McCall, Froelich & Stosur
Liturgical Performance

 

"The performative goal is to find a means whereby an assembly may truly share their common eucharistic prayer, may incarnate into their lives the reality of their common praying, put their human spirits or lives into the part." Such is the goal of James O'Regan's concise and insightful study Liturgical Performance: A Performance Model for Liturgy based on the Writings of Constantin Stanislavski. Recognizing that the liturgy is an ordered action that encompasses both priest and people, O'Regan draws on the seminal work of the great Russian acting teacher and director to present a practical and theologically rich model for liturgical performance. Anyone involved in liturgical worship, and especially those who preside, will find in this clear and imaginative essay a fresh way to enter into real prayer, real celebration, and real liturgical community in every liturgy. Applied to the prayer of the Roman rite, this model for liturgical performance envisions a performative training for presider and people that seeks nothing less than the enfleshment of the liturgical text in the lives of the people. To my knowledge this is the only study that brings Stanislavski's deep insights into human action to bear on the performance of the Eucharist, and O'Regan's essay makes a wonderful and eminently useful contribution to the art of celebrating God's true presence in our midst."

The Rev. Richard D. McCall, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Liturgy and Church Music
Episcopal Divinity School
Cambridge, Massachusetts
Author, Do This: Liturgy as Performance, University of Notre Dame Press.


"In the early decades of 20th century the Russian actor and director, Konstantin Stanislavski, troubled by his own inability to be 'inspired' and 'truthful' every time he went on stage, sought to develop a coherent system which would allow him to feel and to convey an honest depth of experience every night, even though he might have played a scene and a role many times over.

The "Method" which he developed transformed the actor's art in the twentieth century. It was based on a performer's ability to conjure in himself a public solitude in which body and mind were open, serene and vulnerable to impulse, and in which a performer could recall at will intense emotions from the past or from imagination and re-experience them publicly as though each time was the very first.

In this profound and pragmatic book, James O'Regan has done a remarkable thing. He has applied Stanislavski's insights and methods to liturgical performance. He provides a detailed and compelling analysis of the way in which an actor's tools for forging authentic and enthralling performances might well be used to deepen and enrich the performance of religious ritual."

Peter A.J., Froelich, Ph.D.
Professor,
Theatre Department,
The University of Ottawa,
Ottawa, ON


"James O’Regan’s Liturgical Performance: A Performance Model for Liturgy based on the Writings of Constantin Stanislavski brings into dialogue the Russian theorist’s approach to theater performance and the question of liturgical performance. While much has taken place in ritual theory, in the study of liturgical performance, and in the theology of the assembly since this work’s original appearance as a master’s thesis, the attention given here to the event nature of the Mass rings very true to contemporary takes on the issue. O’Regan outlines a method for approaching liturgical performance from the presider’s point of view. While he bases his method on Stanislavski’s theory of acting, he does not ignore significant differences between liturgical and theatrical performance, and so does not fall prey to the error of conceiving the eucharistic assembly as a mere “audience,” or forget that what the presider performs is actually prayer. The use of Stanislavski’s performance method strikes this reader as particularly apt with regard to this latter point, since the concern for authenticity and for a lived truthfulness in performance is so clearly emphasized.

O’Regan is correct in saying that the field of liturgical studies is still in a nascent stage with regard to bringing questions of performance to the point of offering an actual method that is not predominantly text-based. This work, admitting its place as situated historically in the late 1970’s, nonetheless offers more than a hint of its relevance to the contemporary conversation, and one hopes that O’Regan will continue work along these lines to provide a fully updated and detailed method for future use in the preparation and formation of liturgical ministers."

David A. Stosur, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Systematic Theology and Liturgy
St. Bernard’s School of Theology and Ministry
Rochester, New York, U.S.A.