Scholarly article on topic 'The Education in Lithuanian Christian Theatre: From Repetition to Recollection'

The Education in Lithuanian Christian Theatre: From Repetition to Recollection Academic research paper on "Philosophy, ethics and religion"

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{"Jesuit Theatre" / "Christian Theatre" / "Mnemonic Strategies" / "Theatre of Memory" / "Lithuanian Theatre"}

Abstract of research paper on Philosophy, ethics and religion, author of scientific article — Vitalija Truskauskaite

Abstract The paper holds the review on the expression of religious theatre in theory as well as indicates characteristic educational strategies of the contemporary Christian theatre in Lithuania. The two types of sacral performances – the ones based on the lives of the saints, and the ones re-enacting Biblical events – are viewed within the historical and theoretical context of the sacral theatre, and comparisons are drawn between the strategy of recollection, modern man's attitude towards the realm of modern concept Ordo amoris and the classical strategy of repetition Theatrum Mundi, formed by the educational Jesuit theatre. In the course of the present analysis, the Christian theatre is treated as educational theatre of memory, the mnemonic strategies of which represent the transformation of repetition into recollection.

Academic research paper on topic "The Education in Lithuanian Christian Theatre: From Repetition to Recollection"

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Social and Behavioral Sciences

Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences 82 (2013) 557-561

World Conference on Psychology and Sociology 2012

The Education in Lithuanian Christian Theatre: From Repetition

to Recollection

Vitalija Truskauskaite a *

_a Vytautas Magnus University, Faculty of Arts, The Department of Theatre Studies, Kaunas, Lithuania_

Abstract

The paper holds the review on the expression of religious theatre in theory as well as indicates characteristic educational strategies of the contemporary Christian theatre in Lithuania. The two types of sacral performances - the ones based on the lives of the saints, and the ones re-enacting Biblical events - are viewed within the historical and theoretical context of the sacral theatre, and comparisons are drawn between the strategy of recollection, modern man's attitude towards the realm of modern concept Ordo amoris and the classical strategy of repetition Theatrum Mundi, formed by the educational Jesuit theatre. In the course of the present analysis, the Christian theatre is treated as educational theatre of memory, the mnemonic strategies of which represent the transformation of repetition into recollection.

© 2013 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd.

Selection and peer review under the responsibility of Prof. Dr. Kobus Maree, University of Pretoria, South Africa.

Keywords: Jesuit Theatre, Christian Theatre, Mnemonic Strategies, Theatre of Memory, Lithuanian Theatre;

1. Introduction

The Jesuits, who first arrived to Lithuania in 1555, in their university and college practice firmed the theory of Theatrum Mundi and created an outstanding history of sacral theatre. The most significant achievement of this movement is the university theatre which separated the place not only for new productions of sacral drama but also for the theoretical claim of spirituality tied to educational and artistic practice of the Jesuits. Sacral performances had to motivate the pupil of college to nurture their spirit by transforming their life into the striving of redemption and devotional voyage to the kingdom of God and Jesus Christ. In the world of Theatrum Mundi, which effectively was unfolded by the baroque theatre stage of Jesuits, a man dwells in the presence of God.

In contemporary Lithuanian theatre the world of Theatrum Mundi is reconstructed in a number of performances. Religious motifs in contemporary professional and amateur performances in Lithuania represented with the obvious use of contemporary theatre language that is quotes of religious places, the plot of the Gospel and Christian symbols while staying in polemics and constant re-creation of the forms and contents of classical religious theatre. In the comparison of the reflections on classical theatre traditions with the spiritual situation of the human being in modernity, the contemporary religious theatre in Lithuania is presented as reconstructions of Theatrum Mundi and as search of Ordo amoris

* Corresponding author: Vitalija Truskauskaite. E-mail address: v.truskauskaite@mf.vdu.lt

1877-0428 © 2013 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd.

Selection and peer review under the responsibility of Prof. Dr. Kobus Maree, University of Pretoria, South Africa. doi: 10.1016/j.sbspro.2013.06.309

2. The strategy of repetition Theatrum mundi

The features of Jesuit drama and specificities of acting in Jesuit theatre are discussed by Motiejus Kazimieras Sarbievijus, Jacobus Pontanus and Francis Lang in their works researching the poetics of theatre and literature (Poglar, 1893). Sacral performances, with reference to the above mentioned theoreticians, had to motivate the students to nurture their spirit by transforming their life into the striving for redemption and devotional voyage to the kingdom of God and Jesus Christ. An acting method applied to the baroque Jesuit theatre was based on contemplation strategy there so the creation of the characters recalled a man rebuilding his soul during the spiritual practice. The source of the spiritual training method is the book "Spiritual exercises" by St. Ignatius Loyola. In this book not only the spiritual style and method appears. It also highlights the self-atoning man (Lojola, 1998). In the text of Exercises, St. Ignatius frequently refers to the requirement of repetition. The latter will be applied to the whole educative Jesuit activity. It is not just experience that is being acquired through repetition. Through repetition one hardens one's soul, since there one tries out the discovered insight (Truskauskaite, 2008). Through repetition one also sharpens one's memory, volition and mind.

Looking at the procession playbill of the God's Body feast chronicled in 1624 by the "Jesuit academicians", a description of the "The Sixfold Shrine of God and His People" can be found (Kawecka-Gryczowa, 1976).

The first part of procession playbill exhibits either the Gods dwelling in the Sun or in the temporal world. This piece of procession act can be entitled as the exposition of the journey to the God's dwelling. The second part unfolds the circumstances indicated as the rules of the spiritual journey. The participants of the procession act environed by the characters of the testament resurrect their soul, evoke the spiritual consciousness, and delineate the guideline of the path leading to the shrine of God. The third part of the procession act is devoted to the meditation of the revelation to the Virgin Mary and Godly Love. While observing the reunion of Virgin Mary and Archangel, the participants of the procession witness the reunion of the temporal and heavenly dwelling and find their own stair-steps to heaven. The figure of Christ appears in the fourth part of the procession. The meditation of his sacrifice relocates the participants of the procession to the Dwelling of God. The fifth part of the playbill presents the love of God hungering for the wisdom of humanity. The Holy Ghost brings the participants of the procession to the feet of God. The procession path, decorated with the visible images of metaphysical reality, alludes that heaven is opened only when a human's heart is transformed. In the sixth part, the participants of procession accompanied by the saints, martyrs and brothers Jesuits find their way to the New Jerusalem, "descended to the world from Heaven". New Jerusalem was revealed to St. John during the prophetic visions: "There is the dwelling of God amongst people. He will inhabit amongst them and they will be the nation of his and the God himself will stay with his people. He will swipe every tear from every eye and there will be no death, no sorrow, neither wails, has not pain, for what was first - now already passed (St. John of the Cross, 1988). The participants of the procession leave Theatrum Sacrum in comfort and consolation. The mnemonic processes are finish, the playwrights, directors, and actors of Jesuit theatre unfold the world full of God's presence.

In what way can the creation of these images of the supernatural world be explained? While searching for an answer to this question, let us refer to the English poet and philosopher Frances Yates: "...the object of our research is not familiar to most readers. Few know that Greeks, who are creators of the most part of arts, also created the art of memory, which was transferred to Romans and thus became a tradition of Europe. This art of memory is grounded on the technique of eternalizing of places (loci) and images. Most frequently this technique was qualified as a "mnemotechnique" (Yates, 2001).

3. The strategy of reflection Ordo amoris

In the creative work by Czeslaw Milosz, sacral theatre is reflected as the love of God in a form of action and sensation, based on mimesis, in the development of a hierarchical reality (Milosz, 1996).

Czeslaw Milosz notices that the contemporary creative arts become mental acts, serving creativity that involves "phantoms of the mind" (Milosz, 1999). The author negatively assesses this latest trend. Based on his personal experience, he claims that only efforts to rethink reality in the light of hierarchical values without

refuting the powers of mimetic creativity saved him from spiritual erosion. The Ordo amoris strategy refreshes and inspires artists of the third millennium for reflections of the religious experience.

The road that an author envisages in the creativity of the sacral theatre is designated for those persons who, according to Erich Fromm, are suffering through loneliness and their need to overcome it by making some contact. This need for love, as per the psychologist, does not differ in the least from a form of religious love, named the love of God (Fromm, 1956).The feeling of love and the experience of unity with God seem to fill in the space of the sacral play, revealing personal maturity and creating a fusion with ".. .an indescribable life force, leading to a unification, lying beneath the world of phenomena, and to the foundation of all existence' (Seleris, 1989). The sacral theatre seemingly becomes an opportunity, according to philosopher Max Scheler, to comprehend and sense the world as a form of Godly order and live through it by way of love, by Ordo amoris. Love of God is a dynamic formation of things, a growth, a thrusting towards one's own primary vision which, as Max Scheler notices, is contained in God. The experience of the love of God is specifically that important aspect of personal upbringing, possible for the modern person. This is so because a being, experiencing ".. .love as a primary act, while still remaining a limited being, crosses over one's own limitations to participate within another being like an ens intencionale" (Seleris, 1989). Milosz identifies the theatre of the future with the poetic tradition of sacral theatre. The poet associates a thematic expansion of Christian drama in the theatre of the future with a vision of the collective theatre as the universe in which the supernatural light of the world is reflected. A minimization of theatrical means in the vision of the theatre of the future is based on the meanings, born from the thing - object that has sprung forth from the environment, regenerating it in the passage of cited time. The completeness of the universe disseminates through things - objects. Meanwhile the sense of awesomeness that leads the citations by some person seemingly recreates a universal dimension that is nearly impossible in naturalistic visions of the theatre. The reflection of supernatural life restores Theatrum Mundi and recollects participant and audience of sacral theater productions in a way the search of Ordo amoris.

4. The recollection paradigm in Lithuanian Christian theatre

In contemporary Lithuanian theatre, the world of Theatrum Mundi is reconstructed in a number of performances. On the other hand, more often Theatrum Mundi is implicated into the reflection of the search of

Ordo Amoris.

The reconstruction of Theatrum Mundi in contemporary Lithuanian theatre is based on the motif of flight to the God's dwelling. The theatrical representations of flight originated in the baroque Jesuit theatre. The flight to a sacral locus within the space of theatrical performance is the predominant sacral motif in the following productions: "The Fire-Proof City" (2004, directed by K?stutis Jakstas), "Idiot's Mass" (2004, directed by Rolandas Atkociunas), and "Crime and Punishment" (2004, directed by Gintaras Varnas). The recollections of memory in performances "Tales of the Millennium" (2008, directed by Tomas Erbrederis) and "The massacre of Kraziai" (2006, directed by Algimantas Armonas) are grounded on the technique of eternalizing of places (loci) and images.In the course of researching the epistemological aspect of the process of socialization of theatrical space and interpreting symbols of its sacral locus, it is possible to discern a metatheatrical tendency - soultraining strategies.

In 2004, Fundamentum Collegii Vilnae showed a performance based on the play "The Fire-froof City" by Arnas Alisauskas in the yard of Vilnius University. The story about an angel, who warned the citizens of Vilnius about the imminence of fire, was performed in the porch of St. John's church. The story tells about the ignorance of the citizens and their belief when the physical fire approaches. The flare-up of fire led the crowds of flustered people to the church where they prayed for the mercy of God. In the end of the performance, the director reconstructed the angel's flight to the glory of altar by using the Jesuit theatre based technique of the flight realized with the help of hoist. The flight to the Dwelling of God broadens the associative field of the performance and creates new semantic bonds which, according to Bachtin, exist as a link to the idea of the word's solidity based on the completeness of the cosmic and human universum (Bachtin, 208). By quoting the baroque theatre flight, a dialog between a historical kitchen-sink drama and metaphysical discourse of the performance is constructed.

In 2004, a director Rolandas Atkociunas produced a performance based on Dostoyevsky "Idiot". The performance "The Mass of the Idiot" was played in the ruined and derelict space of St. George church in Kaunas. The creators of the performance placed a blue floodlight in the place of the altar, ruined and desecrated in the soviet times. Such replacement of spatial objects created a blue shine under which all characters of the novel empathized their lovesick mysteries. Just before closing up the performance, the audience could view a peculiar projection - an image of the Christ's grave filmed by an amateur camera. The image placed in the float of uprising and descending shapes drawn to a discontinuous and repeated translation formed a reflection of unavailing endeavor of Resurrection. This strange unresurrected flight of the duke Mishkin dethroned his struggle to redeem the world and himself. The postmodern translation transferred the actual space of the grave into the church's place, which narrated the unusual story of wake.

In the interpretation of Dostoyevsky's "Crime and Punishment" by Gintaras Varnas, we can track the repetition of flight to the merciful embrace of God. This performance singles out two spheres: the profane (of the crime) and the sacral (of the penance). The physical screen divided these two spheres; thus the main aim of the character of Roskolnikov was to overbear the separating shroud. The chime of the Orthodox Church heard just before the ending of the pageant invited to the mystery of high Mass and alluded to the possible flight of the soul. By following the trace of chime, Raskolnikov overcame the screen. Yet, the expected view modeled into the parquet where his victim was sitting. In this way, the audience of the performance devolved not the flight itself, but the theatrical reflection of it, bound to the repetition of the flight. The missperformance of the flight would assure the punishment of Raskolnikov.

The performance "Tales of the Millennium" by theatre amateurs - the theatre of the community of Kaunas School of St. Matthew - was also performed in the proximity of the altar. The performance was held in the Kaunas Jesuit Church of St. Xavier. An original scenario recreates images of the New Testament; biblical events are retold in a visual and metaphoric theatre language by choosing for their representation metaphors of memory from the history of sacral theatre. The star of Bethlehem is glistening like an oil lamp in a homestead of an archaic Lithuanian village; child murderers, sent by Herod, like antique colossuses step firmly onto the floor of the church demonstrating their force; the Virgin Mary leans towards the baby; Christ's pupils are already ambling around in waiting for their teacher; the cloth is being laid for the Last Supper; and again and again the cross of Golgotha is hammered.

In the performance, one is suggested to meditate on the phenomenon of the recurrence of sacral history. Sacral history is metaphorized here by comparing it with the shroud of Turin. The action of the performance enables one to compare in the imagination time and space and to turn them into the present day. In the hands of actors, the shroud from the manger of the Bethlehem stable in the performance will turn into the tablecloth of the Last Supper and the cross of Golgotha and Christ's cerements and the wings of the angels proclaiming the Resurrection. The director Tomas Erbrederis, together with a group of actors, has invited his audience to reconsider the meaning of the theatrical recurrences of sacral history. By retelling sacral events and returning them again and again into new places of memory, we become creators of history as art of memory as it was then - at the dawn of Catholic theatre - and as it is now - in histories of a new millennium, in which we recognize Teatrum Mundi.

The performance by the director Algimantas Armonas "The massacre of Kraziai" narrates an impressive historical drama of the confession of faith: on 24 December 1892, the Tsar's authorities closed the Benedictine convent. They also meant to close Kraziai Church of the Immaculate Conception of St. Virgin Mary and to destroy the cemetery. The congregation requested the governor-general to make it into the parish church (instead of the wooden St. Michael Church; they also requested to allow them to transform the latter into a cemetery chapel). On 22 June 1893, Tsar Alexander III, disregarded the requests and ordered the demolition of both the church and convent. The people prevented the closure of the church and watched it constantly. In November, in the churchyard, the massacre of Kraziai happened; the deaths of believers, injuries, imprisonment and exile marked this tragedy of the confession of faith.

On the stage of the theatre, the image of an altar is chosen as a symbol of faith (Truskauskaite, 2010). The altar by Kraziai inhabitants is identified not only with a real but also with a spiritual home. An act which symbolizes the destruction of this home is imaged as the trampling of the Holy sacrament, which is beaming in the altar's glory, by tsarist Cossacks. The whole performance is accompanied by songs of mourning for the dead, which are

sung in an archaic manner. This spectacle could be called the mystery of Christ's death and resurrection. Upon such an unexpected juxtaposition of an evangelical and historical event, Kraziai turns into a sacred place.

The visual metaphors of the flight, sacral places and symbols of faith in the above mentioned performances reflect the stories of falls and resurrections of contemporary human soul. These reflected stories unfold the spiritual landscape of the modern man altogethCT with his soul's recollection inspired long before by St. Ignatius.

5. Conclusions

The manifestations of the repetition and recollection strategies in contemporary Lithuania theatre productions are emphasized as the leading aspect characteristic of the educational processes in Lithuania Christian theatre. The images of the world Theatrum mundi as well as repetitions and recollection strategies, born from the theory and practice of the sacral play in the Jesuit baroque theatre, has revealed the essential mise en scene of Christian theatre - the sphere of the sacral and secular is the human, who comprehends him/herself to be in the sight of God. The images of Theatrum Mundi was reflected by Nobel prize winner Czeslaw Milosz as the search of Ordo amoris in a form of action and sensation, based on mimesis, in the development of a hierarchical reality. The reconstruction of Theatrum Mundi in Lithuanian Christian theatre is based on the mnemonic strategy of the spiritual flight to God's dwelling. The world consecrated to God is being re-created in the following productions: "The Fire-Proof City", "Idiot's Mass" and "Crime and Punishment" (2004). The recollections of memory in performances 'Tales of the Millennium" (2008) and "The Massacre of Kraziai" (2006) are grounded on the technique of eternalizing of sacral places (loci) and images. The visual metaphors of the flight, sacral places and symbols of faith in the above mentioned performances reflect the stories of falls and resurrections of contemporary human soul. The recollections strategy based on metaphors of memory is created in the re-enacted, remembered and repeated world of Theatrum Mundi.

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