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Gazette Premium Content 'Agnes of God' will open at Fine Arts Center

By Jen Mulson Updated: March 19, 2014 at 10:53 am

Three women tangle with questions of faith and religion, abuse, murder and secrecy in the 1979 play "Agnes of God," which opens Thursday at the Fine Arts Center.

A young nun (Carmen Vreeman) stands accused of killing her newborn. The Mother Superior (Kathy Paradise) of her convent wants to protect her and a court-appointed psychiatrist (Jane Fromme) is appointed to uncover what really happened.

"I really like the questions it brings up," says Vreeman, who plays Sister Agnes. "I like how it's really not about religion; it's not about science, per se; it's about world views and how we all figure out our way to cope with our human experiences, our emotions, our past. For some of us, it's emotionally, rationally, religiously or through science. I like that it doesn't say this is the only way you can believe this to happen."

As a novice scriptwriter, "Agnes" playwright John Pielmeier was searching for a way to explore questions of faith.

"About a year earlier, I had seen a headline in the Post or the News shouting 'Nun Kills Baby!,'" he writes on his website, johnpielmeier.com. "I didn't read the actual story, but something like nine months later I woke up in the middle of the night with an 'Aha!' moment. The title was obvious - a bad liturgical pun - and the cast was kept to a minimum because I felt small, simple plays worked best at the O'Neill (Eugene O'Neill National Playwrights' Conference). I wanted to challenge myself to write full, rich women's roles, and so the psychiatrist, who at first thought was a man, became a woman."

The play was celebrated after its 1982 arrival on Broadway, says director Scott RC Levy, though it hasn't graced many stages in recent years.

"It's really well written," he says. "The language is at times really lyrical and very poetic. At other times it's very straight edge and biting."

He believes the FAC is the only company in the country to produce the show this season.

"Maybe some people think it's somehow dated, but I think it's timeless," he says.

"I don't think it asks questions that are politically incorrect. It's a play that sort of circles around religion and faith and science, but doesn't claim to have the answers to anything, which is why I love it."

The play isn't so much about Agnes, Vreeman says, but the use of her character as a vessel for the other two women to explore their own beliefs. Fromme plays Dr. Martha Livingston and Paradise plays Mother Miriam Ruth.

"There are a lot of correlations between them - mother issues, emotional and psychological issues, faith issues," Vreeman says. "I would say the main focus is on the psychiatrist and her journey, and how she deals with questions brought up and answers found or not found."

The play is as much a mystery as it is a drama, and it has a way of challenging both viewer and actor.

"Is she (Agnes) a victim? A saint? Chosen by god? Touched by an angel or a demon?" Vreeman says. "Those are questions I'm still grappling with. There are many different answers, and a lot is a matter of interpretation."

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Contact Jennifer Mulson: 636-0270

"Agnes of God"

When: Opens Thursday, 7:30 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays, 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays, runs through April 6

Where: Fine Arts Center, 30 W. Dale St.

Tickets: $15-$37; 634-5583, csfinearts center.org.

Other events

St. Patrick's Dinner Celebration - With dinner, music and Irish entertainment and drinks, by Manitou Springs Kiwanis, 6:30-8:30 p.m. Saturday, Venue 515, 515 Manitou Ave., Manitou Springs, $15; 310-5568, manitoukiwanis.org.

St. Patrick's Dinner Celebration - With dinner, music and Irish entertainment and drinks, by Manitou Springs Kiwanis, 6:30-8:30 p.m. Saturday, Venue 515, 515 Manitou Ave., Manitou Springs, $15; 310-5568, manitoukiwanis.org.

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