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Richmond Catholic Theatre group to perform at World Youth Day, possibly in front of Pope Francis

July 14, 2016

By JUSTIN MATTINGLY Richmond Times-Dispatch |


Five members of the Richmond Catholic Theatre rehearsed earlier this week in a nearly empty Saint Benedict Catholic School. The crowd was about 3 million fewer than the one they’ll be performing for at the end of the month.


The theater group received a rare invitation to perform at World Youth Day in Krakow, Poland, on July 28 and 29. Among the millions expected to attend is Pope Francis.


The seven-person cast, made up of young adults, will perform “The Jeweler’s Shop: A Meditation on the Sacrament of Matrimony, Passing on Occasion into a Drama,” which was written by Pope John Paul II.


“It’s important to me that this is quality theater because this is a ministry and should be treated as such,” said Christine Arena, the managing artistic director for the theater group.


In its first formal rehearsal, the group focused first on staying loose — reciting popular fairy tales while tossing a baseball in a circle. Then they took to rehearsing the actual play in the empty library and bare hallways of the school.


The play is one of 40 acts that will be performed at the weeklong event.


The selection came as a surprise to Christine and Richard Arena, the husband and wife who founded Richmond Catholic Theatre. While the group was less than six months old at the time, Richard Arena had the thought of applying and seeing what would happen.


They found out June 10 — nine days before