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The Journal Gazette

Wednesday, October 04, 2017 11:00 am

Spotlight: Austin Berger, 'Faith Healer'

COREY MCMAKEN | The Journal Gazette

If you go

What: "Faith Healer"

When: 7:30 p.m. Friday, Saturday and Oct. 13, 14, 20 and 21; 2 p.m. Oct. 15; 7:30 p.m. preview Thursday

Where: First Presbyterian Theater, 300 W. Wayne St.

Admission: $12 for preview show; $20 general admission, $18 seniors older than 65, first 30 students free for each show with reservation ($10 after or at the door); 426-7421, ext. 121,

Frank Hardy offers redemption to the sick in First Presbyterian Theater's "Faith Healer," opening this weekend. His "gift" leads him into conflict with his manager, Teddy, and wife, Grace.

Different accounts of the past come out as the play is told in monologues from each of the three characters.

The play by Brian Friel is directed by Thom Hofrichter. It stars Austin Berger as Frank, Daniel Bulau as Teddy and Nancy Kartholl as Grace.

Berger answered some questions via email. Responses have been edited.

Q. What are the challenges of telling a story made up of monologues?

A. In "Faith Healer," the three characters, Frank, Grace and Teddy, each recount a couple of important events in their shared lives. The play is revealed in the differences and similarities of the stories they tell. To make sense of it all, the audience needs to remember what each character has said (and occasionally, not said). So, the audience must pay attention, and we must give them reason to pay attention. That’s true of any play, really, but, perhaps a little more so for this play. If we don’t hold up our end – if the stories are not told well enough, if the play is not structured well enough – the audience is likely to miss some detail, and the play will be flattened, less vibrant. Less true.

Q. Part of the show's description says it looks at "how we reshape the past in order to define ourselves." What are your thoughts on that subject? Have they changed since working on this show?

A. I probably would have said that we reshape the past to agree with how we define ourselves. The way we picture ourselves and how we fit into the world, the kind of person we think we are, colors our experiences, our memories. Frank, Grace and Teddy tell different stories, not because they are lying, but because their sense of self has filtered their experiences. But this is a more passive view of the process, isn’t it? We are observers to our own lives, imperfectly recording our own history because we can only see it through our own perspective, defined by who we already think we are. To say that we reshape the past in order to define ourselves implies that we are, in some way, actively engaged in self-delusion. I don’t think I would do that to myself. I’m sure I wouldn’t.

Q. How do you think the audience will connect to the story?

A. I think people will see parts of themselves in Frank’s self-doubt, Grace’s search for love, Teddy’s devotion to a hopeless (maybe) cause. They’ve gotten a bit banged up on their journey through life, but I think we all have the same scrapes and dents on the bodyworks of our souls, and can empathize with them because of it.

Q. If you had a car with a bumper sticker that said "Honk if you love (blank)," what is in the blank that might surprise people?

A. Daisies. I like their casual, unpretentious beauty. The girl-next-door of flowers.

Q. What is the last thing you do before you go onstage?

A. I utter a short prayer: “Please let me stink not up the joint too much,” I take a deep breath, and I try to remember my first line.