By Petra Alexander
Vincent van Gogh
Saint Teresa of Jesus
Stage set-up: Seven portrait frames are placed against a double wall. The seven portraits will try to agree with the wardrobe, make-up, and objects and some of the more popularly known paintings. The scenery should carefully show only persons through the portrait frames. A posted bill reads: “Vocation Gallery”.
Father Juan is a priest-artist, enjoys painting and music, and is putting the last touches to his works, he has a palette in one hand and a brush on the other and is talking in a loud voice.
Father Juan: Alright, it’s time to practice because I want to surprise those kids with these paintings tomorrow (clears throat, turns to audience) ‘Welcome boys and girls, to Saint Teresa of Jesus parish.
Here you have the images of people that have given so much to human kind. For example Christopher Columbus, with the background of the endless sea that always encouraged him to take risks. His sailing ships were always waiting for new adventures. Beside him I have placed some of my favorite musicians, Mozart and Beethoven, many think that in real life they did not get along well but I’ve never believed it. They both were geniuses and we’ll have the chance to listen to some of their music in our reflections later on. I have them here because despite their difficulties in life, they used their extraordinary gifts and were very fruitful.
Ah! But we are going to meet a man that lived enthusiastically for colors: Vincent van Gogh, someone special that even though everyone thought that his paintings were jokes, he has become the most acclaimed painter in galleries. Another person in love with colors was Frida, a woman that suffered much with bodily pain, she painted herself many times and this is the version known as Frida with the monkey. In Frida I find the colors of the Mexican people, where my parents are from originally. This is my copy of the Mona Lisa, behind her is Leonardo’s genius. To me the Gioconda is an image that can never be out of fashion, it is the ideal of both beauty and reality.
Of course we could not miss our patroness saint: Teresa of Avila, a joyful and determined woman that lived hard times for the church.
(While the priest faces and talks to the public, the portraits make some gestures. Mona Lisa takes out a mirror and brushes her hair. Frida plays with her monkey, Saint Teresa moves her dove. Van Gogh takes out a palette and brush, and shows the public and enormous tube of yellow paint, Mozart takes out an MP3. Beethoven has earphones and both want some speakers. They look out of their portrait frames)
As you can see behind me, this banner announces the retreat’s theme; Vocational Gallery. I think that young people all over the world need to hear the story of these great people and let themselves be inspired!... Ahhh, that was a good practice!!! (yawns and stretches) I am very tired. I think I need a breather. My show is almost finished, themes too. I’m hoping to have a great turnout tomorrow; these youths are in for a real treat. But for now, I’m off for some rest, some music would help.
(Moonlight serenade is heard loudly and the priest falls asleep)
Beethoven cups his hand con his ear, recognizing his music. All of them look out of the portrait frames and stare at him.
Gioconda: Hey, isn’t this a song you composed? Excuse me if I sound a bit direct, but is it true that you composed this music for a woman whom you were secretly in love with?
Beethoven: (coughs loudly) But what nonsense! Why must everything in this world be misinterpreted? You should have heard the gossip about myself in Vienna. It was outrageous!
Frida: Chill out, all these rumors are cause by the influence of gossip programs on television. It is the only thing people care about- who gets married or who unmarries who, things celebrities buy… all of it is nonsense if you ask me.
Teresa: Well I think your music is precious and inspired by an angel.
Beethoven: Sister, sometimes the best things that we do are not inspired by angels but by difficult experiences.
Frida: I agree, my pains inspired many things throughout my life too (she sighs).
Beethoven: I composed this music when I was tormented by headaches and my physicians told me that I would lose my hearing ability.
Columbus: That’s terrible! Losing the hearing for a musician is the same thing as a sailor losing his sight.
Beethoven: Indeed it is. Rumors aside, I composed this music for a blind young lady, daughter of a cook woman. I would often see her cry and when I asked her mother, she told me that her daughter cried because she wanted to know how moonlight looked like.
Van Gogh: Ah, and you gave her the colors, forms of night and of the stars in music. That’s incredible! Your music has the calmed shine of the moon. Gimme five dude!!! I also tried painting that similar theme and I think I did pretty good (takes out and shows “Starry Night” to everyone)
Teresa: That is why it came out so tender because besides the beauty of the moon, you expressed your solidarity with that poor wretch.
Mozart: Music is the most expressive of languages; through it you can say almost anything.
Van Gogh: That is how I feel about painting, if you were to fill this room with canvasses and would give me many colors, I would have much to say.
Frida: Thank you Mr. Luigi for telling us something very private. Father seems to think that with today’s music, young people are going to have something to think about.
Columbus: Poor Father Juan, I am afraid he might be disappointed. I’m not a big fan of music these days, they have terrible rhythms that remind me of the lightning in the Atlantic.
Mozart: Rhythms are the same but what young people have is new energy. I always enjoyed meeting the young in public squares, concert halls, wherever they were, they have inside them the most vibrant percussions.
Gioconda: Did I hear Father right? Did he say that many young people are coming? Oh no! I am having a horrible hair day (she takes out brushes, hair iron, etc. and tries desperately to do something with her hair).
Frida: May I suggest a more Mexican solution. (she shows her hair braided with color ribbons)
(Gioconda shows a face of astonishment)
Gioconda: Oh heck no! That is not a fashion in Paris.
Frida: Well for your information, I was in Paris and they really liked it. All you need is courage and if you don’t like it, you can put a veil on your head like her (points to Sr. Teresa)
Teresa: This is a nun’s veil. I am Teresa of Jesus, from Avila, Spain. This veil means that I am consecrated to God.
Gioconda: Well I don’t live in a convent; I live in a famous museum where all tourists want is pictures and videos.
Columbus: Madame Teresa, it is for me a joy to meet you; the famous reformer that took to the roads. (They greet each other) Nice to meet you. It is an honor.
Gioconda: We have three very famous women in this hall today…. Oh fame!!! I am tired of it. In my museum, the Louvre, there is much stress! Up to hundred thousand visitors a day during the summer, they all pay to meet the famous.
Mozart: When you say “Fame” what do you mean by that?
Frida: Fame is written with “F”… You know what else starts with the letter f? Foolish, fatuous, fantasy, fever…
Van Gogh: Well, fame never mattered to me. I think I lived on the other side of the planet cause all I ever met was rejection and indifference.
Beethoven: Did I hear right? You, the best valued artist by all galleries never knew luck nor fame during all your lifetime?
Van Gogh: That is right, nobody ever bought any of my paintings and I think it was for the best, because instead of stressing out about making money, I focused on my colors with an insane passion.
Frida: Do not talk about passions. I think I suffered more from passion for my husband than from the pains of being a handicap.
Teresa: But passion is part of human nature. I am sure that God put it on your way for a reason; the problem is leading that passion towards a good end.
Columbus: I agree, that is why God created the seas, so that man could take his passion out onto the waves, so that he would come alive out of a tempest and know new landscapes.
Van Gogh: But you are right, at sea, one has to be watchful, always finding the way, because if you get lost, your dreams end up too.
Columbus: I won fame by being daring, with audacity, with courage.
Mozart: Well I don’t think I have ever won fame, but fame found me. (He laughs nervously) I was still a child not even able to reach the piano stool and I already played a sonata. The princess of Austria wanted to adopt me (He laughs).
Frida: If that were to have happened, forget it. A princess would have had a prodigal child like another one of her exhibition dogs.
Gioconda: Fame is deserved by a few one, like my Leonardo. Ah Leonardo, he was indeed a genius, (gloating) I came out of his hands.
Beethoven: Fame has nothing to do with genius, nor with inspiration.
Mozart: Well said. Sometimes, fame has to do with power, with favors, with luck, even with accidents.
Gioconda: For me at the museum I am tired of that parade of empty people that come to see the works of the great masters. They seem to me so poor inside. I do not find that spark or whatever you call it, that flame, that light, that “something” that encourages one from the inside with all its might, with all its passion. They don’t have it, their empty.
Teresa: That spark, that “something” to me it is called vocation.
Columbus: I was going to say that to me it’s called navigation, but your right. It is a vocation. While I’m awake, I dream of new seas and asleep I built boats, raise sails…
Mozart: My vacation would be music. Believe me when I say that sometimes I would have no money, not even for a coffee. But all I wanted was time, room to compose and practice, meet musicians, visit halls, parks- some where music would be heard.
Beethoven: I know that feeling, young people feel it when they write and write and they make agreements with their friends and they tell them everything they have inside them.
Frida: You think the young people of today express themselves?
Gioconda: I doubt it, they live depending on one another through invisible ties in all kinds of gadgets. I see them every day, just moving their thumbs at full speed.
Mozart: (He is imitating sending a texting) Tick, tick, tack, tock, tick… Ah, somebody texted me. Oh I got a new email!
Frida: some young people chat with several at the same time, in a mix of signs, faces, pictures, photos. It seems chaotic to me.
Van Gogh: Maybe we were much simpler. I do not know. I remember it was so much easier to express myself. One of my happiest memories was when I discovered the color yellow. It all began when I painted the sunflowers. I was elated, then I couldn’t stop painting! I painted yellow fields, roads, houses, chairs. It was like a yellow explosion all over.
Frida: That what you name vocation, I name it life.
Teresa: Madame Frida, you talk of truths of the soul. Our first calling and vocation is caring for life. God called us to be alive. He himself said it: “I came so you could have abundant life.”
Van Gogh: Sometimes we are reminded that we are alive because life hurts us.
Columbus: When one sails for many days one feels a great thirst, sailors pray for rain to fall from the sky and gather it. Water teaches a thirsty person how much life should be loved.
Mozart: Life is valued when we are about to lose it. Then we know that it was the most precious of all gifts.
Beethoven: Life is an eternal symphony. All creatures of the universe invite us to appreciate life.
Gioconda: I have found out that lately many creatures are dying. Companies throw chemicals and leave so much death at the seas, in the rivers…
(Columbus cuts in the conversation)
Columbus: Silence Mona Lisa, a sea without life is a just puddle of salt.
Gioconda: I have read in the papers that are left around in my museum that nowadays rules a culture of death; nothing but death, destruction, war.
Teresa: Now that is what I call a sin.
Van Gogh: Sometimes one lives in such loneliness, such crisis that one would like to fly somewhere else like birds (shows a painting)
Frida: I know where you are heading Vincent my friend. Tone it down a bit, you left this world because you were after true life.
Teresa: That is what I proposed to my nuns: live the poverty, chastity and obedience. (They all were surprised) If in the world they think that one went nuts and commited suicide, even if it wasn’t true, we look for poverty, chastity and obedience as a way to say that we lived another true life.
Columbus: I think I understand you. We have a vocation to fulfill; it’s not to live many years, but to complete our mission.
Gioconda: I don’t know, I just don’t see it. I see many people just looking at fashion. It seems to me that they all are copies of one another. I loved Leonardo, my creator, because he did not copy anything. Everything he did was original.
Teresa: I feel in tune with what you’re saying, but I think we are all original creations of God.
Frida: I painted myself many times. I was ill a long time and had time to study myself.
Teresa: Ah Madame Frida, how large is God’s gift of self-knowledge.
Columbus: Many people do not find their vocation, because they do not know themselves.
Van Gogh: The thing is that many do know themselves but they do not like themselves.
Gioconda: I like myself because I am sure that I was created by a genius.
Teresa: We were all created by a genius.
Gioconda: Wait, you were created by Leonardo too?
Teresa: (looks at Gioconda in disbelief) I was referring to God’s genius. I always encouraged everyone I met to ask with humility for the gift of self-knowledge.
Beethoven: You think that we need to pray for that?
Teresa: Of course. Do you not find it sad that somebody lives many years without knowing who he/she is, that one who is near dying without understanding why he/she is in the world?
Frida: Certainly! My friend Vincent, I am sure that you too painted yourself many times, trying to find out who you were and what your mission was. Mother Teresa, I never thought I would come to like you so much.
Gioconda: I thought that nuns had very strange ideas and because of that they would lock themselves in convents thus running away from life.
Teresa: Oh heavens no! I was always interested in all that happened in my world to put it before God. We did not lock ourselves, we are in solitude to know God better and know ourselves.
Beethoven: Well without agreeing completely, I understand what you mean about being in solitude to find yourself. I needed that myself.
Gioconda: Mother Teresa, do you think they would allow me to stay a few days in one of your convents? Living in a famous museum has me close to a nervous breakdown.
Van Gogh: Watch your nerves, because one can do many crazy things.
Teresa: Do not worry, prayer gives back harmony and the relationship with our creator.
Gioconda: Did you say your creator? That is what I want the most. How it would help me to be in touch with my great Leonardo?
Columbus: Mother Teresa I lived among many seamen and they always said: “he who does not know how to pray should be sunk in the sea.”
Frida: Did it work?
Columbus: Of course! Put human beings before the unknown, they’ll be screaming to the Creator to give back their peace.
Beethoven: Sometimes there are great seas inside each person because of their grief and pains.
Frida: You really know about life. I think your deep music is equal to my intense colors.
Teresa: Do not forget that our creator shows himself softly, when we serve one another with our gifts no matter how humble they are.
Van Gogh: True, I was frustrated because they thought I was crazy but my brother was so good up to the point that he would stop eating to buy me brushes and paints.
Beethoven: What a big heart your brother had.
Teresa: Nobody gets a calling from God for himself. Through our gifts we are called to be a blessing for others.
Mozart: Mother Teresa I like what you say. When we know who we are and why we are here in this world, we do not go through life just thinking about fame, power, fashion, or money. But in what we can give to make life better and more human.
Beethoven: We go through life doing what we have to do and in it we find reasons to live but also we leave to others a little light and example of these reasons.
Teresa: With your music you lent your eyes to a blind girl, Van Gogh with his “Starry Night” lent his hope to a depressed one…
Van Gogh: Thank you Mother Teresa, I wish I knew you before. You really understand my work. I would even have given you one of my yellow paintings as a present.
Frida: (she laughs loudly) But the churches I knew were very dark. I do not know if your yellow paintings would fit in there. Possibly you and I need to go out to the fields, the markets and find there that satisfaction of which Mother Teresa is talking about.
Mozart: Madame Frida there is a painting of yours that I admire deeply, I knew that you painted it after hours of crying. You called that painting “Viva la vida”
Frida: How did you know? That is one of my favorite paintings. I learned that from the poor people, they seemed destined to death but they strived in living. Even skulls were made out of sugar and filled with flowers.
Teresa: Sugar skulls with flowers? What a beautiful idea. We monks must have a skull in every room, to think constantly that we are passers by in this life.
Gioconda: That is scary! A skull as decoration???
Frida: Do not worry. You should visit the cemeteries of Mexico on All Souls Day. There it is a beautiful party.
Mozart: It is like my Mass for the Dead, a celebration of joy behind pain.
Columbus: I understand that well. To us seamen there is no better experience than a dawn after a stormy night.
Gioconda: Why did you name your favorite painting Viva la vida? Doesn’t that translate to long live life? What a strange name for a painting.
Teresa: It is a perfect name, our calling is life (she invites all to clap their hands). Joins us everybody, in singing “Viva la Vida”
Coldplay’s song “Viva la Vida” goes up. All characters come out of their portrait frames and dance merrily. Before the music ends the Father awakes, and is frightened, music goes down, all return to their portrait frames.
Father Juan: Whoa! I’m not trying to imitate, but I’ve had a dream! I think I will talk to the youth about the importance of knowing themselves, to value themselves as God’s creatures and to be sure that the first calling and vocation is to life.