Tuesday May 30, 2017

Marianist ‘Spectacle’

Step aside, Alexander Hamilton. The University of Dayton will premiere a new musical about one of its own "founding fathers," Blessed William Joseph Chaminade, who survived persecution during the French Revolution and started the Society of Mary in 1817.

Spectacle, co-written by Associate Director of Campus Ministry Nick Cardilino, will be presented July 14 as a staged reading of selected scenes as part of the 2017 Lay Marianist Assembly on campus. The full production will have its world premiere in spring 2018 as a collaboration between the University theatre, dance and performance technology program and the department of music.

The show’s main characters also include Marianist co-founders the Venerable Marie-Thérèse Charlotte de Lamourous and the Venerable Adèle de Batz de Trenquelléon.

“I was really inspired by the opportunity and the fact that it’s a musical about the founding of the Marianist order and would have so much relevance and importance to people here at UD and Marianist communities globally,” said Michelle Hayford, director of the theatre, dance and performance technology program, who is directing Spectacle. “I thought it was a great way for our program and our students to contribute to our Marianist mission.”

This summer’s workshop production features seven undergraduate students participating in the College of Arts and Sciences Dean’s Summer Fellowship program. The full production will have a larger cast of students from the theatre program, music department and other academic disciplines.

Both performances are made possible through a gift to the University from alumnus John Alberici ‘67, chairman of the board for the St. Louis-based Alberici Corporation, and his wife, Natalie. The couple has invested in several Broadway shows and also support the performing arts in St. Louis because the arts “round out what we look for as a full experience of life,” John Alberici said.

Similarly, Spectacle lends substance to the Marianists’ origin story.

“I think having it as a musical is an important interpretation that will bring it to life for people in a way that is both enjoyable and educational, and I think it is going to be a great experience for the theater in Dayton,” Alberici said.

Chaminade was a Catholic priest in revolutionary France who refused to swear an oath to the French government rather than the Vatican. Instead, he risked death by secretly continuing to work as a priest with help from Marie-Thérèse and later fled the country for Spain. After his return to Bordeaux, Chaminade and Marie-Thérèse founded a sodality of lay people to “re-Christianize France.” The Daughters of Mary Immaculate began in 1816 under the leadership of Mother Adèle to help the sodality grow. A year later, for the same purpose, Chaminade founded the Society of Mary, which sponsors the University of Dayton.

This month, Pope Francis signed the beatification decree for Mother Adèle, having received the favorable judgement of the cardinals and bishops who are members of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

The musical’s title comes from a quote by Chaminade, who hoped to restore the Catholic faith to France by offering "the spectacle of a people of saints." That phrase also serves as the show’s overarching theme, said Cardilino, who is also director for Campus Ministry’s Center for Social Concern.

“In the opening number the people are all singing to Father Chaminade: ‘Don’t make a spectacle of yourself. You have to stay in hiding or you’re going to be sent to the guillotine,’” he explained. “Then we bring back that same melody and Father Chaminade, Marie-Thérèse, Mother Adèle and all the Lay Marianists are singing, ‘Let’s be a spectacle of saints.’”

Cardilino is a performing singer-songwriter who released four CDs and co-wrote the theme songs for the 2007 and 2011 National Catholic Youth Conferences. He co-wrote Spectacle to coincide with the 2016 and 2017 bicentennials of the Daughters of Mary Immaculate and the Society of Mary, respectively.

In true Marianist fashion, Cardilino worked in community with two collaborators — Jim Ford, executive director of the Marianist Retreat Center near St. Louis, and Bro. Stan Zubek, S.M., from Cape May, New Jersey.

“Over the period of several months we got together — occasionally in person, but usually by Skype — and laid out the part of the story of the founders that we were going to tell, and tried to wrap it up into a typical narrative structure,” Cardilino said. “We wrote music and put it all together and voila.”

Last year, students at Chaminade Julienne Catholic High School in Dayton read through the script’s first draft and offered constructive critiques. Cardilino and his collaborators then revised the story, characters and music. They completed the second draft in August.

The development process continues with this summer’s workshop production, with rehearsals starting the first week in June.

“This is coming from the ground up, so we are involved in this whole process of creating a work, not just performing the work,” said David Sievers, University artist-in-residence in voice, who is the show’s music director, conductor and arranger.

Like the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical Hamilton, Spectacle was drawn from historical artifacts such as letters and other print materials, which has resonance for history buffs, Hayford said.

Similarly, its songs span a range of musical styles to serve the story. Sievers looks forward to arranging them for large ensembles of singers and musicians.

“Getting to create harmonies for theater and music majors who can sing music from a wide variety of styles is a lot of fun,” Sievers said. “So many of our students — majors and non-majors alike — are so talented. I know they’re also excited.”

The creative team hopes Spectacle will be performed at other Marianist universities and high schools in the future.

“It is the world premiere, but I am very enthusiastic about this being picked up by other Marianist communities around the world who want to present this work,” Hayford said. “I think it’s a fantastic musical that people will really love.”

- Dave Larsen, communication coordinator, College of Arts and Sciences

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