A saint and redemption at core of Open Window's latest
In 1902, Alessandro Serenelli attempted to rape 12-year-old Maria Goretti. She resisted, and the 19-year-old mortally stabbed her. Before she died, Maria forgave her murderer. The young woman was canonized and declared a saint.
The story of Goretti and Serenelli form the foundation of Mercy Unrelenting, the latest offering from Open Window Theatre. The show was written and directed by the company's artistic director, Jeremy Stanbary, who looked closely at the events and the moral and ethical underpinnings of the event.
"The real story of Maria Goretti and Alessandro Serenelli has inspired millions the world over in the past 100 years, and yet today it's not very well known outside of Catholic circles," says Stanbary. "But I believe it's a story that holds some important messages for our modern world, which is why I've been inspired to share it in a fresh and theatrical way through Mercy Unrelenting."
The story delves into deep issues: "What is the value and importance of forgiveness, particularly towards an unrepentant individual? Does forgiveness in some way justify the offense, or is there a deeper and more significant value, strengths, and power in it?" Stanbary says.
While Stanbary had a compelling story, he came up against a number of issues when he started to dramatize it. "I obviously couldn't delve into every issue in great detail, but that's the beautiful thing about art: It leaves room for interpretation and further discussion. It's also an extremely dramatic story in so many ways, dealing with a violent murder and its aftermath, as well as Alessandro's life-changing experience when he claimed to have a mystical vision of Maria in his prison cell," says Stanbary.
The playwright crafted the piece as a memory play, "which gives me a lot of artistic license to dramatize the story in some very artistic and theatrical ways. So the play jumps around between the past and present and I've tried to break up the story and offer some poignant reflection on it in meaningful ways," he says.
Stanbary hopes to see a personal improvement through his work on the show. "I hope to become a better person through this experience. A more forgiving, compassionate, and loving individual," he says. "This attitude does not excuse wrong-doing, not at all. It just recognizes that evil and hatred will never be conquered by more evil and hatred, they must be conquered by radical goodness."
The playwright hopes that extends to the audience who comes to see the show.
"In light of the very broken and tragedy-stricken world in which we live, where deep divisions among various groups of people and the frequency of violent crimes seem to grow and intensify on an almost daily basis, I would love for audiences to walk away from this show inspired by a message of forgiveness and mercy," Stanbary says.
IF YOU GO:
7:45 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays; 2 p.m. Sundays through May 19
Through May 19
Open Window Theatre
1313 Chestnut Ave. #102, Minneapolis
For tickets and more information, call 1.800.838.3006 or visit online
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