Ideas and the Theatre; The theology of Graham Greene
The program will be the theology of Graham Greene. The series ideas and the theatre the actual views and voices you will hear drama critics Richard Watts JR Brooks Atkinson and Dr. John tell us a nurse author scholars Eric Bentley Edmund fuller MARTIN Next work and Andy Martin Brown those who make this series possible. The University of Minnesota radio station KUNM in cooperation with the National Association of educational broadcasters under a grant from the Educational Television and Radio Center. And now here is the producer of ideas on the theater. OK you OEMs critic at large Philip Gill. Graham Greene is an ex communist who has converted to Catholicism. I point this out neither to condemn nor to condone Mr. Greene. Why do I point out then Graham Greene is the author of the potting shed the play we are going to analyze today a play whose central character moves from a position
of extreme rationality to unquestioning faith. The point here is not just that this may be Mr. Green's own story but that he is highly qualified to tell a much bigger and more universal tale the story of the individual search for an identification and meaning in life. First to acquaint you with Mr. Green and particularly with his play The potting shed which was successfully presented on Broadway during the one thousand fifty six fifty seven season. Here is the dean of America's drama critics. Brooks Atkinson reading from his New York Times review. As usual Mr. Green is one bring down the tortuous labyrinth of life meeting people who have a scar on their souls. They are looking for something that corresponds to a soaring in the woods eventually takes them diffidently but with a last act that of duty has been done. The parting shot begins in happily
like a latter day nineteenth century thesis drama and the characters are like figures in a dramatic museum. But Mr. Green has a real subject in mind. James Callis are son of a celebrated nonbeliever is consulting a psychologist to find out why there is nothing else why there is a nothingness inside him and why he cannot love people who are obviously worthy of love. A better by a mischievous niece who likes to meddle in adult affairs. The author of the psychiatry has tracked down the sources of the psychosis. When James was a small boy he tried to hang himself in the family parting shot. Apparently he was dead but he returned to life was the return a miracle. Mr. Green thinks otherwise and he sets about illuminating at the illumination that involves a running car with our profoundly moving scene in the second act. When James visits an uncle who was a priest to get all the facts of the miracle.
The last act does not have quite that much emotional intensity but when James Scott was home to visit his mother again and the woman he has divorced Mr. Green is again writing like a man of conviction and understanding. The parting shot is a drama about religious faith. The calluses who dominate the cast of characters are rationalise who do not believe in the Christian religion. If for other players over there scorn for things that cannot be explained is shaken by what may have been a miracle in their family. Your spiles are certainties. Says the widow of an eminent rationalist. When she has considered the evidence I don't believe in this miracle she continues but I'm not sure any longer. We none of us are sure. When you can't be sure you are alive that final sentence is Mr. Green's summing up as a dramatist and the most trenchant Reebok in the play.
That was Brooks Atkinson a drama critic for The New York Times. If the religious view in the potting shed seemed pre-determined to Mr. Atkinson I must confess that it seemed disconcerting to me. Well first of all I was struck by the lack of any moral commitment in the religion Mr Green presented in the potting shed. In fact his central character James calipers seem to be attracted to religion as a way of losing individual responsibility and sacrificing free will. In part this may have been due to the acting but I saw the potting shed in New York with a priest who had read the play beforehand and he too felt as I did that the potting shed seems to present its strongest case for hopeless despair and the loss of will. In addition to presenting it fairly unrelieved attack upon reason and rationality. But perhaps we were looking for too much. Perhaps the potting shed is primarily the story of a struggle a highly theatrical story of a
Quest and of contradictions. This would appear to be Richard Watts view of the play. Mr. Watts a Catholic of the distinguished columnist and drama critic for The New York Post has recorded especially for this program here is drama critic Richard Watts Jr.. Graham Greene's The potting shed is an absorbing and fascinating drama in which the author is dark and tortured probing into the doubts and torments of religious faith with a special reference to his own strangely bleak Catholicism are set down and brilliantly effective theatrical terms and the acting is superb. Although Mr Green is a Catholic who writes As a Catholic he is highly personal religion seems so Dawran upsetting the almost appears at times to hate it. If the potting shed uncharacteristically ends on a slight note of hope of hopefulness it is nonetheless evident that the spiritual comfort is not what he is looking for in faith. What he is searching for appears to be a kind of intellectual
scourge. While you write of religion he is no propagandist for it. The search is in his own soul and the questions restless terribly candid and remarkably moving. If the parting shot is basically a struggle between religious faith and atheism the author makes it clear it is atheism and not ignited a system that is his enemy. He is in truth sympathetic to the agnostic while scorning the atheist. And if his own viewpoint may be described in brief it must be in his protagonist remark that he could not believe in a god he understood. What is important though is that what ever you may feel about Mr. Green's ideas you are hardly likely to escape being deeply stirred by this forceful eloquent and serving manner of expression. That was Richard Watts Jr. drama critic for The New York Post. E. Martin Browne is the chairman of the religious drama society of Great Britain. When he Martin Brown
was here in the United States as a guest professor at the special religious drama here at the Union Theological Seminary in New York City I had the chance to ask Professor Brown about this apparently hopeless despair in our modern dramas concerned with religion. The plays of Graham Greene in T.S. Eliot the overall effect is one which is very negative. Now does this mean that religion is trying to give us Christianity is only trying to give us a kind of recognition of our inner despair or the futility of life. Or have I missed the point. No I don't think you missed the point I don't think you've gone far enough towards it. These authors are trying to do what I think. Anybody actively engaged in promoting the Christian faith in any way today would say one has to do which is to face up to
the situation of man. But whereas that to say sorry is doing that he stops at that point and doesn't begin to give any sort of answer to man's situation. And that's the difference. So the Christian author begins to lead one towards. The answer which only Christianity can give. That was Professor MRN Brown chairman of the religious drama society of Great Britain. One reference by Professor Brown may need some help stray Shannon comment. He referred to Sartre John Paul Sartre as a writer who faces up to the situation of man but doesn't begin to give any sort of answer. So the truth is the author of such plays as the respectful prostitute no exit in the Flies. It is in his book existentialism however that perhaps best illustrates
or even refutes the points made about him by E. Martin Braun. I quote now from existentialism and human emotion by John Paul Sartre. Dostoevsky said. If God didn't exist everything would be possible. That is the very starting point of existentialism. Indeed everything is permissible if God does not exist. And as a result man is for lorn because neither within him nor without Does he find anything to cling to. He can't start making excuses for himself. Thus Existentialism is first move is to make every man aware of what he is and to make the full responsibility of his existence rests on him. And when we say that a man is responsible for himself we do not only mean that he is responsible for his own individuality but that he is responsible for all men. Thus our responsibility is much greater and we might have
supposed because it involves all mankind. And that is the end of quotation. I have included this quotation not only because of the Martin Brown's reference to Sadat but because of Graham Greene's failure to make his rationalist antagonist in the potting shed a man of the caliber of sart as it is the intellectual rationalist in Green's play is a rather limited and stupid sort of straw man set up to be knocked down thoroughly incapable of presenting the rationalist strongest case which is the case for responsible and moral human behavior. But let us see what the strong case in the potting shed may be for an answer I'd turn to the drama critic for the Catholic News Dr Joan Allison a nurse. Interestingly enough the critic for the Catholic nose did not see a specifically Catholic case in the potting shed. Here now is John Allison a nurse. Well I think that the green was writing more or less of a
morality play I think he was saying very simply that if you don't have a if you don't have some kind of faith you don't have a faith in God that you're not going to be a complete human being that is going to affect your happiness in ordinary social relationships that. But your love of God reinforces your love of people and gives life to it. No actually he he works it out in a very clever play in a play that has nice fat acting pumps and good confrontation scenes and much the type of story suspense. But I don't think some of the individual plot items that will be too close inspection the parting shot now is written by Graham Greene was a Catholic and there is something which is extremely theological and occurs in the play and that is a miracle.
What kind of reactions has it received in young Catholic authorities. Well there has been no. Disbelief in the idea of restoring a child to life I mean that you have that in the Bible as a possibility in the restoration of life through prayer. But there's been considerable and some angry skepticism on the idea that the priest could make this outrageous bargain with God and give up his actual faith in. In religion and had that accepted by God in a sort of deal. Whereupon the priest for 30 years says mass in his confession to the ministers the sacraments all the time not believing a word of it. And apparently a very good man. As a result because he does all the slaying doesn't believe what he's doing would save the most people be pretty much on
the hypocritical side it. It gets currently involved and Catholics have found me. At least from what I read I have found the actual working out of the bargain pretty absurd. Greene himself says there was no such explanation as the priest game and the priest was confuse that. That God didn't take his faith away from that. He just I don't know he just himself seems to feel happy about religion because he believed. I gotta tell you it's very confusing. I don't really understand and. But I think it just was meant to be taken very lightly in in in the context of his overall idea about the need for faith to for man to live successfully that psychoanalysis and cellphone won't solve everything. You notice the psychoanalyst failed he could get quite deep enough.
Well the drama critic for the Catholic knows Dr. John Dallas a nurse did not see a specific Catholic message in the potting shed. Eric Bentley did Mr. Bentley is the Brander Matthews professor of dramatic literature at Columbia University author of the playwright as thinker what is theatre and many other books in this field. Here now are some of Eric Bentleys views on Graham Greene's The potting shed. By any standard it's a play of ideas. It's a propaganda play on behalf of the author's philosophy in this case Catholicism as a type of play. It's exactly similar to plays that are used by reading from quite a different point of view of the radical plays socialistic plays or plays of the 30s social plays often have this kind of structure and this kind of set up only that the conclusion that came up where there was perhaps a diametrically opposed that is they would describe somebody losing his religion becoming a socialist as something that we have here as the people bred on H.G. Wells and so forth.
Finding that insufficient and the protagonist feeling his way toward religion Graham Greene is too canny and proselytizing Catholic to preach just blunt sermon at the end. So he has it hear us say that now he believes in God but doesn't love him. In other words he hasn't become fully religious but he's become partly religious he has his foot on what Graham brain regards as the bottom rung of the ladder. I talk to three Catholics one John and Thomas and nurses as a real use for the Catholic knows and I took a priest to see the play and Mr. Watts is Catholic and the three of them all expressed the same point of view or they thought Greene was talking about Green's religion and that this wasn't Catholicism at all in fact the priest refused to record and have his name associated with a comment on the play that it was completely
irresponsible concept of religion. The green is a 90 clerical Catholic. Therefore it stands to reason that some of the clerics will be on to green. It makes good sense that many priests would be against him he has against many priests. I say many priests are not priests on principle. He usually has a priest in there who is a bad praise. This seems to be so in the present play that I actually it turns out in the end of the story that he hadn't been really a bad priest but for a good deal of the evening you think you've been seeing a portrait of a priest who is now alcoholic. It turns out that while that is. True there is such a moving explanation for it. An explanation not a tall discreditable to the priest when going to the details now that it turns out not to be a bad priest. But I do think that Graham Greene is interested
in converting non-Catholics and partly by showing them how broad minded he has and how he's not committed to liking every priest or every Catholic. He usually gives and says I remember his previous play I had several characters in it who were bad Catholics. That is they were Catholics who were not very good people who didn't behave very well and he does this with a kind of fairness but also I feel with a kind of cunning as a demonstration of broad mindedness to show that he is critical of his own side. To me as a non-Catholic those seem to me they import and features of his Catholicism. I don't see how individual priest can do is own him he is a member of that church it would take the pope to change that I think they can disagree with him as he does with them. They can. They gon hate him but they can dislike him I suppose. They can resent him they can feel that he isn't doing a service to their cause.
I'm sure he feels he is and could be plenty of difference of opinion on the ball and I can only give an outsider's impression of what I think Graham Greene is trying to do to me and I think he's trying to convert me to Catholicism. That was author scholar Eric Bentley. Martin asked to Arkin as a critic for progressive magazine and a lecturer at the Teachers College of Columbia University. Mr. Dworkin would take issue with our announced topic itself the Catholicism of Graham Greene. Is this a fair topic. Here is critique. MARTIN As to Aachen. Green theology should be separated from his artistry. GREENE As a theologian is a very dubious. Theologian indeed. Whereas a novelist or a dramatist he might be good enough to bring people into theaters or have them buy his books. The very fact that he does have a religious orientation does
not necessarily justify the validity of his religious arguments. People must not be carried away sentimental ie by the fact that he does appear to be arguing under the auspices of a particular religious faith. He does not stand for the church I see no imprimatur on his works and I think I've heard many many of the most penetrating criticisms of green on theological grounds stated by Catholics who could argue from the theological position and almost one might say resented. Oh I admit that there was something of the resentment of the parvenu in this. There's always as you know resentment of converts of newly rich people who've arrived a little later. So that there was some of this to be sure but yet the arguments logically were quite forceful in characterizing Greene as going much too
far along a certain road in order to prove certain points which aren't defensible in a faith. That believes in the temperance of mercy and fundamentally must have a respect for individual liberty that he seems to be attempting to avoid in wanting to lose himself in some great collective power outside himself. That was writer and critic Martin as truckin. Edmund Fuller is also an author and a scholar. His most recent book Man in modern fiction. Mr. Feller does not believe it is unfair to classify a writer on religious grounds but he does believe that such a writer has a very difficult job cut out for himself. Here now is Edmund Fuller. I would say this about green so far as I know
the chief perhaps an imitation of green as a Catholic Christian writer which would be his specific category. It would be a certain almost fatalistic. Dark complected view of life so to speak it is perhaps a narrow spectrum a narrow spectrum and a Christian view of man. As for the problem you mention in the case of the Catholic cleric in viewing the play we have always this problem whether it be within Catholicism or within Anglicanism. When the artist presses the study of men to the ultimate implications of the Christian faith this is often horrifying even to ministers and priests of the Christian faith. Sometimes I can't apply it to that particular instance but I know for instance
my man and I'm happy to be able to call a friend whom I admire very much Mr. Allen Peyton who as a novelist is without doubt one of the strongest Christian voices. It's been his own experience to find that devout and sincere Christians have almost been shocked or recoiled from the ruthlessness with which in his two novels he has projected the implications of Christianity in the life of man. It's commonly thought by many non-religious people that religion is a soft thing or that religion is an easy. Way of life or an escape from life I think to the truly religious person religion is the most awesome and terrifying and demanding view of life but that a man can find and that's that's the difference between you might say a sentimental escapist religion and a religion that cuts deeper into this question of what man is and what man's relationship would be to his Creator if indeed
he has a creator. And now for a summary view of today's program as our special guest we have Dr. Tom F. driver drama critic for The Christian century an instructor in the Union Theological Seminary program in Russia just drama. Dr. driver we heard Professor Bentley a moment ago remind us that the potting shed is a play of ideas and that its form is like the problem dramas or plays of social conscience which were so popular earlier in this century. My own misgivings about the play would stem from the opinion that the ideas with which Mr. Greene is dealing have not been successfully wedded with the form he has chosen for their expression. I could put that another way by saying that both in the theology and in the dramaturgy there seems to be an unsuitable quality best described as mechanical. On the side of dramatics the play has both a highly artificial contrived plot and also a number
of characters and some of them the major ones who are stick figures in some of the dramatic form comedy fantasies satire or what have you. This would not be a criticism but in a supposedly realistic play it is a serious one. It becomes all the more serious when the theme of the play is the religious faith of the characters on the theological side. The mechanical quality of the thought is seen in the playwrights argument for a miracle. Mr. Green seems to adopt the view that if one is convinced of a miracle he comes to faith but that if he is not there is no faith in the question of faith during this play is posed only in terms of supernatural intervention in the natural laws. It is surely true however that many persons come to deep religious faith without belief in miracles. It is also true that the occurrence of a miracle is no proof of God. It is merely proof that something in explicable has occurred.
A miracle does not solve the problem of God. It makes it more acute for a miracle which is not seen by the eyes of faith is not a testimony of God. What is needed I feel is a play about the struggle between doubt and faith that would not be entirely and a lecture will struggle but one in which the man himself became the battleground for two opposed forces within him. Mr. Green came close to such a character in the priest in the potting shed. A man who has lost his faith for some reason unknown to himself. The scene with the priest was therefore the most human scene of the play and the most credible the critical comments we have heard on this program are evidence I believe that Graham Greene has an extraordinary ability to tantalize and to frustrate his audience. He is forthright handling of the religious question is admirable and gains respect in every quarter. Yet the mechanical handling of the question fights both with his
chosen dramatic form and with the audience sense of the credible. Therefore he leaves both Catholic and non-Catholic unsatisfied. And to the extent that he causes us to ponder our own beliefs however he is a salutary presence in the theater. Our program today get he ology of Graham Greene was summarized by Dr. Tom F. driver drama critic for The Christian Century and instructor in the program in religious drama at the Union Theological Seminary in New York City. Ideas and the theatre is produced by Philip K. u o M's critic at large and the commentator for the series next week a probing analysis of The Diary of Anne Frank. The sign of Jonah and social guilt. You will hear drama critics Brooks Atkinson Richard Watts Jr. and Thyra Samter Winslow plus excerpts from the sign of Jonah by the original New York cast who first presented this provocative play at the Union Theological Seminary. You will also meet Robert E.
- Ideas and the Theatre
- The theology of Graham Greene
- Producing Organization
- University of Minnesota
- KUOM (Radio station : Minneapolis, Minn.)
- Contributing Organization
- University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
- AAPB ID
- Episode Description
- Graham Greene, Jean-Paul Sartre
- Other Description
- The series presents a discussion of the current American theatre; its values, beliefs, patterns, and problems. Participants include Arthur Miller, Eric Bentley, Gore Vidal, Brooks Atkinson, Cyril Ritchard, Clinton Wilder, Tennessee Williams, and others.
- Broadcast Date
- Greene, Graham, 1904-1991
- Media type
Guest: Bentley, Eric, 1916-
Guest: Dworkin, Martin S., 1921-1996
Guest: Fuller, Edmund, 1914-2001
Guest: Atkinson, Brooks, 1894-1984
Guest: Watts, Richard, Jr.
Guest: Browne, E. Martin (Elliott Martin), 1900-1980
Host: Kerwin, Jonathan W.
Producer: Gelb, Philip
Producing Organization: University of Minnesota
Producing Organization: KUOM (Radio station : Minneapolis, Minn.)
Subject: Greene, Graham, 1904-1991
- AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 58-7-10 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
If you have a copy of this asset and would like us to add it to our catalog, please contact us.
- Chicago: “Ideas and the Theatre; The theology of Graham Greene,” 1958-01-01, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed December 2, 2021, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-610vv185.
- MLA: “Ideas and the Theatre; The theology of Graham Greene.” 1958-01-01. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. December 2, 2021. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-610vv185>.
- APA: Ideas and the Theatre; The theology of Graham Greene. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-500-610vv185