Love is “one of the greatest dramas of human existence,” writes Pope John Paul II.
Jewelers Shop – Play written by future Pope John Paul II looks at love and marriage
BY TED LEWIS | Special to The Advocate NOV 9, 2016 – 7:00 AM
Perhaps uniquely qualified by the combination of his longtime profession and avocation, “The Jeweler’s Shop” seemed like the perfect vehicle for Stephen Dale to make his directorial debut.
But, Dale acknowledges, the production of the play has proved to be more of a challenge than he expected. Written by St. Pope John Paul II in 1960 — when he was still Karol Wojtyla — the play is going into its final weekend at the 30 by Ninety Theater in Mandeville.
“It’s not your normal play,” said Dale, “It’s about the timeless themes of love and marriage and how the wedding ring is meant to be eternal, but it’s also written in a serious, intellectual style that requires you to pay attention.
“I don’t think I could have chosen a harder one for my first one. But luckily, I’m blessed with some of the best actors on the north shore,” Stephen Dale said.
Still, the play, which is written in a rhapsodic style — “the theater of the word” — which means that the actors address their thoughts to the audience more than to each other, is an exercise in concentration.
To help things along, Dale has taken it out of the original black box staging to add more scenery, including designs adapted by cast member John Carambat from St. Joseph Abbey, and reworked some of the dialogue.
“We don’t want to distract from the integrity of the play,” Stephen Dale said. “At the same time, we want to accommodate modern tastes.”
Stephen dale also appears in the play as a musician whose songs move the story along. The production is being underwritten by Anne Dale Jewelers, Dale’s family business.
And as the store manager, he certainly has enough experience in the subject matter.
“The pope was writing about the importance of the sacrament of love and marriage, and that’s something we certainly see every day in our store when people come in to purchase engagement rings and wedding rings,” he said. “It’s a firsthand look at all kinds of relationships.”
The “Jeweler’s Shop” examines three of those relationships. Andrew and Teresa are a young couple whose friendship has blossomed into love; Stefan and Anna, are a married couple whose relationship is nearing its end; and Christopher and Monica are the son and daughter of the first and second couples, respectively, who are uncertain about marriage because of the experience of their parents.
All come to the shop to look at rings and wind up examining the meaning of their relationships, sometimes through parables such as The Mustard Seed.
“It’s like having a personal open window to their souls,” Dale said. “And if you didn’t know who wrote it, you would swear it was by someone who had been married nine or 10 times.”
And, Dale added, as difficult as directing the play has been, it also has been rewarding, particularly on opening night when the proceeds went to the abbey restoration fund and the seminarians were guests of the theater.
“I didn’t know it, but they have been studying the play,” he said. “And when it was over, they came up to me said things like, ‘You got it,’ and, ‘We loved it,’ and, ‘You touched our hearts.’
“That made it all worthwhile.”
The Jeweler’s Shop underwritten by Anne Dale Jewelers will conclude its run Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2:30 p.m. at the 30 by Ninety Theater, 880 Lafayette St. in Mandeville.