A quote is attributed to Mother Teresa: “I see God in every human being. When I wash the leper’s wounds, I feel I am nursing the Lord himself. Is it not a beautiful experience?”
Christin Jezak, a Fall River, Mass. native, reinforces these words in her one-woman play, “Person-To-Person: A Mother Teresa Project,” which will be performed at St. Agnes Parish Center in Blackwood, on Saturday, Oct. 17 at 7 p.m.
Jezak hopes to bring to light Mother Teresa’s thoughts on human dignity and the value of every person. Jezak performs as Mother Teresa at the beginning of the performance, and then changes into various characters, challenging the audience to see the face of Jesus in each individual: Ann, a prostitute; Bridget, a high school student; Clare, an 81 year-old nursing patient; Frances, a young adult; Jerry, a homeless man; and Joy, a disabled woman.
Her brother, Nate, provides original music to go with words spoken by the real Mother Teresa.
Jezak, 26, first performed the play in May 2007, a senior thesis for the Master of Arts in Theatre she was completing at Villanova University. To prepare for the piece, she spent five months working with the Missionaries of Charity in Norristown, Pa., helping out in a soup kitchen, women’s shelter, and with an after-school program for Hispanic youth. During that time, she saw the love which was the hallmark of Mother Teresa’s life and of the Missionaries of Charity’s work.
“It didn’t matter who came to the (Sisters’) door, everyone was greeted with joy, and interest. Mother’s life, their life, was about others.”
Jezak had invited a youth minister she befriended from East Norriton, Pa., to witness her thesis presentation, and after the performance, the friend wanted Jezak to do it again in front of her youth group. And thus, Jezak says, things “snowballed.” She estimates that she has done close to 70 performances around the northeast since May 2007, at parishes, schools, youth and young adult events, at Philadelphia’s Catholic Underground, at Immaculata University in Pennsylvania. Last year, she put on the play in Sydney, Australia for World Youth Day.
When asked how long she anticipates she will be performing this piece, she quickly answers, “As long as people want it.” She mentioned a good review she got from a Missionaries of Charity Sister, who felt that she accurately captured the essence of Mother Teresa’s and her order’s, spirituality.
“We forget that everyone has a story, everyone has value. My goal is to make people think and make them change for good.”
Her set is simple, with a clothesline and a pile of props that represent “the pile of humanity.” As well, the background wall is covered with the handprints of past audience members, “the hands of humanity.”
Jezak’s other acting credits include working as an extra in the filming of last year’s Kevin James vehicle, “Paul Blart, Mall Cop,” and the recently opened “The Invention of Lying,” starring Ricky Gervais.
For now, though, she is Mother Teresa and the individuals that, no matter their health, profession, age, or disability, are all deserving of dignity and love. It is a message that has stuck with Jezak, one that is continuing to grow inside her, and one that she must get out to the masses.
“It’s a piece that grows with me. For me, it’s always discovery. You never know everything.”
Tickets are $10, for “Person-To-Person: A Mother Teresa Project,” on Saturday, October 17, 7 p.m., at St. Agnes Parish Center in Blackwood. For more information, call 856-228-4914.