The Reformation-era play “Luther’s Trumpet” poses provocative questions about faith justice, priestly celibacy and standing up against authoritarianism.
For Mason rising junior Steven Franco, who has the role of Philip, friend of Martin Luther, it is just as relevant for today’s time period.
“The script,” the theater major said, “is an example of how people fought for what they believed in.”
Franco is one of two Mason students in the production, which will be presented May 28 through June 4 as a prerecorded digital performance. Rising senior Hasan Crawford, also a theater major, plays Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor.
“As I would expect, our students came to work well prepared and with lots of creative energy,” said Rick Davis, dean of Mason’s College of Visual and Performing Arts and the play’s director. “They meshed well with the professional cast members and adapted to the hybrid environment of our workshop, which was rehearsed and shot like a television show or film much more than a traditional play. And they delivered their roles with precision.”
“Luther’s Trumpet” takes place in the early 1500s, when Martin Luther went toe-to-toe with the dominant powers of the Western world—the Catholic church and the Holy Roman Empire. Luther’s public objections to what he believed was a Christianity driven by greed and materialism brought him into grave personal danger, even as he shook the foundations of European civilization.
Mason students joined community and faculty actors in the production, which was recorded at the Center for the Arts. The Moving Story Window Wall projection technology, developed by Mason Heritage Professor of Dance Christopher D’Amboise, blended scenic effects with other actors who appeared remotely.
"I hope the audience enjoys the hybrid workshop environment as much as we did, blending in-person actors, Zoom-world actors, and digital scenery,” Davis said. “Audience response will be key to the next steps for the project, and we invite folks to be in touch with their reactions and questions.”
“Luther’s Trumpet” also stars Mason associate professor of theater and well-known Washington, D.C., actor Edward Gero as Martin Luther, and Craig Wallace as Pope Leo X. Other appearances include Kevin Murray (interim director of the School of Theater) as indulgence seller Friar Tetzel. David Tatel (a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals) appears as the Devil, a role he played in the 2018 premiere production at the Stone Hill amphitheater.
Acclaimed historian James Reston Jr. adapted his 2016 book “Luther’s Fortress” into this new dramatic work for the stage.
“I will say that author Jim Reston saves the best for (almost) last, in a deliciously intellectual and emotional scene between Luther and the Devil, in which, as is traditional in great literature, the Devil gets most of the good lines,” said Davis.
“Luther’s Trumpet” can be seen through Mason Arts at Home from May 28 through June 4. The performance is free, but registration is required.