Elisa Lollino, the founder, actor and playwright at Ephphatha Productions stumbled upon her unique ministry in the form of one-person plays. Photo courtesy of Ephphatha Productions

One-woman shows bring Scripture to life

  • November 17, 2016

When Elisa Lollino performs, it’s not just a play. It’s also a form of prayer.

Lollino stumbled on a ministry that is uniquely her own. She performs original one-woman plays based on Scripture and familiar stories of the Catholic faith. She discovered there is a power in bringing these stories to life.

“People come up to me sometimes afterwards and they say, ‘Wow, that really brought the Scripture to life. It was like I was really there.’ So it’s really an experience,” said Lollino. “People are not just seeing a flat kind of image. There’s life in the characters.”

She calls her ministry Ephphatha Productions. “Ephphatha” is the Greek form of an Aramaic word which means “Be opened.” Jesus uses the word in the Gospel of Mark to heal a deaf and mute man. Lollino hopes her plays can do the same for her audience.

Lollino travels across Ontario performing in schools, retreat centres, parishes, meeting rooms, auditoriums and anywhere in between. Her audiences can vary from six people to 600.

“Basically, my mission is to evangelize through theatre,” she said. “I just really want to spread God’s Word because I believe it has power. And the more we hear it and experience it, the more we encounter Him.”

In 2007, at the age of 25, Lollino was working as a teacher at Synergy Performing Arts Academy in Brampton, Ont., when she got the inspiration for her first one-woman play. It was meant to be an original theatre piece that she would perform at a local event to promote the school.

“It was very providential,” said Lollino. “I started piecing all these different characters together and then all of a sudden, I was like, ‘Oh this is very interesting. I think I have a play.’ And the funny thing is that play is about transformation and conversion.”

Lollino’s first one-woman show is called Fly With Me and in many ways, it transformed her faith. She was born Catholic, but she said her faith didn’t click right away.

“Through college, I kind of dragged myself through the mud and I made some mistakes,” she said. “By the end of it I felt heavy.”

Lollino was searching for meaning in her life and writing the first play became part of that journey. News of Lollino’s play travelled in the community and she was soon performing Fly With Me at art festivals around Brampton.

In 2008, she was invited to perform for Volunteer Appreciation Night at the local parish, St. Mary’s Church, where she met the pastor, Fr. James Cherickal.

She was also in the process of writing her second one-woman play, He Thirsts For You. The play is based on the story of the Samaritan Woman and Lollino was looking to consult with the priest to learn more about biblical Samaria.Lollino struck up a friendship with Cherickal, which led to her attending daily Mass and coming back to the faith.

“I thought it was kind of interesting to speak one-on-one with a priest because I never had before,” she said. “I wasn’t really interested in coming back to the faith but ... because I was trying to inspire people through my play that I ended up getting lassoed in.”

After her performance at St. Mary’s, her plays began to generate interest outside the art festivals circuit.

In 2014, she wrote The Prodigal Daughter, based on the parable of The Prodigal Son told through the eyes of the family servant. Last year, she premiered her latest play, St. Teresa of Avila on Prayer: Look at Him, to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the saint’s birth.

Lollino is slowly working to make Ephphatha Productions her full-time focus. She is now performing about 20-25 shows per year. She has a few more plays in the works and is also looking for a partner.

“I never thought I’d be doing this. Never,” said Lollino. “It’s funny because in school, I always wanted to have my own theatre company and by the end of theatre school, I said I want to do something inspirational.

“But here I am. The Lord has a plan.”

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