The Aquinian

What’s Next? Thieves of Paradise

(Caitlin Dutt and William Cumming/AQ)

What’s Next? That’s the question that was posed to three St. Thomas playwrights. Their answers to that question varied, which resulted in the three plays of the What’s Next Festival.

In the weeks leading up to the festival, The Aquinian will be sitting down with the playwrights and directors of each play for a special feature.

The first play that will be performed is Thieves of Paradise, written by fourth-year student Michael Pallotto and directed by recent STU grad Laura-Beth Bird.

The play is based off of the true story of Italian sailors who traveled to Turkey to retrieve the body of St. Nicholas. Pallotto’s retelling follows three men who journey to Turkey after one of them has a vison telling him to recover the Saint. The play opens when they arrive, and follows them on their return trip.

“[Thieves of Paradise] had been an idea I had been working on for a little while,” says Pallotto. “I had been to that part of Italy, Bari, in the summer of 2016 and I remember asking around, because I knew [St. Nicholas] had lived in Turkey and I was wondering why his body was there, and they gave me the beginnings of this story.”

Pallotto says he tries to address some ethical questions in his play.

“In today’s world can we think of their actions as good?” says Palotto. “Can we be like, ‘Oh yes that is a very pious Christian act?’ Or should we be rightfully offended and afraid of it?”

Bird says the moral questions are brought out through the actions of the characters.

“The three men present different sides of the philosophical question on the will of God,” she says.

“One of them represents free-will, the other one represents pre-determined future and the third one is the one faced with the question and is deciding between the two.”

Pallotto and Bird were assigned to work with each other by the What’s Next Festival and according to Bird it is a good pairing.

“I’ve known Michael for quite a few years now and [the play] is definitely the questions that Michael has always addressed in his education and his thoughts,” says Bird. “A casual conversation with him would always turn to philosophy.”

“His only prerequisite was that I wouldn’t make it a comedy, and to take the religious aspects of the play seriously, and hopefully I did that to the best of my ability,” she says.

“Working with Michael is definitely a treat. He is very, very smart, and it is nice to be able to take his work from page to stage.”

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