I was received into the Church in November of 2012 as a convert from atheism. I was just a little too late to be a John Paul II Catholic, knowing him only through the writing I later picked up, and the historical records of the crowds he drew.
But, if I missed him among the great masses, offering Masses, I still was touched by a different sort of gathering he organized, before he was ever a priest, let alone Pope.
As Karol Wojtyła, he co-founded the Rhapsodic Theater with his theatrical mentor Mieczyslaw Kotlarczyk. The theater wasn’t a physical building but an act of artistic resistance to the Communist occupation of Poland.
The shows that the Rhapsodic Theater staged were offered secretly, in people’s living rooms, out of fear of arrest. The sets were minimal (since they had to be smuggled in and set up amid furniture). Everything was stripped away but the essential: to tell the truth, beautifully.
Even after he entered seminary (this, also secretly), Wojtyła may have given up acting, but he continued writing plays in the spare style he and his friends had shaped out of necessity. I picked up one play he had written during his time as a parish priest, The Jeweler’s Shop, when my husband decided to stage it in what turned out to be a faithful-to-tradition cramped space (a common area of his office).
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