Scott Turner is a long way from Charlie Brown and the rest of the Peanuts gang.
The last time Turner directed a play for Georgetown Community Theatre, he delivered laughs, wisdom and songs from Charles Schulz’ classic cartoon characters, which had the added advantage of being wildly popular for people of all ages.
Now, he’s diving into a darker area, one that has much unknown, both in terms of audience awareness and reaction.
Turner and GCT will present Agnes of God Feb. 22-24, telling the story of a nun who gives birth and tells people the dead child was the result of a virgin conception.
“It addresses themes that get at the heart of all religious thought and points out a central conflict we see in life today,” Turner said. “To what extent is our knowledge of the world in which we live stripping us of the ability to wonder of the mystery of existence that has been a central part of human existence since the very beginning?”
Clearly, Snoopy this is not.
“The play works on multiple levels – a murder mystery (we don’t know who killed the child) and everyone is hiding something, a character study and an exploration of the place in our world of science and faith,” Turner explained.
That story is told through three “very compelling characters: the intelligent but unhappy agnostic, the bruised religious person clinging to her faith that she has attached to another who may not be what she seems, and the mystic, upon which the other two are pining the viability of their world views,” he said.
Turner first directed the play as a college student immediately after he had converted to Catholicism.
“At lot has changed in my life since I first encountered the play but not my interest in exploring these themes,” he said.
But with such heady material comes some probable obstacles, including a possible reluctance from a Scott County audience more accustomed to lighter fare like My Fair Lady or Miracle on 34th Street. Both of those shows, along with many others GCT produces, also come with built-in audience recognition, another thing Agnes lacks.
To combat that, Turner is focusing on a smaller production scale, “attempting to make the play financially viable with a small audience turnout and trying to take advantage of whatever goodwill we may have generated with more commercial offerings we have presented in the past.”
While not quite guerilla marketing, GCT will be employing some less conventional tactics this time around to drum up interest: “a lot of personal invitations, save-the-date pleas, etc.” while also issuing person-to-person invitations to friends of the cast and crew.
Those who show will find “snappy dialog, a lot of funny lines, some very intense drama and perhaps some tears,” Turner said, “but the end of the play has its uplifting moment, a redemption of sorts. There are also some unanswered questions that may leave patrons to fill in the ending for themselves.”
Turner is also looking at using a minimalist set, unconventional staging (the characters never leave the stage during each act once they appear) and lighting options to “create a world of shadows from which characters emerge and into which they retreat.”
So, it’s not going to be the easiest of sells to make to an audience, but Turner et al are comfortable with what they have to present: “a small cast, easily and economically staged, quality acting talent and some more weighty, challenging work.”
In the end, it will likely leave those who watch it saying, indeed, God is good.