From Set to Stage: A Reflection on the Arts

It’s Elementary Group Photo: Part of using drama and theatre effectively is to address cultural norms and assumptions, provoking re-evaluation and dialogue. The actors of “It’s Elementary”, pictured above, caricatured modern day stereotypes in the portrayal of their characters. A musical, “It’s Elementary” was the grand finale of the Arts at Center Street’s first Night of One Acts. Producer of the Night of One Acts and writer of this article, Sara Davis, is seated center.

As I look back on the last week and forward to the upcoming weekend, I have to smile at the irony of what has consumed many hours of my time over the last few months. This weekend the Arts at Center Street will host it’s second “Night of One Acts,” and for the second time, I have found myself intricately involved in the details of the production. The first time I was asked to help with our theatre production, in the Spring of 2013, I jumped at the opportunity – less because it sounded like fun, and more because it was familiar, and I felt competent and needed. Four years ago, newly graduated from film school, you would have found me equally immersed in a similar scene. Costumes, set design, rehearsal schedules, technical crews – I felt at home among these terms. They were familiar to me; the only difference being, I knew them in the context of Hollywood, not the stage. At that time, I believed that everything the world taught me about art was good, and right. I was an excellent student of culture. Today, having a clearer understanding of both the arts and the word of God, I am confident that the kind of art I choose to be involved has more meaning and purpose, and even the potential to change people’s lives.

Trains are the most common form of public transportation in India. For participants in the 2010 Da’ Mission trip, long hours on the trains were spent in Bible Study and reflection on their experiences. Davis remembers that it was during one of these train rides that her perspective on the arts was first challenged.

In the summer of 2010, I traveled to India with Students Living a Mission on a 3-week, intensive trip. I vividly remember one particular moment, sitting in a crowded compartment of a third-class train, on our way to visit the Taj Mahal. I was posed the question: “What do you think God thinks about the Taj Mahal?” It was at this point in time that my perspective on the arts began to take a necessary shift. Well, more accurately, it crumbled. After this trip, I began to study the Bible. I became aware of the role that art and architecture have played in the oppression of human beings over the course of history. I learned about art as something that is often reserved for the elite in society, something that serves little purpose other than to decorate frivolously or boast of excessive wealth. At one point, I stood in St. Peter’s basilica in Rome, reading the inscription “Thou Art Peter, and Upon this Rock I will Build my Church,” and marveled at the magnificent church built up to commemorate this notion. Today, I don’t marvel, but rather mourn that people could be so misguided as to believe that a structure might be a better vessel than a human being to communicate a notion so dear to God’s heart.  Such an understanding of the arts directly contradicts God’s intent for creative activity, which is to bring order to and benefit human beings, God’s ultimate creative work.

As you might imagine, learning the Bible in this way shook me to the core. The arts were not just my hobby, they were my identity. It was as if I wrapped up everything I’d ever invested myself in and threw it in the garbage, only to go back and rummage through, trying to pick out the pieces that could still be used for good. Rebuilding my understanding of the arts is a process that is by no means finished, and it has changed me as a person.

Dramatic expression can transcend language barriers and communicate biblical truths. Here Corey Streeter, also a participant of the 2010 SLAM Da’ Mission to India, participates in a skit at a school in rural India. This particular skit emphasizes the importance of helping one’s neighbor in need. Drama is a very necessary tool in communicating messages to illiterate audiences.

What a joy it is, on the other side of this revelation, to look at art that is employed meaningfully throughout the word of God. The songs recorded in the Psalms preserve and communicate societal values and beliefs. Songs often mark pivotal historical moments in the Bible – the book of Deuteronomy closes with a song, and Mary the mother of Jesus expresses her gratitude and joy at bearing a son with no less than a song. The prophets in their distress would often give voice to their emotions through poetry. The prophets did theatrical sign-acts that served to communicate where words simply could not. As a tool to communicate values and provoke emotion in an audience, leading to introspection and beneficial conversation, there is no match for the arts.

This is the kind of art that I want to be involved in here at G.O.D. Int’l. Here, we recognize art as something integral to any society, and believe its benefits are far-reaching. Never do we want to be lost in doing art simply for its own sake, or to produce something “beautiful” without evaluating the cost. Instead we accept the challenge of creating art that is characterized by meaning and substance – art that we hope will affect people deeply, and perhaps even change their lives for the better.

Things have certainly come full circle for me. Once, I believed I was “destined for Hollywood greatness,” and now I find myself instead organizing small-time theatre on the side of many other pursuits. The “what” and the “where,” however, are not so crucial to me now. Though I am glad I still have avenues through which to participate in creative expression, I am even more grateful that I can look at the arts through a lens that is shaped by God’s word, and be held accountable to it.

 

The second Night of One Acts will debut this week at the Arts at Center Street on December 6th and 7th . The Arts at Center Street is a newly renovated venue for hosting the Arts and other social network gatherings. The venue has a finely tuned sound system of professional grade, and a raised stage with an appropriately sized room to comfortably seat 80 people. The One Acts are written, produced, and performed by participants of G.O.D. International. These particular One Act plays are intended for adult audiences. 

Show times:

December 6, 7:30pm December 7, 2pm & 7:30pm

401 Center Street

Old Hickory, TN 37138

Box Office: 615.541.9716