I watched Joker this weekend. I am not going to say anything about it or even spoil plot points, but the movie got me thinking about storytelling and the reality of lives around us. This movie for me struck a deeper chord in me than I thought it would, and that surprised me. I have always been okay with watching darker materials or understanding darker themes but this movie hit me much differently than others. Maybe it is just this one, or maybe I have come to a different understanding of these themes than I have previously thought. I am not sure. So, I figured I would let people into my more academic writings and theological process in my personal beliefs regarding what art is. Granted, I did write about these things for a class, History of Theatre, this week but I am still a student so I am going to kill two birds with one stone and publish those thoughts on here.
This class tasked us to write a Theatre Manifesto, this means to write what Theatre is. A persuasive based paper, “Theatre is…” instead of “I think that..”, or “I believe that..”, this organization pushed me to truly evaluate what Theatre truly is to me and my qualifications. Now, I am just twenty-one years old so these thoughts are quite new in the grand scheme of things. I am no theologian by experience. I extend to you and invitation to let me know what you think because I am so young and I believe in the power of discussion (even though this paper is written to be opposed to outside opinion). However, in this moment, this is what I believe to be true. That is not to say I have always believed this or that I have never made a mistake.
So… The question that is driving me today is, “What is Theatre?”
Theatre is a derivative of creation. Creation is the act of bringing something into existence. Creation is good, it is made good by God Himself. Theatre can be good, it can be made good by humanity. God created the heavens and the earth, He also sent His one and only son to die on the cross for the salvation of the sins of humanity, which is grace. Theatre derives from the act of creation in which God did at the beginning of time. Storytelling along with theatre is an active part of humanity and how we connect with each other and the Spirit of who God is because of its relation to creation. However, today, the context and act of theatre can be misappropriated with the language of Satan, in which his native tongue is lies. In order to be combative against Satan’s lies and evil in the arena of theatre, it requires an active state in complete vulnerability and authentically honest storytelling, anything other than this is not theatre but the idolatry of instantaneous gratification both in lies and knowledge.
Theatre is the vulnerable state and authentically honest storytelling of the human experience. Theatre must strive for this because anything other than honesty is the misappropriation of art and its intention. The intention of art is to express the human experience in its most honest form, in doing this we actively reflect and reconcile that experience in our relationship with God, or for unbelievers, a god. Active vulnerability and authentically honest storytelling are the tools that humanity uses to create righteous theatre, or theatre in the form of worship. Vulnerability is the state of being exposed to an attack either physically or emotionally. When we expose ourselves we allow all else to see our complete essence – we give up control of our image.
When I give up complete control of who I am, theatre is not just a physical or emotional act but has become a spiritual act as a way to connect to who God is. I give up control by bringing light to all darkness in my being, seeking reconciliation and repentance for my whole self. By doing this, Satan has lost his power of language in my life. Theatre is now about being active in part with my whole self and who God has created me to be without sway from Satan. After taking those active steps of centering myself on God, I then take the steps towards authentically honest storytelling, which involves community through the theatrical process. Authentically honest storytelling requires the utmost truth of a person and a story. When uncovering these stories we are able to reach a spiritual level of relationship with the community involved. Regardless of the quality of a piece of theatre, the relationship you obtain with others through theatre reaches a specific level of trust which heightens the desire to create an authentically honest experience. Theatre is a vulnerable and authentically honest experience which instigates the creative gene in humanity gifted by our Creator.
Every action on earth is an undisputed act of worship towards a god either intentionally or unintentionally. With the audience of a higher power in our midst, this empowers the artist to invest their entire being into this act of worship with the intention to break into a ground that is not physical. The God of the Christian faith, specifically Protestant, is the ultimate audience of which theatre is produced, whether the artist knows it or not. If theatre is done correctly with the instructions followed above, the stories shared are invested in an ultimately intimate spiritual experience, which then invites God to participate in some way. The physical audience that partakes in the performance, or act of worship, are invested, to an extent, to believe and empower the artist. This then propels the artist to delve deeper into this act. Theatre is an intimate form of worship, which is done for a higher power, the God of the Christian faith.
Theatre, like all creative acts, is a way that humanity connects to the ultimate Creator, God. On the surface, theatre is a form of entertainment, a way to escape the world as we know it. However, theatre ultimately forces you to think relationally with specifics in your own life. We are made in the image of God which includes His creativity. We wish to be like Him, so we find ways to connect to Him. One way to do that is through creating in the form of theatre. We do theatre because ultimately it is a deeply personal and vulnerable state to be in which God created us to be in-our purest form when He saw that what He created was “good.” Our desire to be in this state comes from our desire to be closer to God the Father. One way to reach this state is through the creative journey of theatre. Just like the relationship between a father and son on earth, the son strives to make his father proud. Similarly, we strive to make our heavenly Father proud. Theatre is a way in which humanity connects with our ultimate Creator, God the Father, and that is why we do it.
Theatre is the active state of complete vulnerability and authentically honest storytelling with the intention of worship to God the Father. Through this active journey, the lies and attacks of Satan are thrown off and have no weight in the hearts of those who are focused on God. When theatre is done in vulnerability and authentically honest storytelling we connect with the Spirit of who God is and His heart. We receive this blessing from the original Creator, our God, because we are connecting through what He saw as “good.” Theatre is a derivative of creation, which has the influence of goodness by the hands of God and His inherent word.
The theological deconstruction of something so personal for us is challenging to our core. Because, by doing this we have to give up our ignorance and actually articulate our intentions and beliefs in front of others. But the reality is, our words have no weight because we are not the law. We are not God. But, I do think there is value in having these conversations because they do matter, because without the conversations we allow darkness into our ignorance. Ignorance can then rule our lives and our beliefs.
Okay, whoa. Sorry, I will get off my soapbox now. If you stuck it out this far I am proud of you. These are the kinds of things I have been writing about this semester, which I think is making my writing a bit better as time goes on. There is still much more to unpack in the grand scheme of things in relation to theatre and creation. But that is my start. (yeah, this is when my interest in grad school comes in).
Be prayerful during this time of unpacking and writing, that I would still be set on the gift of grace and freedom that God offers. That the temptation of knowledge would be replaced with the desire to know God more and the wisdom to seek Him in all things.