Benedictine Theatre Company: Seeking Peace (+ C.S. Lewis Matters)

I just realized I haven’t had a Benedictine theatre company post in four months, so here’s another. Before we get started, though, I’d like to point out my new friend Ryan’s blog, which I’ve added to the blogroll on the right. Ryan Pemberton is a new theology student at my college, from Seattle, and is also a great C.S. Lewis fan, and an apologist in his own right (with a book and everything!). He is blogging about his and his wife’s new life in Oxford at Ryan & Jen Go to England. (He also has an apologetics/devotional blog at hands&feet, which provided source material for the book. If you like it, leave him a comment saying you want a copy!) He’s an engaging writer, and you’ll read about his many Oxford- and Lewis-related adventures. The guy’s been here a little over a month, and he’s already had tea with Walter Hooper, briefly Lewis’s secretary and now literary adviser to his estate, multiple times, as well as visited the Kilns and taken in meetings of the Oxford C.S. Lewis Society. All that while diving into essays and New Testament Greek (which I returned to myself as of today, since I recently decided to take the optional Greek translation paper during my final exams – don’t ask me why). If you like his blog, leave him a comment

Also, if you’ve ever wanted to take a tour of the Kilns, but can’t afford the airfare – now you can! I just put up a photo tour of 68 pictures on Flickr. ETA: Had to temporarily place the Kilns photos behind a privacy barrier, to make changes. Sorry! I’ll edit this if/when I open them back up again. Re-ETA: Kilns photos available again! Seeing the real thing is still best, though, so if you’re going to be in England and want to come visit, you can either contact me (as I am a docent) or the Warden to book a tour. More information about touring the Kilns can be found here.

Oh, and final piece of news – I finished the first draft of my thesis last Monday! 63 pages and 21,046 words, a full 40% OVER my maximum word limit. Now to begin the cutting and revision process, so I can hand in a revised draft to my supervisor in 2.5 weeks. (Thankfully, I know at least a portion of the cuttings will go to serve as seed for another paper.)

Now back to Benedict:

Prologue – Day 3

And the Lord, seeking his laborer
in the multitude to whom He thus cries out,
says again,
“Who is the one who will have life,
and desires to see good days” (Ps. 33[34]:13)?
And if, hearing Him, you answer,
“I am the one,”
God says to you,
“If you will have true and everlasting life,
keep your tongue from evil
and your lips that they speak no guile.
Turn away from evil and do good;
seek after peace and pursue it” (Ps. 33[34]:14-15).
And when you have done these things,
My eyes shall be upon you
and My ears open to your prayers;
and before you call upon Me,
I will say to you,
‘Behold, here I am'” (Ps. 33[34]:16; Is. 65:24; 58:9).

What can be sweeter to us, dear ones,
than this voice of the Lord inviting us?
Behold, in His loving kindness
the Lord shows us the way of life.


What strikes me is the line: “keep your tongue from evil.” I think a Benedictine theatre company should be known for its integrity, love, and respect for others. One of the ways it should show this respect is in the avoidance of gossip. It is the responsibility of the leaders to set an example. We all know how gossip thrives backstage, often leading to hurt feelings and petty rivalries. One of the ways leaders of a Benedictine theatre company can help avoid the creation of such a negative atmosphere is by listening to the artists with whom they work.

An example from my own life: My first time as a young producer, my superior at the theatre company I was working with called me to pass on a complaint from some actors about an action taken by a member of the production staff. Since I knew and trusted these actors, I assumed things had happened the way they had said, though from my experience with the staff member, I figured the problematic action must have been unintentional.

So, I sent out an e-mail to the production team reminding them of the staff policy in question. I didn’t name names, but I did mention that I had been told there was a violation. Unfortunately, even with the somewhat vague wording of the e-mail, I had still left in enough detail to enable other staff members to identify the alleged violator. Another staff member, who had brought the first staff member on as part of his team, e-mailed me upset that I had basically made a public, though indirect, accusation against his team member, without consulting her to get her side of the story, which was very different.

Right there, I realised my big mistake. I hadn’t even thought to ask her, and I also (albeit unknowingly) made it very easy for other production team members to know who I was talking about, leading to deeply hurt feelings.

What I should have done was handle it privately, and get both sides of the story before I made any decision. (After talking to both sides, I’m still not sure what actually happened, but I suspect that we could have worked it out if I had led with better communication.) I also learned that taking care of one’s team is the most important part of being a producer. Not even advertising, budget, or ticket sales trump showing your people respect and love.

That’s what a Benedictine theatre company is all about. We’ll see later that St Benedict says that guests should be welcomed as if they were Christ himself. I think this courtesy and care extends not only to guests (e.g. patrons), but also to all the company members, visiting artists, support staff, and anyone else with whom the company interacts. And it begins by refusing to get caught up in backstage gossip, and by giving each other the benefit of the doubt.

“Keep your tongue from evil.” “Seek after peace and pursue it.” These are two of the mantras of a Benedictine theatre company.

Previous posts:

1) Benedictine Theatre Company: Prologue

2) Benedictine Theatre Company: Arising & Running

New C.S. Lewis Manuscript Found at Oxford

There’s been some very big CSL news shooting around the blogosphere this week. Apparently awhile back, Texas State University professor Steven Beebe was doing some research in Oxford’s Bodleian Library, and found a CSL notebook marked “Scraps,” which contained early bits of Narnia stories, among other materials. He recently discovered that one of the “scraps” is part of a planned collaboration between Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien on “Language and Human Nature,” which even had a publication date set, but was never published. (No Tolkien contribution to the planned project has been found.) Read about it here!

“New C.S. Lewis Manuscript?” – Bruce L. Edwards’ C.S. Lewis & Inklings Resource Blog

“Tolkien Studies 6 has arrived – and an exciting discovery!” & “The Lewis/Tolkien Collaboration that might have been (but never was)” – Jason Fisher’s Lingwë: Musings of a Fish. The second post has comments by renowned Tolkien scholars David Bratman, Wayne Hammond, and Christina Scull.

“Steven Beebe Discovers Fragment of C.S. Lewis Manuscript”The C.S. Lewis Foundation Blog

And the press release from Texas State University.

Dr. Beebe’s article on the fragment will be published next year in the Wade Center’s journal Seven.

C.S. Lewis Blog Post Round-Up

Last time I posted a round-up of C.S. Lewis blogs; this time it’s a round-up of particular posts of interest. I’m still working on the series about my journey to the Catholic Church; Part 2 will be up soon.

The Inklings posts an article from the Church Times on the history of Perelandra the Opera, which had its first performances in 40 years this weekend at the Keble College Chapel in Oxford. (If anyone attended, please let me know, and I’ll post your account of the event in full.) More information is available at the Perelandra Project website.

-The C.S. Lewis Foundation Blog announces that Michael Ward, author of Planet Narnia, will be speaking on theories of astronomy in Lewis’ books at Oxford Science Live on July 2.

-Not completely Lewis-related (though there is a Lewis quote at the end), Victor Reppert has a must-read post on “Some confusions about truth and religion”:

[I]f we define God as an omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly good being, then either God exists or God does not exist, and if God does exist, then the people that believe that God exists are correct, and the people that do not believe that God exists are mistaken. On the other hand, if God does not exist, then the people who believe that God does not exist are correct, and the people who believe that God does not [sic] exist are mistaken. The idea that if you truly believe in God, then God exists for you, but if you don’t believe in God, God does not exist for you, is nonsense.

This “subjective truth” argument is one I have run into several times, and it’s infuriating. Dr. Reppert (the author of C.S. Lewis’s Dangerous Idea: In Defense of the Argument from Reason) does a good job of showing why God either must or must not exist, however “intolerant” it may be to insist on that fact.

-The C.S. Lewis Society of Frederick, MD has a brief post on Joy Davidman’s Smoke on the Mountain: An Interpretation of the Ten Commandments.


C.S. Lewis Blog Round-Up

This week I thought I’d do a round-up of a few C.S. Lewis-related blogs I’m aware of:

C.S. Lewis Foundation Blog – Keep up-to-date on happenings at the Kilns and the C.S. Lewis Foundation. Learn about Foundation events, and read posts by visiting Scholars-in-Residence (soon including yours truly) at the Kilns. Subscribe

Further Up & Further In: A C.S. Lewis & Inklings Resource Blog – This blog is maintained by Dr. Bruce L. Edwards, a well-known Lewis scholar and author and editor of several books, including a major new four-volume reference set called C.S. Lewis: Life, Works & Legacy. This blog is one of the major resource sites I’ve found on upcoming Lewis-related events and publications, Lewis resource links, and information on Narnia and the other Inklings. Subscribe

HarperOne’s C.S. Lewis Blog – The official blog of publisher HarperOne’s C.S. Lewis website invites leading Lewis scholars to contribute posts every few weeks. Contributing scholars include such names as Michael Ward, Diana Pavlac Glyer, the afore-mentioned Bruce L. Edwards, Jerry Root, and many other promiment scholars. Subscribe

Dangerous Idea – Blog by Christian philosopher Victor Reppert, author of C.S. Lewis’s Dangerous Idea: In Defense of the Argument from Reason. I admit, I just found this blog while doing research for this post, but I immediately subscribed. The blog discusses not only Lewis, but also important arguments in philosophy and religion. Subscribe

Internet Monk – All right, this isn’t really a Lewis blog, but it is a Christian blog by a “New Covenant, Reformation-loving Christian in search of a Jesus shaped spirituality.” I really enjoyed his post on the sexual C.S. Lewis. Some choice quotes include: “Yes, Jack Lewis had sex. In marriage. And before. Maybe more than once. He wrote Christian books, and (gasp) he wrote Christian CHILDREN’S books.” And, “The media must assume that serious Christians are seriously unhealthy people, and what better cause can one find for rolling out those freshman psych classes and all that Fruedian repression in the name of religion?” And finally, “Stand by for future posts, as we learn that the author of the popular Christian children’s books also drank, smoked, liked a bawdy joke and had theology that would drive the Truly Reformed into a hissy fit.” Subscribe

And finally, as a bonus, Into the Wardrobe, perhaps the most thorough C.S. Lewis resource site on the Web.

What Lewis-related (or Christian-related) blogs do you like to read? I’ll update this post to include any Lewis blogs mentioned in the comments.

Some brief news about my life:

Three more weeks of doing touring children’s theatre, and then the season is done. I’m doing the Virginia Renaissance Faire on the weekends, squiring for the Joust, and that’s done at the same time. My awesome sister and her friend are going to come visit me for a couple of days, and then I’m going on vacation for about a week to New York City, to say farewell to my friends from college before I cross the pond.

I found a Greek tutor! He’s an adjunct professor at Loyola College and St. Mary’s Seminary, both of which are within a few minutes’ drive of my apartment. He’s planning to meet with me twice a week and really work me hard, for which I’m grateful.

Last but not least, I found a really cool church to attend in Oxford. More on that later.

Ascension has passed, and now we await the coming of the Spirit!

Trailer for The Narnia Code

Bruce Edwards has the trailer for The Narnia Code on his blog. The Narnia Code is the new BBC documentary inspired by Michael Ward’s book Planet Narnia, which claims that each of the seven Chronicles of Narnia was based on one of the seven medieval heavenly bodies. According to Bruce’s post, the documentary “debuts in Britain on BBC1, Thursday 16th April 2009 at 10.35 pm.”

I was able to speak with Michael Ward about his book, and his studies at Oxford, Cambridge, and St Andrews, while at the Kilns. (He earned his D.Phil. from the Institute of Theology, Imagination and the Arts at St Andrews, which is the program I plan to apply to.) He was a special guest at the farewell banquet on our final night. I’m not sure I quite buy his arguments. He doesn’t claim to have hard-and-fast proof of his thesis, but only hints, and the idea that “it’s the kind of thing Lewis would do.” However, I’m going to reserve final judgement until after I’ve read the book. And he is an amusing conversationalist, with a clever dry wit.

I most vividly remember his breakdown of the differences between Oxford and Cambridge, with Oxford producing prime minister after prime minister, and Cambridge producing Communist spies. Also, during the English Civil War, Oxford was a Royalist university, while Cambridge produced the regicide Oliver Cromwell. Let me note also that I’m currently playing William Roper in a local production of A Man for All Seasons, about St. Thomas More, the Chancellor of England who lost his head to Henry VIII for refusing to acknowledge Henry’s supremacy over the Catholic Church in England (which Henry took over to create the Anglican Church). Where did Sir Thomas study? Oxford. Where did the bad guys of the play, Thomas Cromwell (related to Oliver) and Richard Rich, study? Cambridge. ‘Nuff said.

Narnia Code Website

Planet Narnia Website

Here’s the trailer: