Thursday, April 19, 2007

Responses to GRACE

So many interesting responses to GRACE. Stirred up much talking, thinking, feeling - exactly what we hoped for it. I'll put up a post here and add to it over the next few days as I come across other emails that have come my way over the past month or so....


Well the title of this play is certainly ironic, as there seems very little "grace" ('free and unearned favour of God' - OED) in the essence of this play. O there are lots of clever ways in which grace plays peeks through in the lives of the characters, but in the end everyone dies violently at the hands of the Christian. Where is the grace in that?? Once more the most negative image of how religion works in peoples lives is given center stage. I know that there is plenty of cynicism out there about the hypocrisy and the evils of religion - 'The God Delusion' by Dawkins has been on the bestseller list for months. The acting, direction and staging of this play is excellent. But it left me sad and a bit angry, as it seems to leave the audience little hope that religious faith can be transformative.

PS (My wife) loved the play, and adamantly (and eloquently) disagrees with me. ... In the final analysis good theater makes you think and reshape your ideas, and this play certainly did that. I am glad I saw it and it will certainly provide fodder for further discussion....


The play was very raw and very real, and - I think you're right - that is what subdued me for the second half. I felt like the play was very explorative and really asked the question "what if?" It really bleed for me. I was almost surprised by my own reaction. I guess you noticed that I was unable to stand for the applause...the actors did such a fabulous job (as did the director!), and I greatly applauded their work, but I just couldn't "agree" with what happened. Standing, to me, felt like it would be agreeing with the deaths and the way things ended up - like it would be almost agreeing that it was "right," which I didn't feel, because it felt so WRONG to me. Ultimately, throughout the play and afterwards I found that I could not judge, though...I could not judge any of the characters, because they were so blind to their own hypocrisy...but that only spoke VOLUMES to me of the hypocrisy in our own lives. It was GOOD. I really appreciated the way the play challenged me and really made me wrestle deeper with the feelings it evoked in me. I'd love to talk to you more in person :o)


Hey, while I’ve got your ear I want to tell you how much I enjoyed Grace. Angela’s direction was subtle and lovely. Craig’s performance was breath-taking. The female (whose name escapes me) was luminous, vulnerable and completely in the moment. She was entrancing. The other two performances were strong too. The story is not without its snags but it provided fodder for many a discussion in the week following. It’s exactly what I envisioned many years ago when we had those discussions about what Christian theatre was supposed to be. I loved it. Bravo!


And here's a word from the aforementioned, name-escaping female, one Alexa Devine...

By the way, Craig just told me to check out the PT Blog - and hey, what a great idea! I loved reading the discussions and comments about Grace. Reminded me of the many (and I mean many) fascinating and thought provoking conversations I had with friends and strangers after almost every performance. Never before have I been so eager to hear people's feedback and discuss questions they may have had about the play and the issues it brought up. I was amazed at how each conversation (especially the talk-back at TWU) helped me to continue to find beauty, depth, humanity and Grace within the play (and in my life actually). What a awesome treat it was!

And so I want to thank you again for the opportunity. It was a blessing and an experience I will hold close to my heart for a very long time.



And for the home stretch, a thoughtful and thought-provoking interchange between one of our patrons and Dan Amos, who you've seen onstage in A BRIGHT PARTICULAR STAR, THE QUARREL and other shows....

To whom it may concern,

Four of us attended Saturday night's showing of Grace. The play was expertly acted, and in many ways well-written. However, we drove away not sure precisely where the grace was to be found. This is not a criticism, but an admission of ignorance. Could someone help by interpretting for us the presence of grace in this story?

By His mercy...


Hello Roger,

I work on staff here at the theatre, and served as the sound designer for the show. I’ve been asked to respond with some thoughts as to the ultimate presence of grace in the story of Grace.

The fact that you went away a little frustrated, asking this very question, to me indicates that the show has exactly fulfilled its purpose. I think that the playwright ultimately wants us to consider what grace is, if it actually exists, and where it is found in human life, especially in tragic situations. This is a very messy story that never nicely wraps up any one issue. It is worth mentioning that the playwright was inspired to write the play after hearing about an actual, very similar, situation on the news, involving a bizarre, Christian love triangle/murder-suicide.

In direct answer to your question I believe that grace can be found, though it is tempered by tragedy, somewhere in the journey that each character makes in the story. Sam obviously comes from a place of lonely hopelessness to a state in which he can let go of his guilt and become ‘alive’ again, even opening up to the idea that God, and grace, may exist after all. The complexity lies in the fact that he finds all of this through his relationship with Sara, which ultimately turns adulterous. Very messy.

Karl’s story is filled with grace, indeed, a grace wrought with cosmic destiny, in that his little ‘friend’ Rachel encounters him and offers him forgiveness for an act that has paralyzed him with guilt and bitterness for sixty-odd years. His admission at the end that “there is something, that waits, and comes back for us” is a tremendous step of hope. However, he still ends up murdered, and is found to have unconsciously been the vehicle of Steve’s illness. Again, very messy.

Sara not only finds a renewed sense of grace and redemption for herself through her interaction with Sam, but also gets to be the instrument of grace for another. This is a powerful, positive thing. As per normal in this play, however, she becomes caught up in the messy turmoil of a deteriorating marriage and an awkward love affair.

It is sometimes difficult to remember in such a disturbing story that we are watching a tragedy, in the traditional, even ancient, sense. The ultimate purpose of tragedy is to ‘ennoble’ the viewer – to make him or her a braver, stronger, wiser or ‘better’ person. This is achieved when the audience identifies and empathizes with the tragic hero, yet is able to detach and see the mistakes that the tragic hero makes. Steve is definitely the tragic hero of the piece. It is probably easiest for those of us with Christian evangelical backgrounds to identify with him. Yet there is something that rings alarm bells in us from the start. I believe the most potent aspect of his character is the everpresent proximity of grace to him, which he foolishly ignores, misunderstands, or is unable to focus on. The entire ending predicates on his redemptive epiphany with Karl, rapidly followed by his bitter realization that Karl has been unwittingly poisoning him. If he could only see past his initial wave of resigned rage... if he could only stop and realize that he now has the means to sue the chemical company and make ALL of his money back... If he could only put aside his selfish pride for a second, a moment... perhaps it wouldn’t be a tragedy at all.

Ron Reed makes clear in his director’s notes that he did not choose this play for the things that it says, but for some of the difficult and uncomfortable questions that it asks. I thank you and your friends for engaging with these questions. Please, if you wish to dialogue further, reply to this email. We in the office are enjoying bouncing your questions around between ourselves.




Thank you. Your response was careful, and infomative. I suppose at this point, while I remain unsatisfied from failure to see how the title fits the story, I would ask the larger question of Ron, namely, what redemptive element this story conveys.

I like messy, I live in messy, we as Christians too quickly jettison all things messy including 40% of the psalter, God's clear message that life is not immune from lament. Having said this, I resisted the impulse to share Christ with a person like Sam yesterday. I resisted it because the play twisted the enterprise of sharing Christ into something I want nothing to do with. I observed an unkind version of sharing Christ in Grace, much like I did in the movie, The Big Kahuna. This is not a style of evangelism I condone. But there were moments of great courage, and brilliance in Steve's well-intended, yet over-bearing, unsympathetic, manipulative, and disengenuine overtures. These moments, as rare as they are, remain precious. Proclaiming Christ is something to be done with great care, but we Christians need affirming examples, or, at least poor examples shown to be redemptive.

I also think I am still shell-shocked. Watching a man load a gun in a LIVE theatre context, to subsequently fire said gun, a short distance from my face is drama I have never before encountered at that level, that was intense. But I think the intensity of that show has momentarily shaken foundations such as how I share Christ. Everyone walking out of that theatre is thinking, 'God forbid I ever become the blow-hard evangelistic maniac Steve was'.

I love you guys, and am so thankful for your theatre. I desire for LIVE theatre to shake me, especially for God's glory. But I hoped by now, (nearly a week later) something good might have come of it, or, that less desireable vestiges of the story would cease to influence me. I regret to say, neither has transpired.

The question I ask as I prepare to share some vital, but, hard-to-swallow-truth about God, Scripture, or man in a sermon is, 'am I willing to destabalize the faith of some in exchange for this truth, illustration, theology, etc." If the import of that truth does not justify the exchange then it is not worth the destabilizing effects.

By His mercy...


And this, in July;

Where can I locate a copy of Craig Wright's Grace? I've been bugging Angela for it for months, and she said her only copy is covered in her notes. I would be willing to pay for it - I've just got to get my hands on it. This play in all sincerity changed my life, my view of theatre, my view of death and spirituality, faith and religiosity. I've spent many an hour searching the internet, I even have my friend who's a librarian at a theatre archive in New York City trying to track it down for me with no luck yet. In fact, I'm so obsessed that I've just finished watching the entire series of Six Feet Under, and read every interview and listened to every audio commentary done by Craig Wright. Please say you can help me.

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