This calendar of saints is drawn from several denominations, sects, and traditions. Although it will no longer be updated daily, the index on the right will guide visitors to a saint celebrated on any day they choose. Additional saints will be added as they present themselves to Major.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

April 14 -- Feast of Saint Ardalion the Actor

Method-acting: a range of techniques employed by actors to immerse themselves in the perspective and emotions of the characters they are portraying, sometimes misunderstood as becoming so deeply "in character" that the actors continue to play the role even when no longer performing.

The Tetrarchy
Ardalion  was treading the boards sometime around AD 300, during the reign of  Galerius.  The empire was governed by a tetrarchy at the time, so Galerius was the Caesar (Junior Emperor) while Diocletian was Augustus (Senior Emperor).  Also reigning were Maximian Augustus and Constantius Caesar.  But Galerius is important because reviving the persecution of Christians was said to be his idea. 

Ardalion was a comic actor.  Romans loved comedy, especially the satiric kind, and Ardalion was famous for his buffoonish character.  He did all the ridiculous things Christians do: prayed to an invisible god that was or was not an executed carpenter, ate bread and called it human flesh, thought wine was blood, wanted to kill children as a sacrificial feast, and eventually he renounced his faith and sacrificed (incense) to Jupiter Optimus Maximus.  Predictable, but predictably hilarious. 

Aldo Fabrizi, whom I'd cast as Ardalion
He was on stage, in character, one day, genuflecting and making the sign of the Cross and all that silly stuff when suddenly he was struck by the Faith.  He turned to the audience and suddenly proclaimed, "I'm a Christian!"  They roared with laughter.  But he insisted, "No really, I am."  Side-splitting laughter eventually gave way to nervous amusement, then confusion, impatience, and finally anger. 

Finding himself hauled from the stage and taken to the local praetor, Ardalion explained what happened.  He was duly broiled on a red hot grid-iron. 

Religion and drama have had a rocky relationship.  Western drama -- Greek tragedies and comedies -- were first created for religious festivals.  Many of the stories they told reinforced the notion that one must revere and submit to the gods.  The medieval Christian Church used passion plays to relate the Bible stories to an illiterate population.  But in Britain, religious fundamentalists (Calvinists) outlawed drama; it was just one more institution to corrupt morals and distract people from God.  Hollywood takes a beating today from religious conservatives, and yet films of all faiths (okay, many faiths) continue to find huge audiences.
His Holines greets Mr. Gere

Still, even His Holiness the Dalai Lama gives his disciple Richard Gere a ration from time to time about acting, which he considers falsehood. This is from  "When he first met Gere in the early 1980s, he asked the star whether he actually felt the emotions he portrayed on screen. Gere replied that this made them appear more credible. His holiness burst out laughing." 

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