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Jeremy Stanbary’s Epiphany Studio Productions
BY BARB ERNSTER
Inspired by the writings of Pope John Paul II,
Jeremy Stanbary set out five years ago to combine his love for theater and for
the faith, and evangelize through the performing arts, especially to young
a young adult, Stanbary, 30, is very much aware of the competition he faces in
reaching the “YouTube generation.”
he believes live drama has a role in the New Evangelization.
while the road has been long and arduous for his company, Epiphany Studio
Productions, his work has caught on around the country, and new projects are
rolling in faster than he can keep up.
attention spans are short, and they’re so highly stimulated that it’s
challenging to reach them where they’re at,” acknowledged Stanbary. “Theater is
a highly personal form of art that has potential to impact youth, even more so
these days because they are so desensitized to the flashiness and digital media
around them. They’re looking for more personal encounters.”
forming Epiphany Studio Productions in 2003, Stanbary has written and performed
four plays before audiences in 50 cities in 15 states and at World Youth Day in
Cologne, Germany, where he was hosted by the Community of St. John.
World Youth Day
audiences from all over the world got the chance to see him perform at WYD in
Sydney, Australia, as part of the official Youth Festival. He performed two of
his plays; “Lolek,” which recounts the early life of Pope John Paul II up to
his priestly ordination, and “Alessandro,” a powerful story of conversion and
forgiveness about the man who murdered St. Maria Goretti.
plays will be part of EWTN’s 13-part series showcasing Catholic drama, in
conjunction with Theatre of the Word, Inc., and sold on DVD.
is particularly popular with young adults, who are so intrigued by Pope John
Paul II and naturally drawn in just by the subject matter, noted Stanbary.
“They see him as a person just like them, facing the challenges of faith and
life as a young adult. It touches them in a deeply spiritual way.”
Sondag, director of religious education at St. Helena Catholic Church in
Minneapolis, and publisher of The
Catholic Servant monthly paper,
sees it as a powerful tool of evangelization for even younger audiences.
I were a vocations director, I would commission Jeremy to go around to every
Catholic high school in their diocese to do a performance of ‘Lolek.’ It could
be a powerful witness for vocations,” said Sondag. “It shows how the cross was
a part of John Paul II’s priestly life.”
too, is geared toward younger audience, added Sondag, but it’s a great play
about forgiveness and God’s mercy that has the potential to move adults as
priests, teachers and youth ministers who have attended the play with youth
groups, have told Stanbary that it touched some of the most difficult kids that
they didn’t think could be reached — and opened up new lines of dialogue.
Matthew Wertin saw “Alessandro” several years ago while he was a seminarian at
Saint Paul Seminary in St. Paul, Minn. He knew it was a powerful vehicle for
evangelization, and he intends to bring the play to young audiences in the
Diocese of Pueblo, Colo., where he is now administrator at Our Lady of Mount
had never known that much about the story of St. Maria Goretti, and I remember
thinking, ‘Every young person needs to see this,’” said Father Wertin. “Even if
they’re not practicing their faith, this play would plant seeds in their
hearts. I’m sure that John Paul II is smiling down on Jeremy’s work.”
Annmarie Cosgrove, founder of Silent
No More Minnesota, which ministers to women who have had abortions, is counting
on Epiphany Studio Productions to help educate the public about the trauma and
devastation of abortion.
She is consulting with Stanbary on a
new play, “The Vitae Monologues,” which tells the true, emotional stories of
post-abortive women and men. Not all of the stories are about abortion, said
The play will include a segment
about a 10-year-old boy with Down syndrome, whose parents never intended to
abort him. He may actually appear as a character in the film production of the
The seeds for “The Vitae Monologues”
were planted when Stanbary attended a Silent No More rally at the pro-life
march in Minnesota on Jan. 22, 2005. He was moved by the women’s testimonies
and told Cosgrove that he wanted to do something about it.
“In Minnesota, you don’t plant seeds
in January, but this one grew,” said Cosgrove with a laugh. “These stories
change people’s lives, and I know Jeremy will do the play with great reverence
and respect to the audience. Anyone 12 and older will be able to see it.”
Cosgrove is particularly happy to
have Stanbary involved in this project because of his great love for the faith.
“His work doesn’t honor him, but he honors his work. He really is a beautiful
artist, and he has such a passion for the truth.”
Stanbary has also been asked to
produce a play for the Cathedral of St. Paul in St. Paul, Minn., to honor the
apostle Paul, at the close of his Jubilee Year in June 2009. He is also
interested in writing a play about Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, who has
captured the hearts of young people worldwide.
Theater and Faith
In his spare time, Stanbary is helping kids combine their love for theatre and the
faith through his E-Rhapsody Catholic Youth Theatre. Over the past two years,
130 kids ages 8 to 18 have participated in the program, which culminates with a
public stage performance.
Stephenson, a parent of three girls in the program, believes it has a strong role
in evangelizing, not only the audiences, but the kids who participate. Whether
or not they embrace a call for acting, she has definitely seen her kids grow in
patience, charity and other virtues.
is such a great role model for our kids, willing to give up so much to get his
message out there,” she said. “He is suffering and sacrificing to make the Lord
known. The children can sense this and model his conviction. He encourages them
to be ‘fools for Christ.’”
Barb Ernster writes from Fridley, Minnesota.