By Alissa Wilkinson
The Glory of the World—now running at the Brooklyn Academy of Music—is about Thomas Merton in the same way The Big Lebowski is about the Gulf War—almost inscrutably. Few plays about pacifist monks need a fight choreographer, a giant rhinoceros, a sprinkler, a ukelele, two air mattresses, and a remote-control helicopter.
The original story sounds almost as wackadoodle as the play, which took shape at the Actor’s Theatre of Louisville, Kentucky, home to the Humana Festival of New American Plays and near the Abbey of Gethsemani, where Merton lived.
On his way to work every morning, director Les Waters walked past a plaque that reads “On this site, Thomas Merton had a spiritual revelation.” And he got curious. He contacted the playwright Charles Mee about collaborating on a project to celebrate Merton’s one-hundredth birthday in 2015.
The result was The Glory of the World, which features a cast of seventeen men in a warehouse-like space who are holding a centennary celebration for the monk, who never appears on stage. They are men of all sorts, each toasting what they consider Merton’s “fundamental” quality: his Catholicism, his Buddhism, his pacificism, his communism, his contemplative life, his books, his scandals.
The production made its way to Brooklyn when it was spotted at the Humana Festival by former Episcopal monk Roy Cockrum, who won the $259 million Powerball in 2014 and has devoted the money to producing theatre. [Read more…]