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Monday, January 11, 2016

In Context: The Glory of the World



Charles Mee's The Glory of the World, directed by Les Waters, comes to BAM January 16—February 6. Context is everything, so get even closer to the production with this curated selection of articles and videos related to the show. After you've attended the show, let us know what you thought below and by posting on social media using #GloryoftheWorld.

Program Notes

The Glory of the World (PDF)

Read

BAM Illustrated
10 Things You Should Know About Thomas Merton (BAM Blog)
Pope Francis loves him. Louisville almost named a bridge after him. And Joni Mitchell was a fan.

Article
“The Mystic, the Monk and the Play Brought to You by Powerball” (The New York Times)
The Glory of the World is deferential. But “people who want Merton to be like a box full of kittens may not find this to their liking,” says Waters.

Article
“Glory Be” (BAM Blog)
“It’s through form—and acts of withholding— that the play invites audiences to enter imaginatively into Merton’s meditative process,” says Marty Rosen.

Article
BAM Blog Questionnaire: Will Oldham of The Glory of the World (BAM Blog)
We speak with Oldham (aka Bonnie 'Prince' Billy) about posture, persona and the public domain in anticipation of his BAM debut.

Essay
“A Love Letter to BAM” (BAM Blog)
For Charles Mee, BAM went from being a “neglected pile of stones” off Flatbush Avenue to nothing short of “home.”

Interview
"Humana 2015: Charles Mee Toasts the Many Sides of Thomas Merton" (American Theater)
“The playwrights who get the best productions are the dead playwrights,” says Mee. Why? “Because they don’t go to rehearsal.”

Article
“Thomas Merton and Louisville's Search for a Hometown Hero” (The New Republic) 
Louisville needs a name for a new bridge. Who better than one of Pope Francis’s “four representatives of the American people”?

Watch & Listen

Video
Les Waters on The Glory of the World (YouTube) 
“We were interested in who this person [was] and what everybody claims him to be,” says the director.

Worthwhile Words

I’m a big believer that theatre shouldn’t oversimplify things and make stuff easy: A causes B causes C causes D. I really think the way the world really is is: A causes B causes C, plus 237, causes purple causes volcanic eruption causes a song and dance. That just seems like real life to me. We human characters are much more complex than the plotline of A causes B causes C.
–Charles Mee

Now your turn...

What did you think? Impressed by the oblique way Mee and Waters captured their subject? Inclined to rush off and read Merton’s The Seven Storey Mountain? Tell us what's on your mind in the comments below and on social media using #GloryOfTheWorld.

33 comments:

  1. And I hope that I willnever do anything edit :...I will never...

    edit last paragraph: Therefore will I trust

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    1. what happened to the rest of what I posted?????

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  2. I thought the show was a study in self-possessed incoherence and a reduction of any thought Merton might have articulated. The whole post-modern frame is exhausted for me as a vision of what is now the obvious rendered as the grotesque. Such an approach is neither new nor revelatory.

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    1. I so agree! Very disappointing!

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  3. I thought the show was a study in self-possessed incoherence and a reduction of any thought Merton might have articulated. The whole post-modern frame is exhausted for me as a vision of what is now the obvious rendered as the grotesque. Such an approach is neither new nor revelatory.

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  4. Who green-lighted this project? I have been going to BAM for nearly thirty years and have never seen anything worse! It was an inane vanity piece that should have been performed in someone's finished basement attended only by close friends of the playwright. BAM be ashamed that you inflicted this on a general audience.

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    1. Thank you. The show was performance art 101 combined with a tacked-on queerness that frankly has way more to do with the director than Merton.

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    2. I so agree A waste of time and space

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  5. My husband and I have conflicting ideas after seeing Glory of the World. In my estimation, Mee and Waters captured Thomas Merton. And, yes, I agree Thomas Merton is a prototype of St. Augustine. I would like to interview Mee and Waters to understand why certain ideas of Merton were represented by ways I did not quite grasp. In this play I do recognize the large picture of Merton. The silence with words on the wall to depict the questioning of this special person, Thomas Merton, nailed the depth of this monk. Here is a prayer of Merton's that, to me, represents what the playwright envisioned Thomas Merton to be.

    My Lord, God, I have no idea where I am going.
    I do not see the road ahead of me
    nor do I really know myself,
    and the fact that I think I am following your will
    does not mean that I am actually doing so.

    But I believe that the desire to please you
    does in fact please you.
    And I hope that I will never do anything
    apart from that desire.
    And I know that if I do this,
    you will lead me by the right road
    though I may know nothing about it.

    Therefore will I trust you always, though
    I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death,
    I will not fear, for you are ever with me,
    and you will never leave me
    to face my struggles alone. Amen

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  6. Loved this show. Charles Mee is one of my favorites, and together with Les Waters I think they created a really beautiful and exciting production that makes one reflect on the messy human experience. Where do you find joy? What is heaven on earth? When we all claim to be peaceful, why do we fight over who's version of peace and justice is the most correct? What is contemplation anyway?

    I was left with so many instances of joy, reflection, and in true Charles Mee fashion, wonder.

    Come to this show with an open mind and take part in this experience! Cheers to this incredible creative team, cast, and crew! And a toast to Thomas Merton, the [whatever you believed him to be]!

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  7. A fully embodied experience that gave me an understanding, in my heart and soul, of Merton equal to and necessary alongside reading his words. For the naysayers above, please consider this quote from director Les Waters, who reported reading a book on John Cage as he began work on this project. “Something he said really struck me—that his work is less like an object and more like the weather. What we do in Glory is really what we do in every play. We say, ‘Enter a king in a thunderstorm.’ But there’s no king and there’s no thunderstorm. We’re doing the same thing in Glory. The piece has a kind of ferocious logic to it. It’s not the logic of words. It’s the logic of images and disruptions. It’s a piece that opens imaginative doors, invites an audience to come through, and then withholds everything an audience expects.” This is being. Is the point of contemplation.

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    1. Linda, I appreciate your reiterating director Les Waters quote in your comment. And, yes, This is being. Is the point of contemplation."

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  8. I'd like to propose a toast to The Glory of the World. I had seen Big Love at BAM in 2001, so I was excited to see what the creative team had dreamed up this time. It was a raucous party, that's what it was. It was a contemplative moment of stillness. It was raunchy. It was violent. It was poignant. It was juvenile. Scratch that, it was brilliant. It was a blast. No, no, actually it was unnerving. It was enlightening. What I do know is that 17 men from the Actors Theatre of Louisville staged a party in honor of what would have been Catholic monk and mystic, Thomas Merton's, 100th birthday. What this play actually means is anyone's guess, and the lively discussion with Les Waters and Charles Mee during the BAM Gathering after the show posed just as many questions as answers. That is fine by me. Maybe the whole play is just about the effects of "testosterone poisoning, " to use Charles Mee's term. Or maybe it really was just a party. Plays, like people -- even mystics and monks -- are full of contradictions. Life is full of contradictions. And I think that is precisely the point this play makes: live deeply and embrace life no matter what the moment brings, be it love, sex, conflict or stillness. Life has a zillion contradictory facets and so do we. All of it is sacred. All of it is mundane. I would think Thomas Merton would agree. Or maybe not.

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  9. The show was a great surprise ... as are many things at BAM ... and I was slightly distracted by the wonder of it all as the show progressed. Seeing this show made me (once again) so happy that I have BAM in my backyard (so to speak), and it made me happy that I am a member of such a wonderful, thought-provoking institution. All the best to the entire creative team and the wonderful cast of 17 (was it 18 with the pizza guy??) for giving me a great night.

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  10. I have read Thomas Merton in my youth, and I have seen several of Charles Mee’s
    previous plays, and I find this work a masterpiece, a festive farce which I characterize with two words, sublime ridiculousness, and saying this I am referring to Divine
    Comedy, here turned upside down for the 21st century; the play starts in Paradise and ends in chaotic Inferno, portraying Humanity in its utter folly, as ever repeated in history -- war and devastation. This Merton would have understood fully. So, this raucous farce is also a perfect tribute to Thomas Merton at 100.

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  11. I saw the play tonight, 1/21, and thought that it only superficially dealt with Thomas Merton, and did not at all give homage to him. It was disappointing.

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    1. I saw the play tonight 1/22 and also found it terribly disappointing -- no redeeming characteristics at all!

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    2. Fascinating play. It embodies the notion that no historical figure--not even Merton--can control his legacy. And in this case as the characters fight over what Merton means to them (in witty and palpable ways), they also show that in today's world the contemplative life no longer has any place.

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    3. Just the opposite, it lead me to read the 50th anniversary of Thomas Merton's autobiography The Seven Story Mountain with additional information by Giroux the publisher and Shannon Founding of the Thomas Merton International Society.

      To recognize it is through Merton's Abbott encouraging him to write and eventually, write his autobiography, it is then Merton's work was and has transformed many peoples lives.

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  12. Sic transit Gloria mundi.
    All is vanity. This event was vain enterprise and waste of time and money. Maybe talent too.

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  13. It's hard to be enlightened. Most of the time we end up being trivial, vain, narcissistic, and even violent. Occasionally, we can try to be better. Fascinating.

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  14. To try to talk about the big things in life and isolate yourselves to the company of men only is a ridiculous venture. And they're all pretty much assholes too, not a single decent one in the bunch. If this is what was designed, the troupe carried it off perfectly. However, the real question remains: why? This is a play which attempts on the surface to court the big pictures of life, but trivializes all of them. The only real parts left which have any resonating meaning are the beginning and end. Attempts at humor are poorly made and generally crass - I was amazed at the laughter of some of my fellow audience members. It seems they do not get out much to enjoy real satire or standup even. Fleeting glimpses of inspiration could be gleaned here and there, but they were almost always drowned out by baser professing. The saddest thing I will come back to, is that not only were there no women written into this dialogue, but no yin point of view even recognized, compared to the all yang brashness and vulgarity. Surely anyone (Merton, Mee, etc.) contemplating the big stuff must contend with all sides? This was as one-sided of an argument as listening to Donald Trump. OK, not that bad, but still, I came looking for food for thought and left with nothing but the already-chewed-over bones of savages.

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  16. I was so excited to check out this show because of the subject matter. And then completely disappointed with the way it was put together. As I sat there, all I could think was "I want my money back." I'm all for taking risks as a theatregoer, but if I had known I would be subjected to watching a queer version of a straight-male frat party then I would have stayed away. It was a bunch of quotes thrown together with male vanity preening/dance party/testosterone induced fighting - with a here and there of someone in solitude. It didn't actually evoke any emotional response in me other than the question "what better way could I have spent my money tonight?" So disappointing because BAM is in my backyard and I want to take chances and see the dance/theater that BAM offers. But I also want to know that the programming will be worthwhile.

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  17. My husband was not happy after seeing this play until he read my review, I have posted here. I wanted to interview the playwright and director since my understanding of the “Queer” dance, as you utilized the word, was meaningful. To me it represented what all men and women desire in a relationship – intimacy not just the physical actions of a playmate. The 17 men represented how congeniality can lead to war when everyone cannot come to a consensus. Shallowness living does not lead to understanding. And Thomas Merton was not a superficial person. If you had read Thomas Merton’s autobiography, the Seven Story Mountain, written in a monastery, as I mentioned in a commentary earlier, there would have been a greater understanding what was happening in the play.

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  18. Most useless theatrical production I have seen EVER and I'm in the business! Whoever told the writer that this was good theater should be slapped!

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  19. Most useless theatrical production I have seen EVER and I'm in the business! Whoever told the writer that this was good theater should be slapped!

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  20. A bombastic, self-indulgent vanity piece charged with adolescent testosterone and pseudo- intellectual snipets.I was so done with this failed work that when the fight scene came I was hoping they would polish each other off.Merton,whom I greatly admire would have cringed as he took a slug of whiskey to numb the pain..
    Do yourself a favor and avoid this misadventure.

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  21. Is there another way to introduce young adults there is more to life than what was depicted by the 17 men? Just asking.

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  22. So, so disappointed. A non-play. Self-indulgent vignettes offering me no insight or amusement.

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  23. One of the worst plays I've ever seen. Only sat through it because I did-n't want to hurt the actors' feelings by decamping. Please, NO MORE MEE. Each of his plays is worse than the one before. And what was the point of the poor soul condemned to run around the stage stark naked clutching his genitals? This seems to be obligatory these days but, you've seen one, you've seen them all. Have mercy on the poor actor. That's not what he or she spent years training for.

    While I'm commenting, why did you make what must have been a beautiful theater, with such good bones, look like what's left of a war zone? I was told this desecration was done on purpose. If so, the management needs its collective head examined. For heaven's sake, recognize that most people don't want to spend time and money to arrive at a venue that looks like a garbage dump.

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  24. I really loved this show. It made me think and it scared me. Not the fighting, but the questions being asked. I didn't find it incoherent at all. But I did have to question my own incoherence. Bravo all 'round. I didn't stand in the end. No-one was standing. I'm ashamed of myself.

    I took my best friend as a Christmas present, and neither of us was disappointed. WE both cried during the dance scene, and laughed out loud during the really silly bits. Again, thanks for a memorable evening.

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