live musicians. Other staff members at St. Olaf, including volunteers in the liturgical environment ministry also are helping with the premiere. The project has generated great enthusiasm
within the parish, which has a long tradition of supporting the performing arts in a liturgical context.

“Professionally, I’m humbled to do this,” Lemme said. “It has helped me deepen my faith, too. Reading and meditating on this has made me realize we never stop converting.”

Sharing that experience with other artists, Stanbary said, makes it even richer. “Doing this kind of collaboration has been a spiritual experience of faith in God and trust in each others’ talents,” he said. “We know we are all on the same road, and ultimately, this is something we trust will be guided by the Spirit.”

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