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Thursday, August 13 News

Fairfield priest pens play set to hit Westport Country Playhouse Dec. 7

WESTPORT — “The Gentle Whisper of Trees” began as a labor of love more than 30 years ago. On Dec. 7, the five-character play — written by Father Thomas Fitzpatrick, a Jesuit priest and chaplain at Fairfield University — will make its world premier with two performances at the nationally recognized Westport Country Playhouse.

“The Gentle Whisper of Trees” is a passionate drama that dives deep into the issues of human sexuality, human connection and the alienation caused by the abuse of the patriarchal position. It tells the journey of an American family coming face to face with the tragic truths that lie within their souls.

“We all have traumas at times in our lives, some kind of pain, some kind of grief,” Fitzpatrick said. “I hope that audiences take from this that they don’t have to be destroyed by it. That on a deep, human level, they can get through it.”

Performances are at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 7 at the Westport Country Playhouse, and tickets are on sale now.

The heart of the play is the unlikely relationship between the family’s eldest son, Michael, a reticent and emotionless poetry professor who considers himself an atheist, and Fr. Waterbury, an elderly Jesuit priest whose deep devotion and approachable temperament invite an inspirational twist on spirituality.

“The play is fictitious, but the spirituality of this priest is me,” Fitzpatrick said. “Someone had relayed a story to me that affected me deeply. And I thought I could write a good play that does not end in hopelessness.”

Written on trains and in restaurants and hotel rooms while he was living in Europe in the 1980s, “The Gentle Whisper of Trees” gained new life when Fitzpatrick was encouraged a few years ago to unearth the script and collaborate with a professional playwright to bring it to the stage.

“I never would have imagined the attention it’s getting,” Fitzpatrick said of the reception his work has received.

Tickets are $49, $69 and $99 and can be purchased online at www.westportplayhouse.org/communityevents or by calling the Playhouse Box Office at 203-227-4177. The $99 tickets to the 7 p.m. performance include a pre-show reception.

A limited number of $29 student tickets are available by calling the Playhouse Box Office. Valid student identification must be shown in order to pick up tickets.

Raised in Boston, Fitzpatrick began his teaching career at Fairfield Prep and Fairfield University in the 1960s. And he taught at Boston College for more than a decade. Fitzpatrick also lived abroad for many years in Europe, and he then spent the biggest portion of his work life in the Middle East, both in Jordan and Jerusalem. His academic degrees include a BA, PhL, MA, STL, and PhD.

Fitzpatrick has been working as the Chaplain of Administrators at Fairfield University for the past few years.

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“I’ve been delighted by what I’ve been able to do,” he said of his work at the university. “It’s really because of my own faith journey, the way I’m walking with God at the present time. I see it literally as a miracle.”