Nicene Noir Script
Click on the image below to download a MS WORD version of Nicene Noir, a play by Neil Olsen, presented as a Trinity Players dinner theater on July 9, 2016, or download as a PDF file.
In 1975, as part of a revitalization of Trinity Church, and an exciting reinvestigation of its liturgy and service traditions, Trinity Players was reformed to present liturgical or sermon dramas in the chancel (and sometimes the nave) of the church under the direction of the Rev. Robert Sandine, minister of the arts, presenting original plays by various parishioner authors, including Neil C. Olsen, Carol Edwards, Susan Bingham, and Laura Patrie. The group was co-founded with a community theater group, The Something Players; Trinity Players and Something Players jointly presented The Lark at Trinity in 1992. Since 1975, Trinity Players has presented from one to four short plays each year at Trinity Church and other local churches as part of its mission to spread the gospel in mimetic form. In 1979 (see picture) it presented Noyes Fludde on the Green. In 2002 it presented the Anniversary Play Golden Arches Golden Pipes. In 2007 it presented Nicene Nior during the Festival of Arts and Ideas — a play which was presented in 2015 in Tucson at Grace St. Paul’s, and again at Trinity as a dinner theater in 2016. In 2008 we began reading plays on a ad hoc basis, including Shakespeare. In 2010 a very popular “dinner theater” began the tradition of offering a Christmas play reading along with dinner in the church undercroft.
Trinity Players welcomes everyone to join and participate.
Our aim is to present the gospel message in dramatic form, continuing a tradition of liturgical drama that began in the tenth century while enriching the worship experience within the traditional service. Three or four times a year, the Trinity Players presents a liturgically integrated chancel Drama or Opera in place of the usual sermon. The work is inspired either by a scriptural passage or adapted from a classic Christian work of drama or literature. The dramas are frequently presented at other local churches upon invitation, as well as for local church festivals and public events, including “mission” performances on the noisy but vital New Haven Green. Some of the works are so popular that they have been performed more than once over the 42 years (so far) of liturgical drama at Trinity.
Our Opening Prayer
Trinity players opens each rehearsal and performance with a prayer. One of its long time members, Ed Getlein, wrote a prayer in verse which is read before the opening performance.
ED GETLEIN’s POEM for the TRINITY PLAYERS
Oh Lord, be with us now, we pray,
In lines we speak and parts we play;
May all our mimes and speeches be
A help to all who hear and see.
If through us some small light may shine
Upon things plain and things Divine,
We only ask, when the curtain descends,
Be with us when our music ends.
Drama has been a part of Trinity Players for a long time. In 1922 Trinity’s Girls’ Friendly Society organized a Passing Show at the Schubert Theater with 250 local people performing songs and dances; it included a group of Dutch children in wooden shoes, and according to the New Haven Evening Register of June 8, 1922, a “group of little girls in kilts who march like a Highland Regiment, all performed as a benefit for a home for ‘business girls’.”
When the Trinity Parish House was built in 1925 it included three four-room apartments, a gymnasium, kitchen, dining room, offices, and a really beautiful auditorium that seated 416; it was sold to Yale in 1980 and is now the Whitney Humanities Center. In addition to showing movies, the auditorium became the home of the first incarnation of Trinity Players. Growing out of the Youth Group and the Supper Club about the same time as the parish house was built in the mid-twenties, it put on regular performances of community theater. In the mid-thirties, along with the Trinity Young Men’s Club, it mounted an antiwar play called The Grail, by Albert Mark Foster, which stirred up a bit of local controversy at the time. This was actually written by Foster Furculowe, an athlete, lawyer, actor, playwright, and Trinity Church member. It and others of his plays were performed at local theaters as well as in the parish house. Under his original name, John Foster Furcolo, he ran for office and was elected representative to the 2nd Congressional District in Massachusetts, and then elected and re-elected Governor of Massachusetts, serving from 1957 to 1961. After leaving office he was indicted on charges of bribery, but perhaps his skills as an actor served him well, for he beat the rap and the indictment was dismissed.
In the following years Trinity organizations continued to use the parish house for theater; during the time Lawson Willard was rector (1940-1970), they mounted a production of a play by the rectors’ neighbor and friend Thornton Wilder; we think the author of the most performed play of modern times attended and approved our offering of Our Town. Members of our Players group also found back behind the clock in the rear of the Church an ancient (circa 1920’s) carbon arch spot, indicating some dramas were performed in church (at least the annual and venerable Christmas Pageant). But as drama in New Haven and Yale grew in professionalism, the need for community theaters correspondingly declined, and no records of performances exist between the fifties and the seventies.
In 1975 the modern Trinity Players was founded by the Rev. Robert Sandine and the Rev. Phil Weihe. The new idea was to present theater integrated into the liturgy by replacing the usual scripture-based sermon with a scripture-based “sermon drama.” In addition to presenting sermon dramas integrated into the liturgy, and the occasional full length evening chancel drama, it sponsored the more secular productions of The Something Players, a community theater group that performed in the Trinity Parish House, the Trinity Church Nave, Eli Whitney’s Barn, and in the “black box” theater in the basement of The Church of the Redeemer after 1980 when the Trinity Parish House was sold to Yale. Trinity Players also typically takes their Sermon Drama on the road, performing each play twice at Trinity services, and typically two more times at other local churches, sometimes as far afield as Philadelphia. On two occasions it has competed with the traffic and bustle of the Green, and performed on the church apron just as its medieval predecessors must have done. It has also performed twice at the General Convention of the Episcopal Church.
Very soon after founding Trinity Players, Trinity Church helped found the community-based theater group The Something Players as an outreach program to the larger New Haven Community. The community theater quickly took on a life of its own, and has performed many plays, with a mission that takes it beyond the typical community theater offering, including Oedipus Rex, As you Like It, The Lady’s Not for Burning by Christoper Fry, and a number of original plays.
Lay Ministry through Drama: Why We Do What We Do
St Francis is reputed to have said, “Preach the Gospel every day, and if necessary, use words.” From our indissoluble baptismal initiation by water and the Holy Spirit into the Church, we are commanded to “proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ.” Our international Christian religion, and the Anglican Communion in particular, though founded on the Word made English, is also founded on the Word made flesh. And proclaiming “by word and example” is pretty much a definition of drama. Or as 1 Corinthians 4:9 puts it (with a slightly unusual translation), “we have become a theater to the world, to angels and to all humanity.” With drama, our lay people may preach the word to the people of the world, the words of a hidden God to the unconverted, the fallen off, and to the faithful, and obey the baptismal covenant’s injunction to “do all in your power to support these persons in their life in Christ.” Drama is one way those without, and sometimes even with, the gifts of vocation, preaching, singing, or wealth, may also preach the gospel, using action, scenery, lights, spectacle, and sometimes even using words.
The mansion of religious drama has many rooms, and many types of plays. There are liturgical dramas added to the existing service: these are known as tropes, and have been around ever since Bishop Ethelwold of Winchester scripted Quem Quaertas in 970 AD. These are sometimes called Lesson Dramas or Epistle Dramas, and Trinity, in addition to those below, annually performs a children’s Christmas pageant and on Palm Sunday an end-of-service trope describing the trial and death of Jesus. Chancel dramas are simply any drama performed in a chancel, and may be short or full length. Sermon dramas, unlike tropes, replace the sermon, with the same pedagogical intent of illuminating the scripture reading for the congregation.
Sermon Drama Performances
This is a partial list of some of the plays we have presented over the last 30+ years. Note that some of the sermon dramas were presented two or more times. Other churches have presented some of the more popular plays as well.
- Quem Quaeritis (performed twice)
- Good News Tonight– words by Ivan Vasey, music by Philip and Sarah Wieh
- When the Angels Cried: Abraham and Isaac –adapted from the Legend of the Jews by Robert Sandine
- Scenes from Marriage– adapted from the works of various playwrights – by Robert Sandine
- Visitatio Sepulcher– from the Latin liturgical service
- Christ in the Concrete City– by Philip Turner (performed twice)
- Our Town, Act III– by Thornton Wilder
- Let Man Live– by Par Lagerkvist
- Grab and Grace– by Charles Williams (performed twice)
- A Conversation Between Mary and the Angel Gabriel– words and music by Susan Bingham
- Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat– by Rice and Webber, Sign of Jonah – by E. Rutenbern
- The Grand Inquisitor– by Neil Olsen from Dostoevsky (performed three times)
- Woman at Jacob’s Well– words and music by Susan Bingham
- Noah’s Flood– Anonymous, modernized from the Coventry Pageant Play – by Neil Olsen
- The Beginning– by Arnold Thomas
- The Raising of Lazarus– words and music by Susan Bingham
- Return from Babel– by Neil Olsen (performed three times)
- On the Road to Emmaus– words and music by Susan Bingham (performed twice)
- The Babel Trilogy– by Neil Olsen (performed twice)
- The Awakening– words by Neil Olsen, music by Susan Bingham (performed twice)
- Simeon– words and music by Susan Bingham
- The Potting Shed– adapted from Graham Greene’s play by Neil Olsen
- The Sacrifice of Isaac– words and music by Susan Bingham
- The Rose Fire– based on The Princess and Curdie by George MacDonald by Neil Olsen
- Ruth– words and music by Susan Bingham
- Not for Death– by Neil Olsen
- Golden Arches Golden Pipes: The First Hundred Years of Trinity Church– a history pageant by Neil Olsen, presented in 2002 and 2016 as Anniversary plays.
- Oh that Lazarus (performed twice), a fundraiser play by Neil Olsen
- Holiday from Hell– adapted from C.S. Lewis’s The Great Divorce by Neil Olsen (performed twice)
- The Scallion – by Neil Olsen
- The Second Shepherd’s Play– by the Wakefield Master from the Wakefield Mystery Play Cycle, modernized and cut to sermon length by Neil Olsen (performed twice)
- When the Angels Cried: the Story of Abraham and Isaac from the Legends of the Jews – by Neil Olsen (performed three times)
- A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Jericho– by Tom Long, of Friends of the Groom
- Fragments from The Balance– a play about Harry Croswell, by Neil Olsen
- 12 Hours of Daylight– by Laura Patrie
- Jacob, medieval mystery play
- This Must be Paradise– adapted from the York Cycle Creation Plays
- The King Post– adapted from “The Boy with the Cart” by Christopher Fry
- Nicene Noir, by Neil Olsen, (performed three times)
- Everyman’s Isle – a religious parody of reality tv shows based on The Summoning of Everyman by Neil Olsen