By Neil Cosgrove
An old connection between the Thomas Merton Center and Pittsburgh’s City Theatre has been re-established through the medium of City’s upcoming production of “The Guard” by Jessica Dickey. The theatre is providing TMC with a block of 20 tickets for the 1 p.m. performance on Saturday April 1st, to be distributed by the Center. Members and friends who receive these tickets are invited to make a donation for the benefit of the Center. That April 1st performance will be followed by a Merton Center “talk back.”
The Center also plans to have volunteers at tables for the April 1st matinee and possibly “other dates where I think we can get the most out of tabling,” according to Merton Center Executive Director Tony Lodico. In addition, the City Theatre will award $5 ticket discounts to our readers who wish to attend the play “on any date” during its run from March 11 to April 2. To obtain discounted tickets, just type the code “MERTON” when purchasing tickets directly from City Theatre’s web site.
A Washington Post review of the “The Guard’s” debut at that city’s Ford Theatre described how the “punch lines fly” in the opening act of this “comedic drama,” while “the lens of ‘The Guard’ is death.” A museum guard, grieving over the terminal illness of his poet partner, responds to the goading of his companions by breaking a cardinal rule of art museums and touching a famous Rembrandt painting, in which Aristotle is depicted with his hand on a bust of Homer.
What ensues is a “time-bending” fantasy in which both the Dutch painter and the ancient Greek poet weigh in on grief, on human connection, and on the role of art itself in the way humans experience both life and death. What has drawn Tony Lodico to the play, however, is its timely exploration of “questions of authority and disobedience. When do we choose to disobey these rules? When do we reject our societal role for the sake of others? When do we go with what our heart and gut tell us is right? How do these power systems self-perpetuate? Protecting property under threat of death—what does that mean or say? The conversation generated by the play is important to us, to people in general, and at any time.”
TMC last collaborated on talk backs with City Theatre for the 2003 world premiere of Leslie Ayvazian’s “Lovely Day,” according to Clare Drobot, City’s Director of New Play Development. “The play centered around a married couple’s divided opinions regarding war, peace, and the military,” Ms. Drobot reported. “Following each performance, City partnered with the Thomas Merton Center to host a post-show discussion.”
Neil Cosgrove is a member of The NewPeople editorial collective and the Merton Center board.