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New TLC show focuses on life in a monastery, convent
The cable TV channel is seeking volunteers to spend six weeks in a solitary setting of a monastery. Applications are due by the end of November.
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By NATASHA ALTAMIRANO
By NATASHA ALTAMIRANO
"American Idol." "Survivor." "The Apprentice." "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition."
Reality television topics run the gamut from various contests to philanthropic home renovation.
"The Monastery" is one of two upcoming documentaries on the cable network The Learning Channel. It will follow a group of men living in a monastery and a group of women living in a convent for six weeks.
"It's for people who feel that they're at a crossroads in their life," said Sara Woodford, series producer with Tiger/Tigress Productions, the company producing the shows. "Maybe they've had something happen where they question their faith. Maybe they never believed in God. Maybe they want to give God a last chance."
The production company's British counterpart produced the original series "The Monastery" for a BBC channel in Britain.
The BBC documentary followed five men living in Worth Abbey, a Catholic monastery in Sussex, about 32 miles south of London.
"It was very successful in Britain, and religious programming is difficult to make for a mainstream audience," Woodford said from her Bethesda, Md., office.
Applicants aren't required to have any religious background; they just need to be open-minded and willing to learn.
"They could just be ordinary people asking ordinary questions we could all relate to," Woodford said.
Producers have not disclosed the location or religious affiliation of the site for the American documentary in order to avoid giving away too much information to potential participants.
Woodford only said the documentary will take place at a "traditional monastery."
"If contributors know what to expect, then they'll miss out on the proper experience," she said.
Sister Frances Carol of the Oblate Sisters of St. Francis de Sales at St. Mary Convent in Fredericksburg said she thinks the project is a good idea because it will provide insight into convent life.
"I really believe that the general community doesn't really understand religious life," she said. "The more we can educate the public, the more they can realize who we are and what we're about and come to a better understanding of our life."
Mehdi Aminrazavi, a University of Mary Washington religion and philosophy professor specializing in eastern religions, said documentaries often are used in religion courses, but he questioned the TLC project's goal.