Fools Mass

Fools Mass returns for its 25th season! Our remarkable holiday offering, an annual event since 1998, celebrates the sacred, the profane, the miracle of life and the enigma of death, all with enchanted choral singing, riotous comic buffoonery, and extraordinary dramatic invention. Set during the plague years of the 14th century, where a motley group of village idiots are forced to enact their own Mass due to the untimely death of their beloved pastor, Fools Mass has become all the more relevant for our own ravaged times.


What a terrific combination of buffoonery and religion Fools Mass is!
The unbridled emotions of the lunatics — expressed in the real mannerisms of psychiatric pathology — resolve themselves into unexpected reverence. And it’s all set among the granite saints of St. John’s. We’re looking forward to another 25 years from Dzieci Theatre
Full Review by Steve Capra
Review by Alix Cohen

12 tracks on CD or Digital Download!

Fools Mass Live! Photo Album 1
Fools Mass Live! Album 2

Fools Mass: Interview with Matt Mitler 2023

Q & A with Matt Mitler 12/12/19
Julia Hochner on Fools Mass for New York Theater Review 2012
Esteemed Reader: Holy Fools a deeply felt essay by Jason Stern
A glorious review by Lee Van Laer, Senior Editor, Parabola Magazine
A beautiful article on Fools Mass from the Episcopal Diocese of Newark
Opplaud’s Rave Review!

Fools Mass 2019 – A Short Promo

It is no secret that in Dzieci Theatre, life and art are inseparable. In the early years of creating Fools Mass, therapeutic professionals led group sessions that, through improvisation, revealed insights into the individual characters and their relationships with each other.

In 2019, we returned to that extraordinary process for further refinement.

A Fools Therapy Session

Songs from Fools Mass:
“Rex Caeli Domine”
“Gloria Sei Dir Gesungen”
“Aus Tiefer Not”
“Ich Steh an Deiner Krippen Hier”

Photo Albums:
Fools Portraits 1988 – 2001
Fools Mass – The Early Years
Fools in Kingston 2022
Fools Christ Episcopal 12/3/17
Fools Union 12/1/17
Fools Sure We Can 12/16/16

Kingston 12/18/15
Bushwick 12/19/15
St. John the Divine 12/20/15
pics-Fools Toronto pics-
Fools Ft. Tilden 12/18/10 (10)

“Moving between the sublime and the ridiculous, drawing its audience through laughter
toward participation and contemplation, the work resists being categorized as either theater
or religion, becoming both at once in an event experienced by many as transformative.”
The Encyclopedia of Religion 2nd Edition

“Dzieci is a wonderful example of the spiritual intensity possible
when theatre engages
 the age-old mysteries of faith and the human experience.”
– Canon Tom Miller, Cathedral St. John the Divine

“I am left burst wide open from the experience of the Fools Mass.
Raw, grateful, and breathless from the inbursting of the Holy barely covers it.”
– Brother Karekin Madteos Yarian, BSG –

I saw the Fools Mass live-stream and experienced overwhelming waves of emotion,
from the inescapable pull to sing along, to joy, to tears, and everything in between…
sadness, confusion, the gap/gulf, the bridging of it, the reaching… throughout there was
something being reached for, something out of reach, but still reached for, and in so doing,
taking us all along in that seeking. And at the end I felt cleansed.
Golan (Ugo), Dzieci Ensemble 2007~2020

“How wonderful and wonder-filled Fools Mass was! I’ve thought about it each day since.
It was deeply profound, beautiful and funny. It didn’t just grace our stage;
it brought the whole theatre to life. I thank you.”

– Alexandra Langley – Theatre Manager, Boughton Place –

“I have not been able to stop thinking about  the raw, opening, loving and generous gift
you gave us all. To embody these characters, (who can be historically so challenging
to society as a whole), was such a rare and powerful mirroring for every one…

“I grew up with two mentally and physically disabled “special needs” brothers, who were
and continue to be, central to who I am and the life I live today. Much of the “chaos” and
unfiltered self-expression I witnessed in Fools Mass, was pretty much the family scene in which
I grew up. I have seen and experienced first-hand,  the transformative and healing nature of the “arts”
and to witness the depths and commitment from you all  was a beautiful and sacred experience.
You have made a deep impression on me through the latter days of this incredible year.
Bless you and know, we all need this work and play in our hearts and lives.”
– Claire Hilles, classical pianist –

“Thank you for such a joyous and moving Fools Mass.
It grows and changes every year, but the core message and beauty are perennial.”
– Riley Kellogg –

“Fools Mass is a brilliantly engaging worship experience that strips bare  our preconceptions of liturgy,
and brings us deeply into an experience of Jesus Christ, and the gospel witness of his love and humility.
It will challenge you, touch your heart, and make you laugh, but it will not be something
you can passively ignore once you have experienced it.”

– The Reverend Dian Wilcox, for The Episcopal Diocese of Newark –

Fools Mass allows me to look at myself and others point blank; the idea of ‘otherness’ and my judgment
and repulsion, what I feel is grotesque, crazy, abnormal, mental illness, deformity, homelessness,
addicts, outcasts… the dark, unruly and seemingly shameful parts of our own selves.
There’s a place for everyone in Fools Mass, because there’s a place for everyone in Dzieci.”

– Audrey Dimola, Freshman Fool 2019 ~

“Fools Mass is such a rich exploration of human nature and our spiritual search. There is the constant
flow between control and chaos, aloneness and togetherness, creation
and destruction,
the absurdly mundane and transcendent simplicity. The search for true contact
without an intermediary
leads us into a true spiritual connection within and between one another.
It’s a rich experience worthy of multiple viewings.”
~ Matthew Purdon ~

“I can’t even begin to summarize what it is that they do; except to say,
it is unforgettable,deeply moving
and will give you a new lens
on the Eucharist and all of worship.”
– Rev. Cheri Kroon, Flatbush Reformed Church –

“We’re still buzzing from your performance at St. John the Divine.  We were at the cathedral
for my annual pilgrimage to my favorite sacred space in NYC and were beckoned to the corner
of the church by some interesting and strange voices.
We had no idea that we were about
to enter into the most heartfelt ceremony  of the season, perhaps of our lives.
Thank you for your beautiful work.”

~ Kathleen O’Hanlon ~

“I participated (again) in one of the most precious, powerful and important Masses
I have ever seen in my life:
The Fools Mass. They sang, read the gospel, shared the peace of Christ,
gave me bread, blessed me and
sent me into the world. Today I had church. Dzieci works in between
theatre and religion, so you are there
for at a play but it feels deeply like real worship.
I left with this oceanic feeling that God was all around.”
– Claudio Carvalhaes, Professor of Worship, Union Theological Seminary –

“One of the best experiences ever. There were times I forgot it was a play;
I was so engrossed. Unbelievable!
I wish more people could experience this.
The costumes were so real. The intensity of the old woman staring at me was haunting.
I found myself singing along, hugging the characters; wishing them ‘peace’.
Very unlike me. I was as much a participant,
sharing the intimacy and transformation the cast
and fellow audience went through. The impact of the play, its intensity,
the innocence of the characters, stayed with me for days. It was just bloody awesome.”
~ Sashi Venkatesan ~

“At this holy time of year, Fools Mass is a genuinely spiritual experience: one feels such strong honesty
in the purity and simplicity of the characters’ faith and the comfort they receive through
their connection
with the divine.The performances were totally convincing, and the singing transporting.
I think this was my favorite Dzieci performance yet.”
Erik Finkleman ~

“Fools Mass: an experience of humanity and the divine that is transformative and grace filled.”
– Brother Aelred Bernard Dean, BSG –

“I wept through the whole performance.”
Brother Joseph Basil Gauss, BSG ~

“I’ve had my Dinner With Andre experience, now I don’t need to go to Poland.
At first I thought, ‘Oh, my God, these Fools are just as broken as me.’
I felt completely related, enveloped in their world, and then completely transported.”
~ Gary Singer ~

“By the end of the Fools Mass, I was in love with every character. I no longer saw their teeth,
or the dirt on their faces, or their stooped and spastic forms. I saw only human beings in love
with the sacred, in connection with spirit. I saw brothers and sisters. I am still in rapture.
It was magnificent, and deeply moving. And I can’t stop thinking about it.”

~ Brother Dave Klaus ~

It was a special opportunity for us to embrace our humanity and see our ritual from a child-like perspective. As a community, we proclaim “all are welcome” and you have helped us in our lived experience to realize what that might mean. You are a gift – thank you for sharing!
~ Michele Harris, St. Francis de Sales Parish, Salisbury, Maryland ~

“I am so happy that I had a chance to see Fools Mass. From the early moments
of standing in line to my exit,
I felt held and engaged in something
I still do not have words to explain.
I am so humbled by my experience of witnessing.
Thank you for sharing so intimately and with such grace.”

~ Jenifer Bruce ~

“Fools Mass is the finest incarnation of ‘blessed are the least of these’ I have seen –
Dzieci explodes the fourth wall and we become an integral part of the experience.”
~ Rev. Jeanie Shaw ~

“Thank you for this wonderful performance of Fools Mass. I still feel your presence.
Coming from Poland many years ago and loving Polish language,
your name ‘Dzieci’ and what you do is very close to my heart.”

~ Krystyna Maliniak ~

“That was AMAZING! I was in the front row with my son, Milo. AMAZING!!!
Thank you so much. We loved it. Thank you.”
~ Ayun Halliday ~

“It was f—ing perfect!”
~ Connie Castanzo ~

Anyone who has been involved in congregational leadership or more than darkened the door
of their local parish MUST see Fools Mass at least once in their lives. An
in-the-aisles-rolling-with-laughter study of the personalities and pieties that haunt
all of us at work in the Church, Fools Mass reminds us what unspeakably profound things
can happen when tragedy strikes but the Mass must go on… You are extraordinary…thank you!
– Brother Richard Edward Helmer, BSG –

“’Fools Mass’, with a nod to Beckett, begs the question, ‘How do we, as people, manage when our ‘God’—
our leader, our guide
— does not show up?’ Left to our own devices, what do we make in the vacuum?
How do we connect with one another in a way that creates the thing we are missing?
How do we climb out of our despair and disappointment and relate in order to make a world
with our fellows? How do we go on when our hearts are broken? I think Dzieci Theatre
gives us a fine answer: through enacting communal rituals, like Mass or theater or
breaking bread with others, we embody the thing we’ve been waiting for.
Thank you, Dzieci, for this transporting and transforming theatrical experience.”
– Rebecca Hoffman, LMSW –

“The performers entered so truthfully into their characters and related so lovingly with the spectators,
we had no choice but be engaged and to engage in wonder. Dzieci is not simply a troupe of performers
but a community seeking together a profound relationship with the Spiritual.”
–  Rex Deverell, Minister Emeritus of Calvary Baptist Church in Toronto –

“As we were walking away from the performance, a car with other audience members flagged us
down to get our reaction. We were all so moved, we didn’t quite know what to say,
but we all just stopped everything and talked about theater and ritual and God and spirit.
How often does that happen?”
Patricia Kambitch –

“Experiencing Fools Mass was a hope filled, delightful and heartbreaking experience. Through song,
worship and by helping one another, the “fools” of Fools Mass teach us profound lessons about grief,
love, faith and acceptance, lessons that can enrich the lives of all. Thank you for the performance.
It truly broadened my ideas of what theatre and worship can be.”
– Eric Hoffman –

“I don’t know any other group, which combines music, drama, dance,
and spirituality in the way that they do.”
– Rev. Daniel Meeter, Old First Reformed Church, Brooklyn –

“I felt more ‘at home’ tonight during your performance
than I’ve felt in the 10 years I’ve been at the seminary. Thanks!”
– Virginia Wiles, Professor of New Testament, New Brunswick Theological Seminary –

“I cannot put into words the experience I had watching the Fools Mass at St. John the Divine.
It was amazing and beautiful, and so very powerful. I’m honored, thankful, and humbled to have
been there. Thank you for what  was 
the most beautiful service/performance I have ever witnessed.”
– Sarah Rippy –

“It wasn’t a play. It was a revelation.”
– Bayard Walker –

“We found the performance beautiful, moving, funny and poignant,
and talked of it the whole subway ride home.”
– W. Laurie Ewer –

“Absolutely incredible. So deeply grateful to have been transformed
by this powerful and soul stirring work.”
– Isis Phoenix –

“Thank you Dzieci for your beautiful offering. My soul felt cleansed
and clarified by Fools Mass.”
– Carol Ann Graham –

“If you do this every Sunday, I’ll make it my church.”
– Anonymous –

“Fools Mass took my breath away!”
– Anais Haven –

“Your mission is so deeply spiritual and your portrayal of the simple people
in the Fools Mass can only come 
from a solid respect
for those who experience life in a different way.”
– Sister Pat Klemm, OSF –

“I was so sorry to have missed all of your season’s performances of the Fools Mass;
it is always such an inspiring and renewing experience. I feel it is an essential part of my year,
and of my holiday season, to have that experience at least once. When I realized
that I had the time wrong,
 I felt that I still had to go, even if I arrived so late that
the whole troupe was already packed up and gone; a kind of pilgrimage to
at least connect with images and feelings of the Mass while I was en route.

Your welcome was so warm, and I am very grateful for the musical gift that the group
gave me.
It truly moved me, and will stay with me. Especially as this was
the end of your season, and
a double-Mass day. I appreciate the generosity of spirit
that you all had in offering me that beautiful gift.”
~ Riley Kellogg ~

“Through my participation in this drama, the troupe transformed my perspective in one fell swoop.
things that I had known in my head  and had said with my mouth, about inclusivity
and the nature of the holy,
were embodied by Dzieci and experienced by me in a way that connected me
—body, mind and spirit—to the deep order and transcendent reality of the universe.”
– Renee House, Dean and Associate Professor of Practical Theology,
New Brunswick Theological Seminary-

“Dzieci is devoted to the idea that theater is essentially a form of ‘communion’.  It uses theater work
to seek
 an ever-greater understanding of what it means to share,  to give of oneself in performance.”
~ Tom F. Driver, The Paul Tillich Professor of Theology and Culture Emeritus, Union Theological Seminary –

“The lovely singing voices give a quality of holiness that lets this performance really ring
of simple souls reaching for the divine.”
– –

“I attended another staging of Dzieci’s Fools Mass recently and was again overcome by its power,
humor, sweetness and devotion. It shows, in a very dramatic and humorous manner,
precisely how we should encounter and participate in the actions and rituals of the Mass:
with excitement, enthusiasm and vigor. It’s a lesson about faith and the awe of the faithful.
If you live in this city, you should not miss out on seeing this production.
If you are not living in this city, travel to see one of these shows.
You will not be sorry by what you find there.”
– –

Entry on Dzieci and Fools Mass in The Encyclopedia of Religion –
A Note on Fools Mass
Transcendence found in a `Fools’ Mass – National Catholic Reporter
Dzeici | Showman/Shaman
Catholic Churches of Manhattan: *Fool’s Mass
fools mass in philadelphia « adventures in slow learning
Esteemed Reader: Holy  Fools by Jason Stern

A 2007 Essay on Fools Mass and The Dzieci Workshop





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