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William De Arteaga: Pentecostal (and Anglican) Plays (and Postscripts)

William De Arteaga, Pentecostal (and Anglican) Plays (and Postscripts) (CreateSpace, 2017), 148 pages,  ISBN 9781544150888.

Those who only know Bill De Arteaga from his scholarly work will find this little book, less than 150 pages, to be a delightful romp. Unlike his columns in The Pneuma Review or previously published books these two scripts are works of fiction and something completely different. Here are two unrelated plays suitable for parish wannabe actors. Both, in the church drama tradition, are entertaining and didactic, in that order. Following each script are comprehensive endnotes in which Bill takes the reader deep into historic and theological weeds explaining material which many will find new, even surprising.

“One Day at St. John’s” consists of three acts with three scenes each. The cast includes a contemporary parish priest and an old friend, the church secretary and half a dozen members of the laity. In a variety of natural settings we in the audience are treated to a banquet of spiritual gifts – including but not limited to speaking in tongues, miraculous healings and an exorcism – all moving along as naturally as the waitress bringing food in the restaurant scene.  Nearly twenty pages of serious endnotes document the significance and validity of these and other spiritual events with solid theological references. These notes furnish more than enough material for program notes as well as resources for a study group.

The other play, “Joseph ben Jacob, the Dreamer”, is much shorter and takes place prior to the birth of Jesus. This is a two-act play with a larger cast, and most of the action takes place over the course of a month. Joseph (yes, that Joseph) is a widower about 32 years old, preparing to wed Mary (who will become mother of Jesus) not yet eighteen. He is a man of deep spiritual sensitivity, dedicated to serving the Lord, but the shock of discovering that his new bride-to-be has turned up pregnant has an unimaginable impact on his faith. The denouement is too poignant to describe in this review, but you can be sure it is nothing like the reader can imagine. Most of the action takes place during the days leading up to their wedding, which opens Act 2. The final scene, which is quite short, takes place 33 years later. No spoilers from me, but know it ends prior to the crucifixion so the reader/audience member is spared that terrible ending.

Again there are extensive endnotes, rich with historical references. De Arteaga’s principal expertise is early church history and many readers will discover historic details that give new energy to old familiar biblical themes. Incidental New Testament details let us know that Joseph and Mary were a typical Jewish couple with several children in addition to Jesus, and Joseph probably died some time before Jesus’ earthly ministry. This little play gives new energy to one of the oldest and most beloved stories of biblical origin. Together with the first play this little book is a breath of fresh air in a sometimes stuffy old place.

Reviewed by John Ballard

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Category: Living the Faith, Spring 2017

About the Author: John Ballard works part time as a non-medical care giver. Following military and school, his working career spanned four decades in the food business, from which he retired in 2002. Find his blog at: Twitter: @Hootsbudy

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