You gotta have faith: New play from Odenbear Theatre Company elicits emotional responses

Odenbear Theatre Company is bringing Brian Friel’s Irish drama, Faith Healer, to Taos and the surrounding area this October through December. The show opens Oct. 19 at Metta Theatre in El Prado and will run two weekends here in Taos, one in Peñasco, one in Dixon, one in Salida, Colorado, and one in Santa Fe. It is incredibly fitting that this particular play should tour throughout Northern New Mexico and southern Colorado, as the characters in the play journey through similarly small towns in Wales, Scotland, and Ireland for 20 years of their lives together.

Faith Healer consists of four monologues, delivered by Francis (Frank) Hardy, the Faith Healer himself; his wife, Grace; his manager, Teddy; and Frank again. Each of them shares their own truths regarding their travels and tribulations. Each of them suffered a great deal along the way. They also had the time of their lives traveling in often awful weather conditions to give these faith healing sessions—think of modern-day Baptist “You are healed!” ministries for a comparison—which were part entertainment, part trick, part miracle. Their commitment to one another through hardship was impressive, even if they lost part of themselves in the process.

This production of Faith Healer is directed by Bruce Katlin. Local actor Jeff Spicer plays Francis Hardy; Irene Loy plays Grace; and Jim Hatch plays Teddy. Jim has also served as the producer for this run. He and Bruce worked together to bring this play to our area, and the four of us have been working hard to make this vision a reality.

This is an actor’s play, in that the language is so rich, so masterfully written, that the lives of the characters are revealed by what they do and do not say. While Frank struggles with whether his faith healing is a gift or a hoax, Grace watches her own life get drowned out. Teddy sees it all as a talent act he manages. Each of their stories begs the question—why do they each give so much of themselves to something that drains each of them so readily?

When we rehearse, there is so much material there—in the emotion, the psychology, the physicality—that we can start anywhere and get to deeper insights in the text. For example, in one rehearsal, it was speaking about a memory of loss that triggered tears for me; in another, it was simply gripping the back of a chair. The thoughts, feelings, and movements of these characters come together with their speech to tell their stories.

It is also an audience’s play. The audience members can listen for differences in the way that Frank, Grace, and Teddy remember their experiences—forming a puzzle out of the truth—and see what they believe. They may also see how we do this every day: Each of us as individuals remembers our memories as fact, when really, we are piecing together what we attended to, just like everyone else.

With this play, we are inviting the audience into the world of these characters and everything they have gone through, and everyone who attends will be able to identify with both the pain and the happiness they have experienced.

The theme of faith has also come up for us in rehearsal, and we expect that it may stir up reactions for the audience during the performance. What is faith? What do we have faith in? What happens when we witness something that we don’t believe in? What happens when something we believe in does not come to be?

The Irish faith healing tradition has a long history that dates back to the Celts and predates Christianity. While Frank may very well have the gift to heal people, charging people money to experience this ancient healing tradition creates a dichotomy which can neither be fully believed nor disbelieved. Audience members are asked to come to their own conclusions, and to examine their own sense of faith.

That’s why live theatre is and continues to be so powerful. For these few nights in these various local towns, we’ll gather to tell these stories, to pose these questions, and maybe to experience something of the magical. Or not. But then, we got to have faith, don’t we now?

 

What you need to know:

Performance schedule for Faith Healer is Oct. 19-22 – and the 28-29. Thursday, Friday, Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 4 p.m. at the Metta Theatre, 1470 Paseo Del Pueblo Norte, Taos, NM 87571

To make reservations, please email [email protected]/. All seats $20.

Additional performances will take place at the Toolshed in Dixon at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 11 and at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 12; at Peñasco Theatre at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 27; at the Steamplant Theatre in Salida, Colorado at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 25 and at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 26; and at Teatro Paraguas in Santa Fe at 7:30 p.m. on both Friday, Dec. 1 and Saturday, Dec. 2.

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