25 September 2014

God, no less

In May 1978, I was a star — for one evening. My role: Dieu. It was a medieval passion play that a literature professor in the French Department at the U of I in Champaign-Urbana decided we would take to the stage (in a church on campus).

I didn't audition for the role; I was drafted. A sort of deus ex machina on the part of Professor Bowen, I suppose. I think she picked me partly because, at 29, I was the senior member of the cast.

The French Department chairman, a philologist specializing in old French and the history of the language, coached the whole cast (God, Adam, Eve, Satan, Jesus Christ, and the other usual suspects) on pronunciation, to make sure the rhymes were true.

Yes, it was in verse. It was decided that we actors would not actually have to learn the lines, but would read them. So it was more recital than true acting.We played, believe it or not, to a full housechurch, even though there were no subtitles.

The photo isn't great. Working with scans of old snapshots makes me realize now much cameras and photography have improved in the digital age.

26 comments:

  1. My God ! The Secret of the Church : there's no purgatory !

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  2. Can you imagine the uproar there would be now to such a performance! Portraying God in person! In a church!

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    1. Well, it was in a major university town, where minds are broader. And it was a Whiskey-palian church, after all.

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  3. Portraying "God in Person" in a church is perfectly valid...
    only extremists, like the Wee Frees of Scotland, would have problems with it...
    it is a Passion Play...
    historic!!
    What a wonderful thing to have been involved in...


    "cameras and photography have improved in the digital age"...
    yes, look at all that grain!!
    The ultimate in soft focus?
    And at an age when you probably didn't need soft focus, either...

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    1. The professor who organized the play is an Englishwoman, and was an excellent professor (retired now) with imaginative ideas and a good sense of humor. Her (married) name: Barbara Bowen.

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  4. I always thought God had curly grey hair and a long white beard :) ... Martine

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    1. God is a lot older now that he was back then.

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  5. A distinct look of Matthew McConaughey....?

    (PS: To all the passion plays that have an actor playing God, add Benjamin Britten's Noye's Fludde: and that's mostly children. Children playing animals. In church, no less.)

    (And scanning the negatives can produce better results, but it's all a trade-off between file sizes, image quality and time spent waiting for the scanner to do its stuff).

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    1. Who has negatives? And Matt. McC. must have stolen my look, because I sure don't have it any more.

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  6. Just WOW! I think I could believe in you!

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    1. You know me too well for me to believe that. Ha!

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  7. Great photo and story. You were always God to me when you edited my writing. Maybe god with a lowercase "g," in that case.

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    1. Ginny, aw shucks, 'tweren't nothin'. Ha ha ha.

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  8. Those may have been the God is Dead years...clearly He is alive! I've enjoyed the comments this morning.

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    1. I enjoyed being a medieval God for a few days (rehearsals and the performance).

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  9. So God was alive and well and living in Urbana-Champaign. Who knew?

    I wonder how many members of the French faculty from those days are still alive.

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    1. I was in touch with B.B. a few years ago, and she said Vince was still living. I imagine Fred J. is too, and you mentioned Emile T. Those were good years for me, and I think for you too.

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  10. I'm not sure I knew this. But the photo and details make me chuckle. I might have been more respecful of you all these years if I had known you were God.

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  11. Of course, Bruce M and Edwin J died several years ago. Emile T died unexpectedly this past summer, and I heard that Bob N and Herb D had died, too. I didn't know about Vince B.

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