Archived Story

Actor to read Gospel at a performance

Published 9:46am Friday, April 4, 2014

By Fergus Daily Journal

When Tom Stolz first performed a memorized reading of The Gospel According to St. Mark at The Old Log Theater in Excelsior in 1984, it was more of a theatrical undertaking.

Stolz, a longtime actor, wanted to inject his own brand of performance into the reading. Now, after 30 years and countless recitations, the piece has taken on a different meaning.

“There’s a higher purpose to it now,” Stolz said.

He will bring his well-traveled act to First Lutheran Church in Battle Lake for the first time this weekend. Stolz is set to perform his reading of the gospel at 7 p.m. Sunday at the church.

The Rev. Jake Dyrhaug of First Lutheran has seen Stolz perform the reading before, when he and a group of about 10 congregation members went to Minneapolis for a show a few years ago. He was impressed with that performance, and when Stolz reached out to the church about their interest in having him come to Battle Lake, Dyrhaug knew he could not let the opportunity pass.

“It enlightens the way I’ll read it when I think about some of the way he depicted what’s going on in the text,” Dyrhaug said. “He brings meaningful expression to the reading.”

Stolz has performed in churches, art centers, living rooms and prisons across the country, and has also performed in Switzerland and Israel, among other international stops. He has another performance planned in Israel later this year, for which he is preparing with his current string of performances.

The work has taken on more meaning for Stolz as the years have passed. He has toned down some of the theatricality from those early performances, opting instead for a low-key, approachable delivery.

“There’s many things in Mark’s gospel that I’ve tried to take to heart over the years,” Stolz said, citing servanthood as a primary example. “I can’t think of one thing in my life that’s given me a bigger blessing.”

Each performances takes about 100 minutes including an intermission, according to Stolz. Many of the people who have seen him perform have told him his work brings the word alive for them as it never has before.

Dyrhaug is hoping the same will be true for members of the First Lutheran congregation. The recitation should appeal to guests of all ages, he said.

“Those who have heard it done before realize the power of the spoken word,” he said. “There’s something really vibrant and fresh about it.”

Stolz hopes believers are reaffirmed and doubters are moved to learn more about the gospel from his performance. If he can bring that to at least one person in Battle Lake on Sunday, the work will be worth it.

There will be a free will donation at the door prior to the performance, with the proceeds going towards children’s groups at the church.