Sunday, March 04, 2007

The Pope And The Witch

In Minnesota a big discussion is going on about a play opeming at the Rarig Theater, at the University of Minnesota. Theater openings at schools, are not usually mentioned in any media. When the might of the Catholic Church, tries to shut down a show, the media takes notice.

This blog has always supported the right to ridicule a religion, without repressive repercusions (hello Maryam). I'm happy to see director Robert Rosen, not backing down, despite pressure. The play has been picketed by seminarian students, while Catholic leaders, have been pressuring the University to close the play. A forum sponsored by the university will take place this week, to discuss the issues raised. Catholic leaders don't believe, the issues are debatable.

The Pope and the Witch
Written by Dario Fo
Directed by Robert Rosen

Play by Dario Fo, winner of the 1997 Nobel Prize in Literature

I chose this play because it is political. It takes a stand on issues in the forefront of our daily lives. It is funny, irreverent and to the point. It was written, after all, by an epic clown, the foremost political farceur of our time. Some people will disagree with the message and still others with the means with which the message is conveyed. Students of the theatre must learn to use their art form to express their views of the world in which they live.

But that does not necessarily mean political didacticism. We must also entertain.

With The Pope and the Witch, Dario Fo creates a world turned upside down.

The Pope is in crisis. 100,000 poor, starving orphans from third world countries are arriving in St. Peter?s Square in what he believes is a plot by fanatical birth control activists to embarrass him and the church. He becomes, literally, frozen with anxiety. There begins a surreal journey, guided by a healer from Burundi, into a world of poverty, drug addicts, Mafia hit men and illicit commerce.

Faced with these realities the Pope takes an unpopular stand: The man of great power takes the side of those who have no power. He puts out a revolutionary Encyclical and the world explodes into anarchy.

Absurd, grotesque frightening, and thought provoking, The Pope And The Witch will simultaneously amuse, engage and provide perspective. A fusion of comedy and vital reality.

Robert Rosen

Bill Donohue, president of the New York-based Catholic League, issued a statement this week calling the show "state-sponsored hate speech."

Last October, Archbishop Harry Flynn of the Twin Cities archdiocese met with university President Robert Bruininks to express concerns. The meeting was said to be cordial, but the university did not change its plans.

R.J. Houck, a board member of the Catholic Defense League's Minnesota branch, said the play is "not a legitimate source of discussion."Its choice was just outrageous," Houck said. Renegade Eye


Puppeteer said...

Makes you think twice about the nonexistence of "freedom of religion".

Down with organised religion!

Lynn said...

Thanks for the pointer. I join you in hoping the university does not back down from the production.

jams o donnell said...

A couple of plays/musicals have cause uproar here in the last few years. The BBC got around 50,000 complaints when it showed Jerry Springer - the Opera. In 2004 the Sikh community in Birmingham forced the closure of Behzti a play by Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti which inclued references to rape, homosexuality and murder.

I was glad the BBC stuck by its guns over the Jerry Springer opera - it was very funny and David Soul played the Springer role well. I can't speak for Bezhti but I was sorry the Birmingham theatre pulled the play early.

troutsky said...

I guess im wondering who gets to decide what is "legitimate discussion"? The Church has always been afraid of ideas but with as much trouble as they are in over pedophile priests you might think their PR guy would advise them to just shut up for awhile/ (long while)

Craig Bardo said...

Catholicism is as illegitimate as radical Islam, if not more so, but not for the reasons most of you believe. Another time.

What I find interesting on college campuses are the voices trying to quiet the discussion of the fallacious "science" behind anthropomorphic global warming, or real scientists who have punched craters in evolution theory.

I hope all of you who hope that U MN stands its ground on this silly play will feel equally compelled to stand for the free speech and solid reasoning of those with whom you may disagree. After all, this is the hallmark of a liberal education.

No said...

Man, I wish I lived in Minneapolis again! Seeing that play would be the first thing I would do!

Anonymous said...

Never back down from freedom of speech. I'd love to see that play.

Mark Prime (tpm/Confession Zero) said...

Let them attempt to destroy freedom of expression, especially the arts, and watch them flail in futility, and watch as their actions against such lead to greater and greater resistance. It will happen as it always has before, attempt to take the people's voice and they rise up with a singular voice that puts miscreants such as Bill Donohue in their place. David Mamet once said that it is not a question of whether the arts are dying...but a question of whether we are dying.

Nice post! Love to see this play by this particular genuis of the theatre.

Pocho said...

Mexico's revolution was not so long ago. It was as much against the church as political establishment. They were well wedded. There are yet those alive who fought. Its principles are still deeply ingrained in the people.

The constitution emerging from the struggle strongly curtailed church activity in political life in and outside matters of its spiritual domain. Foreigner evangelism was illegal. Local Clerics and nuns could not appear in public in religious garb. Political concern in church pontification was forbidden. Priests we not allowed to make public speeches.

The Pope made his first visit to Mexico in the mid 1990's. Of course, it was to be a highly celebrated event. He was scheduled to speak in the football field in San Juan de los Lagos, a small city in this area, that is known as a pilgrimage town for some holy reason. Hold on now! The Pope is a priest. That would be illegal.

Under church pressure, then president Carlos Salinas pulled off a constitution change that relaxed church restrictions and allowed His Eminence to hold forth in San Juan. Mexico City newspapers ran public polls measuring public reaction to the change. In this nation with a 90% Roman Catholic population, the polls showed Mexico's public opposed Salinas' constitution change by a 2/3 majority!

They may have their Mary and plethura of people herding saints. But we have our Guadalupe, the black virgin substitute who is as much aligned with the nation's political birth and existance as the Mary she replaces. It is said that when people cross themselves, their eyes may look up to Jesus' heaven, but their hearts peer down for answers to Tenantsn, the native mother god.

That's the way a real anarchy works. Give the power folks no more than it takes to keep them off your back and go on living the way centuries before them have taught.

Anonymous said...

You guys are too funny. With political correctness and attempts to stifle any mention of faith, you are hypocrites. With some exceptions, like Ren, you don't welcome an open exchange, it is as if ideas and opinions contrary to yours are to be feared, not discussed and challenged.

I am no apologist for the Catholic church nor do I believe the play should not be viewed. But once it is and subjected to the scrutiny of free expression a new debate will arise.

It is increasingly the norm for colleges and universities to be an incubator of anti-establishment thinking. But it has gone so far as to drown out or censor other ideologies. Be consistent.

Arturo Vasquez said...

The owner of this blog invited me to comment on this post, and I have to say that I am not suprised by the comments made here. As a doctrinal fascist who thinks that the Pope is too liberal in some respects, I can only think that all of this nonsense is very funny indeed. You all take the Catholic Church far more seriously than most Catholics do. Indeed, it is safe to say that in many respects traditional Catholicism is now more manifest in the parodies that people make of it.

I too used to be a Trotskyist, and then life happened. It is all of you who are destorying humanity by rebelling against the foundations of all human art, culture, and civilization. And not only that, but all of you leftists are BORING, and that is the biggest sin of all, in my opinion. At least Trostky was cultured and had class. The biggest prudes and closed-minded people I ever met were my former comrades, and I think the Sparticist League is probably even worse.

Anyway, enough of that. I'll see you all on the barricades, on the other side of them, that is. And you better hope you can throw a Molotov cocktail further than I can.

Just kidding. Sort of.

Praying for your conversions,

Arturo Vasquez

Anonymous said...

Fo is an anarchist and can be really funny. Go see it!

Craig Bardo said...

Dctrinal fascist; something new to learn....or maybe not.

Graeme said...

Pissing that Donohue guy off is reason enough to show the play.

Mike Ballard said...

Fo stirs the reactionaries up. They can't stand to see their world (which is upside down already) turned upside down. Let's hope he makes a few liberals look into their own pro-capitalist barriers to social change and perhaps take a baby step towards class consciouness.

roman said...

I'm always a bit suspicious of theatre where the story line is "turned upside down" and thereby insulting some identifiable group. In this case it is the Catholic church and by extension Christians in general. Since Christians make up about close to 80% of the USA population and U of M is publically funded, one can easily deduce that the overwhelming majority is blindly funding art which in turn is used to insult its benefactors. If in fact this play is considered "hate speech", it should be banned from publically funded venues as soon as possible. By its very nature, it would not survive on its commercial artistic merits as it does not entertain but instead, ridicules and insults most of the audience.

Daniel Hoffmann-Gill said...

Always nice to see a bit of theatre...

LeftyHenry said...

sounds like a great play, and very funny. I think its odd that religious leaders would take it so seriously.

Jennifer said...


Reidski said...

Nice one, Ren. As Jello Biafra once sang: "all religions suck!"

david santos said...

this work is very good, thank you
have nice wkend

Anonymous said...

You are going to hell Renegade eye. You and all yor communist friends.
¿Communism in the 21 century?
Dont made laugh, please.
One question: Why dont you make your red revolution in the EE.UU? Why are you obsess with the Third World?
Man up, and made your "revolution" in your own country.
Dont bother us.

Frank Partisan said...

rPseudo-Lamblichus: I admit it shocked me that you would identify as openly fascist. To move from the World Socialist Web Site to open fascism, and embracing the Vatican, needs clarification, as how that happened. When your conservatism, offends Craig Bardo (CB), maybe you should rethink your position.

CB: Fallacious science? Just like cigarettes are safe. The university has allowed the play to go without censorship. People are checked for weapons.

Welcome David Santos.

Roman: The play is too innocent for the reaction you are advocating. If I remember right, your blog opposed the Islamist reaction to the Danish cartoons, This is the same.

lil pope; Welcome. I don't think I'm third worldist. If you knew anything about Trotsky, you might not have made that remark.

As for me, i better get into my panic room. I've received a death threat because of this post.

roman said...


Your memory serves you right. On my blog, I did oppose the DESTRUCTION and VIOLENCE that resulted from the Danish Mohammed cartoons. Banning the images and peaceful protests were totally appropriate, however, especially in the countries where the majority of citizens were Muslim.
No human being should suffer insult without the right to protest such insult and in the very least have a means to withold funding of same in public venues.

Frank Partisan said...

Roman: Suffering ridicule is too strong a description of the play. It's a satire of the Vatican, not an attack on Catholics or any religion.


So what do you think Donohuge would say about Brecht's Galileo. The same thing. This is not about freedom of religion but an attack on freedom of speech disguised as opposing state funded theatre. Only in America can such political schizophrenia exist as Wilhelm Reich pointed out.

As for the pseudo fascist calling himself the pseudo Iamblichcs he is an excellent example of this kind of schizophrenia .

For the real Iamblichus; see Wikipedia
Iamblichus, also known as Iamblichus Chalcidensis, (ca. 245 - ca. 325, Greek: ᾽Ιάμβλιχος) was a neoplatonist philosopher who determined the direction taken by later Neoplatonic philosophy, and perhaps western Paganism itself. He is perhaps best known for his compendium on Pythagorean philosophy.
Only a fraction of Iamblichus' books have survived, most of them having been destroyed during the Christianization of the Roman Empire