I am extraordinarily happy, honored and pleased to announce that I was awarded a 6 month scholarship from the Polish Ministry of Culture and National Heritage to begin the first steps of a theatrical project that has been brewing in my heart, mind and soul for over a year.
At this moment I am in Siena, Italy, teaching, taking part in the fever and passion of the Palio but my main purpose of this trip is to begin my research on Saint Catherine of Siena -Santa Caterina.
Santa Caterina, Patron Saint of Siena and Patron Saint of Europe, was born the 24th child of 25 in 1347. At the age of 6, she saw her first vision of Christ. This opened to her a realm of mysticism and a connection to the divine that drove her life forward and infused her with an ineffable power. She was a social deviant, completely rejecting what people expected of her. A a youth she shaved her head in rebellion of marriage. This action was the beginning of her devotion, leading a life of asceticism refusing to eat and practicing sever self punishment. She devoted her life to following a path of spirituality and to the service of the poor and sick. She had ecstatic visions, heard voices, was witnessed levitating, reported having the stigmata and described a physical marriage with Christ. This poor illiterate woman even traveled to Avignon to bring the Pope, the most powerful man in Europe, back to Rome and succeeded. I view her story as a passionate rebellion of the status quo. A lament against the ownership of women, human suffering, a rage against suppression and plea for individuality and self expression. Her self expression was to search for and follow her God.
I want to make a theatrical piece about her life. I came to Siena now without any funding because I felt I must. Every moment I felt supported by the extraordinary colleagues and friends I have here and then I received this most beautiful news that I will be awarded a 6 months scholarship for this project’s development. The timing is phenomenal. And what I find most moving and unique is that the people here LOVE Santa Caterina. Today, I was being guided by one woman who is the leader of the Dragon Conrada where the Basilica Cateriniana San Domenico holding Caterina’s relicts resides, and so many times I heard this phrase, “She is one of us. She is one of us.”
Today, my dramaturg arrives. Tomorrow one of my students, who is also a trained guide at the Sanctuary of St. Catherine, will guide us through the sanctuary and her home and we will meet with father Alfonso of the order of the Dominicans. All the while the heat of the Palio rises as drummers, singers and revelers charge the ancient medieval streets. I’m in awe and I begin.