LINDSBORG, KAN., October 11, 2011—The intense, controversial three-character play, Agnes of God, is brought to Burnett stage by Bethany College Theatre. The play will be presented on November 3, 4, and 5 at 7:30 p.m. in Burnett Center. General admission is $5; seating is limited to 60 guests.
Written by John Peilmeier, Agnes of God follows Agnes, a young nun accused of murdering the newborn child she delivered in her convent room. Agnes is sent to be examined by Dr. Martha Livingston, a court-assigned psychiatrist, to determine whether Agnes is insane or guilty.
Sister Miriam Ruth, Mother Superior of the convent, is determined to protect the innocent and naïve Agnes, whom she believes to be special—indeed, touched by God. But Miriam Ruth’s desire to abbreviate the psychiatry sessions and return Agnes to the quiet safety of the convent only serves to push Dr. Livingstone to dig deeper for the truth.
Who fathered the child? Why can Agnes remember little or nothing of either the conception or the birth? Why is Miriam Ruth so anxious to bring the sessions to an end? But Miriam Ruth has her own questions. Why is the atheist Dr. Livingston so determined to push Agnes to remember what happened, even at the risk of jeopardizing the young nun’s fragile psyche?
What begins as an effort to discover the truth quickly becomes a battle between Livingstone and Miriam Ruth for the life, and quite possibly the soul, of young Agnes. As Livingstone asks more and more questions, and Miriam Ruth asks a few of her own, all three women are forced to reexamine the meaning of faith and the power of love.
The Bethany Theatre production features sophomores Sarah Doering, Raleigh, N.C., as Dr. Livingstone and Elizabeth Ford, Effingham, Kan., as Sister Miriam Ruth. Freshman Ashley Glover, Emporia, Kan., is cast in the role of Sister Agnes.
The 1979 drama was a hit on Broadway in 1982, earning actress Amanda Plummer a Tony Award for her performance as Sister Agnes. A film version starring Jane Fonda and Ann Bancroft was released in 1985.
On one level, the play is murder mystery, but as theater critic Isabel Owen observed, “it runs far deeper than that. We are presented with two conflicting sets of beliefs to choose between. Who is right, the voice of science of the voice of religion? Will Agnes be saved by truth or innocence? Logic or faith? Cloistered ignorance or harsh reality?”
The New York Daily News described the Agnes of God as “Riveting, powerful, electrifying drama…,” while the New York Times said it is an “outstanding play [that]…deals intelligently with questions of religion and philosophy.”
Bethany College, established by Swedish Lutheran immigrants in 1881, is a college of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. The mission of Bethany College is to educate, develop and challenge individuals to reach for truth and excellence as they lead lives of faith, learning and service. Bethany College is on the Web at www.bethanylb.edu/.