After seeing Sons of the Prophet at Park Square Theatre’s Proscenium Stage in which the main character, Joseph, is a former marathon champion sidelined by health issues, runners Peter Erickson, Eric Larson, and Jon Thomas met to talk about the play. This is a continuation of that discussion. (You can read the first part of their conversation in the blog, The Run of a Lifetime.)
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In Sons of the Prophet, the Douaihy family –Joseph, his younger brother Charles, and their uncle Bill—are Lebanese-American. Larson wondered if playwright Stephen Karam had purposely made them Lebanese as a tie-in to a Persian War event that later inspired the first Olympic marathon race in 1896. In that war, the Greek soldier Pheidippides ran over 25 miles from the battlegrounds of Marathon, Greece, to Athens in 490 B.C. to announce the defeat of the Persians. After such a strenuous run to deliver the news of “Niki!” (Victory!), Pheidippides dropped dead. Did this possible link to the Persian War also foreshadow death in the play? And do our lives carry messages that get passed on?
Thomas noticed the connection between the Lebanese to the pervasive theme of suffering in the play. The Douaihy’s are Maronites, an oft-persecuted Lebanese Christian group that migrated to the mountains of Lebanon for refuge. And in the play, a painting of Saint Rafke, born in Hemlaya, Lebanon, in 1832 was cherished by Joseph and Charles’ recently deceased father. She had devoted her life to Christ, asking to share in his suffering. Thereupon, she experienced continual head and eye pain as well as joint deformities, all the while rejoicing in prayer and remaining ever-patient in her suffering. (Perhaps she would also make the perfect Patron Saint of Marathoners, who feel euphoric even while patiently enduring pain to complete the last miles!) Isn’t life also like that–a test of perseverance, of mind over matter?
Erickson brought up more than once the notion of choice—how we can lose choice when trapped by a debilitated body, as we witness with the ailing Bill and Joseph, and how we can gain choice through our outlook on life. With all this suffering, what can one do?
“Try to enjoy what you can in life,” Thomas suggested. “We can dance . . . listen to the music . . . move on . . . .”