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Staging ‘Spectacle’

When Blessed Fr. William Joseph Chaminade called on Marianists to be a "spectacle of saints," he probably never envisioned his words becoming the chorus of a rousing musical number, complete with costumes, sets and choreography.

The University of Dayton will present the world premiere of Spectacle, a new original musical about the founding of the Society of Mary, April 20-22 in the Kennedy Union Boll Theatre on campus.

Set during and after the French Revolution, Spectacle tells the story of the three Marianist co-founders: Chaminade, who risked death by secretly continuing his priestly ministry under persecution from the French government; Marie-Thérèse de Lamourous, who fought to improve women’s lives and support the Catholic Church in any way she could; and Mother Adèle de Batz de Trenquelléon, who struggled in choosing vowed religious life over marriage.

Together, they collaborated to build communities of faith and restore the Catholic Church in France. In 1816, the Daughters of Mary Immaculate was launched under the leadership of Mother Adèle. One year later, Chaminade founded the Society of Mary, a Roman Catholic order that sponsors the University of Dayton.

Nick Cardilino, associate director of Campus Ministry, was inspired to write the musical after hearing the founders’ stories together for the first time at a Marianist Educational Associates’ retreat.

“Put in the context of the French Revolution, it became that much more powerful, and that much more a story of courage, determination and strong faith,” Cardilino said. “The spirit spoke to me and said: ‘You should write a musical about this.’”

Cardilino co-wrote the music and lyrics of Spectacle with Jim Ford, executive director of the Marianist Retreat Center near St. Louis, and Bro. Stan Zubek, S.M., from Cape May, New Jersey. He co-wrote Spectacle’s book — the dialogue of the scenes — with Michelle Hayford, director of the Theatre, Dance, and Performance Technology program.

A staged reading of selected scenes in development was presented last July as part of the 2017 Lay Marianist Assembly on campus. Since January, a large cast and crew of students, faculty and staff has been preparing the full production for its premiere.

Staging a new production is a rare opportunity for discovery, said Hayford, who is directing Spectacle.

“To be in a position where you get to bring something to life for the first time and help create a script that then becomes embodied and built in with choreography, set design and costume design — we don’t have the luxury of looking at past productions and saying, ‘Well, how did they do it?’ No, we are the ones who are laying that foundation,” Hayford said. “We’re responsible for telling this story for the first time. It is a great responsibility, but one we’ve met with joy.”

Caleb Baron also feels a sense of responsibility about portraying Chaminade, whose name and likeness are familiar on campus — most notably in the form of a statue on the Central Mall created by artist and alumnus Joseph Aspell ’68.

“When I was preparing for this role, I would often picture myself as that man — that guy on the green, in all the paintings, with the grey hair and the cap,” said Baron, a sophomore choral music education major from Western Springs, Illinois. “It is a lot of pressure to deliver this magnitude of a character, but it’s honestly an honor to be able to portray Father Chaminade.”

While Chaminade gets much of the credit for founding the Marianists, Marie-Thérèse was with him every step of the way, said Mariah Berryman, a first-year voice performance major from Dearborn, Michigan, who portrays the French laywoman. She researched her role and discovered how Marie-Thérèse helped Chaminade and the people of Bordeaux keep up their faith while it was being suppressed during the revolution.

Adam Cepeda, a senior music studies major from Dededo, Guam, said his role as the villain is “loads of fun.” He portrays Commander Fouché, the chief of police, who pursues priests and other Catholic leaders who refuse to swear an oath to the French government, rather than the Vatican, and sends them to the guillotine.

“It really has been a joy bringing this to life with my peers and mentors,” Cepeda said. “This is something that is central to the University of Dayton. Not many students actually know how the Society of Mary and the Daughters of Mary Immaculate were established in France 200 years ago. It is a privilege and an honor to be able to share this story with students and the Marianist brothers and sisters.”

Spectacle is presented with support from the Department of Music, Campus Ministry and the Office for Mission and Rector, and through a gift to the University from alumnus John Alberici ’67 and his wife, Natalie.

Performances are 8 p.m. Friday, April 20, and Saturday, April 21; and 2 p.m. Sunday, April 22. Tickets are $12 general admission; $8 for University students, faculty and staff, available at the Kennedy Union Box Office or online at

- Dave Larsen, communication coordinator, College of Arts and Sciences

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