"Racketeer for Life" Audio Book

My most recent audio book is now available on Audible.

It is the stirring and fascinating memoirs of Joe Scheidler of the Pro-Life Action League.

This is one of my favorite audio books that I've ever performed / produced.  Joe's story is inspiring and moving.

I got to meet Joe Scheidler and his lovely wife Ann in Chicago last month.  Our meeting and conversation were a real joy.

Spirit Catholic Radio

I will be interviewed this morning at 8:40 am Central Time on Spirit Catholic Radio.  You can listen live here!

Hey, Kids!

How to Write Really Bad Plays

This is from a post on my old blog ...
Since I'm currently a judge in a one-act Catholic play writing contest, I don't want to say too much about the plays I'm reading.  But I have seen enough to know how to write a really bad play.

And I'm passing that advice on to you, dear reader!

  • Make sure your script contains NO comedy whatsoever - nothing the least bit funny, or if something almost-funny sneaks in, make it very predictable and stupid.

  • Put a homeless man in it so the audience has someone to feel sorry for.

  • Set the play at Christmas or in a foxhole during a war or in an abortion clinic.  Or better yet, at a makeshift abortion clinic in a foxhole on Christmas Eve.

  • Handle exposition awkwardly.  For example, in the first few lines, have one of the characters say,  "Remember when that meteorite hit our house and you bravely struggled to pull me out and save our four children and the reporter from the liberal paper made fun of you because you were Christian and -"

  • Give someone cancer or write an old and dying character so the audience has someone to feel sorry for.  Better yet, write in an old homeless man dying of cancer who stumbles into the foxhole on Christmas Eve and whose first monologue recalls the abortion he witnessed sixty years prior.  Then send in Santa Claus for the happy ending when the homeless man dies and goes to heaven.

  • Submitting your play to a Christian playwriting contest?  Use lots and lots and lots of gratuitous profanity.  Make David Mamet look like Walt Disney.

  • There is no such thing as character development.  There is no such thing as depth of character.  There is no such thing as a compelling plot.

  • There is no such thing as subtlety.  The audience must be hit over the head to get your point.

  • Whatever you do, don't make any of your dialogue the least bit literary or poetical or uplifting.  Don't read other plays and get ideas about innovative staging or structure.  Don't take any risks.

But, beyond these points, if you really want to write bad stuff, do this.

To be a bad writer, you must be a bad reader - a reader of bad books (or no books at all), and a poor reader of life.

Somehow God has written a work (a Primary World that we call reality, "being", existence) that is incredibly rich and meaningful.  Any attempt at literary art must approach our fictional Secondary Worlds as God approached the Primary One.

Oh, sorry.  That last comment was on how to write a good play, not a bad one.  

Dang it!  I can't even write a good blog post!

School vs. Skool

It's hard to say what good teachers do.

But it's easy to say what bad students don't do.  

They don't read the material!

A few months back, I complained to my friend Ken Colston, a retired teacher, that many of the essay answers I was getting from my Homeschool Connections students were padded, meandering pieces that made me wonder if the students had even read the material they were busy pontificating about.  "The only way to make sure they're actually reading the material you've assigned is to give them multiple-choice tests," Ken suggested.  "This will avoid the deliberate vagueness of essay answers."

And he's right.  And what have I learned from the multiple-choice quizzes I now routinely give in some of my Homeschool Conenctions courses?

I've learned that at least a third of my students in each class are simply not bothering to read the material.  "Well, Dad," says my daughter Kerry, "Why would you be surprised?  They're just kids.  Colin and I never read the material," Kerry adds, referring to her brother Colin and their school careers.

But we are fallen men and what Kerry is describing may be "school".  But it ain't skool.  

Let me explain.


Last week I posted about my play Socrates Meets Jesus.  Not long after, I was contacted a former student of mine, who is now in college, and who emailed me expressing her frustration over Plato's dialogue Phaedo, which is about the immortality of the soul.  She was making the mistake of trying to read Plato with a kind of literal fundamentalism, missing the poetry and the vision while looking for a philosophic system.

I responded by turning to Eric Voegelin, a writer who has served as a gateway to Plato for me, and I pulled these quotations from Voegelin (Order and History, Volume III).  Voegelin is writing about Socrates and his followers, but the things he says are really about any good teacher and any eager student (the etymology of the word student comes from "to be eager", by the way) ...

To create existential community through developing the other man’s true humanity in the image of his own—that is the work of the Socratic Eros ... 

"The Socratic Eros" is the soul's desire for what is beyond.  What Voegelin says above is simply that a "school" is a community, an "existential community", a group of people joined together for a higher purpose.

Image result for arthur miller
It reminds me of playwright Arthur Miller, who distinguished between theaters, which he called "buildings for rent, real estate" and theatre.  Miller says, "A Theatre is people; a collection of talented people, including playwrights, directors, actors, and scene designers, who share a common outlook upon art and life, and are permanently joined together for the purpose of producing dramatic art."  In other words a theatre is an "existential community", a group of people united in seeking that which is beyond themselves.

And what is the Church but a similar "existential community", a koinonia?  True, most of our parishes don't function as groups of people who (as Arthur Millers says about theatre) "share a common outlook upon art and life".  Most parishes I've been to in my extensive travels are filled with people who don't seem to share a common outlook upon anything.  But abusus non tollit usum - the abuse of a thing does not invalidate its proper use.  The true Church is not just a gathering of strangers who may or may not know why they're there, but an "existential community", a group of people living together toward a common end.

In like manner, one could say that "schools" are "buildings for rent, real estate", while a "Skool" (to parody Miller's use of "theater" with an R-E at the end) is "a people: a collection of students who are joined together for a higher purpose".

Voegelin speaks of Plato on the desire for immortality, which can take the form of people wishing to procreate and have heirs, so that they have physical beings who outlive them.  But there is a desire for "spiritual procreation" as well ...
Those in whom [the desire to procreate] is spiritual rejuvenate themselves through procreation in the souls of young men [or young women], that is, through loving, tending, and developing the best in them. That is the force that animates the world of the Platonic dialogue. The older man, Socrates, speaks to the younger man and, through the power of his soul, awakens in him the echoing desire for the Good. The Idea of the Good, evoked in the communion of the dialogue, fills the souls of those who participate in the evocative act. And thus it becomes the sacramental bond between them and creates the nucleus of the new society. 
Of course that's not just any good teacher and any eager student, that's (ideally) a writer and a reader, an artist and a viewer, Christ and the Apostles.

Socrates and the Modern World

I am hoping to book a performance of my play Socrates Meets Jesus (based on the book by Peter Kreeft) in New England this summer, and so I'm posting the video below of our performance of the play at the Chesterton Conference in Massachusetts.

Some of my Homeschool Connections students really like this play.  For one thing, it's funny.  And for another, it answers the question, "What would the world's greatest philosopher make of the claims of the world's greatest man, Jesus Christ, who was born 400 years after the world's greatest philosopher died?"  And even more intriguing ... "What would Socrates make of the Silliness of the Modern World?"

One of the most depressing things about our present time is the lack of Eros, of the aspect of Love that desires and takes seriously what it desires.  This seems like a strange thing to say.  Isn't our culture awash in the "erotic"?

But Eros is more than the hyper-sexuality we have all around us, which is sex cut off from purpose and even from feeling and passion.  Eros is about desiring that which is beyond us; it's about our basic interest in life and in the "sting" of life.  The characters in my version of Socrates Meets Jesus are (like most modern people) "hypo-erotic" - they have casual sex, but they don't really care about anything, even the things they spend their lives studying or doing or professing.

As John Lennon wrote ...
Everybody's talking and no one says a word / Everybody's making love and no one really cares
That's what life is like now.  "There's always something happening, but nothing going on," and "Everybody's crying, but no one makes a sound."

So this play is not just "Socrates Meets Jesus".  It is "Socrates Meets Despair".

Who Am I?

Kevin O’Brien - atheist turned Catholic - is the founder and artistic director of two touring theater companies - the Theater of the Word Incorporated and Upstage Productions - and has been touring the United States performing his own plays for nearly thirty years.  Kevin is booked regularly at 24 wineries in 9 states, performing his own brand of interactive comedies - to a very loyal and devoted fan base.
Kevin hosts the television series The Theater of the Word on EWTN and has appeared in several movies and television series.
In addition, Kevin has performed and produced 45 audio books, and is the only person in history to play every part in a Shakespeare play, which he did for his audiobook productions of The Merchant of Venice and Macbeth.  His recording of The Innocence of Father Brown was a winner of the ForeWord Best Audiobook of the Year award in 2009.  
He is also a writer and regular contributor to The St. Austin Review and Gilbert Magazine.  His second book A Bad Actor’s Guide to the Meaning of Life will be released in 2017.  His first book, The Church of the Kevin was listed as one of the Top Books of 2010 by Ignaitus Press.
In addition, Kevin teaches several online classes for Homeschool Connections.

A New Beginning

Today, on the Feast of the Purification, I begin a new venture online - posting various things on this site.  I hope to put up videos, articles, pictures, podcasts.

I also hope to avoid the negativity from my old blog, Waiting for Godot to Leave.
Kevin O'Brien, playing the fool.  With my wife Karen, who's used to it.

And I hope to reach my new audience - Catholic young people!  I have been teaching for two years now at Homeschool Connections and I'm in my second semester teaching High School Drama at St. John Paul Prep in St. Charles, Missouri.  And I love doing both!  My students are, as a rule, intelligent, creative, fun and serious about their faith.  And they need someplace fun, challenging and intelligent to go to on the web ... so maybe this can be it.

I am a former atheist and a current devout Catholic who totally understands people's doubts and frustrations.  Plus I like stupid jokes.  In fact, I make my living writing stupid jokes.

Meanwhile, I'm quite busy.  Last year between Upstage Productions and Theater of the Word, we had 214 performances of at least a dozen different scripts in ten or more states, which I produced and almost all of which I acted in.  I taught and designed about ten different courses, I recorded six audio books and wrote several plays and my soon-to-be-published book, A Bad Actor's Guide to the Meaning of Life.  So things are pretty nutty for me.

But I am called to do this, so stay tuned.

Me on the Humor of George Bernard Shaw and G.K. Chesterton

Me as JRR Tolkien Debating "Myth and Lies" with Al Marsh as CS Lewis

Me as Everybody on "The Stanford Nutting Holiday Special"

Me as Stanford Nutting on "The Apostle of Common Sense"

Me on Daytime TV: "Low-Brow vs. Uni-Brow"

Me Interviewing Yakov Smirnov in Branson

Me as Me on "The Journey Home" Again

Me as Me on "The Journey Home"

Me as Bl. Dominic Barberi on "The Journey Home"

Me as the Nihilistic Professor in the movie "Manalive"

Me as All the Characters on "Sharing with Stanford"

Me as All the Characters on "Teen Aged Catholic Groovy!"

Me as Orestes Brownson on "The Journey Home"

Me as Socrates in my Adaptation of "Socrates Meets Jesus"

Me as Father Brown in "The Honor of Israel Gow"

Me as Tolkien: "Nine for Mortal Men Doomed to Die"