Directing Quotidian Theatre Company’s ‘Faith Healer’ by Laura Giannarelli

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I am thrilled to have been given the opportunity to direct this mysterious and marvelous play. Rashomon-like in the way the three characters narrate the story of their intertwined lives from unique and often contradictory points of view, Faith Healer explores the nature of the human condition, human relationships, and the things we may never understand or be able to explain, but must come to terms with nevertheless. Brian Friel’s play allows each actor to take a very personal, often painful, sometimes very funny journey into the past. Audience members will be privy to the private musings of three fascinating people. We are privileged to have three terrific actors to bring these characters to life with their intimate portrayals. The title character is an itinerant ‘faith healer,’ who has deep doubts about his ‘gift.’ I think audiences will find that his self-doubt will resonate in surprising ways.

Laura Giannarelli.
Director Laura Giannarelli.

I have loved Brian Friel since I fell in love with one of his masterpieces, Translations, back in 1986 in the form of the marvelous production mounted by The Washington Stage Guild in its inaugural season – which I saw at least three times, but did not perform in. Subsequently, I happily performed in two other Friel plays with Stage Guild – Aristocrats and Wonderful Tennessee. And I was lucky enough to see two fine productions elsewhere of this play I have the privilege of directing, the eerily mysterious Faith Healer. Suffice it to say, that I was hooked! His signature style lures me in, as both actor and audience member, to try and decipher the “story” of each play as I sift among the various narratives and threads of dramatic action.

When I was an undergraduate at Catholic University in the 70s, I was lucky enough to take several philosophy courses with the great Paul Weiss. I can hear him at the front of the class at this moment, passionately arguing the nature of Truth, noting the fundamental differences between each of our eternally unique points of view. Can we ever know the Truth? – he would ask – and he’d then suggest that, well, perhaps not! Rashomon, the Japanese film which offers four different versions of the same events, from the points of view of four different characters, comes to mind whenever I think of Friel’s work in general, and Faith Healer very specifically.

faith-healer-200One of the things I love most about Brian Friel is that his plays may unfold sparely, but in all of his work, there are stubborn contradictions. Did a pivotal event happen the way Character X tells it Or is Character Y’s quite different version of events the Truth? Or does the Truth perhaps lie at some inaccessible intersection of time and space…. You are challenged to decide for yourself whose tale you believe.

As you spend time here today with Frank, Grace, and Teddy, I would ask you to listen actively, critically and compassionately as they share the occasionally humorous, but ultimately tragic story of their lives.

I am deeply grateful to Jack Sbarbori and Stephanie Mumford for allowing me to direct this classic of Irish drama; to my wonderful cast – Christopher, Laura, and Nick – and to the whole production team at Quotidian Theatre for making me so welcome. Special thanks to my husband Clay Teunis for his unwavering support and inspiration; to Bill Largess, Ann Norton and my Stage Guild family for getting me started with this ‘directing thing,’and to Michael Avolio for connecting me with Quotidian.

Faith Healer plays from April 25-May 25, 2014 at Quotidian Theatre Company performing at The Writer’s Center-4508 Walsh Street, in Bethesda, MD. For tickets, call (800) 838-3006 Ext.1, or purchase them online.