Elisa Lollino wrote and stars in The Prodigal Daughter Photo by Michael Da Costa

All the world’s a stage for evangelization

  • October 4, 2014

Catholic actor and evangelist Elisa Lollino looks out from the stage to find silence and stillness has descended upon her audience. 

“This is it,” she thinks to herself, this is that “beautiful” and “interesting” moment. Lollino can tell when her audience feels it as well. 

“Something happens between actor and audience,” she said, “especially when you’re performing something faith-based.” 

Lollino is writer, director and sole actor in The Prodigal Daughter, a multi-character play based on the biblical parable of The Prodigal Son, but with a twist. Minimalist in style — focused more on performance and less on props — the play is told mainly from the perspective of Addi, the family servant. 

On Oct. 4, The Prodigal Daughter will be on stage for the first time to raise funds for the people of Iraq and Syria through the Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA), a papal agency for humanitarian and pastoral support. The performance will be followed by a reflection period. 

Lollino’s ultimate goal: to evangelize with the tool of theatre. 

“It’s basically the story of God’s love for His children and that nothing can hinder that as long as we turn back to Him,” she said. “He’s always there, always there waiting for us with open arms. It’s a powerful message of love, forgiveness, mercy, repentance, the boundless mercy of God.” 

Lollino is a cradle Catholic who had turned away from Church, only to return to the faith in 2008 after writing her first play, Fly With Me. The story is about three different characters who find God in their own unique way. She wasn’t a practising Catholic when she wrote it, but looking back on its content, she realized her Catholic roots were showing. Lollino soon realized she could share and use theatre to evangelize and decided to work at it full time. 

“I felt like God was calling me back,” she said. “I felt like He was throwing out the line. I kind of ignored it a bit, and then He would cast it out again.” 

Today, she is also a Third Order Carmelite, a lay branch of the Carmelites. 

What also brought her back to the faith was her need for repentance and forgiveness. 

“I wanted to be reconciled. I wanted a relationship with God. I wanted to meet Him; I wanted to have a deep relationship with Him,” she said. “Somehow I understood that this (theatre) was the way to find Him, and I acknowledged that and that’s what I’m here to do.” 

Lollino is a graduate of Humber College’s Theatre Performance Program. She performs across the GTA at art festivals, churches, Catholic school board events, in schools and for Catholic Women’s League groups. She sees theatre as a different way to reach young people and, in the process, it enhances her own faith. 

Lollino looks for Bible stories that inspire her and does research into the characters. 

“If I need to add a character, I start delving into this character, into the life of the story. Basically, (I) do a Bible study, but in depth,” she said. 

“I really feel like this is a calling for me. I really feel like this is something that I’m meant to do. And what keeps me going is that it does touch people, it does reach people. It touches them deeply and that kind of motivates me and encourages me to continue in this because I see there is a need.” 

The Prodigal Daughter will play at St. Paul the Apostle parish, 2265 Headon Rd. in Burlington, Ont. For more information, visit www.ephphathaproductions.com or call (416) 839-5429. 

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