Religious reformer subject of Highland Stage production

| 28 Sep 2011 | 02:12

    VERNON-The Highland Stage is preparing a special play highlighting key moments in the life of "The Great Reformer," Dr. Martin Luther. The play "Luther" is being staged with dramatic lighting and stark black backgrounds in the sanctuaries of area churches, all located in or near Vernon. It will open at Holy Counselor Lutheran Church on Sandhill Road in Vernon, Friday and Saturday, May 7 and 8. The second weekend staging will be at St. Thomas Episcopal Church on Route 94 in Vernon, May 14 and 15.  The final performances will be at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church on Route 94 in Hamburg, May 21 and 22. All performances are at 8 p.m. Tickets for all performances are $12 for adults and $10 for senior citizens. The play was written by Britain's John Osborne.  Produced originally on London's West End in 1960 starring Albert Finney, it was later made into a movie featuring Finney again in the title role.  The play, directed by William Donald, begins at young Luther's entry into the cloister of the Augustinian order of monks around 1505, and ends in 1530 with the reformation well in hand and Luther in a more reflective mood.  In between we see all of the key moments that marked this period that split the Roman Catholic Church in two and provided the basis for the founding of the many Christian denominations we see today.  Sparked by the abuse of the sale of indulgences, or pardons by the Pope, Luther sparked a rebellion against the entire church hierarchy.  One of his contributions was to translate the Bible into the German vernacular.  In fact, Luther is credited with helping to establish the German language and nation and for having made important contributions to German music as well. In the title role is Mark Von Oesen of Port Jervis, N.Y., a veteran of The Highland Stage and a frequent contributor to the company's efforts.  He is aided by a strong ensemble that includes Tom LiTrenta, of Sussex, Michael Mildner of Hawthorne, Charlie Blessing, Robert Baur, Mark Rossi, Laura Firmenich and Michael Finnochio, all of Vernon, and an ensemble that includes Joe LiTrenta, Carly Stearns, John Stearns, and Amanda Barron.  William Donald is also the setting and lighting designer, and is assisted by Eric Delhauer as technical director, Jessica Caruso-Reynolds as costumer, Laura Firmenich as props mistress and scenic artist, Michale Finnochio as key grip, and Aly Docherty as production electrician. The company is working as a cohesive ensemble, described by newcomer Blessing, "I don't think I could have hand picked a more supportive cast to break into theatre with."  Company members represent a cross-section of American religious affiliations: Lutheran, Catholic, Jewish, Presbyterian, and Christian Fundamentalist.  Seating is limited to approximately 140 per performance at Holy Counselor May 7 and 8;, 225 per performance at St. Thomas May 14 and 15; and 100 at Prince of Peace May 21 and 22.  Tickets will be sold by all three churches involved.  For further information, call the company at 973-875-3039.