Saturday, June 17, 2006


The play was fantastic. Wow. To see something of Chesterton's performed live was a special treat. Plus, the play proves the depth of his mind. Two plays within a play. The actors were really terrific, and all did wonderfully well.

The depth of the meaning of the play was much more evident from watching and hearing it (to me) than from reading it, so I was particularly glad I got a lot more out of the live version.

Not only that, but the pregnant pauses after the particularly funny lines drew tons of laughter. I was wiping my eyes several times. The actors were not shy, shall we say, about putting their *all* into this acting.

And it must have been a real challenge for the actors, because they basically had to perform the same play twice (the first and second act) with changes, but with some very similar similarities, which would have caused confusion in my mind as an actor, had I been one. So, I commend them that there was only one line forgotten, and that was almost Dales, but it turned out to be Kevin's.

Here is the cast:
Spearholder: Dale Ahlquist
Friar: Nathan Allen
Author: Jeremy Stanbary
Princess of Garfagnana: Ashley Ahlquist
Maria Margarita: Catherine Trojack
King of Fonatarabia: Julian Ahlquist
Poet: Kevin O'Brien
Captain of the Guard: Mark Pilon

Dale reported that it was very fun to be in the play with two of his children (who are adults).

Oh yes. The Joseph Pearce talk was very good, and I got to meet him tonight as well.
I forgot to mention that Carl Olsen is much taller than he appears to be on his blog.


  1. Thanks for the kind words, Nancy. I figured your blog would be the best place to find a "review" of our play ASAP - though I must say I have mixed emotions at being singled out for being the only actor to forget a line! (Perhaps if I insist it was Dale's line, then that's what the record will hold)

    Please note that we put this play together with THREE rehearsals. Dale worked a bit with the rest of the cast beforehand and then brought me up from St. Louis on Monday when run-throughs began.

    Had it not been for the dedication of this cast, the guidance and prayers of Our Lady and Dear Gilbert, the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and Dale's maginificent love for Chesterton, none of this would have happened.

    Glad you liked it. Let's hope we can do more of these in the future.

  2. Kevin,
    I can't tell you how enjoyable your performance was. I actually had to look at the program to figure out who the "professional" actor was, because I thought for sure it was you and not Jeremy. You were fantastic, and I want to be sure that everyone knows that though I singled you out as the forgotten line (which you might not have forgotten had Dale not said, just then, "I forgot my line") that I must also single you out as the person I was thinking of when I said that "the actors put their *all* into this" and in particular, I will always remember the scene where the Poet says he is a "dog"---*laughter, tears running down cheeks* holding sides which are splitting*---it was wonderful.

    I DO SO HOPE (hope being rather a theme here this weekend) to see MORE. Many people discussed this with me, that they would enjoy more, perhaps "Magic" next? We discussed the fact that "Manalive" seems like it would make a good play, and I know that there have been people working on a script for even "The Man Who Was Thursday" which would seem to fit in with next year's theme, so maybe that is the best idea of all.

    And Dale did mention how short of time the physically present rehearsals were, and it makes the whole performance all the more amazing.

    The audience sends you our heartfelt thanks. *Bows*

  3. Bravo, Kevin!! Excellent performance! And I had the distinct impression it was Dale who forgot the line, not Kevin. Something about the way Dale said, "I forgot my line" while onstage. ;-)

    I know of at least one script of TMWWT that is complete, but I wrote it for the cinema, not the stage. And I discussed it with a certain Dr. Thursday at the conference, noting his few objections and thinking he is probalby right.


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  5. It sounds like I was fishing for compliments. I was not, but these are catches I will not throw back.

    Both Jeremy and I are professional actors, in that we make our livings by acting on stage. But the rest of the cast was just as professional as any career-actors could be - moreso, really.

    Geir Hasnes wants to write the music for Chesterton's stage version of "They Flying Inn", which has a good many songs. This should also be on the agenda for some time in the future, if we can get him to do it.

    By the way, did anyone recognize me from two years back when I performed as Hilaire Belloc at the conference??? (he asked, fishing for more compliments)

    This was an amazing and wonderful week for me. What can we not do when we let the Holy Spirit guide us? The people we met - the things we saw ... all week I felt I was like the character I played - a stray dog in Heaven!

  6. Kevin, of course I remember you as Belloc from two years ago. Who could forget it? Between that, and staging The Surprise this year, and the EWTN work, it sounds like the friendship between you and Dale has been a very fruitful one.

    Geir writes music too?? Will wonders never cease?

  7. Kevin, I feel the same way about fishing for compliments as I do about self-promotion. My feelings about self-promotion are as follows: if you don't promote yourself, nobody will. Having said that, you were bloody brilliant as Belloc, and I'm still trying to get a tape of your performance.
    I also agree that Manalive would make a great play. In fact, I wrote my own dramatized version of it two winters ago, but I have to sit on it until the book becomes public domain later this year. I'd really like to see it performed, although I have no idea how to perform the wind special effects.

  8. Kevin,
    Now that you mention it, of course I remember you as Belloc, you were great then, too. Fantastic. I still remember the repetition of the word "Don" I didn't recognize you as the same person. Which shows all the more what a professional you are.

    So my instincts were correct, and you ARE a professional actor. Thanks for using your talents with us at the Chesterton Society, we are lucky to have you amongst us.

    I would love to see Manalive or The Flying Inn performed, but don't you think we should do The Man Who Was Thursday next year at the conference, since it will be the 100th anniversary celebration of the publication of that book?

    I wonder if there is a stage play of that out there anywhere....anyone know?

  9. There was one made by his sister-in-law:

    When, almost twenty years later, [ca. 1928] The Man Who Was Thursday was adapted for the stage, [By Ralph Neale and Mrs. Cecil Chesterton] Chesterton said in an interview: In an ordinary detective tale the investigator discovers that some amiable-looking fellow who subscribes to all the charities, and is fond of animals, has murdered his grandmother, or is a bigamist. I thought it would be fun to make the tearing away of menacing masks reveal benevolence. ssociated with that merely antastic notion was the one that there is actually a lot of good to be discovered m unlikely places, and that we who are fighting each other may be all fighting on the right side. I think it is quite true that it is just as well we do not, while the fight is on, know all about each other; the soul must be solitary; or there would be no place for courage. A rather amusing thing was said by Father Knox on this point. He said that he should have regarded the book as entirely pantheist and as preaching that there was good in everything if it had not been for the introduction of the one real anarchist and pessimist. But he was prepared to wager that if the book survives for a hundred years - which it won't - they will say that the real anarchist was put in afterwards by the priests. But, though I was more-foggy about ethical and theological matters than I am now, I was quite clear on that issue; that there was a final adversary, and that you might find a man resolutely turned away from goodness. People have asked me whom I mean by Sunday. Well, I think, on the whole, and allowing for the fact that he is a person in a tale - I think you can take him to stand for Nature as distinguished from God. Huge, boisterous, full of vitality, dancing with a hundred legs, bright with the glare of the sun, and at first sight, somewhat regardless of us and our desires. There is a phrase used at the end, spoken by Sunday: "Can ye drink from the cup that I drink of?" which seems to mean that Sunday is God. That is the only serious note in the book, the face of Sunday changes, you tear off the mask of Nature and you find God."

    [Maisie Ward, Gilbert Keith Chesterton 192-3]

  10. And may I add my own praise to the chorus - for I was thoroughly delighted with the Surprise, and would wish it were being performed again, or (even better) converted into a motion poicture and made available for home use - though there is a delight in a play which (like many other kinds of art) does lose some bits in translation. (hee hee)

    If only there would be as much attention paid by the scholars to the technology of this kind of play! Who knows, if it were studied well, maybe even the evolvers might be surprised when they see the Author's words made flesh...

    Or is that the Poet? Ah...

  11. I know that a couple of amateur dramatic societies adapted some of GKC's works in the twenties and thirties (including a musical version of The Napoleon of Notting Hill with an all-female cast), but I know nothing of the quality or availability of the aforementioned works.

    Personally, given the numerous scene changes, heavy makeup, cast, and costuming issues, I think that it would be difficult to stage a production of TMWWT that would do justice to the book, especially when one considers how little rehearsal time was available for The Surprise. In my opinion, the way to go for an ACS Conference production of TMWWT might be a stage radio-play production, where the actors would read into microphones and special sound effects and music would be used to set up the scenes. The idea interests me, because I love radio drama (I did my senior essay for my history major on "Sherlock Holmes vs. Hitler," a study of the Basil Rathbone/Nigel Bruce Sherlock Holmes film and radio series and how it attempted to influence public attitudes on WWII through various messages, and I did a lot of research on American radio plays) That would eliminate the cost of production to almost nothing, and the actors could read directly from the script without any need for memorization (a major plus given the length and complexity of the script). I've seen a number of radio productions on stage, and I think that they're different, but really fun. Plus people who couldn't come to the conference could buy a copy of the CD.
    I know that Orson Welles did a radio version, but if we couldn't get that I'd really like to help with the adaptation.

  12. I have seen the Thursday stage script. I am sure it is in the CW somewhere. I tried at first to use it as the basis for the screenplay I wrote of the same book. But almost immediately I decided to not follow it at all.

  13. Having already adapted Thursday for the silver screen, Chris, I'd like to lend a hand to a stage/radio play version.

    Just don't say "Thusday" (i.e., without the r) around Dale. Gets him irate. ;-)

  14. I like the idea of a radio drama, Chris, that sounds very intriguing. And it would be different.

    BTW, I heard tell that The Surprise would be reprised down at EWTN later this summer, to be made into the next series on Chesterton, so then, one could view the televised version of it. That will be fun to look forward to.

  15. Yes, they filmed the dress rehearsal to have something to work from for when they film it.

  16. My vote would be for a fully staged performance of "Thursday".

    My fear when learning my lines in St. Louis for "The Surprise" was that I would get to St. Paul and the other actors would be so ill-prepared that we would have to admit defeat and present the thing as a "staged reading" or "reader's theater". This was really the most likely scenario, if you know anything about actors in general. But this cast in particular pulled it off, and pulled off something that never should have worked so well - like the American Chesterton Society itself.

    My feeling is we've got the Orson Welles version, and we can't do better than that for a radio play. There's a stage adaptation that Dale likes (perhaps Chestertonian's?) and why not aim high?

    EWTN will be filming "The Surprise" in January for broadcast fall of 2007.

    Thanks for all your kind words. I am still coming down from the whole experience.

    What Dale has done ... what you all have done ... is quite a witness. This conference is magical! I'm just now finding this out. Have the rest of you known this all these years?

    Back to the real world ...

  17. Well, Kevin, your comments only prove to me how truly amazing, or should I say, even more truly amazing the Chesterton organization is than I before knew.

    I am only new at this conference thing myself. This was only my 3rd year. Each year I get deeper into the magic.

    No, no! Let's NOT go back to the real world! Not yet. I want this Chestertonian feeling to linger a bit longer. It is the umph I need to get some Chestertonian things done, and some research thinking begun, etc.

    I vote, too, for the whole nine yards. A full production. I'll have to read my Thursday again, for I fear there are no female parts in it for me....oh well! I'll have to enjoy it from the audience again, as difficult as that was ;-)

  18. I think that the only female role in Thursday is the anarchist's sister, other than some brief references to mothers and crowd scenes.

  19. What a powerful line: a stray dog in heaven...

    Where's our house poet?


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