Performance artist Al Staggs brings lives of Bonhoeffer, Romero to stage

By Pam Barrett
March 23, 2006

Al Staggs, a critically-acclaimed performance artist and ordained Baptist minister, will present two one-man plays at Wake Forest University April 6. At 11 a.m., Staggs will perform "The View from the Underside: The Legacy of Deitrich Bonhoeffer" and at 7 p.m. he will present "Oscar Romero: A Martyr's Homily." Both performances will be held in Wait Chapel and are free and open to the public.

Al Staggs

In "The View from the Underside," Staggs portrays Deitrich Bonhoeffer, a 39-year-old German Lutheran theologian, who is in prison in 1943 awaiting execution for his involvement in the German resistance movement.

During World War II, Bonhoeffer agonized over what form of political resistance was appropriate with his position as an ordained minister. He struggled to resolve the competing pressures of patriotism, Lutheran obedience to state authority and ultimate duty to God. His decision is the crux of the play.

In "Oscar Romero: A Martyr's Homily," Staggs portrays Archbishop Oscar Romero, who was assassinated March 24, 1980, in San Salvador while celebrating Mass. Romero was killed for speaking out on behalf of the poor and victims of the country's civil war. His political activism was denounced by both the Roman Catholic Church and the government of El Salvador. Ultimately, his death aroused international outcry for human rights reform in El Salvador. Today, Romero is considered the unofficial spiritual patron of the Americas and El Salvador and is honored by other religious denominations as a 20th-century martyr.

Staggs served as a Baptist minister for 24 years before becoming a full-time performance artist. He holds degrees from Hardin-Simmons University, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Harvard Divinity School and Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary.

The performances are sponsored by the Wake Forest Divinity School, the Office of the Chaplain, the Pro Humanitate Center and Catholic Campus Ministry.

For more information about the performances, call (336) 758-5210.