Before he was a saint, beloved pope, and priest in his native Poland, John Paul II or Karol Józef Wojtyła was a theater actor.
As a young boy, he participated in school plays. At university, Polish actor, theater director, literary critic, and mentor Mieczyslaw Kotlarczyk taught him “the Living Word,” a unique performance noted for its use of monologues and minimalist sets. Together, they organized Rhapsodic Theatre, a subversive theater movement that favored Polish language and literature. (Read: You Won’t Be Able To Guess How These Popes Spent Their Free Times)
Young Karol’s dream, he wrote his mentor, was to build “a theater that will be a church where the national spirit will burn.” Indeed, in one stage play, performed in secrecy to avoid detection by the Nazis, the seminarian Karol continued to stay in character as Nazi propaganda blared from the speaker of a truck in the street.
“Unfazed, he continued his recitation as if the harsh static of the principalities and the powers of the age simply did not exist,” wrote George Weigel in Witness to Hope, his biography of Pope John Paul II. (Read: 5 Fun Facts About the Saint of the Day, John Paul II)
What is it about theater that piqued the would-be pope’s interest? Innovative storytelling, creative sets, and passionate performances— as seen in these four online plays!
“Girls Like That” by Synergy Theatre Project/Unicorn Theatre Production
When Scarlett’s nude photo goes viral, her schoolmates can’t stop talking about it. A spare set with six chairs allows the actors to improvise and the audience to let their imagination soar in this coming-of-age play.
“The Time of Your Life” by Gecko Theatre in collaboration with the BBC
Through physical gestures and interpretative dance, the group of actors from Gecko Theatre delivers a thought-provoking play about life’s different stages— with a twist! (Read: Eight Local Stage Plays You Can Stream on YouTube)
“Fathers and Sons” by Dulaang UP
If it’s classic acting you want, here’s a play featuring the heavyweights of Philippine theater. Menggie Cobarrubias stars as the powerful patriarch in a ‘70s-set drama written by Nick Joaquin, translated by Virgilio S. Almario and Jose F. Lacaba, and directed by Tony Mabesa.
“Rated PG” by PETA Theater Online
Perfect for family viewing, this play directed by Mae Quesada-Medina and written by Liza Magtoto tackles child discipline as experienced by married couple Joselle (Raye Baquirin) and Romy (Gilbert Onida). It’s a relevant topic, as Joselle, who is in charge of taking care of their two kids, is set to leave for work abroad.