Culture & Religion
January Fri 21, 2011
On Friday morning, January 14, 2011, volunteers arrived at the Hammerstein Ballroom in the Manhattan Center on 34th Street in New York City. The ballroom has a stage down in front, and several levels of balconies at the back. Above the central area is an oval mural showing angels and people playing musical instruments and readying a red curtain for a show in heaven. As the volunteers carried boxes to stations throughout the Hammerstein Ballroom, the stage crew began to build the set for The Tidings Brought to Mary.
The set was simple: the facade of the house of Combernon in France: a couple of doors for entrances and exits, and some shovels and picks lined up in front — ready for manual labor. Not only drama, but also talks, discussions, and music unfolded against this silent presence, this house, which served as a visual theme uniting many diverse expressions of humanity.
Friday evening, President of Catholic University in America, John Garvey, gave his keynote address in front of this house, focusing on the unique mission that Catholic and state universities have as "first amendment actors creating public culture.” Clara Gaymard, Vice President of Government Strategy and Sales at GE International, and President and CEO of GE France, spoke warmly of her father, Jérôme Lejeune. Gaymard told of her father’s remarkable discoveries in genetics, the price he paid for speaking in defense of those with Down Syndrome, and his friendship with Pope John Paul II. For this talk, the French house served to frame Gaymard in an intimate space despite the vastness of the ballroom.
On Saturday evening, The Tidings Brought to Mary was performed by The Blackfriars Repertory Theater and the Storm Theater, making Claudel’s text and the house of Combernon come to life. Anne Vercors, the father of the house, breaks bread with his family at the table before leaving on pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Later, he sets the dying body of his daughter, Violaine, on the same table.
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