Edith Weiss on the wise words of Jesus and Mr. Rogers


‘Holy Couch,’ from left: Production assistant Zach Madison, playwright Edith Weiss, actors Diana Dresser and Matthew Schneck, and director Geoffrey Kent. Photo by John Moore for the DCPA NewsCenter.

In this guest column, featured playwright Edith Weiss talks about how her upbringing informed her thoughtful Bite-Size featured play, Holy Couch

As a child with a Catholic-of-questionable-beliefs mother and an atheist father, religion is very interesting to me. My mom, sisters and I went to church for, as mom put it, “insurance.”  Every Saturday my sisters and I confessed our sins and were wiped entirely clean after doing penance. If the priest was feeling particularly cranky, that meant saying the rosary a couple of times. So sitting in the pews doing speed penance with my sisters, I imagined my soul shining pure and bright as we raced through our rosaries.

After getting a letter from the parish office telling us we weren’t putting enough money into the contribution envelopes every Sunday, we broke up with the Catholic Church, and all churches for matter. I’ve never missed it.  You don’t have to be “religious” to find a path for living as a good human. You can just listen to Mr. Rogers.

edith weiss QUOTE Bite SizeJudy and Jim, our protagonists in Holy Couch, are nice people. They take care of their family. They don’t hurt anybody. They think of themselves as “good people,” even if football trumps church on Sundays. When a vision of Jesus appears on their couch, they have to think about what it really means, from the comfort of their cul de sac, to be “good.”

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Consider these words from The Bible, Matthew 19:24: “Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the Kingdom of God.” So he’s not saying it for the first time – he’s saying it again. Because I think almost nobody takes that to heart. You never see “Matthew 19:24” placards held up at football games. Don’t we all want to be rich? Don’t we vote for rich, successful people and allow money to buy elections? And then there’s “Prosperity Theology”: It’s God’s will for us to be prosperous.  And if that is true, then isn’t poverty due to a lack of faith?  That seems convenient for the well-off.

Mr. Rogers put it this way:  There are three ways to ultimate success: The first way is to be kind. The second way is to be kind. The third way is to be kind. Here is Matthew again, in Matthew 22:36-40, relating a conversation he had with Jesus:
 ” ‘Master, which is the great commandment in the law?
’ Jesus said unto him, ‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it: Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.’ ”

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Let me speak to the Second Commandment: Love thy Neighbor. Assuming that “neighbors” was meant to be defined as all humans, not narrowly as Galileans or Nazarenes or Americans or Mexicans; how can we stand idly aside while immigrant families are deported? I am an immigrant. My family learned English after we moved here. I know how this feels from the other side.

I don’t think we’re going to find a humane solution to the immigrant/refugee situation unless we start from a place that honors the Second Commandment. It’s a commandment, for crying out loud! Love thy neighbor.

Or, as Mr. Rogers put it: “Won’t you be my neighbor?”

He also said:  “We live in a world in which we need to share responsibility. It’s easy to say ‘It’s not my child, not my community, not my world, not my problem.’ ”

On Judy and Jim’s couch, Jesus is looking up, as in so many of the paintings of him. Maybe he’s not looking to God, maybe he’s just sharing an eye-roll with Mr. Rogers.

About the author: Edith Weiss

Writer, director, standup comedian and actor Edith Weiss has published more than 30 plays, toured the country as a comedian with the military, and was head writer and director for all seven of Phamaly Theatre Company’s “Vox” of disability-themed sketch comedy. She appeared as an actor in Off-Center’s immersive staging of Sweet & Lucky. She has acted or directed for the Denver Center, Arvada Center, Avenue Theater, Littleton Town Hall Arts Center, Backstage Breckenridge Theatre and the Aurora Fox. She credits improvisational comedy for allowing her to make a living in the arts for most of her life.

Bite SizedBite-Size: An Evening of Micro Theatre: Ticket information

  • Created and Directed by Meridith C. Grundei
  • Dramaturgy by Heidi Schmidt
  • Oct. 23-November 18. Very limited remaining tickets available.
  • At BookBar, 4280 Tennyson St.
  • Additional post-show readings of two featured finalists after all Friday and Saturday performances starting November 2
  • Tickets: Call 303-893-4100, BUY ONLINE or in person in the Helen Bonfils Theatre Complex at 14th and Curtis streets