Last night’s meeting of the St. Louis Chesterton Society was the first one at our new “home” at Pauline Books and Media on Watson Road in Crestwood. First, we should thank the Sisters for their hospitality, and an apology. More on this later.
We had some new faces owing primarily I think to the recent publicity we’ve had through the Theater of the Word productions and associated advertising. Everyone at the meeting had either seen the performance or was a cast member, and so we had quite a spirited discussion of The Surprise as a piece of literature, and about the production and performances of it. Kevin O’Brien talks a bit about it at his blog Waiting for Gogodot To Leave. As promised, I read/performed the “By the crown or Charlemagne…” speech in which The King finally chooses the wrong thing.
Turns out there was a theological criticism of the play: someone thought it was vaguely Calvinistic in the Total Depravity sense: that it is impossible for them with free will to choose the good. The Puppeteer (The Author) went to some trouble to explain in the entr’acte that the puppets with free will had something added, not something taken away, and that they “have it in them” to behave as magnificently in the second act as they had in the first. This was my defense of Chesterton against the charge of Calvinism: i.e. that he explicitly denied it.
The Surprise is a “talky” play with some moments of drama and acting. Maybe this complaint made in good faith demonstrates the power of a dramatization over a speech. Yes, The Puppeteer told us about his puppets, but the audience sees and responds more viscerally to what the characters do than to what it’s told about the characters’ character. Hmmmm.
To show our thanks to the sisters we should find a way to make their hospitality a bit easier for them to provide. As it happens, the bookstore and the convent are the same building: when we use the meeting room in the bookstore we are actually in the sisters’ home. One problem is that the bookstore is closed during our meeting, and that means the doors are locked. It is easy enough to gain admission — ring the doorbell and one of the sisters opens the door.
The problem is that people come late. So the doorbell gets rung a lot, and we in the meeting room can’t hear it (it actually works through the phone system). This means and some poor sister must answer the door. And so I am embarassed I did not think of this, and apologize to all of them for their trouble. Now, they’re very kind about it, but I don’t think it is reasonable that they should act as Inner Sentinels for us, and we should come up with a way to solve the problem.
I’ m thinking we should post a cellphone number on the door and people should interrupt us instead of the sisters. Those without cellphones should make every effort to arrive a little before seven. Now that I think about it, so should those with cellphones. Of course the vagaries of traffic and life generally will sometimes conspire against us. I understand. But still.