Called to perform: Sandra Hartlieb’s Mother Theodore
What does it take to write and perform a one-act play about Saint Mother Theodore Guerin? For Providence Associate Sandra Hartlieb, it took a calling — literally.
“I was mad at Mother Theodore!” Sandra confesses. For years, Sandra had struggled with corneal degeneration. Prayers for Mother Theodore’s intervention seemed to fall on deaf ears. Fast forward to the day of Mother Theodore’s canonization in 2006.
“My husband, Ron, drove us to Saint Mary-of-the-Woods. We attended Mass, and then I wandered around the grounds complaining,” Sandra explains. “I ‘heard’ a voice saying, ‘Tell my story.’ Well, I said, ‘I am telling MY story!’ But the voice came again, and I realized it was HER! Telling me to tell HER story! I decided to do it.”
A one woman play
Sandra, an actor, writer and performer for over 25 years, went on to create and act in a one-woman play entitled “In Her Own Words,” which she performs throughout Indiana.
She debuted the play in 2008, at the Sisters of Providence annual meeting. “I was extremely nervous,” she says, “but after the performance, Sister Mary Ryan said, ‘You got her right!’”
“Getting her right” was no easy feat. Sandra delved into the Sisters of Providence archives at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, with the support of then-archivist Sister Mary Ryan and long-time friend Sister Marie Kevin Tighe (RIP).
“All of [the play] is truly her (Mother Theodore’s) words, strung together like a necklace of great beauty,” Sandra says. The play, set in 1855 before Mother Theodore’s final illness, invites the audience into the saint’s everyday life.
“I think the hardest part of portraying Mother Theodore is getting the right blend of intelligence, humor, incredible faith and complete humility,” Sandra says.
Performing has changed Sandra’s relationship with Mother Theodore as well. “The experience of ‘putting on her habit’ has led me to a much more personal relationship with her. She is indeed like a mother to me. When I have problems, she is usually the first person I go to. What started in 2006 as an angry tirade has turned into conversations with a true friend.”
Performances are booked through Sandra’s ministry, Sisterhood Christian Drama Ministry. Her next performance will be on Feb. 27, 2017, at Fatima Retreat Center in Indianapolis. She is also working with Providence Associate Jane Fischer to give a presentation in Jasper, Indiana, in March 2017. She would love to present her play in area high schools, “but those doors haven’t opened yet.”
Reviews of Sandra’s recent performance at St. Simon’s Parish Center in Indianapolis have been nothing short of glowing. “Sandra’s performance was authentic, professional, accurate, and full of the words and wisdom of our dear Mother Theodore. One could not overlook the attention to detail in Sandra’s work — not just her delivery, poise, and command of the stage,” said one attendee.
Sandra became a Providence Associate in 2009. Since beginning this project, she has “found peace” with her health situation. “I left my ‘poor me’ attitude on the grounds of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods,” she says, “and am surprised every day at what Providence has in store for me!”
Contact Sandra Hartlieb at 317-372-5925 or firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more.