The subject of books and movies, Dorothy Day, tireless advocate for the poor and co-founder of the Catholic Worker movement, will soon become the focus of a stage play when “This Other Love” has its world premiere in Mequon.
Written by Marquette University journalism graduate Patty McCarty, who interviewed Day (1897-1980) for the Marquette Tribune in 1955, “This Other Love” runs July 14-23 at Concordia University as a production of the Acacia Theatre Company. Janet Peterson is directing the drama while Susie Duecker, a parishioner of Holy Apostles, New Berlin, stars as Day.
McCarty, 85, will be on hand for talkbacks with audience members after each performance during the play’s first weekend.
In a telephone interview, McCarty recalled writing “This Other Love” in conjunction with her University of Missouri-Kansas City master’s degree in theater in 1994. She submitted the play to Milwaukee-based Acacia for consideration, having learned that the semiprofessional, interdenominational theater company emphasizes the blending of faith with art. Her manuscript was mislaid in Acacia’s offices, only to resurface in 2016 — 22 years later — as the company was preparing to move.
“I read it and was intrigued by it,” said Peterson, who happened to be looking for one more play to stage for Acacia’s 2016-17 season when “This Other Love” was rediscovered. The manuscript bore McCarty’s phone number. “Thankfully,” Peterson mused, “she hadn’t moved.” Moreover, the playwright was still interested in having her drama produced.
Was McCarty shocked by Peterson’s call? “I certainly was,” she said, adding that the pending production has generated “a wonderful feeling. I think my guardian angel must have been flying around there.”
McCarty’s hoping her first play might have subsequent staging’s, perhaps at one Catholic college or another in Kansas City, but she hasn’t begun work on a second play. “I’m thinking mostly that I will just enjoy this one,” the playwright explained.
Growing up in North Dakota, McCarty first heard Day speak to an audience in Fargo. “It made a great impression on me,” McCarty, who also met Day at a reception following that speech, said. Day “advocated voluntary poverty. That was a whole new thing … just a revelation” to an adolescent whose “family was rather poor in the Depression days” and whose maternal grandmother “would tell you being poor was a terrible thing.” A couple years later, Day visited Marquette (where her papers are now housed). “I was one of the few people on campus who knew who she was,” McCarty remembered. “I volunteered to interview her.”
Day came across as “gentle,” “interesting,” “very dynamic” and “very caring.” Day, who’s been declared a “Servant of God” by the Church as her cause for sainthood is being investigated, remains a hero to McCarty. “I think I picked a good one,” McCarty assessed.
Duecker, who described herself as “a devout Catholic,” said she’s “prayed to (Day) the same way I’d pray to a saint. I want to do her justice. I feel like her story is really special.”
McCarty’s single-set, approximately 90-minute drama takes place in 1927 at Day’s cottage on Long Island. “To me, it’s about birth in many ways,” Peterson said in summarizing “This Other Love.” There are, she enumerated, the “birth of a child, of (Day’s Catholic) faith, of the Catholic Worker movement.”
Added McCarty, “I created a day. I wanted to put Dorothy and Forster (Batterham, Day’s common-law husband) together. Dorothy was in her early pregnancy. She was about to tell Forster, who was an anarchist, and this was the day (a dark one for both Batterham and similarly radical Dorothy) that Sacco and Vanzetti were to be put to death” as murderous insurgents. “Dorothy is very much in love with Forster at that point,” McCarty commented. “I think she stayed in love with him the rest of her life.”
In Peterson’s estimation, Batterham, although an atheist, “was sort of like the steppingstone for (Dorothy) to God.” Her love for Forster led to Dorothy’s realization she “needed God … this other love.” Day ultimately “prayed for some way to combine faith and justice.” Along came Peter Maurin, with whom Day would establish the Catholic Worker movement. Maurin is also depicted on that author-imagined day the play covers.
Dorothy, noted her alter ego Duecker, made “the ultimate sacrifice for her faith … to give up the love of her life and completely surrender to the will of God.”
For additional information, call 414-744-5995 or visit www.acaciatheatre.com.