Scott Carter, a former standup comedian who once suffered from a near-death bout with asthma, has written a play called, “The Gospel According to Thomas Jefferson, Charles Dickens and Count Leo Tolstoy: Discord”. Carter’s play is about spiritual questions from the perspective of the three men and, for Carter, is a means of understanding the spiritual questions of three individuals who wrestled with significant existential questions:
The so-called Jefferson Bible, the original of which is now owned by the Smithsonian Institution, has long been studied as an example of one founding father’s belief in God and his dislike of what he saw as the “corruption of schismatizing followers” of Christianity. Lesser known are the reimagined Gospels produced by two equally famed writers who followed Jefferson.
In 1846, around the time he was writing David Copperfield, Charles Dickens penned The Life of Our Lord, a recounting of the life of Jesus to share with children. The book, adapted from the Gospel of Luke, was secretly passed down by his descendants and remained unpublished until 1934. Meanwhile, Leo Tolstoy — in the midst of a spiritual crisis in 1886 — created his own condensed Bible, a 12-chapter recounting of Jesus’ life. The Gospel in Brief not only shortened the story but rewrote entire parts.
Instead of laboring separately, what if the three men could have come together?
That’s the scene imagined in “The Gospel According to Thomas Jefferson, Charles Dickens and Count Leo Tolstoy: Discord,” which opened this week at the Geffen Playhouse in Los Angeles. Part comedy and part thought-provoking, emotional theater, the play imagines the men joining in an attempt to write the perfect Gospel. Voracious debate about earthly life and the cosmic world ensue.
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