Escaping to the Convent
It’s a crazy world.
Just scrolling through Facebook recently has become an exercise of resilience. Gun violence, terrorism, refugee crises, racial inequity. Increased connectivity has led to a sense of shared responsibility. It can feel like an infinite burden. It’s only natural to want to escape. But let’s be real: escape is next to impossible. That overwhelming connectivity is right there, beeping in your pocket as you speed down I-76.
A growing (yes, growing!) number of women, however, have found a way to escape from the world in a very real way: as cloistered nuns.
We’ve been doing a lot of research on the lives of cloistered nuns here at FringeArts to get inside the world No Face Performance Group (an artistic partnership between Jaime Maseda and Mark McCloughan) is creating for Abbot Adam: None. And while much of their lives seem foreign and strange, we’ve found ourselves feeling wistful for a community apart from the world.
When talking to us about their inspiration for the piece, Mark said, “I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the stricture of monastic life, but also the freedom that many people talk about it granting them. There’s an interplay, it seems, between this stricture and freedom that’s really compelling to me.”
This sentiment is echoed in interviews and testimonials from real cloistered nuns. In an interview with Regina Magazine, Sister Mary Catherine exclaimed, “The cloister frees us immensely! One of the biggest fears in those discerning a contemplative vocation is that the cloister is seen as squashing freedom but it is just the opposite. The cloister broadens us. It frees us from so many cares and concerns.” She goes on to say, “The world is so noisy, both audibly and visually. I really don’t understand how people stay sane!”
This begs the question then: are we freed by the infinite choice we are confronted with on a daily basis? Or paralyzed by it?
Mark and Jaime feel called to create Abbot Adam: None, in much the same way a nun feels called to the contemplative life. “In a way, the process of making this piece has kind of stripped away a lot of the things we know, not unlike the way a new novitiate in a convent would suddenly be stripped of the world she was familiar with and forced to reckon with a radically new way of life.”
Leaving distraction and excess behind has freed Mark and Jaime into new artistic and spiritual territory, free from the noise of everyday life. After all, the life of an artist isn’t too different from the life of a monastic: driven by a deep call to be a part of something greater, working tirelessly for a more beautiful world.
What does that mean for the rest of us? Do we each have our own vocations? Do our callings create new territories—and do we find peace, freedom, and meaning in those territories?
– Hallie Martenson
The world premiere of Abbot Adam: None runs at FringeArts December 10-12. Click here for more information and tickets.