October 22, 2003
CONTACT: Mike Stepanovich, 661/664-2456, mstepanovich@csub.edu

The powerful story of a convent nun who apparently gives birth to a baby found dead in a wastepaper basket is California State University, Bakersfield’s Theater Fest’s first production of the 2003-04 season.

“Agnes of God,” by John Pielmeier, is a moving story of faith vs. science that was a co-winner of the 1979 Great American Play Contest. The play premiered professionally in March 1980 at Actors Theater of Louisville, Ky. It opened for a 17-month run on Broadway in 1982.

It was the Broadway production that CSUB theater department chair Anita DuPratt saw that inspired her to stage the play in Bakersfield.

“I saw the original production in 1982,” she said. “It was one of those experiences that just stuck with me. So when we were choosing the plays for this year, I looked at our students, and felt that with the women we have in the department that we could do it. It’s a smaller cast – three women – and has a powerful dynamic. Plus I think it’s a great play.”

The story revolves around three women, Dr. Martha Livingstone, a psychiatrist; Miriam, the Mother Superior of the convent; and Agnes the 21-year-old nun whose dead baby Agnes seemingly has no recollection of birthing, killing or tossing. Agnes seems incredibly naïve – or is she really insane? That’s Livingstone’s task to determine. Questions abound between logic and faith. Can there be miracles in today’s world? Is it possible for the unexplainable to be accepted as truth? Livingstone is a former Catholic whose resentment towards the church and her anger with the protective Mother Superior drive her to probe for an interpretation of events that will satisfy her truth and justify her personal rage. The Mother Superior, in desperate need of a focus for her shaky faith, is equally determined that Sister Agnes' simple piety will not be destroyed.

The conflict between religion and science lead to a stimulating search for the truth.

The three-woman cast features CSUB students Leah Espericueta as Dr. Martha Livingstone, Rovi Ann Sampaga as the Mother Superior, and Toni Kerley as Agnes.

Playwright Pielmeier began his career as an actor, working at Actors Theater of Louisville, Baltimore's Center Stage, and the O'Neill National Playwrights' Conference, among others. In addition “Agnes of God,” his plays include “The Boys of Winter,” “A Ghost Story,” “A Gothic Tale,” “Impassioned Embraces,” and “Sleight of Hand.” For “Choices of the Heart,” a television movie he wrote about the slain American missionaries in El Salvador, he received a Christopher Award, the Humanitas Award, a Writers Guild of America nomination, and an honorary doctorate of letters from St. Edward's University in Austin, Texas. He has written several movies for television, as well as the screenplay for “Agnes of God.”

He is a member of The Dramatists' Guild, The Writers' Guild of America East, and an alumni member of New Dramatists. He is married to poet and author Irene O'Garden and lives in Garrison, N.Y.

"Agnes of God" opens in the Doré Theater on the CSUB campus on Thursday, Oct. 30, for a four-performance run. The curtain will rise at 8 p.m. on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, Oct. 30-31 and Nov. 1, and at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Nov. 2. Cost is $10 general admission, $8 for faculty, staff and senior citizens, and $5 for students with identification.

For tickets or more information, please call the CSUB Theater Department office at (661) 664-3093.