True confession time: I’m the MOST undisciplined person when it comes to a daily devo… just never have been able to do it.
But recently, I found a website that helps me read one tiny little chapter of the New Testament every weekday (I even get weekends off) that way I can read and think about the NT in one year. Any-hoo… I came across this today and it TOTALLY spoke to me as sort of a Christian Actor’s Creed… It is from Paul’s first letters to the Corinthians where he is explaining how he adapts to various cultures and life-styles to reach people for Christ.
1 Corinthians 9: 19-23
19Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. 20To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. 21To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. 22To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. 23I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.
Of course Paul is talking about not letting our cultural comfort zones interfere with reaching out to people who are different from us. I, however, read this and immediately related to Paul as an actor! I was thinking, HEY! THAT’S ME TOO! I play different parts and characters to tell stories that uplift, challenge, entertain, and enlighten people! And I do it to serve God. As he describes in the verse, Paul is sincerely assuming these traits for the benefit of others, not because these actions represent who he is as a man. Sounds like a method actor to me!
Now you might be wondering why I would want to find some Biblical support for we poor actors. (errr…. or is it “us poor actors”? where is my Mom the English teacher when I need her!?) Maybe it’s just me, but have you ever noticed that when you are around some Christian performers, you can sense they have some hesitance (shame? embarrassment?) about being in the performing arts? I’ve noticed it on occasion and here are some thoughts on that…
Theory #1. For some people, it’s almost like the dark ages when actors/dancers were considered to be low-life criminals, con-artists, pick-pockets, and prostitutes. Celebrity scandals reported every day in the tabloids do not uplift the image of the modern actor! Could it be that the link between immoral professions and the profession of acting is still hanging around in some people’s minds?
Theory #2. Ever come across this one? “Actors all have that “I gotta be me!” thing, and do not care at all about societal norms for behavior.” (Christ never defined godly behavior using “societal norms” as a yardstick, so I’m not EVEN going there!) BUT! I do find it to be true that to be a good actor, you MUST be able to feel what your character feels. Therefore, if we hope to be good actors, unLIMITed actors, unrestricted actors, we must have an open mind.
That makes us very empathetic doesn’t it? Highly accepting, understanding, willing to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes… and perhaps more in tune with the idea of “there but for the grace of God, go I.” If you walk around this life with tons of bias against types of people, you will not be able to accurately portray those people without incorporating that bias into your performance … the audience will see right thru you. Also, if you search your soul as an actor (or a Christian!) and find within yourself the ability to identify with EVERY every aspect of humanity, it becomes very difficult to judge or hold contempt for other people. If we understand the way a character thinks well enough to play them on stage, those lessons learned, that understanding and empathy are often infused into an actor’s every-day life.
Does that open-mindedness and understanding of any and all behavioral possibilities mean the theatrical profession draws people who might not find loving, open, general acceptance of their “true selves” in other professions? I think it might. That in no way bothers me because I serve a Christ who taught us to love one another.
That does not mean you don’t set limits as an actor.
It is a good thing for every actor to insist on respect for their own limits when it comes to language, content, dress, etc.
We have to consider our audience and the vulnerabilities of other actors when making those decisions. Can a married actor kiss another actor? Can a Christian actor play the part of Christ one week and a serial killer the next? Those are limits that are best decided between you and God, taking into consideration the people you have relationships with, and the personal image you wish to project to the world.
At Rush Hour, we have some self-imposed limits that we think are healthy. Men help men in the dressing rooms, women help women. Same thing with adjusting mic pacs and running cords through clothing. We’re not prudes (believe me!) we just respect each other enough not to go there. When someone is on a diet, we don’t throw cake in their faces either. Our audience demographic is primarily elementary-school children and their parents so we use cool dance moves, not provocative ones. Our dress is contemporary, not sexy. We push conservative boundaries with body humor (aka “burp” jokes and stinky feet) but we avoid violent talk and sexual innuendoes in our scripts and movement (and in our back-stage talk as well).
I’ve known Christian leaders so convinced that the perception of the theatre was ungodly, they strongly discouraged the use of theatrical terminology. In one church environment, I was corrected for using the words “stage” “acts” (as in Act I, Act II), “show” or “play.” We didn’t do “productions” , we did “extravaganzas!” It wasn’t a “show” it was a “praise-en-ta-tion!” I kid you not.
Today, I am SO BLESSED! Our Creative Arts Director (love you Phil!) does not distract us with these artificial limitations. Just as we have brilliant men of science and engineering who attend our church and are not ashamed to use the terminology of their professions, we too, as actors, use the terms of our own trade.
We embrace the craft of acting, the way Christ and his father embraced the craft of carpentry. Can you imagine a carpenter who doesn’t use the term “joint”? Seems silly to us, so we use the vernacular of the theatre when appropriate. End of rant. Just kidding, I have more to say.
Did you know theatre was condemned as ungodly and almost forbidden during the dark ages? Sure, you know that… but did you know that theatre first re-emerged during the later dark ages in …
CHURCHES?? It was common to act out Biblical stories for a population that could not read – and even if they could read, they would need to read LATIN to make sense of it! (Translations in English for the common man came later.) Some scholars I have read actually say that church passion plays were the catalysts that propelled society from the dark ages into the Renaissance!
But I digress! Back now to why I like the idea of a Bible verse that encourages actors…
If you are an actor, a performer, or a singer, I hope this verse spoke to the creative artist in you. I hope we can celebrate our gifts with HUMBLE-ATION! God totally gets the art of creation! He sings with the voice of birds, and paints with light in the sky, He dances in the water, the waves, and the wind, and He speaks in the thunder and the laughter of children. All our world is His stage where He is the ink on the page and the light in the dark theatre! He is the author and originator of these gifts, and He gave them to us to use for His glory.
I believe He wants us to polish these gifts like gems, and use them in praise of the Giver. Every word an act of worship. Every note an act of worship, every stitch, every step, every breath an act of worship.