Last weekend my actors and I participated with Joseph Pearce in the Portsmouth Institute Conference as we performed scenes from Hamlet, with Joseph dissecting and commenting on the scenes, pointing out the Catholic theology and worldview behind them. (Pictured above - some of my cast and Joseph: moving around the table and starting left - Emily Lunsford, Kevin O'Brien, Joseph Pearce, Maria Romine, Dave Treadway, Deacon John Wainscott)
We had a tremendous time. Joseph seems to think my actors are very entertaining people both on stage and off. I know this much: they are certainly off. Very off.
At one point we all sat under a gazebo on the beautiful grounds of Portsmouth Abbey School, overlooking Narragansett Bay as the rain came crashing down around us. Joseph, in an inspired moment, had begun to imitate Elvis Presley - an imitation with an odd cockney / Memphis mix. Then I imitated Joseph imitating Elvis, and then I imitated a southern friend of ours, Leslie Kaufmann of Kaufmann Publishing, imitating Joseph imitating Elvis, and then actress Ashley Ahlquist Johnson took up the charge and imitated Kevin imitating Leslie imitating Joseph imitating Elvis.
Anyway, that's how it went.
The Portsmouth Conference is one of the best conferences in the U.S. for a number of reasons. It is situated at a beautiful site, they always invite the top scholars to give presentations on the topic being discussed, the food and drink are wonderful, and there's always a mixture of music, theater, and other activities to break the monotony of lectures and presentations. The attendees are smart and fun, and all in all the Portsmouth Conference is a delightful annual get-a-way. The first year's conference topic was William F. Buckley, last year's was Cardinal Newman, this year's was Shakespeare, and next year's will be thrilling, whatever topic they choose.
And in the midst of all the fun is the fact that the Revolution Continues. Catholic Culture is making a comeback. Last year the conference was part of the effort to make sure Newman is not consigned to the nihilistic void; he was not a theological liberal, a homosexual, a modernist, or any of the other things the Sad Set wants to make of him. This year all of this drama and music and drinking and fun was likewise part of a counter-attack. Shakespeare was not a sulking teenager, an atheist, a proponent of gay marriage, or any of the other things the Sad Set wants to make of him. He was a sign of contradiction to the modern world, as was Newman, and as is anyone devoted to the ultimate sign of contradiction, Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
At any rate, if you're tempted to join the Sad Set because you missed the Portsmouth Institute Conference this year, be sad no more. You can make up for it at the Chesterton Conference, to be held this year in St. Louis, my home town, Aug. 4, 5 & 6. My actors and I will be performing Chesterton's Magic, and it will be well worth the visit. Perhaps we'll even find a gazebo where I will imitate Ashley Ahlquist doing me doing Leslie doing Joseph doing Elvis.
Which will be worth the price of admission.
Hope to see you there!