Play brings Krapf poetry book to new life



INDIANAPOLIS — After years of fighting with the trials and tribulations that plagued his formative years, Norbert Krapf is taking his story to a different stage.

Krapf, 75, of Indianapolis has adapted his book “Catholic Boy Blues: A Poet’s Journal of Healing” into a play that will be performed at the Indy Eleven Theatre in Indianapolis this weekend.

The book, composed of 130 poems, recounts Krapf’s experience of sexual abuse at the hands of Monsignor Othmar Schroeder, a pastor at Holy Family Catholic Church in Jasper in the mid-1950s. Schroeder served at the church for 27 years and was accused of sexually abusing at least 15 boys. He died in 1988, 19 years before the allegations were made public in 2007.

Krapf, a Jasper native, began writing poems about the abuse that same year, writing 325 poems in 12 months.

Krapf didn’t intend on writing the poems at first, but thought it was a necessary way to heal from the trauma bottled up inside him for 50 years.

“I learned to never say no to my muse,” he said. “If I was inspired to write something, I was going to write it.”

Krapf compared his poetry to narrative therapy, which typically asks people to write letters addressed to their abusers. He said that was what he was basically doing with the poems.

“As soon as I wrote the poems I knew the book should also become a play because it was composed of four voices speaking,” he said.

The book published in 2014.

The play focuses on the healing and recovering from Krapf’s trauma at an early age and is represented by five characters: James, the adult man; Jimmie, his younger self; Catfish Blues, a mentor and healer who plays and sings blues guitar; Father Webb, the boy’s former pastor; and Angie, James’ therapist.

Krapf said he loves theater and used to take the subway to Broadway and other theaters in New York when he lived on Long Island from 1970 to 2004. When Krapf moved to the East Coast he was excited about finding more things to write about but he said he ended up just writing about Indiana.

Krapf never thought he would become a playwright but was convinced by Indiana playwright and four-time Pulitzer Prize nominee for drama James Still to turn his book into a play.

“His encouragement was very important to me,” Krapf said.

He recently enrolled in two playwriting classes with his mentor Andrew Black at the Indiana Writers Center and plans on taking a third. The experience was new to him since he had never taken any drama or theater classes in high school or college.
Through the classes, he learned how to transform his book into a play and all the components of playwriting.

“Playwriting is a collaborative effort,” he said. “You have to work with everyone from the director to the actors to the musicians.”

Krapf has learned to cut and purify his poetry to make it suitable for the play. He added that if he had to do it again, he wouldn’t make “Catholic Boys Blues” his first play, as the many voices aspect makes it fairly complex.

“It’s a different process,” he said. “Sometimes great lines in poems can’t really be spoken by actors. I could not have learned that by myself.”

Krapf draws on inspiration from a quote from one of his favorite musicians Bob Dylan, “He not busy being born is busy dying.”

“That has always been in the back of my mind,” he said. “It lets me know I should keep on working, learning and living my best life.”

Since graduating from the University of Notre Dame with a Ph.D. in American literature in 1970, Krapf has authored 29 books and counting. He was the Indiana Poet Laureate, the highest poetry honor in the state, from 2008 to 2010.

His next book, “Indiana Hill Country Poems” is set to be released by Sept. 1. The book chronicles Krapf’s childhood growing up in Dubois County. He said he plans on giving his first reading at the Dubois County Museum.

The Friday and Saturday performances of Krapf's play begin at 7:30 p.m. and the Sunday one begins at 4 p.m. Tickets are $20 for adults, $15 for seniors and $12 for students and can be purchased here. The play, with intermission, will run about 90 minutes.

More on