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Visiting Artist to Perform Play Based on Life of Irish Priest Who Protected Jews and Allied Soldiers During World War II

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Donal Courtney

The College of Arts and Architecture will host God has no country, a one-person show by Dublin-based actor and playwright Donal Courtney, on Wednesday, April 5, 7:30 p.m., in the Pavilion Theatre. This performance, which is sponsored by the School of Theatre, tells the story of the struggles encountered by Monsignor Hugh O’Flaherty, an Irish priest, while in Rome during World War II, following his torment as he and colleagues protect and defend those suffering under the tyranny of the Fascists.

In advance of the performance, there will also be an ADRI Dialogue exploring the creative process behind the show and storytelling through the one-person play with Donal Courtney and William Doan, Penn State School of Theatre professor, on Tuesday, April 4 at noon in the ADRI (16 Borland).

God has no country tells Monsignor O’Flaherty’s story from his point of view and reflects actual events. Careful research has gone into the creation of this dramatic work but, as such, some creative license has been taken. Told with humor and sensitivity, it aims to bring the heroic deeds and achievements of this extraordinary man to a wider audience.

Monsignor O’Flaherty is credited with finding safe housing and caring for 6,500 Jews and Allied soldiers during the Nazi occupation of Italy. At first he was able to move around Rome anonymously, but after his identity became known by the Nazis he resorted to wearing disguises and eventually was forced to remain within Vatican City under the threat of assassination. He has been referred to as “The Scarlet Pimpernel of the Vatican.” 

“In September, when we invited Donal Courtney to Penn State to perform God has no country, I realized that his play relates directly to many courses we teach, but I also recognized that, by extension, it also relates to the international refugee crisis,” said Randy Ploog, coordinator of international programs and affiliate assistant professor of art history. “Since then, with the ongoing debates over extreme vetting, travel bans, sanctuary cities, and deportation orders, the subject of Professor Courtney’s one-person play has become more timely than ever.” 

The sixty-minute performance will be followed by a post-show discussion in which Courtney will share his personal connections to the story, the challenges he faced in creating the piece, and various other insights into O’Flaherty’s story.  

Courtney’s visit is sponsored by IES Abroad, the School of Theatre, the Institute for the Arts and Humanities, and the ADRI. The Arts & Design Research Incubator (ADRI) provides support for high-impact arts and design research projects. Unless otherwise noted, all events take place at 16 Borland.

All events are free and open to the public, but some do require registration, as space is limited. For more information, visit or call 814-863-5126. Connect with the ADRI at