Sunday, November 13, 2011

Theatre and God

Today I went to see Godspell at my alma matter. I know the director and was excited to see how the show looked set in a high school. Plus, I knew at least one of my friends was in the show, and I want to support theatre because it's not the strongest program there.

This was the third time I have seen this play performed, and they were all in different settings. The first time I saw it was at a neighboring high school. The second time was community theatre, and this time it was at a Christian university. This is a show that lends itself to lots of interpretation for setting and costume. Unlike most shows, it's not a linear story. It's a series of sketches of Jesus' parables that are acted out by Jesus and the group who is with him (basically disciples, specifically John the Baptist and Judas). The second act contains the Last Supper and the crucifixion. It's funny, it's serious, it's a neat musical.

It has been moving every time I've seen it, especially the crucifixion, but there was something so special about this production. I knew beforehand from talking with the director that the cast went through an exercise of writing out their character bios (the background and personality of their character), and then, in character, they shared those bios with the Jesus character. The director is the only other person who got to see this. As I watched the show, I saw how it made a difference that Jesus really knew the heart of every person onstage. There was a kindness, a love that was so moving to watch. There was a moment with "the loner" that was so touching I started to cry.

The whole point of doing that exercise was to really show that connection that Jesus has. The high school kids didn't know each other's stories. They were just who they were on the outside: the jock, the cheerleader, the misfit, the brain, the loner, the prom queen, etc. But Jesus (who was the janitor, by the way), really knew the truth. The director talked about how he wanted that to mirror Jesus' relationship with his followers in real life.

I'm a very tactile person. I have a very hard time grasping theories and big pictures; I'm more about the specifics and what I can identify with my senses. So even when I read in the Bible, I have such a hard time picturing that Jesus loves me personally. He isn't here to give me a hug or talk with me, and sometimes it's hard to believe he hears me when I pour out my pain and frustration. This is what I love about theatre, how it gives substance to things we can't experience ourselves. I want so badly to use theatre to communicate these truths in a way that hearing a sermon or reading words on a page just can't. Theatre is living and breathing, and the potential for this tool is so much more than we even know.