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Handbook Appendices Forms Theatre Scholarships For Theatre Majors, Minors, and Intendeds University Theatre Handbook Table of Contents Theatre Home

A.1.c. The Christian and the theatre.

Question One: Ought Christians participate in an activity which apparently asks them to embrace  hypocrisy while opening them to great temptations of egocentricity?

Performers have been characterized as being shallow and without shape or true self, and absent stable personhood, who can therefore appear to be anyone at will.  Or, alternatively, they are viewed as hiding behind a mask of self-indulgence, incapable of either love or virtue  Clearly, the Christian artist must argue an alternative, more truthful paradigm for understanding the actor's process

It is unfortunate that the modern theatre (and especially the film industry) has provided many self-indulgent, egocentric examples.  The contrived image of the “star” seems to exemplify and reinforce the charge which Christians often make against theatre as cor­rupting of performers. The public lives of many of the "stars" too often appear to reinforce the notion that actors have no soul, no honest moral "self", and are incapable of anything other than self-indulgence.  The person and the craft are seen as mere chicanery.

The Christian performer’s response must assert that quality acting is not just learning “performance tricks" in order to be able to "fool" the audience.  The actor must be an hon­est representation of the character and the humanity of the audience, becoming a true metaphor for the human experience.  Honesty leaves no room for hypocrisy.  Any­thing less is not artistry but mere show.  Furthermore, a performer is always part of an ensemble, an ensemble which not only includes other actors with whom he or she appears on-stage, but every member of the larger company who have worked on the production.  Ensemble can only be destroyed by egocentricity, and therefore the honest member of the production team must voluntarily or otherwise avoid it.

The task of acting has to do with the artistic revelation of different "persona" potentially contained in each one of us, rather than hiding behind a soulless ego-driven mask of self.  "Persona", a root word describing the actor, is the Latin term for mask.  It is also the word used by Tertullian to describe God as "one sub­stantia",  yet at the same time "three per­sonae.”  God revealed in three masks (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) is a striking image, and one reflective of the actor’s artistry in revealing humanity through the mask or persona of different characters while yet remaining one true self.

The notion of exploring other human beings through the taking-on of a persona is espe­cially applicable when referring to the incarnational action of God in Christ "who being in the form of God thought it not robbery to be equal with God, but made himself of no repu­tation, and took upon himself the form of a servant...."  The actor’s art, for the Christian artist, is incarnationally based, making the words of the script "flesh."  The actor is to be the servant of all humanity, whose task is making more clear the nature of exis­tence.  All Christian theatre artists create in order to serve, not to be served through self aggrandizement.  In this service the actor uses all her resources; personal and interpersonal, intuitive and educated, artistic and observational, as tools to reveal what it means to be human in the "mask" or "persona" for the enjoyment and enrichment of the audience.


Next Section: Question Two

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