Folks, this is going to be cool. Blackbird Theater company here in Nashville is reviving one of the Rabbit Room’s favorite author’s only plays, and we get to be a small part of it. The guys behind Blackbird Theater are talented, intelligent, and passionate about telling stories this way–I know because I’ve attended each of their productions so far and have come away each time enriched and grateful. (I also felt like my brain was going to split open. In a good way.)
So we’re partnering with Blackbird to offer exactly 20 of you Rabbit Roomers a special evening. On Saturday, August 13, at 7:30 p.m., at Shamblin Theater on Lipscomb University campus, we’re going, by Jove. Not only will we get 20 discount tickets, we’ll convene somewhere afterward to talk about Chesterton, Magic, and cheese. (Pipes are optional.) It should be a great night, so get them while you can.
In case you’re wondering who the heck G.K. Chesterton is, the following piece by Wes Driver, the director of the play, will acquaint you with the jolly Englishman whose fierce wit, intelligence, and faith planted some of the seeds that blossomed into C.S. Lewis’s conversion to Christianity.
by Wes Driver
Whenever I tell people our next show is Magic by G.K. Chesterton, I’m usually met with one of two responses. It’s either “Oh, okay,” with a polite nod, as if to say, “I have no idea who or what that is—poor guy, doesn’t he know there are perfectly good Neil Simon plays available through Samuel French?” Or it’s “Are you kiddin’ me? Chesterton is my favorite writer! I’ll come see the show, take arsenic during the curtain call, and die a happy, happy man.”
Chesterton’s is not a household name. Not anymore, at least. In Edwardian England, though, he was one of the towering intellectuals alongside H.G. Wells and his friend and foil George Bernard Shaw (who called him “a man of colossal genius”). As a journalist, he wrote on just about everything—government, philosophy, history, religion, science, Christmas, cheese—and was one of the most quotable men who ever lived:
“The whole modern world has divided itself into Conservatives and Progressives. The business of Progressives is to go on making mistakes. The business of Conservatives is to prevent mistakes from being corrected.”
“A good novel tells us the truth about its hero; but a bad novel tells us the truth about its author.”
“The poet only asks to get his head into the heavens. It is the logician who seeks to get the heavens into his head. And it is his head that splits.”
“I’ve searched all the parks in all the cities and found no statues of committees.”
And there’s more. Much, much more. Chesterton wrote volumes of poetry, fiction, mysteries (probably most well known for his Father Brown stories), was an acclaimed debater, one of Christianity’s greatest apologists—brilliant and fiercely funny—and a major influence on writers such as C.S. Lewis, John Updike, and Neil Gaiman. And although he’s been largely neglected for the last seventy-five years (except by literature junkies and people in bowties), his works are beginning to experience a renaissance, with a surplus of new books being released about his life and works and more and more people being turned on to his unmatched imagination and insight. So we’re doing our part, too.
In fact, when Greg and I started our theater company, I knew at some point Chesterton would have to make an appearance. I’ve actually worked on a few Chesterton-related pieces for the theater (adaptations and original works), but for our first venture with this great writer, we’re going with his first major venture into theater: Magic. Chesterton didn’t write much for the stage — a shame, since he has such a flair for it — but Shaw recognized his gift for dialogue and theatricality and pressured him into his first major effort. He wrote to Chesterton: “I shall repeat my public challenge to you; vaunt my superiority; insult your corpulence; torture Belloc; if necessary, call on you and steal your wife’s affections by intellectual and athletic displays, until you contribute something to the British drama.”
Chesterton conceded and wrote his first major work, which is similar in style to Shaw in many ways, except far more romantic and with quite a different perspective on the world (and other worlds). The play was a major success, and gained admiration even from opponents such as the philosopher George Moore, who said: “I followed the comedy of Magic from the first line to the last with interest and appreciation, and I am not exaggerating when I say that I think of all modern plays I like it the best.”
That’s what’s so wonderful about Magic. Chesterton is a genius, alone worthy of study, but the play itself is such a charmer in its own right. Funny, romantic, surprisingly dark and dramatic. It’s a play that should be a staple of theaters across the country, and yet except for a recent (and quite successful) production in Washington this past January, the play hasn’t been produced in the states for decades. We’re thrilled to be able to shed new light on this delightful work and the unfairly forgotten figure of G.K. Chesterton.
And just for the heck of it, here are some more of the man’s quotes:
“An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered.”
“Art consists of limitation. The most beautiful part of every picture is the frame.”
“Fable is more historical than fact, because fact tells us about one man and fable tells us about a million men.”
“The object of opening the mind, as of opening the mouth, is to shut it again on something solid.”
“Science in the modern world has many uses; its chief use, however, is to provide long words to cover the errors of the rich.”
“Truths turn into dogmas the instant that they are disputed. Thus every man who utters a doubt defines a religion.”
“Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead.”
All right. I’ll stop now.
–Wes Driver, Artistic Director