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Friday, July 11, 2008

Open Letter to the "Christian" Audience

It has come to my attention recently that there are a few people out there, who, wrapped tightly in their self-righteous cloaks of Christian superiority, have seen fit to impugn the Christian values of some of the cast members who were involved in Performance Now's recent production of Jekyll & Hyde: The Musical.
Well, I have some news for these self-appointed condemners:

We've been through this before.

There is a long-standing tradition of the Christian church condemning theatre as evil and actors as sinners, simply by virtue of their profession.
This stems, in part, from the fact that the Roman theatre was often used as a venue for persecuting Christians, but we're not talking about the plays of Plautus here. We're talking gladiators, lions, and the Emperor Nero giving the "thumbs down."
Naturally, when the Christians came to power, events theatrical were spurned. This was also partly because the Romans (and the Greeks before them) had so closely associated theatre with their gods, and plays were often performed as part of pagan festivals.
The Christians condemned the pagans and the theatre right along with them. Christian myopia got its start very early on.
Now, it is also theorized that part of Christianity's distaste for all things theatrical results from the "deceptive" nature of drama. Actors pretend to be someone or something that they are not. To act, one must lie. Lying is a sin. Therefore actors are sinners.
Well, I really can't argue with that. If your view of sin is really that black-and-white, then, yep, actors are liars. I defer to your superior existence where you never call in sick when you're not, never fudge your taxes, and only read non-fiction to your kids at bedtime.
If, on the other hand, you can recognize that there is a bit of a difference between being dishonest and playing a part on stage, then let us continue.
Now, I think that the issue for the finger-pointers here was not so much that the actors were playing a part, but rather the kinds of parts they were playing.
Okay, but let's put J&H aside here for a moment. Let's look at something a little less "controversial." How about Godspell, a fun little musical based upon the Book of Matthew. (Well as much "fun" as a musical can be that ends with death by crucifixion, anyway.) In that show, actors play, at different points, Judas, demons, robbers and a number of other unsavory characters. this play has been produced thousands of times over the years by what must now amount to hundreds of thousands of actors. How unfortunate! All those doomed tap-dancing souls . . .
Reductio ad absurdum.
Were there some scantily clad men and women on stage in Jekyll & Hyde? Yup. There sure were. Have you seen an Easter-service passion play recently? The actor playing Jesus wears roughly the equivalent of a loin-cloth.
Were there scenes onstage that were sexually suggestive? Yes, indeed.
Could the scenes have been played down? Well, sure, they could have.
Would they have been as compelling? No.
Would they have told the story as effectively? No.
Theatre tells stories. You might even call them "parables."
The good ones have morals, and the thing about telling a story with a moral is that sometimes (most times) you have to show the immorality to get to the morality.
Good storytellers do not shy away from that.
We are the storytellers. We wear the masks that tell the story. We are not the masks.
So, some boys and girls got up onstage and played some unsavory characters and they did it well enough that you can't separate who they are from who they played?
Um, that means they did their jobs well, you self-righteous, unimaginative dullards!
I feel a little sorry for you that you don't understand that, but only a little.
Here's the thing: some of those boys and girls are friends of mine, and are far, far above your or anyone else's reproach. They are good people, with good hearts and untarnished souls.
They have probably already forgiven your ignorant and hateful words.
They are better people than you.
They are also better people than me, which is why you should consider yourselves very lucky that I don't know who you are.

Yet.

3 comments:

The Eclectic WAHM said...

:::::STANDING OVATION::::::

Anonymous said...

Brav-fucking-o!

Dev said...

You make some excellent points. (Considering that theatre itself originated with the Passion Play.) Just because someone is religious and believes in God, does that mean they do not have the right to express themselves artistically? Does that really contradict my belief in God?
My only concern when I saw J&H (which I loved by the way) was that I was told one of the young ladies was under 18. I do not know if this is true or not - but if it is, then I do see a concern with someone under 18 on stage in that clothing. However, that is a different argument completely. Either way - good post!