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God, The Playwright

By Michael Moriarty
web posted May 27, 2002

After my 46 years in theater and film, the only perspective through which I can understand life is God as the playwright and the human race as His cast. We act, totally unaware of the play's outcome. We are handed the lines the moment we are expected to deliver them and are left with only one hope, that we're among the "good guys" and not led blindly into a dressing room of villains.

"Play the role well. Therein all the honor lies."

With that as the divine order from God, we endeavor to perform what the Deity expects of us. Only He can judge our true integrity because He created us, formed us and assigned us to a role in the play that only He comprehends
because it's His play, not ours.

A few mortal playwrights and screenwriters have tried to play God. One, in particular, approached me with a job offer and said quite assuredly that he would be the only one to know the entire script and he was going to write it as he went along. I declined the offer.

Only God can do that, I thought, and so I dismissed an opportunity to work with someone recognized as a major American filmmaker. A few years later, this "auteur" found himself trapped in God's play and discovered that, for many people, he was turning out to be a bit of a villain.

We can never know for certain where life's ultimate audience sympathies will lie. It's not our job.

"Unto thine own self be true" and then thou canst not be false to God. The irony in this quote from Shakespeare's play Hamlet is that it is the character of Polonius who says it, and he, throughout the drama, reveals himself as the most Machiavellian member in the cast -- plotting and conniving and spying, sins for which he ultimately dies.

I performed one highly celebrated villainous role, that of Major Erik Dorf in the television mini-series Holocaust. From that point on, I was determined not to play any more bad guys. It cost me millions of dollars to turn down numerous villain roles. That strategy finally led me to the role for which I'm best known - assistant district attorney Ben Stone in the TV series Law and Order.

In 1994, I was dragged into a backroom, Washington, D.C. meeting with then-U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno. The behavior of the most powerful law enforcement officer in the world was so unconstitutional and abusive that I had to warn everyone who'd listen to me. The listening audience dwindled swiftly and I soon found myself on the way out of my series. I resigned in protest, placed ads in Variety and The Hollywood Reporter to announce that fact. Because of what had happened to the United States under the Clinton administration, I was leaving my country.

In a further protest, I took up two of the most politically incorrect substances, alcohol and nicotine, and, being a man of my word as best I can, I left New York City for Canada.

The following eight years have typecast me in the real-life role of loser, in the minds of many. Some have admired my integrity, while others laughed at the naiveté of a man who should have known better. Adding up the public intoxication arrests, the domestic dispute that ended up in court, and the only one of my five assaults to be recorded in the press, the North American audience and the entertainment industry have, in great measure, written me off.

Michael MoriartyI know for certain that I played the role of Michael Moriarty well. I was true to mine own self. That certainly doesn't mean the other characters in the play, the over 300 million citizens of North America, are obliged to show any understanding or compassion. They are in the same play and many have been obliged by the Divine Playwright to oppose me in "mortal combat" (literally, in some cases).

Only the Church of the Good Thief ensures me some haven and sanctuary from the world's idea for the plot of this play.

With a criminal and a prostitute as the main entrance to a new kind of temple, only the losers of the world would seriously consider opening these doors and venturing inside. So be it.

As a young man, I entered acting with the vocational dedication of a priest. What that commitment brought me is now recorded in entertainment history.

I left Law and Order because I never wanted to make the same mistake Erik Dorf made in Nazi Germany. Dorf was a careerist. All he and his wife cared about were his promotions up the ladder. Regardless of the luxuries Law and Order brought me, I knew I couldn't put them before my ability to tell the truth, as I understood it. If my comprehension has been limited, that is clearly the intent of our Playwright. My blind spots were pre-ordained and the plot will unfold within the framework of that short-sightedness.

"On! Don't go back!"

That was the most frequently and most perfectly enunciated phrase uttered by Sir Tyrone Guthrie - in my estimation, the greatest director in the history of the English-speaking theater. Dr. Guthrie, as his actors usually addressed him, now directs the tempo and style of my life in many ways.

The plays he directed, works by Sophocles and Shakespeare, were massive and, with so little time for rehearsal, demanded that the cast repeat the entire dramas and comedies as many times as possible before opening night. Sir Tyrone wanted the cast to see the complete panoply before they became too concentrated on the secondary conflicts of their characters.

The Book of Revelations appears to be the outline of life's drama in the next decade. My actions are largely guided by this prophecy of St. John the Divine. Now, as a result of my own personal revelation of the dark carnival now in progress across North America, my instincts are telling me how the play will end.

How I fit in, and where my life decisions will lead me, arise from a vision of the immediate future, one fraught with such dangers that only a spiritual commitment encompassing life and death is sufficient to meet the dreadful challenge.

Marxism, which now rules the world through the socialist federations of the United Nations, is not a political idea but a religion. That Marxists have contemptuously dismissed religious fervor as the flaw within the Judeo-Christian civilization is deeply ironic when one realizes that Marxism is the most ubiquitous spiritual zealotry alive today. That Islam and Communism share a common enemy, the Free World, explains their increasingly intimate merger. Japan and Germany's hatred encompassed only Europe and North America. The Axis powers' shared loathing precipitated Hitler's invasion of Poland and Japan's assault on Pearl Harbor. Islamic fundamentalism loathes all things western and Judeo-Christian.

The September 11 attack on Manhattan's Twin Towers and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., has been likened to Pearl Harbor. Decades of unrelenting campaigns of destruction in the Middle East should have been compared to Hitler's capture of the Sudetenland and all his invasions prior to Japan's entrance into the Second World War.

Millions of Christians have been murdered in the past two millennia. As Christ predicted His own fate, so He knew full well the fate of His followers. Therefore, until Christians are prepared to die for their faith, they are not prepared to live a life filled with the abundance that their Lord promised them.

Until one wholeheartedly enters the drama of Christ, he or she does not comprehend the mortal danger within the play they're in. Once understood, each second of our lives is precious, profound and containing an "eye of the storm", which holds a peace that "passeth understanding."

Michael Moriarty is a Golden Globe winning actor, best known for his role as Assistant District Attorney Ben Stone on Law and Order.

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