The London Merchant
December 27, 2011
The ArtsBeat blog of the New York Times recently included a notice of an upcoming play (The London Merchant) to be produced by Blackfriars’ Reperatory Theater, established by the friars of St. Joseph Province: “‘The London Merchant,’ a tragedy from 1731 that was one of the first British dramas to focus on the middle and working classes – and that has apparently never received a professional production in North America – will be performed Jan. 6-28 at the Theater at the Church of Notre Dame in Morningside Heights in Upper Manhattan. Written by George Lillo, “The London Merchant” is about the downfall of a young apprentice who is led astray by a prostitute. It was highly popular in the 18th century. The Storm Theater Company and Blackfriars Repertory Theater will jointly produce the work, directed by Peter Dobbins, Storm’s artistic director. A spokesman for the production, Pete Sanders, said on Monday that the producers had done research on the history of the play and could not find evidence that it had been performed professionally in the United States or Canada.” In 1940, Dominican Fathers Urban Nagle and Thomas Carey founded and conducted the original Blackfriars Guild: a national association of Catholic theatre companies comprised of twenty-two chapters throughout the country. In addition, Fathers Nagle and Carey together ran the only professional level theatre sponsored by a Catholic organization in the United States, and the first religious theatre ever tried in New York City. The Blackfriars Theatre–until recently, popularly regarded as the American stage’s oldest continuous Off-Broadway theatre–was Located at 320 West 57th Street. Blackfriars provided the proverbial great first break to several acclaimed theatre artists including playwright Robert Anderson, actors Geraldine Page, Eileen Heckart, Patricia Neal, Anthony Franciosa, Darren McGavin, and Shelley Berman, and producer Elizabeth McCann. Blackfriars Repertory Theatre preserves the philosophy and ideals of the original Blackfriars Guild dedicated “to producing plays of artistic merit which reflect the spiritual nature of man and his destiny.” Under the artistic direction of Fr. Peter John Cameron, OP, the theatre is comprised of a devoted company of priests and lay people. Blackfriars Repertory Theatre is committed to producing high quality theatre of all kinds that edifies, uplifts, entertains, and inspires. Blackfriars Repertory Theatre works in close collaboration with the Providence College Theatre Arts Department, with Compagnia Elsinor, an association of three theatres throughout Italy under the direction of Franco Palmieri and with St. Malachy’s Church–the Actors’ Chapel–New York City. Tickets for this production may be purchased online.