‘Devil’ breathes life into Ingersoll’s words

“Speak of the Devil,” a two-act comedy drama about “The Great Agnostic” Robert G. Ingersoll (1833-99), was presented in February at Theatre NOW New York in New York City.

The actors’ impassioned performances had the audience listening intently, laughing and applauding. The dramatic reading, the first in the company’s 2015 Raw Reading Series, was made possible through the sponsorship of the Freedom From Religion Foundation and the Yip Harburg Foundation.

“Speak of the Devil” was written in the early 1970s by the late Richard F. Stockton, an Ingersoll scholar, and revised in 2011 by Marsha Lee Sheiness. His widow, Irene Stockton, is an FFRF Life Member. The play brings to life the conflicts, joys and difficulties experienced by Ingersoll as he spread his freethought philosophy through oratory and voluminous written works. Its director is Robert Kalfin, founder of New York’s Tony Award-­winning Chelsea Theater Center.

The play is moving toward full production in the near future, with the goal of reaching as many new audiences as possible. The creative team is reaching out to individuals and groups for donations to make this possible.

Theatre NOW New York is a nonprofit that facilitates the creation and development of new works and the “reimagining” of previously produced works through productions, readings, workshops and work-in-progress presentations.

Contributions to help spread Ingersoll’s crucial message are tax deductible and can be made at ffrf.org/get-involved/donate/. Email [email protected] with questions and comments.

Four moments that made Ingersoll

Richard Stockton (1932-97) on the four moments in Robert Green Ingersoll’s life that shaped him, the first being the death of his father John, who was a Congregationalist minister:

“Despite their opposing religious views, the old revivalist on his deathbed asked Bob to read to him from the black book clutched to his chest. Bob relented, took the book, and was surprised to discover that it wasn’t the Bible. It was Plato describing the noble death of the pagan Socrates: a moving gesture of reconciliation between father and son in parting. The second event was Bob’s painful realization that his outspoken agnosticism not only invalidated his own political career but ended his brother Ebon’s career in Congress, as well. Third was the exquisite anguish of seeing his supportive wife Eva and his young daughters made to suffer for his right to speak his own mind. And fourth was the dramatic tension of having to walk out alone on public stages, in a glaring spotlight, time after time with death threats jammed in his tuxedo pocket informing him that some armed bigot in that night’s audience would see to it that he didn’t leave the stage alive.”

Freedom From Religion Foundation