AGNESOFGOD | COMPANY
Heather McIntosh Braden | Stephanie Johnson | Brianne Cook
Heather McIntosh-Braden (Dr. Martha Livingstone)
Heather is overjoyed to be performing in this production of Agnes of God! Heather graduated from James Madison University with a Bachelor of Arts in Theater, and considers herself fortunate to have performed in many amazing shows. Favorite roles include “June” in Chicago, the “Baker's Wife” in Into the Woods, “Sister Mary Paul (Amnesia)” in Nunsense, and “Eva” understudy in Evita. She would like to thank Chris, Courtney, Jake, and the cast and crew for making this the most magical theatrical experience!
Brianne Cook (Sister Agnes)
Brianne is humbled to be joining the cast of Agnes of God for her seventh FTE production! Past FTE credits include Nevermore (Elmira / Dance Captin), The House of Yes (Leslie) Fool for Love (May) and Equus (Jill). Other credits include Riverside Center for the Performing Arts; Saturday Night Fever (Ensemble) Peter and the Wolf (Choreographer) and Winnie the Pooh (Kanga) and Christian Youth Theater; Fiddler on the Rood (Tzeitel) Joseph…Dreamcoat (Mrs. Potiphar) and Moana Jr. (Choreographer) She is thrilled to once again be putting her 10+ years of dance training to use, while simultaneously continuing her education in forensic psychology. Brianne gives thanks and love to the artistic team for their endless hours of work behind the scenes, the cast for their dedication and guidance, and everyone else who broke a sweat while bringing this play to the stage. Psalm 149:3.
Stephanie Johnson (Mother Miriam Ruth)
Bio/Credits Coming Soon
Director ...... Christopher M. Stewart
Assistant Director ...... Melissa Hennessey
Stage Manager ...... Tim Leece
Assistant Stage Manager ...... Scott Allan
Set Design & Construction ...... Sam Fulton
Specialty Prop Design & Specialty Scenic Elements ...... Kylie Clark
Costumes ...... Fox Cornnell & Melissa Hennessy
Original Music "Agnes of God Theme" ...... Christopher M. Stewart ©
Adventure Brewing Company
Riverside Center for the Arts
ABOUT THE PLAY
Agnes of God is a play by John Pielmeier which tells the story of a novice nun who gives birth and insists that the dead child was the result of a virgin conception. A psychiatrist and the mother superior of the convent clash during the resulting investigation.
The play was adapted for a movie in 1985, starring Jane Fonda, Anne Bancroft and Meg Tilly.
The stage play contains a great deal more dialogue than the film and relies solely on the three main characters: Martha, the Psychiatrist; the Mother Superior; and Agnes, the Novice. There are no other characters on stage.
All three roles are demanding. Martha covers the full gamut of emotion during the play, from nurturer to antagonist, from hard nosed court psychiatrist and atheist to faith-searching healer. She is always on stage and has only three small respites from monologues or dialogue while Agnes and the Mother Superior enact flashbacks to events at the convent.
The Mother Superior must expound the possibilities of miracles while recognising the realities of today's world, of which she is painfully aware. Agnes is a beautiful but tormented soul whose abusive upbringing has affected her ability to think rationally.
BACKGROUND & INSPIRATION
This drama is widely believed to be based on an actual incident, which occurred in a convent in Brighton, New York, just outside the city line of Rochester.
However, Sister Maureen, the nun who killed her baby, was thirty-six years old, Irish, and well-educated. She was a Montessori teacher in New York state, which required teachers to obtain bachelor's degrees and to be certified in order to obtain permanent certification, teachers also required a Master's degree in education.
Sister Maureen denied she had given birth; when examined by medical staff, she said she couldn't remember being pregnant. She had covered up the pregnancy by wearing the traditional nun's habit. The baby was found dead in her small convent room in a waste basket, asphyxiated.
The police found ticket stubs and other information in the nun's convent room indicating that precisely nine months earlier she had traveled out of state to an educational conference. While during the trial, the father of the baby was never named, it was never suggested that the nun had been raped by a priest.
At her trial, Sister Maureen waived her right to a jury, and Judge Hyman Maas, a Jew, presided. There was a great deal of controversy about whether a Jewish judge would give a Catholic nun a fair trial. The trial was over in ten days, and Maas found the nun innocent of all charges by reason of insanity in March 1977.
The convent where the murder occurred is adjacent to the still-functioning suburban parish and school. The girl's high school, St. Agnes, where some of the nuns taught, is now closed.
ABOUT THE PLAYWRIGHT
John Pielmeier was born in Altoona, Pennsylvania, the son of Louise (Blackburn) and Len Pielmeier. He was raised Catholic. He earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from the Catholic University of America in 1970 and a Master of Fine Arts degree from Pennsylvania State University in 1978. He began his career as an actor, working with such repertory companies as Actors Theater of Louisville and the Guthrie Theater.
In 1976, Pielmeier's first play, A Chosen Room, was produced in Minneapolis. Three years later, Agnes of God was performed in a staged reading at the O'Neill National Playwrights' Conference in Waterford, Connecticut and won the 1979 Great American Play Contest. A full production was mounted for the Humana Festival of New American Plays at the Actors Theatre of Louisville in 1980, and the Broadway production opened in March 1982 at the Music Box Theatre, where it ran for 599 performances. His screenplay for the 1985 screen adaptation earned him a nomination for the Writers Guild of America Award for Best Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium.
Pielmeier has written extensively for the stage, but his later work never achieved the success he experienced with Agnes of God.
On Broadway, The Boys of Winter (1985) and Sleight of Hand (1987) both ran for 31 previews and 9 performances, and Voices in the Dark (1999) ran for 12 previews and 64 performances. For the latter work, Pielmeier won the Edgar from the Mystery Writers of America for Best Mystery Play. Other plays include Courage, a one-man show about J. M. Barrie that was filmed by Kentucky Educational Television; Young Rube, a musical based on the early years of cartoonist/inventor Rube Goldberg; Willi, a one-man show based on the speeches of mountaineer Willi Unsoeld, a member of the first American expedition to reach the summit of Mount Everest; and The Exorcist, a play based on the novel of the same name by William Peter Blatty.
In 1983, Pielmeier penned the television movie Choices of the Heart, about murdered American missionaries in El Salvador, for which he received the Christopher Award, the Humanitas Award, a Writers Guild of America nomination, and an honorary Doctorate of Letters from St. Edward's University in Austin, Texas. Additional television credits include The Shell Seekers (1989), The Stranger Within (1990), An Inconvenient Woman (1991), Through the Eyes of a Killer (1992), The Last P.O.W.? The Bobby Garwood Story (1992), Flowers for Algernon (2000), Sins of the Father (2002), Hitler: The Rise of Evil (2003), Sybil (2007), The Capture of the Green River Killer (2008), The Memory Keeper's Daughter (2008), The Pillars of the Earth (2010), and World Without End (2012).
Pielmeier has been married to poet/author Irene O'Garden since October 1982. The couple lives in Garrison, New York.