Source Material for “A Mighty Fortress”

I had intended to post several weeks ago this bibliography of the research sources I used when I wrote A Mighty Fortress (1988). In 1991 when we premiered it (after fairly aggressive editing), I created some supplemental material for congregations to have ahead of our performance for their information: namely, the list of source material, and a fact sheet of historic people and terms.

But then I misplaced my last remaining copy of the source material list. I was sad about that, since this was typed many computers ago, and I had no way of reconstructing the list. After 25 years, I have only vague memories of which books I used when doing the original research.

But in doing a deep clean of my living room after the show closed, lo and behold! I found what I had been seeking, buried on top of the piano, under some copies of music from Prisoner of Joy. So I am putting it here, in memoriam…and I need never again worry about it being lost!


Bainton, Roland H.     Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther.  New York:  Abingdon Press, 1950.  (This is a fantastic biography, and was my primary source.)

Brokering, Herbert and Roland Bainton.    A Pilgrimage to Luther’s Germany.  Minneapolis:  Winston Press, 1983.  (mostly photos)

Gritsch, Eric W.    Martin–God’s Court Jester.  Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1983.

Kerr, Hugh Thomson, Jr., ed.    A Compend of Luther’s Theology.  London:  Westminster Press, 1943.

Luther, Martin.    Three Treatises from the American Edition of Luther’s Works. (“To the Christian Nobility of the German Nation”‘; “The Babylonian Captivity of the Church”; and “The Freedom of a Christian”.)  Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1976 (7th printing)

Olivier, Daniel.    The Trial of Luther.  Translated by John Tonkin.  St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1978.

Rupp, Gordon E.    Luther’s Progress to the Diet of Worms.  New York: Harper & Row (Harper Torchbooks), 1964.


Dickens, A.G.    Reformation and Society in Sixteenth Century Europe.  Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc.  1966.

Tim Dowley, ed.,   Eerdman’s Handbook to the History of Christianity.  Grand Rapids:  Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1977.

Grun, Bernard, ed.    The TImetables of History, a Horizontal Linkage of People and Events.  New York:  Simon & Schuster (Touchstone Books), 1982 edition.

Luther, Martin.    The Bondage of the Will.  Translated by J.I. Packer and O.R. Johnston.  Old Tappan, NY:  Fleming H. Revell Co., 1957.

———————.    Commentary on Romans.  Translated by J. Theodore Mueller.  Grand Rapids:  Kregel Publishing, 1988 (12th printing).

———————.    The Place of Trust.  Translated by Jaroslav Pelikan;  Martin E. Marty, ed.  San Francisco:  Harper & Row, 1983.

A Few Words About Costuming

The cast of "Prisoner of Joy"Prisoner of Joy:

By and large, the cast wore their own black street clothes (ladies all in skirts and tops, men in pants and shirts–some button-down and some pullover. Kayla made all the final decisions about who wore what piece of fabric for accent. She also decided that each man who played a character role (e.g., Dennis Nichols, who played Luke; Adam Bodnar who played an official; Ron Stauss who played Silas; et al.)  in the flashbacks would simply pull his fabric shawl up to cover his head. It was quick, simple, and noticeably different.

"I command you, in the name of Jesus Christ, to come out of her!"Kayla also designed the piece that the slave girl wore, which was easily converted into the head covering she wore after joining the church at Philippi. Because jewelry was worn particularly by pagans at that time and place, none of the women in the church are wearing any jewelry. The slave girl removes all of hers after Paul casts the demon out of her.


Three church women do interpretative movement to the hymn found in Philippians 2.

Three church women do interpretative movement to the hymn found in Philippians 2.


Rachel Wilhelm Photography  (54)A Mighty Fortress:

When this play was done on tour, the actor playing Luther wore a simple black tunic which suggested both a generic medieval garment and a monk’s robe. However, we were looking for something more for this fully-staged version. Since Luther was hiding in a castle, wearing borrowed clothes, we went hunting for period portraits of German knights. Here are some we found:

German Lord and Lady, 16th C.

German Lord and Lady, 16th C.

German "Land Knights" (foot soldiers)--known for their colorful and avant garde clothing

German “Land Knights” (foot soldiers)–known for their colorful and avant garde clothing

A German merchant in 1531. Note that the middle class is now able to afford rich dress

A German merchant in 1531. Note that the middle class is now able to afford rich dress

We wanted Luther to wear some color, and found the perfect fabric in afO’s collection. A collarless linen shirt under a sleeveless tunic was easy and gave the general impression of medieval middle class status, when worn with tights and soft shoes. A hooded black cape was added shortly after the start of the play when Luther becomes a monk. Since most men wore dark long coats over their tunics, this cape did double duty, suggesting both a coat and a monk’s robe. During one nighttime scene toward the play’s end, Jeff did put the hood up onto his head.

Special thanks to Kayla Reed for sewing Luther’s tunic, and to Jeanne Pendleton at IPFW’s Costume Shop, for providing the tall boots Luther wears at the top of the show. She also donated the fabric we used to make Luther’s bed cover.

Jeff Salisbury as Martin Luther, in the opening moments of the play.

Jeff Salisbury as Martin Luther, in the opening moments of the play.


Rachel Wilhelm Photography  (86)

What Will You Hear??

One of the most critical technical aspects of any production, to me, is the sound design. If the sound is just right, it enhances the action and helps the audience to fully understand both what is going on and how the characters are feeling. If done badly, it can be jarring, confusing, comical or embarrassing.

Neither of the one acts which opens this week requires very many sound effects, but those that do occur need to be quite precise:

  • an earthquake in which doors fly open and chains fall off;
  • a rumble of thunder which becomes torrential rain, with a vicious crack of thunder at just the right moment;
  • horses’ hooves which approach quickly, surround the speaker, and slow to a halt.

Our behind-the-scenes genius of sound effects mastering, for the past two seasons, has been J. Scott Kump.  We are blessed to have his meticulous artistry and the equipment at WFCV (where Scott works) at our disposal. Watching the visualization of sound waves, and the ways Scott can manipulate them, is amazing. If I say, “I wish the bells were a bit slower at first, but then become more intense, both louder and faster…”  he says, “We can do that.”  “But we didn’t record them that way,” I protest. “Doesn’t matter,” he says. And proceeds to prove it.

Music for Prisoner of Joy

Ancient EchoesLast season we were granted permission to use selected tracks from a CD entitled Ancient Echoes during our production of the comedy-drama A Peculiar People, which takes place in the first century AD. As the audience enters the auditorium on Friday night, they will hear that same music being played, as a way to begin their transport back in time to around 61 AD.

In chapter two of Paul’s letter to the church at Philippi, there is a passage (2:6-11) which is typically set in most translations to look like poetry. This section is believed by most scholars to have been a pre-Pauline hymn which Paul inserted at this point in his epistle. But New Testament scholar Gordon Fee thinks otherwise. You can read a brief and quite understandable summary of his view on the blog, Near Emmaus.

Although I think that Mr. Fee has made some valid points, I also liked the idea of this text being turned into a lyric for worship, and so I composed a simple melody which uses the exact text of the translation we’re using. It was challenging to create something which modern ears would accept, since there neither rhythm nor rhyme in the lyric. Inspired by what I had heard on the Ancient Echoes CD, I attempted to create a very spare texture with little harmony. Since we have tried to impart a slightly contemporary–or at any rate, timeless–flavor to our production, the rhythms of the song include quite a bit of synchopation, which gives a more modern feel.

I’d originally liked the idea of using live musicians through the piece, playing the instrumental interludes, accompanying the singing, and perhaps even doing the sound effects. But the musicians I wanted were unavailable, and it proved more efficient to record everything in advance. Ultimately I found I preferred the song to be unaccompanied. The voices you hear are cast members Ron Stauss and Scott Kump.

All the other instrumental music in the play is my own, recorded on a Roland keyboard at First Missionary Church.


Music in A Mighty Fortress

Renaissance-manuscriptI’ve been looking forward to redesigning the sound for this play for many years. After we had paid for a professional sound tape to be made, back in 1990, I heard Luther’s own version of “A Mighty Fortress” sung in a Lutheran church. It had the lively rhythm of a Renaissance dance to my ear, and I wished I could have used it in that form for our play.

As I was looking through a Lutheran hymnal to find this version, in preparation for recording, I discovered to my delighted surprise that Luther had composed several more hymns which were found in that hymnal. I was in need of two other quiet instrumentals in the script: a renaissance lute piece while Luther is walking to Augsberg, and another quiet piece to underscore a letter he writes to a dear friend. I was able to use two melodies written by Luther himself. You’ll also hear longer and fuller versions of these hymns, and two others, during the intermission between Prisoner of Joy and A Mighty Fortress.

There are two pieces of authentic Gregorian chant played early in the play: Veni Creator Spiritus is heard when Luther first takes his novice vows, and a communion chant plays under Luther celebrating his first Mass.  Two loud fanfares are heard later. One is a renaissance fanfare by Claude Gervaise, arranged by Peter Reeve for the Philip Jones Brass Ensemble. You can hear the whole thing here.  The other is a snippet of a sacred piece by Thomas Tallis which seemed appropriate when Luther appears at the Diet of Worms.

We hope you enjoy getting “the scoop” about what we’re doing behind the scenes. Please consider sharing your post-performance observations in the comments section below!

Introducing afO’s first directorial apprentice

Kayla Reed

Kayla Reed

We could not be more thrilled to announce that we have, for the first time, an apprentice director working alongside our Artistic Director, Lauren Nichols, for the entire season.  Miss Kayla Reed is no stranger to all for One:  She toured for two seasons with our Character Counts program, she submitted plays to the Young Playwrights Festival, performed winning plays onstage, and for the past two years has been serving an administrative internship with our office. She currently serves as the Administrative Assistant for the Annual Young Playwright’s Festival. Kayla is studying at St. Francis University, Fort Wayne, pursuing a major in Law and a minor in Theater.

Kayla is directing Prisoner of Joy, with some support from Lauren. Meanwhile, Lauren directs A Mighty Fortress, with assistance from Kayla.  This division of labor has already proven very beneficial for both casts, used valuable rehearsal time efficiently, and has given Kayla hands-on experience with research, blocking and leading rehearsals. You will be reading more from her as she helps prepare the dramaturgy this season.

an introduction to the short one-act “PRISONER OF JOY”

A Mighty Fortress poster      You haven’t heard much yet about the short one-act which opens our season. Prisoner of Joy is a creative dramatic staging of Paul’s letter to the Church at Philippi, in which we see both Paul writing the letter (dictating it to Timothy, who acts as his amanuensis) and the members of the church meeting in Lydia’s home, who have engaged with the text to the point of memorization. Some parts are spoken to one another as reminders, admonitions, exhortation, encouragement. The famous ‘hymn’ section in Philippians 2 is set to original music and accompanied by choreographed worship movement.

In addition, flashback segments tell the story of Paul’s time in Philippi, as recorded in Luke 16. Luke narrates, and various members of the church act out:

  • Paul’s preaching to Lydia and other women by the river;
  • Paul casting a demon out of a slave girl who has the gift of prophecy;
  • Paul and Silas imprisoned;
  • An earthquake which shakes the jail to its foundations, after which the jailer becomes a Christ-follower;
  • Paul’s departure from Philippi.

Prisoner of Joy, with a running time of about 25 minutes, will open the evening. There will be a 15-minute intermission–necessary for setting the stage for the second act!–and then A Mighty Fortress will conclude the evening. That one-man show stars Jeff Salisbury, and is about one hour long.

CAST for Prisoner of Joy   (in alphabetical order):

Adam Bodnar   (Epaphroditus, official)

Nate Chen   (Roman guard, slave owner)

Rebekah Fodrey   (slave girl, church member)

Evan Fritz  (slave owner, jailer, church member)

J. Scott Kump   (Apostle Paul)

Stacey Kuster   (Syntyche)

Rachael Kuster   (Syntyche’s daughter)

Dennis Nichols   (Luke, church member)

Zachary Nolan   (church member, official)

Jenessah Schlatter (Euodia)

Matthew Simon  (Timothy)

Ron Stauss  (Silas, church leader)

Cindy Stehlik  (Lydia)

Famous People You Need to Know

A Mighty Fortress posterHere are short descriptions of the main historic figures referred to by Luther in A Mighty Fortress.

Knowing a bit about them in advance will definitely help you to appreciate the events more thoroughly.  There are also some historic terms–some of which are defined within the entries on people:


Indulgence: the transfer of “superfluous merit” to those in need, made by decree of the Church, particularly the Pope. The “excess” goodness of Christ and the saints could be transferred to others to mitigate their punishment in purgatory. (It was sometimes claimed to provide forgiveness of sins themselves—as opposed to lessening of the sins’ penalty.) The Church was able to specify precisely how many years and days could be reduced from one’s penalty. Popes often pronounced a specific merit to be connected with the viewing of saints’ relics (bones or bone fragments). The payment of a sum of money often attached to granting of an indulgence, began during the Crusades, and had financed the building of many of the Gothic cathedrals, as well as other churches, monasteries and hospitals in the Middle Ages. Luther protested against the efficacy of indulgences, since forgiveness of sins is based on the true repentance of the believer—which can be determined only by God.

Prince Albert of Brandenberg (referred to in the play as Albert of Mainz): technically not old enough to be a bishop at all, he held two bishoprics already when he purchased the archdiocesan see (bishop’s domain) of Mainz in 1514. Mainz’ three previous archbishops had died within a ten-year period, and the diocese had no funds left for the installment of yet another successor. Albert had to pay the 10,000 ducat fee himself, and borrowed from money lenders—at a heavy rate of interest—for the purpose. In addition, Pope Leo, desperate for funds himself, imposed a fee for the irregularity of holding three bishoprics at once. Leo then granted permission for Albert to collect fees for a new indulgence, so that Albert could repay the money lenders.

Pope Leo X (1513-1521)

Pope Leo X: pontiff, 1513-1522, member of the Medici family, notorious for his indolence and expensive tastes (including carnivals and gambling). The resources of three papacies were squandered during his reign. One Catholic historian described his ascent to Peter’s chair as “one of the most severe trials to which God ever subjected His Church.”

Father Tetzel

Father Tetzel

Tetzel: Dominican priest and experienced proclaimer of indulgences. Official “vendor” of the new indulgence dispensed by Albert in his territories. (The indulgence was not offered in Luther’s parish, because permission from the civil authority was required and Frederick—see below—forbade the sale of an indulgence which would compete with those of All Saints’ Day at Wittenberg.)  The indulgence sales included a solemn procession, led by a standard bearer with a cross and the papal coat of arms, and the pope’s Bull (declaration) of Indulgence held aloft on a gold-embroidered velvet cushion.

Frederick the Wise: Prince and Elector of Saxony, a Germany province—one of many “petty kingdoms” into which that country was then divided, all of which were under the ultimate authority of the Holy Roman Empire. Frederick was a member of the committee who elected each Emperor—the title was not hereditary. This electoral power gave Frederick a strong voice with the Pope, which he used—tactfully—in Luther’s defense. Frederick seems to have been unique in his time as a ruler who truly strove to live up to his title as “Most Christian Prince.” He was as anxious as Luther for clear answers to the questions concerning indulgences, Papal authority, salvation, and the interpretation of Scripture. It was his indirect influence which protected Luther from certain martyrdom, and prompted his “kidnapping” to Wartburg Castle by the lesser nobility. (Frederick, however, carefully avoided having any knowledge of the details of this capture, or of Luther’s whereabouts.)

Johann von Staupitz: vicar of Augustine order at Wittenberg. Professor, doctor of letters, held Chair of Biblical Studies at Wittenberg University. Luther’s mentor for several years, and instrumental in Luther’s taking over Staupitz’s chair at the University.

John Eck: professor at the University of Ingolstadt. Once a friend of Luther’s, he became an enemy after the publication of Luther’s Theses. Eck was a formidable debate opponent who traveled all over the Empire to defend various doctrines and dogmas of the Church. He enlisted Duke George‘s support of Leipzig as a challenger to Wittenberg University, for the sole purpose of debating Luther face to face.

Duke George: a Saxon prince and patron of Leipzig University. Moderator of a heated debate in 1519 between the universities of Leipzig and Wittenberg, where the chief opponents were John Eck and Martin Luther.


Hus being burned at the stake. Spiezer Chronik, 1485.

Jan Hus (1374 – 1415): Czech priest, teacher and preacher at Charles University at Prague. Like Wyclif in England, he stressed the authority of Scripture, the inability of popes and cardinals to establish doctrines which contradict Scripture, and the sole authority of God to forgive sin. After lengthy debates in Prague (which led to the excommunication of Hus and his followers in 1411), his case was referred to the Council of Constance in 1415. His safe-conduct from the Emperor was ignored and he was tried and burned at the stake in Constance, having had no opportunity to defend his views. Consequently he became a nationalist Czech hero, as well as an inspiration to others hungry for church reform. Luther’s enemies accused him of being a “hussite”; after Luther had read Hus, he agreed with them.

Cardinal Cajetan: Papal legate (representative) who granted Luther a personal hearing at the Diet (Imperial session) of Augsberg in October 1518. Luther had previously been cited to appear in Rome within 60 days, on  charges of heresy. Luther’s appeal to Frederick produced the compromise meeting on German soil. Cajetan was disinclined to be moderate, inowing that both Emperior Maximillian and the Pope were furious with Luther’s writings.  Cajetan had no intention of “wrangling” over the issues, or even defending the Church’s position. He simply wanted Luther to recant–i.e., to take back all the statements which were found to be offensive and heretical.

Charles V: of the House of Hapsburg. King of Spain already, he was elected emperor of the Holy Roman Empire in 1519, very much against Leo X’s wishes. His preoccupation with Spanish matters during ‘the first eighteen months of his reign delayed decisive action against Luther’s “dangerous heresy.”

Philip Melancthon: brilliant young professor of Greek at Wittenberg. At the age of 21, he already enjoyed a European reputation for his learning. Champion and outspoken defender of Luther’s theology.

Timeline of events in “A MIGHTY FORTRESS”

A Mighty Fortress posterThis chronology  will also appear in the program. For a more complete timeline, check out this website. The events below are only those which are specifically mentioned in the play.

Chronology of events from the life of Martin Luther (1483 – 1546) portrayed in A Mighty Fortress:

1505 – receives Master of Arts from University of Erfurt, plans to study law

1505 – caught in a thunder storm, feels convicted to dedicate his life to God by becoming a monk

1505 – enters Augustinian monastery at Erfurt

1507 – celebrates his first mass after becoming a priest

1510 – is sent to Rome by his order; is disillusioned by attitude of Roman clergy

1512 – completes his doctoral work and takes up a professorship at Wittenberg

1516 – while teaching on Psalms, comes to understand salvation by grace alone

1517 – on October 31, posts 95 Theses against the sale of Indulgences on the door of the castle church

1518 – appears before Cardinal Cajetan at Augsberg

1519 – debates John Eck before the Duke of Augsberg

1520 – excommunicated by Pope Leo

1521 – April: appears before the Holy Roman Emperor (Charles V) at the Diet of Worms, is ordered to recant

1521 – May (through March 1522): in hiding at Wartburg Castle, disguised as a knight

The Luther Room, with a facsimile of the September Testament and portrait of Luther in disguise at Knight George. The whale vertebra is the only original furnishing; Luther used it as a footstool.