The theatre, as a medium for communicating a message, stands unique among other methods for its raw strength and ability to provide a reflection of humanity and itʼs relation to itself and the divine. In no other place, in no other way, can art really take on the form of real life in real time. The theatre makes use of human vessels, human life, to carry meaning through story and to delve into the depths of the human soul. The space that the theatre provides is for real life to be dissected, reached into, wrestled with, and
portrayed in beauty. The worth and power a message carried through such a medium is incomparable.
The mysterious power that drama exhibits in communication is something that Christianʼs cannot take lightly. In fact, throughout history, the church and governments have sought to censor this powerful medium and inhibit the vast potential it has to inform and reflect cultural, religious, political, and moral concerns and beliefs. Glynne Wickham in his book A History of the Theatre says, “Theatre is the most dangerous of all arts… [it] has been a constant source of anxiety the world over to leaders of Church and State alike” (11). The power that the Theatre really has is in affecting us mind, heart, and soul. There is something about the portrayal of life, vulnerable and emotional, that really draws us in, speaks to us and we listen.
As we see in the book of the prophet Hosea, God uses this manʼs life as an image of the relationship that he has with Israel. This man was obedient to God in marrying a woman he knew would be unfaithful, but was faithful to God in obedience in portraying this tragic and beautiful image of this relationship. One could say that Hoseaʼs prophetic career and life was a real life image of what happens/was happening in real life with the Jewish nation. If you were to ask me which prophetʼs message has affected me the most, Iʼd be forced to say Hosea. The parallels are drawn so clearly between the image and the message that they become one and the same. The real life image of Hosea going and purchasing his own wife back from her adulteries and taking her back and loving her and caring for her is a dramatic representation acting out of a message needing to be communicated to the tribes of Israel. This is just one of many examples of drama being used to speak a message in the Bible.
There is a real connection that occurs in theatre. This connection ties us to the people in the story and draws us into a place where we are completely vulnerable, opening ourselves up to experiencing the whole of life being presented through the characters and the story.
Acting and Theatre is about living life. There is the need to say something about the fact that obviously actors on stage are really just acting and living under imaginary and sometimes fantastical circumstances. Still, though the circumstances surrounding any production in a theatre are false and are pretend, the fact remains that theatre is about portraying real life through the characters and their relation to the story and each other. This is the power of theatre: to portray real life scenarios under false circumstance allowing for a message to be transmitted with real strength in connection.
The theatre deals with man. “For the subject of the theatre is man, and it is in
proportion to his humanity…” (Speaight 140). Living life is all about being human and having to deal with the repercussions of our fallen and depraved humanness.
This powerful connection to story and character has been a huge force within my own relationship with Christ and the Church. In real terms, the theatre has the power to gut you of all obstacles and inhibitions to a message, to God, to humanity and to strip you bare of all walls you have built up. My biblical perspective on this medium is largely based on my own personal experiences both in being an audience member and being a casted actor in a play. God has spoken to me and through me using this medium. I am aware that God can use anything to get a message across, but I have felt myself more apt to let my guard down, quiet myself, and listen to words of truth, and experience God in the form of dramatic presentation than many other forms of communication.
The fact is, God can use, and has used the theatre as a means by which to
communicate His message. The church can and should do the same for the reasons listed above. Theatre is an art and should not be taken lightly. By all means, letʼs use the resources given us to communicate Biblical truth. Not doing so would be a sin. The personal vulnerability that can be attained with an audience when theatre and drama as an art is being performed correctly, is almost too valuable a condition for us not to use it for the glory of God, not only in evangelizing but in expressing truth in all areas of the human experience.
Due to the power of Theatre to impact the soul and the individual, it is therefore able to impact Culture and Society. The power of the theatre has been recognized and feared through history, and it seems that only in politically free nations it is allowed to express itself completely. The power of the theatre is rooted in its ability to mirror life in a way that other art forms cannot. By it’s nature, it is able to express the deep complexities of life, politics, relationships, etc. and is therefore granted an unparalleled power to access and influence the world.
Speaight, Robert Christian Theatre. Hawthorne Books, New York. 1960.
Wickham, Glynne A History of the Theatre Phaidon Press Ltd., Oxford. 1985