Finnegan's Awakeby Megan Finnegan
- Dialed down St. Patrick's Day
- A first time for everything
- Talking religion in 2011
- The uncertainty of prayer
- Smithsonian should have kept "ant-covered Jesus"
Posted by MeganFinnegan at 6/15/2009 12:23 PM EDT
Last Sunday, I heard a word uttered in the sanctuary of a Catholic church, a word that I would never have expected to hear spoken aloud during Mass, and that word was “transgender.”
To my further surprise, the word was not tossed out with disdain or incredulity, nor was it used as an example of the misguided or sinful. It was not put in quotation marks. It was not even a part of the homily. The lector merely included it during a prayer for intentions.
I've recently been spending my spare time as a minion of the Devil. Well, I've been portraying one during rehearsals for a play. When my boyfriend, currently a receptionist by trade and a writer and actor by passion and talent, said he wanted to put on a production of Christopher Marlowe's Doctor Faustus, I jumped at the chance to play Mephistopheles, the agent of Lucifer who secures foolish Faustus's soul. He reworked the text, bringing it back to its probable original form while also lending his own pen to fill in some gaps. We decided that he would play Faustus and I would play Mephistopheles, if only so that we could rehearse our scenes all the time. (Nothing like waking up and spouting off some lines about hell to start one's day.)
Immersing myself in this Elizabethan text about eternal damnation puts the nature of hell on my mind more frequently than normal. The play's take on hell is that it's not so much a specific place as the restriction from being in God's presence. Faustus conjures up Mephistopheles but still refuses to acknowledge that hell is a reality, until his final hour. Before that, he has thousands of chances to repent and turn to God. The trick of the play is that Faustus signs his soul over to the devil and believes it to be a binding agreement, but Mephistopheles knows that God's forgiveness is greater than any contract - if Faustus simply asks forgiveness, he will be allowed into heaven. In turn, however, a person's free will still trumps all, and God all but appears to Faustus to plead with him to abandon his commitment to the devil and avoid eternal damnation, but Faustus is too arrogant and foolish to listen until it is literally too late.
As a cast, we volley back and forth about the nature of hell, in reality and in the world of the play - not because we're concerned about the afterlife, but in order to create the right blocking and build theatrical moments. When we leave, though, the haunting verses of Faustus's dying lines linger in the brain, and I can't help but think of the reality.