Saint on Broadway stage

Almost 50 years after the classic play “A Man for All Seasons” by Robert Bolt first premiered in London, a group of students, faculty and administrators from St. John’s saw the story of iconic St. Thomas More unfold on stage at the Roundabout Theater on Broadway.

It is of course fitting that a group from St. John’s would be interested in attending this play-the St. Thomas More Church, after all, is named after the saint for whom “A Man for All Seasons is centered around.”

More lived from 1478-1535. In 1532, he became Lord Chancellor of England. The king at the time, Henry VIII, wanted to get a divorce from his wife, Catherine, so that he could marry Anne Boleyn. More refused to sign a letter to the Pope asking for Henry’s marriage to Catherine to be annulled. He then refused to take an oath naming Henry the Supreme Head of the English Church, because he was Catholic. Thus, he was put on trial, found guilty and was hung. In 1935, he was canonized by the Roman Catholic Church.

It was the work of, Robert Cote and Matthew Knotts, both juniors and Resident Assistants in Donovan Hall, who organized the trip, which took place on Saturday, Nov. 1. A group of close to 50 students went to see the matinee performance of “A Man for All Seasons”, starring Frank Langella.

Knotts and Cote were discussing taking a group to the Frick Museum, when Knotts mentioned a painting of More that hangs in the museum. Cote then remembered that “A Man for All Seasons” was playing on Broadway.

“I first read the play in my Englsih 1100 course and found it very inspirational,” Cote said. “I will always remember the line that Thomas said about himself, “I am the Kings good servent, but God’s first.”

The students posed the idea to Campus Ministry, and the Department of Student Life was able to obtain discount tickets.”We thought it would be a great idea to bring a group to go see it because we walk by St. Thomas More Church every day but few know the story behind the life and martydom of St. Thomas More,” Cote said.

After the show, the group came back to the University for dinner and a discussion of More and the play.

Four questions were posed to the group by Campus Ministry. One question, for example, reads, “What do you take from St. Thomas More’s example of courage and sacrifice? What can Catholics today take from his message?”

“I thought the discussion went very well,” Cote said. “It was a great opportunity for students to talk about what they had just seen with faculty and administrators.”

Overall, students who attended the play were satisfied with the performance.

“A Man for All Seasons was a beautiful, moving production,” said Amanda Spencer, a freshman. “I was awed by Frank Langella’s portrayal of St. Thomas More, especially in his artistic balance between humor and poignancy. I was also impressed with the show’s faithfulness to the saint’s commitment and devotion to God.”