Discovery: A Comic Lament

Discovery: A Comic Lament

Booking now for 2019/2020!

Starring Ted Swartz and Michelle Milne, Discovery: A Comic Lament looks at love of land, loss of land, and what it means to “own” something.

Chris has farmed the land his grandmother found as a home in Kansas after fleeing Russia almost 100 years ago; his daughter Riley is learning more and more about who was on that same land before her Oma arrived, and the jarring connections she has to the fate of those people. We follow Chris and Riley as they navigate their changing relationship to each other and to the land their family has farmed for several generations.

Interspersed with their story are vignettes examining how “ownership” has come to be defined in the US and Canada. Diving into historical documents, absurd situations, and extended metaphors, the audience discovers how the Doctrine of Discovery (the legal framework that justifies theft of land and oppression of Indigenous Peoples) is still being used and causing harm today.

Discovery: A Comic Lament provides a starting point for further conversation: What does it mean to “own” something? What is the relationship between “owning” and “taking” — and what is the relationship between “ownership” and (taking) responsibility?

Words from our Audience

“I have been researching my German ancestors’ immigration through the port of Philadelphia in the 1700s … Your play reminded me how art can engage not just the intellect, but the soul and our emotional lives in a deeper way that has more potential for change. Thank you!” – Mark

“The points are clear without being preachy, the characters are engaging and likeable, and the ending is open for us to walk into. I was already on a path into some kind of reconciliation work with the indigenous community, and you have opened me up to an even deeper intention in that direction. Thank you.” – David

An 80-year-old man came up to me in church today with tears in his eyes. He had been learning about the Doctrine of Christian Discovery. He told me that this play had opened up a space in his heart. Sincere thanks, and gratitude for changes that take place amongst older ones…” – Steve

“The stories were both beautiful and painful to watch, as it should be.” – Patty

“The impact on me was as strong as what ‘The Colour Purple’ did to me 30 years ago.” – David

“I’m so grateful to have attended last night’s performance in Leola, PA.  As you may know, there’s a 42″ high-pressure shale gas pipeline being built across Lancaster County.  It meant a lot to me that you spoke of our issues in the play. The teaching you’re doing is incredibly important.” – Don

“The car metaphor is brilliant.” – Randy



Script Preview: “Empty”

Now. Look at the land, really look at it. Is the land empty, or full?


JOHNSON (interrupts)
Is it fulfilling its God-given purpose?

Which is?

To be built upon! To become productive! May I quote, sir? “Be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth and subdue it. And have dominion over every living thing.” We must fulfill the earth, that is its manifest destiny: to be conquered, to be a place of growth and expansion!


About the People

Ted Swartz, actor and producer, is a theologian of a different sort. Both theater and seminary trained, Ted has found a unique and entertaining discovery; at the intersection of humor and biblical story is often a greater understanding of the text.  Or, at the very least, a different understanding.  Call it “comedic exegesis.” Ted is the owner and creative director of Ted & Co Theaterworks.

Blending poignancy and humor with biblical story, Ted has an uncanny ability to bring archaic biblical characters to life in a way that helps anyone identify with people who were at one time only names in a big Book. It’s through this portrayal of these life-like characters that comedy emerges and audiences see God’s story in a whole new light. Ted has written or co-written more than 14 shows and the book Laughter is Sacred Space.

Ted lives in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. Along with writing and acting, his loves include his wife, Sue; three sons, Eliot, Ian and Derek; daughters-in-law, Katrina, Hanna and Chelsea; his granddaughters Mona Quinn and Hattie Claire… oh, and baseball.

Michelle Milne, actor & movement director, has worked as a performer, director, writer, and educator across the US — including both coasts and regions in between.

She recently directed highly physical and immersive productions of Every Brilliant Thing, Brontë (Drammy Award for Best Production, Portland), Eurydice, Macbeth (at a prison in Oregon), Julius Caesar, Romeo & Juliet (SB Tribune Regional Best Production), The Best of Everything, and several ensemble-devised productions.

She has toured her original writing with musician Heather Kropf in We Know There Are Oceans: A Travelogue; has performed her poetry as “Carmelina du Jour” in Chicago’s Poetry Bordello; and appeared as Supervisor McCrae in the sci-fi TV show pilot Decktechs. Her original piece about the US-Mexico border, For Those Who Cannot Fly, premiered in San Francisco; she is expanding that piece for further touring under the title Edge Effects.

Michelle is a Feldenkrais Method practitioner, and has taught theatre and movement at colleges, universities, prisons, and jails, and to the general public. For the past six years she has been navigating three geographic homes and life on the road as part of her ongoing writing project, Traveling Home.

Alison Brookins, writer, is a pastor and playwright who is still figuring out what the difference is. As pastor of Chicago Community Mennonite Church she strives to live into a theology of justice, joy, and humor, dreaming of holy spaces where people can tell the truth and engage as their full selves. She mastered divinity at Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary (MDiv 2017). During seminary she arm-twisted Ted & Company TheaterWorks into an internship where she wrote Discovery: A Comic Lament and this last year she worked with Toronto-based Theatre of the Beat on the show #churchtoo, which will hopefully make it to the States before long.

Phil HeadshotPhil Weaver-Stoesz, director, works as a theatre director, arts educator, and creative facilitator. He is a recent MFA recipient from ASU, where he assisted Liz Lerman in teaching a cross-disciplinary course that devised performances from current science research and stage managed Sojourn Theatre’s The Race, an 8 hour civic experience on election day directed by Michael Rohd.

While at ASU, Phil was awarded the Creation Grant for his research in theatre and creative computing, as well as the PAVE Arts Entrepreneurship Grant for starting Catalyst Creative, a production company that creates performances, installations and festivals through facilitating artist/researcher collaboration. He also specialized in new play development, where he worked for 16 months on a new work, working with the playwright from the first draft all the way through a fully produced main stage production.

His latest work, The Source Project, brought together sustainability researchers and artists to co-create a Planet Celebration Festival at the Desert Botanical Garden. He is currently based in Phoenix, Arizona.

About the Doctrine of Discovery

The Doctrine of Discovery is the philosophical and legal framework that justified invading and seizing Indigenous lands and dominating Indigenous Peoples by 15th century Christian governments.

This framework formed the basis for patterns of oppression that continues today through concepts of precedent and ideas of ownership, including U.S. Supreme Court rulings as recent as 2005.

These concepts created a foundation of domination that legitimates ongoing displacement of Indigenous Peoples, and harm the earth.

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