Shakespeare and Spelling Bees

One of the things that we do as a local church is open our facilities to outside performing arts organizations.  We believe that to be a part of the greater arts community in our area, we need to serve the greater arts community.  So our church has hosted arts organizations like the city-wide philharmonic, the community symphony, private non-profit theater companies, and the local concert association, to name a few.  We have an amazing group of technical artists at our church, and their volunteer service to these different organizations is in itself a testimony to these secular groups.  Also, we have probably the best designed and equipped performing arts auditorium in town, which has not gone unnoticed to the larger arts community.

Lately, we have been host to the local community college's drama department.  They've presented one other full-length play—Shakespeare's Henry V—on our campus so far, and our relationship with them has gone extremely well.  Their last foray was "The Putnam County Spelling Bee," a Tony Award-winning musical about six pre-teen youth thrown together in the competitive subculture of the spelling bee.  The production was inventive, the acting was excellent, the music was more than credible.  And one other thing.  The script was, well, bawdy.

Now the production was selected after the college booked our facility.  And we frankly didn't know about the content of the play until after it was in production.  But it still put us in a quirky and uncomfortable position—how do we respond to the inappropriateness of this play, and to the people putting it on?

So this is what we did: Nothing.  I internally braced myself for the outcry of criticisms from our congregation, but frankly, it never came.  The play ran it's course without incident.  I think it's because our people generally understood that the content of the play had little to do with what we believe as a church.  Interestingly, the only ones who voiced objections to the content of the play were the non-Christians who were involved in the play, not our church fellowship. And our technical artists used those conversations as a springboard for sharing their faith, as they interacted with them during the production.

Ultimately, the issue is not whether or not there are inappropriate words.  I think the real issue is how do we respond in a relationship with those who may not share our faith.  If I invite my neighbor to dinner, and he swears when he talks, do I still try to be his friend?  

Of course, there are lines that must be drawn.  I certainly wouldn't want my neighbor swearing in front of my young children.  And I wouldn't have him taking the Lord's name in vain.  But if Jesus really was a Friend to Sinners—a title He wore proudly—then whatever we do, be it host a performing arts organization or simply go out to coffee with the director, I must do it with love as my primary motivation. 

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Deconstructing "Christian Drama"

Joe looked across the coffee table from me, a spark in his eyes revealing his eagerness.  He leaned into his next question.  "So.  What did you think?  I really want to know,"  he asked between sips of his latte.  "And don't hold back either.  I want to get some good feedback that I can take with me."

It was three weeks earlier that Joe had first contacted me about a play he was producing at a local church.  He had written and produced it over the last three years, and fancied himself a serious writer and craftsman.  Passionate and energetic, it was obvious that he was driven to produce this play, and was personally attached to it at many levels.  And so he sought out people in the area, "influential" people I suspect, to help further his production and gain credibility.

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The Art of Bread

Typically, this blog waxes eloquent on the deeper theological points of faith and the arts. But today, I thought I would just be goofy and share a story about my wife about a dozen years ago.  It is a reminder that we, as artists, should strive toward the greater art—and often, it comes with a price.

In our family, this story is folklore, the kind of tale that has been retold over the dinner table over the course of more than a dozen years.  Or to paraphrase the words of Kung Fu Panda: "Legend tells of a legendary bread maker whose bread making skills were the stuff of legend..."

Day 1: My wife, Debbie, finds a book on baking bread in the bookstore.  She buys it, thinking that she'll save the family money in the long run.  "After all, after a few loaves, it should pay for itself."

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What is Christian Art anyway?

One of the ideas I’ve grappled with over the years is, What is Christian art?  I mean, what makes an artistic expression like music or drama or dance uniquely Christian?  What does that term mean anyway?  And I’ve come to the conclusion that it isn’t necessarily anything that has Christian symbolism or religious themes or doves and crosses.  More than anything, Christian art must begin to reflect the overarching story of God, the Meta-Narrative, that our Triune God is in the process of redeeming that which has fallen, that which He had created, that which He loves.

The story of all that is, is the story of God.  He takes His pen in hand to write this story: Creation, Fall, Redemption.  All of history, all of the Bible, all of what was and is and will be, reflects this three act play of Creation, Fall, and Redemption, that God is writing in the universe.

But that’s not all.  He writes this story in our souls as well.  For all of us have our own stories, our own vignettes of how God’s grace has saved us, changes us.  And our stories enter into His larger story of the redemption of the universe.

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