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Students involved in the production of The Song of Bernadette go through a rehearsal. Lucy Gay, right, plays the schoolmaster in front of a class that includes Geneva Ulmer, Mary-Rose Lee Wah, Nikola Vanderheyden, Mary Zwicker, Leah Myers and Gabriela Jezierski, who is playing the role of Bernadette. Mary French

Creator has starring role on Catholic college stage

By  Mary French, Youth Speak News
  • February 5, 2020

At Our Lady Seat of Wisdom College, theatre is as much about keeping the Creator in the creation as it is about staging an entertaining production.

“Every year, there is a huge discussion surrounding our decision of which play to put on,” said Marissa Henry, this year’s director. 

“We take into account technical things such as cast size, but we also are attentive to put forth material with a good message.”

In February, the Barry’s Bay, Ont., college is performing The Song of Bernadette, which tells the story of St. Bernadette Soubirous and Our Lady of Lourdes. St. Bernadette experienced several Marian apparitions in Lourdes, France, in 1858. A shrine built on the site has become an international pilgrimage destination that is credited with 70 miraculous cures. 

The play, first performed on Broadway in 1946, is an adaptation of the Franz Werfel 1941 novel, which had also been turned into a film in 1943.

“For Song of Bernadette, we really wanted the saints to come alive,” said Henry. “We hope to show how this is a true story about very normal people.”

The visual and performing arts are just as essential to a fully grounded Catholic education as studies in theology or philosophy at the Catholic college. Each year, the school’s drama program puts months of planning and hard work into a theatrical presentation. 

The annual production is more than a mere school play. Drama gives the students an opportunity to present themselves before an audience in a way that is entertaining, while also allowing them to express their beliefs. 

The arts are a rich gift, said Henry, who believes drama not only helps students advance in their studies but also brings them closer to God’s truth. 

“Art has this ability to bring light and beauty into people’s lives,” she said. “Through drama and the arts we are able to bring these elements of God to others. 

“It draws out this light and beauty found in even the smallest things, since these too are a reflection of their Creator. This is so important in a society that is dissatisfied with the little things.”

Nick Craley, 23, an actor in the play, recognizes the arts as an important way to bring truth to others. Hoping to open his own film studio after graduating, Craley plans to someday create content of his own that captivates audiences but also leaves an impact. He believes it is important to keep Catholicism foremost in his work.

“God gave you talents and they should be used, not ignored,” said Craley. 

“Ask yourself: what is your art trying to do? If it is trying to bring goodness, then it is leading the way to truth. If it isn’t, then you are on the way down a dark path. It’s as simple as that. 

“It might sound boring, but sit down and actually do it. It’s harder than it seems.”

Drama, whether it be in the form of film or theatre, has an amazing ability to captivate an audience, whisking people off to a different place if only for a little while. 

However, art is more than what meets the eye. At Seat of Wisdom that means presenting entertaining stories that have intrinsic moral value.

“It takes a great artist to make something good,” said Craley.

Kurtis Noro, 19, another student actor in The Song of Bernadette, sees the drama program as a way to express his faith. Each type of art is one of countless ways to bring faith to others. 

“If you are not seeking and examining something, is it worth living?” says Noro. “Bring out questions. Make people think. Art can really help people make choices.”

(French, 21, is a third-year liberal arts student at Our Lady Seat of Wisdom College in Barry’s Bay, Ont.)

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