I met Camille Hallstrom a year and a half ago, soon after PT's premiere of A BRIGHT PARTICULAR STAR. She was traveling North America, visiting theatres and theatre artists doing work like we do, from some sort of a Christian faith perspective - and also, in the process, scouting shows to perform back at Covenant College in Georgia, where she heads the theatre program.
Well, STAR opened there last weekend, and she sent me a glowing account of their run so far, and attached their director's notes. Here are both, for your interest and edification.
The show opened Friday to a sold out crowd who was positively rowdy in their enthusiasm. I thought we would have added 5-minutes to the run time with all the eruptions of laughter and applause (though as it happened, the actors were so jazzed we only added one-second to the previous night's length.)
I had people say it is the best show they've seen, others say "I wished numerous times I could have shouted 'Stop!; I want to think about what you just said!'" It's been a great experience for the cast and crew. Thanks for this play.
I'm really sorry you won't be able to see it. Hopefully a dvd I'm having shot and edited will turn out moderately watchable. If it does, I'll send it to you. ...
Blessings as you conclude your run of "Man for All Seasons."
And thanks again for this fine play.
"God has made everything beautiful in its time.
There is a time for every activity under heaven." (Eccl 3:11)
I consider my job at Covenant College equal parts encouraging students to work in theatre and discouraging them from it. Some of us are called to this wonderful, exciting, needy, dangerous “mission field”; others are not.
For millennia Churchmen have, often in outrageous ways, castigated the stage. We must disagree with 18th-century William Law (“It is no uncharitable assertion to affirm that [an actor] cannot be a living member of Christ”) or 19th-century Samuel Miller (“The finger of God, [via a theatre fire that killed 75] points to this Amusement [showing] theatrical entertainments are criminal in their nature and ...directly hostile to... the Religion of Jesus Christ”). Still we cannot deny that the dramatic world has also historically been rife with sex, violence, loose living and heartache. Would a loving parent willingly send a child to wallow in such an abyss? Many could not, yet it cannot be denied that the “abyss” is in large measure the Church’s fault. Having, for centuries, abandoned the theatre to the world, we have no business complaining that the theatre is now worldly. It is shocking to read C.H.Spurgeon claim that “the moral character of the theatre [is such] that it has become too bad for mending.” How can he forget that “God was pleased to... reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven” (Col 1:19-20)? How unconscionable for 1st-century Tertullian to insist that “demons... [give actors] the artistic talents required by the shows!” It is “by Christ [not demons] all things were created” (Col 1:16) and “nothing [God created] is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving” (1Tim 4:4). In the play, retired actress Kate Terry sighs: “[The stage] is corrupted and corrupting - not the place for a Christian, I fear. The meat has gone bad.” But Lilia gives the Kingdom reply: “Because the salt never got there in the first place! Simply because the battle is difficult, do we hand it over to the enemy?”
Ron Reed's play does an admirable job of summing up, in two hours, 2,000 years of Christian controversy in these matters. Parents recognize “God has given you a gift, lassie” one moment, then worry “as Christian parents, you cannot consent to your daughter losing her innocence to the stage” the next. Some Churchfolk tend to lionize one type of drama (they “only like a play if it's got a sermon in it!”) and demonize another (“Shakespeare… Frankly, I don’t see the point in it.”) But art has never been about giving a 3-point gospel presentation. As playwright and Christian apologist Dorothy Sayers once wrote: “Playwrights are not evangelists!.... If [one] writes with his eye on a kind of spiritual box-office, he will at once cease to be a dramatist, and decline into a manufacturer of propagandist tracts. It is his business not to save souls but to write good plays. Should he forget this fact, he will lose his professional integrity, and with it all his power -- including his power to preach the gospel.”
Well, okay, supposing Sayers is right, what then is “the point in it?” Lilia’s answer: “It’s beautiful. (And I want to be a part of that.)” Oh, but surely! That’s impractical; that can’t be Christian. More’s the pity it would strike us so, for though we may have forgotten, the Church has had a long and venerable history of “theological aesthetics.” There was a time when Christians realized their proper study was not merely Truth and Goodness, but also Beauty.
Historically, C.S. Lewis reminds us, a goal of education has been to teach people to feel right feelings: “By starving the sensibility of our pupils we only make them easier prey to the propagandist when he comes. For famished nature will be avenged and a hard heart is no infallible protection against a soft head.” Jonathan Edwards wrote “God is God, and distinguished from all other beings, and exalted above ’em, chiefly by his divine beauty, which is infinitely diverse from all other beauty.” And could it actually be iconoclastic, old John Calvin who encourages us: “Let us not be ashamed to take pious delight in the works of God open and manifest in this most beautiful theater [the world]”?
St. Paul exhorted us that “each one should retain the place in life… to which God has called him.” (1Cor 7:17) There’s little evidence this verse applies only to doctors and farmers and locksmiths and priests. Lilia tells her friend, “I think God likes me to act in plays”; but when the friend presses, “Why? To what end?” she can only reply, “I don't know.” Calvin (wild-and-crazy Bohemian sensualist that he was) perhaps supplies the answer in an elaboration on the passage above: “The contemplation of God's goodness in his creation will lead us to thankfulness and trust.... God has shown by the order of Creation that he created all things for man's sake.”
Soli Deo Gloria