To Share the Fruits of Contemplation

I recently listened to a wonderful 25-minute podcast on In Otherhood, a blog which explores secular, interfaith, and art monasticisms. It is written by Nathan Rosquist, one of the artmonks of the Art Monastery in Italy, who is starting his own Art Monastery in San Francisco. The podcast was an interview with Christine Valters Paintner, Abbess of the Abbey of the Arts, an online community of artists interested in living and creating contemplatively. She herself is a Benedictine oblate, and recently wrote a book called The Artist’s Rule: Nurturing Your Creative Soul with Monastic Wisdom. I recommend checking out both Nathan‘s and Christine‘s websites, if you’re interested in art and monasticism. (And if you’re within travelling distance of St Andrews, Scotland, and interested in joining a monthly discussion group about art and monasticism, please contact me.)

As a response to that podcast, I thought I would share with you some of the fruits of my recent contemplation. A few months ago, I went on a silent retreat at an Ignatian retreat centre in England, shortly after having finished my BA module on Christian Spirituality at Oxford. One of the mottoes of the Dominican Order is Contemplare et Contemplata aliis Tradere – ‘to contemplate and to share with others the fruits of contemplation’. In that spirit, here are two of the fruits of my Ignatian contemplation, which I share with you as I listen to Maurice Duruflé’s ‘Ubi Caritas‘, one of the most beautiful choral pieces I have ever heard.

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‘For John of the Cross’

Lord, let me love You
with the flame of ten thousand fires.

Let me love You
with a flame that dries and crackles,

burns and blackens the crust of my soul,
hides deep down in the heart of things,

to warm and beat,
flickering forth with tongues of fire

to burst through the shell of my cindered soul,
and leap to dance as love again.

Lord, make me all flame.

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‘For Lady Julian’

Lord, teach me to love my weaknesses
as Lady Julian loved hers,
seeing that the soiled, torn stain of our sins
blackening the white cloth of our humanity
was such a little nothing
because that cloth was worn by Christ,
who picked us up out of the Pit
and sat us next to Him at table,
with His Father and His Spirit,
all of us dazzling white,
with the wounds we ripped into our flesh
shining scars praising God’s glory,
His merciful meaning: ‘Love’.

Why the Unicorn?

Several people have asked me why I named my blog The Unicorn Triumphant. I wrote the following explanation a couple months ago and put it up on the blog as its own page, but if you subscribe to the blog via e-mail or an RSS feed reader and don’t actually visit the blog (which is how I read almost all the blogs I follow), then you might not have seen it. So, I thought I would give it its own blog post, in case any of my regular readers were wondering what ‘The Unicorn Triumphant’ meant.

(Also, at the time this blog is set to publish, I will be sitting in a movie theatre in Oxford with my friends, hopefully in costume, about to watch the opening credits roll on Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Pt 2. Talk about a hidden encounter with Christ!)

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The Unicorn Triumphant is a reference to the final tapestry of the seven Unicorn Tapestries at the Cloisters, the medieval branch of the Metropolitan Museum in New York City, a set of tapestries also known as The Hunt of the Unicorn.

The Unicorn in Captivity

The Wikipedia entry on the Tapestries is here.
The museum’s online tour through the Tapestries is here.

The seven tapestries depict the hunting of a unicorn, who is killed by a spear in the side. In the final tapestry, the unicorn is alive again. This tapestry, called The Unicorn in Captivity, is the tapestry I think of as The Unicorn Triumphant. One symbolic interpretation of the tapestries, and the one I mean to reference, is that they portray the Incarnation, Passion, and Resurrection of Christ, whom the unicorn symbolizes. The final tapestry thus portrays Christ’s Resurrection.

The Unicorn Triumphant, to me, means that Christ, the pure and sinless Son of the Father, is alive again. We are an Easter people, because Christ is triumphant over death and all evil.

In addition, the Unicorn Tapestries are my favourite visual artwork, and when I studied at NYU my favourite place to rest and recollect was sitting in the Unicorn Room at the Cloisters, gazing at the images of the unicorn in the Tapestries. Referencing them reminds me of that time, and also expresses my love of the Middle Ages and of fantasy stories.

Finally, The Hunt of the Unicorn shows how art can lead us to a hidden encounter with Christ.

Theatre R&D Research Tour Itinerary (+ ArtMonks)

You all have been very helpful in suggesting places and people for me to visit as part of my Theatre R&D Research Tour. My current rough itinerary is below. Please let me know if you are on the route and would like to meet (or know someone I should meet), or if I should adjust my route to meet you!

Aug 14: Depart Chicago to NYC

Aug 15: Arrive NYC

Aug 16: NYC – Mtg w/ Fr Jim Martin SJ of the LAByrinth Theater Company; 7pm: Jerusalem [I HAVE AN EXTRA TICKET – TAKEN!]

Aug 17: NYC – 8pm: War Horse with friend

Aug 18-19: NYC – Mtg w/ Keith Bunin (playwright, including my favourite play The World Over at Playwrights Horizons), Fr Bill Cain SJ (playwright, most recently Equivocation at Manhattan Theatre Club), Steven and/or Chris Cragin Day of Firebone Theatre, Fr George Drance SJ of Magis Theatre (& Jesuit Artist-in-Residence at Fordham), George Hunka of theatre minima, & Rob Weinert-Kendt of American Theatre magazine

Aug 20: NYC to Toronto

Aug 21-22: Toronto & Kitchener, Ontario: Mtg w/ John Franklin of Imago magazine & Alan Sapp and/or Kathleen Sheehy of Lost & Found Theatre

Aug 23: Toronto to Boston

Aug 24-25: Boston: Mtg w/ Fr Robert VerEecke SJ (Jesuit Artist-in-Residence at Boston College)

Aug 25-26: Boston to Chapel Hill, NC (via Baltimore)

Aug 27-28: Chapel Hill: Friend’s wedding

Aug 29: Chapel Hill to Asheville, NC

Aug 30: Asheville: Mtg w/ Scott Walters of CRADLEarts

Aug 31: Asheville to D.C.

Sept 1: D.C.: Mtg w/ Fr Peter John Cameron OP (playwright & founder of Blackfriars Repertory Theatre) & Fr Rick Curry SJ (founder of the National Theatre Workshop of the Handicapped)

Sept 2-4: D.C. to Gove, KS

Sept 4-5: Gove: Visiting 91-year-old grandfather at family farm

Sept 6-15: I’m not quite sure yet how I’m going to do this, but here are the spots I planned to visit during this time:

Austin, TX: Mtg w/ Travis Bedard of Cambiare Productions

Irvine & Los Angeles: Mtg w/ actors of Cornerstone Theater Company, actor Chad Glazener & friends, Fr Radmar Jao SJ (actor), Peter Senkbeil (professor of theatre, Concordia University; doctoral dissertation title: “Faith in Theatre: Professional Theatres Run by Christians in the United States and Canada and Their Strategies for Faith-Art Integration”), & Gabriel Voss (actor)

Vancouver: Mtg w/ Cheimanus Theatre Festival, Lois Dawson (stage manager), Ron Reed of Pacific Theatre

Chicago: Mtg w/ Dan Roche of the Bird & Baby Theatre Company, & returning my car to my sister.

Now I can’t drive and visit all of these places within the time allowed. I previously had an extended itinerary that went until almost the end of September, but I recently learned that I have to be at St Andrews by Sept 17 for orientation. So, I’ll either have to skip one or more of these stops and pick them up next time, or put in some flight time (if I can find some inexpensive deals on small budget airlines).

This itinerary is still rough; the only dates set in stone are the ones whose explanatory text is bolded. I’m still working on setting up dates with some of the above people. There are also some people I’m hoping to meet whom I haven’t yet contacted.

May I ask for your help in two areas?

1) Trip logistics: I’ll be making most, if not all, of the trip in my trusty little Toyota hatchback. Gas is expensive. If you could make a donation toward the cost of the trip by using the PayPal donation button on the right, I would appreciate it. Also, if I’m going to be in or passing through your area, and you’re willing to let me crash on your couch for the night, I would appreciate that, too. And hey, if you’d like to donate a plane ticket to one of the major metropolitan areas on the trip (especially one of the three I’ll have trouble visiting – Austin, Los Angeles, and Vancouver), you’d have my undying gratitude! Everyone who helps out in any way will receive a copy of the report I plan to compile about the trip, as well as an invitation to crash on my own couch at St Andrews. Which brings me to…

2) Interview questions: Most of these meetings are going to be somewhere between a casual chat and a formal interview. I have my own list of questions which I’ll be compiling, but if there is anything you’d like me to ask these folks, here’s your chance. Leave questions in the comments, or e-mail them to me. I’m speaking with three rough groupings of folks: members of religious orders involved in professional theatre, professional theatres informed by a Christian vision, and secular professional theatres which excel at building community. My plan is to record and compile these interviews into a single document covering the entire trip, which I will make available for free on this blog (and will send individual copies of to donors and interview subjects, including hard copies upon request).

Thanks for all your help and support, and thanks especially to the people who have agreed to meet with me during this trip. I’m looking forward to it!

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On a slightly-related note, I spoke with Liz Maxwell and Betsy McCall of the Art Monastery this week, to discuss setting up a chapter of ArtMonks at St Andrews. If you’re going to be within travelling distance of St Andrews over the next year and are interested in a monthly discussion group about art and monasticism, please contact me. If there’s enough interest, I plan to set up a preliminary meeting in September or October, to discuss the form the  group and its activities should take, including whether or not it should be an official ArtMonk chapter, an independent but allied organization, or something else altogether.

The World Over + Fellows Hip Interviews

Today’s post is my first post as a regular contributor at Transpositions, the academic student blog of the Institute for Theology, Imagination & the Arts at the University of St Andrews, where I’ll be beginning my PhD in Theology & Theatre this September. It’s about my most moving experience as an audience member at the theatre, when I wept for half-an-hour straight:

‘The World Over: Touching the Live Wire of Love’

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Our new poster!

Also, here are a few recent podcasts for which I and the other The Fellows Hip: Rise of the Gamers cast members and creative team have been interviewed recently:

A Casual Stroll to Mordor: The Fellows Hip Interview (cast + director, interview at beginning)

LOTRO Reporter: Interview with Opening Act Productions (director & producers, interview at 30:42) & The Fellows Hip Redux (cast, interview at 34:00)

Chris and Bill at LOTRO Reporter and Merric and Goldenstar at A Casual Stroll to Mordor were all friendly, welcoming, and all-around awesome, so if you’re a Lord of the Rings Online fan, I highly recommend listening to their podcasts.

ETA: Here’s a new full-length print interview with the producers at Massively!: The Road to Mordor: A talk with the crew of The Fellows Hip: Rise of the Gamers

If you’re interested in learning more about The Fellows Hip, here are a few links:

The Fellows Hip Movie Trailer

The Fellows Hip Facebook Fan page

The Fellows Hip DVD Pre-Orders

We also got a mention on TheOneRing.net!