Unexpected Hero

October 27, 2020

Mary Elizabeth Scallen—who goes by MB—serves as both performer and researcher for the Wilma’s production of Heroes of the Fourth Turning. In the midst of rehearsal, she penned the following in response to the play’s characters and ideas.


In this beautifully written, compelling work
Playwright Will Arbery acts as


Four young friends shaped by a strict Catholic college reunite after years in the secular world
But things have changed
As they wrestle with demons
                                    Metaphoric and not
Arbery exposes the thoughts, beliefs, assumptions, and fears
On which fanatics and doubters rely
The whip-smart debate
      And horrifies

But Arbery’s most shocking move in the course of the play
      A radical act
Is to humanize American religious conservatives  


Let’s consider how polarization
Prompts each side to other the other
And stop their own ears

If I, as a leftist, engage with a right-winger’s argument
I fear that I’m
     Dignifying haters
     Elevating lies
     Polluting myself
Or simply wasting time better spent doing any small good

How can I listen when there’s so much to protect?
I foresee
The tabernacle armoring my softest hidden hope
                                                              My good
      Spattered with the spume of beasts

So heresy—no wonder—to acknowledge and receive


Arbery’s play features crisp, smart writing 
Fiery minds that snap at big ideas
Deep, mercurial characters who listen really listen to what they don’t want to hear
It’s a fugue for five voices, a crush
A thrilling rush of fast water

But for me, the remarkable part
Is the humanness of these conservative Catholics
      They question and hope and fight like I do      
And though I cannot agree neither can I deny
                                                            They are no more ‘other’ than I

They remind me that a true Church and a true Republic
Are made of people people people
Who long for
                  And love
Who seek homes for their bodies and homes for their souls

Don’t we all yearn for a real home



Arbery’s HEROES—the brazen opposition—
With searching hearts, hungry minds, and incendiary thoughts
Wander the road with the rest of us
     Achingly real

Doing their best before darkness falls

     To just come home