What drives a development organization to become involved in the arts? Let me explain with a Yiddish folk tale that bears the wonderful title: “Naked Truth and Resplendent Parable.”
The story begins with Truth who is very sad because nobody will let him into their home -- they reject him at the door and turn him out into the street. Feeling rejected, Truth meets Parable, who gives Truth a little advice: “People like things disguised and prettied up a bit.” Parable lends Truth some clothes -- the resplendent clothes of story -- and finally people let Truth into the door. The story ends charmingly with the note:
“Truth took Parable’s advice and put on the borrowed clothes. And from that time on, Truth and Parable have gone hand in hand together and everyone loves them. They make a happy pair.”
The story illustrates, I think, one of the functions of art: To get truth through the door. It’s one of the reasons GOD International has become involved in the arts, from drama to music to dance. It’s a way of introducing truth to our neighbors.
Of course the relationship between Truth and Parable is not as happy and uncomplicated as the fairy tale makes it. Parable can easily upstage Truth, enfold it so thickly in its dazzling clothes that it’s all anyone notices. This is what Hamlet complains about:
HAMLET: Ay, truly; for the power of beauty will sooner transform honesty from what it is to a bawd than the force of honesty can translate beauty into his likeness.
And sometimes it’s truth that’s the problem. Sometimes Truth isn’t truth at all: It’s a sickly oversimplified platitude or moralistic lesson that uses beauty to cover up its own lack of substance.
Because the relationship between art and truth has always been dangerous, shifty, and complicated, many Christians have simply walked away from it entirely. I think that’s a mistake. There is sufficient reason to wrestle with the complications of art: Love of neighbor.
Recently I got to visit one of our neighbors to do a few odd jobs around the house. There was a group of us helping out. At the end, one of my friends pulled out her guitar and began to sing a few songs. Everyone listened. I would describe the silence as the silence of a dinner table where everybody is too busy eating to talk. There was a feeling that some kind of nourishment was happening. People need truth -- the truth that they are loved, the truth that people share our struggles, that hope is fragile but always available. We need these truths even if we’re closed off to them. And that’s why we need art to open the door.
The Arts at Center Street Theater Venue was birthed in 2012 under the creative vision of Gregg D. Garner, and from it came the Center Street Theater Company. Each of these is a response to the need seen both in our neighborhood and broader community - a need for expression through the arts. It is our goal that our productions and the messages they communicate will spark conversations, provoke reflection, and inspire change. This is the impact we have seen within those who see them, and those who participate in bringing them to life, and it is powerful.
To catch our newest production, BREATHE, A New Musical, visit the link below.