James Twyman

James Twyman (Courtesy photo)

James Twyman, a New York Times bestselling author, who is also known as the “Peace Troubadour,” will travel the U.S. penniless, performing his new musical based on the life of
St. Francis of Assisi, making a stop at the Santa Barbara Mission Jan. 10, on his way to Off-Broadway.

Trusting in the goodness and generosity of others to provide transportation, housing and sustenance, in the same manner as St. Francis, Twyman will cross the country, inviting ticket-holders and even the homeless for a night of inspiration.

The Brother Sun, Sister Moon Musical Tour also will stop in Portland, Phoenix, Sedona, Santa Fe, Denver, Chicago, Rochester and Philadelphia. The show plays in New York Feb. 20-March 1.

Twyman has always had an affinity for St. Francis of Assisi, so much so that he recently took orders as a Franciscan Hermit and was inspired to write his most recent book “Giovanni and the Camino of St. Francis.”

Committed to the saint’s values of love for all and support for those in need, Twyman will feed the homeless and invite them to the performance for a night of physical and soul nourishment.

“That’s how Francis would have done it,” Twyman said. “His life was centered on serving humanity in simple, down-to-earth ways. If he was alive today, he’d probably
embrace things like social media, but he’d also travel with no money and no possessions.

“In my case, I’ll hitchhike, walk when I have to, and rely upon others for food and places to sleep.”

It’s part of Twyman’s effort to make St. Francis and his teachings relevant today. Often regarded as the patron saint of animals, pictured surrounded by birds, wolves, or an assortment of other forest creatures, St. Francis of Assisi, who lived 800 years ago in Italy, is depicted on statues that abound in gardens today.

For most people, he’s little more than the “birdbath saint,” Twyman said. But his values of inclusion, respect for all living beings and peaceful co-existence are a clarion call in a divided and dissonant world.

“I’ve always been in love with St. Francis,” Twyman said. “When I was 18, I left home and entered the Franciscan order, but chose a secular path instead to become The Peace Troubadour. That felt like a natural progression. Now, after finally taking vows, I’m actually getting to express myself as St. Francis himself, through this musical.

“I wrote all the songs as well as the dialogue, and it feels like stepping back in time. It’s actually the most fun I’ve ever had, and the chance to perform it in New York for two weeks feels amazing.”

Brother Sun, Sister Moon will be staged at The Church in the Village. The pre-show routine will be anything but usual for these Off-Broadway performances.

“We’ll have a team of people who’ll join me around the theater, and we’ll be handing out free tickets to homeless men and women, inviting them to come as our guests,” Twyman said. “Then before each show begins we’ll share a meal of soup and bread together, both the paid ticket holders as well as the guests.

“Once again, I want to get as close to how St. Francis would have done this as possible. He would have wanted people of every group to come together, not just those who can afford the ticket.”

This undertaking would seem like a radical endeavor to most people, but to James Twyman it’s just the latest in a list of unconventional ventures. In his role as The Peace Troubadour, he has performed his peace concert in such countries as Iraq, Bosnia, South Africa and Northern Ireland, often while wars and conflicts raged around him.

In 1998, he was invited to perform in Baghdad by Saddam Hussein, and several years ago gave a peace concert on a hill overlooking a village in Syria held by ISIS.

On his show “Real Time,” Bill Maher called Twyman “the idiot singer from Portland,” a label Twyman embraces, but his new project strikes even closer to his heart. It evolved from his authorship of “Giovanni and the Camino of St. Francis.”

“The book is a novel, one I’m very proud of, but I couldn’t figure out a good way to share it on tour. It’s hard to talk about the story without giving too much of it away,” Twyman said. “Then I was watching a recording of Bruce Springsteen doing a one-man show on Broadway.

“It was brilliant and I thought ‘Maybe St. Francis can do the same thing — a musical where he tells stories about his life and what he learned along the way.’”

For more information on Twyman, and the Brother Son, Sister Moon tour stops and performances, visit www.JimmyTwyman.com.

— James Twyman.