Category : Theatre/Drama/Plays

(CT) Remembering the unlikely story of Dramatist, Author and Apologist Dorothy Sayers

At the height of her fame, Sayers was asked to write a play to be performed in Canterbury Cathedral for an annual festival. Having spent 15 years writing about a sexually adept aristocrat who entered churches more for aesthetic contemplation than spiritual renewal, Sayers hesitated. She finally accepted the commission, due, most likely, to the prestige of her predecessors in the job, T. S. Eliot and Charles Williams.

However, in writing a play about the 12th-century architect who rebuilt part of Canterbury Cathedral after its fiery destruction, Sayers experienced her own baptism by fire. As though a hot coal had touched her lips, she began speaking, through her characters, about the relevance of Christian doctrine to the integrity of work. Intriguing even professional theologians, her play ends with an angel announcing that humans manifest the “image of God,” the imago Dei, through creativity. After all, the Bible chapter proclaiming the imago Dei presents God not as judge or lawgiver but as Creator: “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (Gen. 1:27).

Even more radically, Sayers’s angel suggests that creativity is Trinitarian. Any creative work has three distinct components: the Creative Idea, the Creative Energy “begotten of that Idea,” and the Creative Power that is “the meaning of the work and its response in the lively soul.” Indeed, Sayers’s angel says of Idea, Energy, and Power, “these three are one.”

Called The Zeal of Thy House, Sayers’s 1937 play ran for 100 performances, having moved from Canterbury to London’s West End. Audiences valued its unusual communication of Christian belief. Rather than endorsing pietistic practices, it celebrated the sanctity of work; rather than obsessing over sexual sins, it denounced arrogant pride as the “eldest sin of all.” The play’s self-aggrandizing protagonist, a womanizer who believes he alone can make the cathedral great again, is humbled by a crippling fall. Only then does he abandon his narcissistic need for mastery and acclaim, telling God, “to other men the glory / And to Thy Name alone.”

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Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, Church History, Theatre/Drama/Plays, Theology, Women

John Mark Reynolds–Wrong, Not Just Because We Think So

Graduation time brings out the inspirational quote. One quotation keeps showing up, disasterous advice and a misquotation. Before getting to the ethics problem, as a public service, let me suggest three truths about citing famous people:

First, relying on quotation sites on the ‘Net is dangerous. Check the original text. 

Once while reading Sarah Palin, I discovered she had at least three quotations (including one from Plato) that were wrong. A quick Google showed a quote site that had all the errors.

Second, if the citation does not include a text reference and Google does not show the text it is from, assume it is spurious. 

Everyone gets something wrong, sometime. I relied on a book that said Alfred Wallace was a Lord: wrong. If you cite badly, just be sorry, correct, and hope your critic can let it go!

Third, Shakespeare and Plato are very dangerous to cite as they don’t always agree with their characters. 

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Posted in Blogging & the Internet, Books, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Theatre/Drama/Plays

(Commentary) Terry Teachout–How Do You Solve a Problem Like Oscar Hammerstein?

AOf all the Broadway musicals written between the consolidation of the genre in the early ’20s and the start of its decline in the mid-’60s, only 20 or so are now revived regularly. Five of them—Oklahoma! (1943), Carousel (1945), South Pacific (1949), The King and I (1951), and The Sound of Music (1959)—feature lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II and music by Richard Rodgers, while a sixth, Show Boat (1927), was written by Hammerstein and Jerome Kern. Hammerstein also wrote the books for five of these shows (the exception is The Sound of Music), and those librettos define to this day how a “normal” musical is constructed. He is thus by definition the most important and influential figure in the history of musical comedy.

No one questions Hammerstein’s historical significance, nor does the popularity of these six musicals show any sign of diminishing. But there is a gap between that popularity and the esteem in which he is held by many critics. Kenneth Tynan summed up the conventional wisdom about the alleged sentimentality and naiveté of Hammerstein’s work when he dismissed The Sound of Music as “a show for children of all ages, from six to about eleven and a half.” Stephen Sondheim, Hammerstein’s protégé, put it more forgivingly when he described him as “easy to make fun of because he is so earnest.”

Hammerstein affected to be unfazed by such criticisms. “In my book,” he told Mike Wallace in a 1958 TV interview, “there’s nothing wrong with sentiment because the things we’re sentimental about are the fundamental things in life, the birth of a child, the death of a child or of anybody, falling in love….”

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Posted in History, Music, Theatre/Drama/Plays

(LA Times) Steve Lopez–A convict, a victim and a rapt audience of teenagers ponder justice, time and the price of forgiveness

Gabriel, who grew up in dire circumstances, is doing time for killing a rival gang member as a teenager. Anna is doing her own hard time. First she lost her husband to a heart attack. “A bolt from the blue — no warning sign,” as she describes it. Then she lost her only son — like his father, a police officer — in a shootout with a gas station stickup man.

“Prisons are haunted,” says Gabriel, who begins to go mad 10 years into a life sentence. “Ghosts of the people you hurt. Their dead eyes staring at you.”

“I heard it all,” Anna says. “All the excuses. Hurt people hurt people. Depraved ’cause he was deprived. The impoverished childhood. The absent father. The early exposure to violence and drugs. To which I say, ‘So what?’ You don’t choose the cards you’re dealt. But how you play them — that’s on you.”

And so it goes, dueling monologues from across the divide by two people filled with anger, regret, loss. But in their haunted isolation, for all their differences, victim and perpetrator both experience time as a tool of torture. And then, in a twist I can’t give away, they discover a connection that carries with it a hint of redemption.

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Posted in Theatre/Drama/Plays

(1st Things) Ramona Tausz–C S Lewis’ Love Story

Although Shadowlands glosses over some of the problematic implications of Lewis’s marriage, it nonetheless presents marriage as something holy, sacred, and desirable—something that can’t be attained through the mere sanction of the state. “Marriage isn’t just a legal contract,” Lewis instructs Joy. A civil marriage, the play tells us, is not enough; to be married “properly,” a couple must be wed “before God.” For this treatment of holy matrimony, Shadowlands is to be commended—as it is for its celebration of old-fashioned romance. Joy and Lewis’s attraction for each other is not based on sex alone, but on genuine friendship, good conversation, and intellectual compatibility. Their relationship is not the shallow fling of young lovers (Lewis and Joy are middle-aged when they meet, Lewis in his fifties and Joy nearing forty), but something deeper. Shadowlands offers a lovely picture of romance as it ought to be: love and trust between friends that develops into a genuine longing for union.

Today, when hookup culture has nearly destroyed romantic relationships, and the gravity of divorce is so often dismissed, Shadowlands at least requires us to ask questions about the goodness of marriage and the consequences of sundering it. If you are in Manhattan anytime between now and January 7, it is well worth journeying to Theater Row to ponder them yourself.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Church History, England / UK, Marriage & Family, Men, Religion & Culture, Theatre/Drama/Plays, Women

Today in History–West Side Story Debuts on Broadway 60 years ago

Posted in History, Theatre/Drama/Plays

(NYT) On the Front Lines of Ohio’s Heroin Crisis: Playwrights

“In the Rust Belt, it’s a situation where everybody’s heard about it and everybody knows it’s a crisis,” said Nathan Motta, the artistic director of the Dobama Theater in Cleveland Heights. “Everybody is one or two people from somebody who is suffering.”

At least five plays about heroin abuse have been produced in northeast Ohio alone in the last year as the state’s residents grapple with the surging epidemic. The Columbus Dispatch reported in May that at least 4,149 Ohioans died from unintentional overdoses of heroin, fentanyl and other drugs in 2016, a 36 percent jump from the prior year. This year’s overdose fatalities are set to outpace last year’s, according to the report.

Heroin-themed plays have surfaced elsewhere recently, too: at a high school in New Market, Md.; a community theater in Wilkes-Barre, Pa.; and a children’s theater in Roanoke, Va. And on Broadway this spring, the new play “Sweat” — which won the Pulitzer Prize in drama in April — featured two characters who abuse heroin in working-class Reading, Pa.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Drugs/Drug Addiction, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Theatre/Drama/Plays, Theology

(Guardian) Sam Shepard in 2014: ‘America is on its way out as a culture’

These days, he reads a lot of Irish writers. “They are head and shoulders above,” he says. “It’s the ability to take language and spin it.” And a lot of South Americans, too, “because they seem to have a handle on the ability to cross time and depth.” He struggles to think of contemporary American writers he rates, beyond Denis Johnson. “The thing about American writers is that as a group they get stuck in the same idea: that we’re a continent and the world falls away after us. And it’s just nonsense.”

Did he ever get stuck in that idea? “I couldn’t see beyond the motel room and the desert and highway,” he says slowly, and turns his glass a little. “I couldn’t see that there was another world. To me, the whole world was encompassed in that. I thought that was the only world that mattered.

“And it’s still there,” he adds, “but now it’s redundant because everything’s replaced by strip malls.”

The situation, he believes, is irredeemable. “We’re on our way out,” he says of America. “Anybody that doesn’t realise that is looking like it’s Christmas or something. We’re on our way out, as a culture. America doesn’t make anything anymore! The Chinese make it! Detroit’s a great example. All of those cities that used to be something. If you go to a truck stop in Sallisaw, Oklahoma, you’ll probably see the face of America. How desperate we are. Really desperate. Just raw.”

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, America/U.S.A., History, Movies & Television, Theatre/Drama/Plays

(Economist) Chinks of light When TED talks came to a British prison

Soaring performances of songs from “Cats” and “Les Misérables” are unusual fare for a prison. But on May 3rd an inmate at Leicester prison brought an audience to their feet with his renditions. The recital was part of a TEDx conference, a popular lecture series that had never before been held in a British jail. In the midst of a prisons crisis, with violence against inmates and officers at record levels and crippling staff shortages, the event is an encouraging example of smaller efforts to improve conditions.

On a stage covered in prisoners’ art, inmates thundered the words of Shakespeare. An officer recited his own poetry: “I could tell you tales that would make you laugh…tales that would turn your stomach, tales that would break your heart,” he intoned. Organising the event was a logistical nightmare, says Phil Novis, the governor at HMP Leicester. But the enthusiasm of all involved suggests it was worth it.

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Posted in Art, England / UK, Music, Prison/Prison Ministry, Theatre/Drama/Plays

A Very Nice ABC Nightline Piece on Sara Bareilles+making her Broadway dreams come true

“Waitress” marks Bareilles’ second role in what has become a passion project for her. She first left the world of pop music to join the “Waitress” production staff as lead composer.

“I was getting fatigued of the cyclical nature of being a pop artist where you write a record, record a record, go on tour, promote, come home, do it all again,” Bareilles said. “So I just was ready to work on something different.”

For three-and-a-half years, Bareilles worked tirelessly to bring the show to life — one song at a time.

“I rewrote the opening number 40 times,” she said. “I wanted to absolutely tear my hair out and throw people across the room. It was so frustrating. But you know all of that again that pressure cooker is I think actually kind of an exciting place to be.”

Read it all (Video highly recommended).

Posted in America/U.S.A., Music, Theatre/Drama/Plays

Lucy Winkett–What if in Advent the wall that normally separates actors and audience is dissolved?

…something of my own stuckness was softened by the comments this week of the theatre director Alexander Zeldin. His new play is now on at the National Theatre in London and soon to be on in Birmingham. “In this political moment” he said “it is important to feel life strongly”. He is not offering policy proposals but he is contributing to the conversation by amplifying the stories of people, in the few weeks before Christmas, who are in temporary accommodation. In one scene, a son is washing his mother’s hair in the kitchen sink with washing up liquid ”“ and drying it with a filthy tea towel ”“ that on one review night made the audience gasp. The scenes like this are made much more powerful by the fact that there is no special theatre lighting in this production. As the audience, we are in the kitchen, not watching people in the kitchen. The fourth wall that normally separates actors and audience has been dissolved.

In Advent, much of the theological imagery turns on the themes of light brightening the darkness and the anticipation of God becoming a child, vulnerable to the vagaries of human politics and power. Taking our cue from the play, it might be that we need to change the lighting when illuminating the stories of people who are vulnerable and in need of support

Read it allfrom the BBC.

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, Anglican Provinces, Anthropology, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Pastoral Care, Pastoral Theology, Politics in General, Poverty, Religion & Culture, Theatre/Drama/Plays, Theology

(Guardian) Who are Generation Z? The latest data on today's teens

Today’s youngest generation with a label, born after 2000, are connected yet isolated, savvy but anxious, indulged yet stressed. They have grown up with social media, a constant proliferation of information on a fully mobile internet, the rise of Islamic State and other forms of terrorism. As these teenagers approach adulthood, against the political backdrop of Brexit and President Trump, how will they shape the future?

The single biggest difference between Generation Z and other generations is how connected they are, and have been since birth. On average, young people in the UK, aged between five and 16, spend three hours online every day. Connectivity permeates their lives ”“ from friendships to relationships, news, entertainment, shopping ”“ and has transformed how they interact. The most popular apps are Snapchat, Instagram and messaging app Kik; the average teenager has at least 150 followers on Instagram, and spends around half an hour a day on Snapchat.

Young people are also reported to have a much more fluid sense of sexual identity and gender. A National Citizen Service (NCS) poll of 1,000 teenagers published in October this year found that only 63% of teens aged 16 and 17 define themselves as 100% straight (compared with 78% of adults). Gender identity is also less binary, with 78% of young men identifying as 100% male, and 80% of young women identifying as 100% female, according to the same NCS poll.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, England / UK, Sports, Theatre/Drama/Plays

(TLS) Stig Abell–Lear turns us all to fools and madmen

Lear, perhaps more than any other tragedy, is an investigation into foolishness. And its apparent modernity is connected to what feels (incorrectly) like the recent sophistication of combining the serious with the absurd. Lear is a tragic figure because of the ridiculousness to which he descends: “the worst”, as Edgar puts it, “returns to laughter”. Shakespeare was fascinated by that point of utter degradation where misery can only be conveyed in mirth. Titus Andronicus is asked, amid his despair, “why dost thou laugh? it fits not with this hour”, and he responds, authentically: “Why, I have not another tear to shed”.

Shakespeare the dramatist knew that there was a thin line sometimes between laughter and slaughter. Both productions of Lear are played for the uneasy amusement of the audience; both Fools (Graham Turner at the Barbican; an antic clownish figure, clothed in painter’s overalls) use their physicality to illustrate the sometimes archaic jokes of the text. But one cannot help but see that ”“ in the Old Vic production at least ”“ the audience laughs because it is the only emotion that is accessible, their safest means of engagement. When Regan hurls one of Gloucester’s plucked-out eyes towards us, there are guffaws; when Gloucester bemoans his fate (“alack I have no eyes”), people snigger. This was not a moment in which tragedy was being reinforced by absurdity, but evidence of a play that had not moved its audience to sadness because it had not trusted to the words throughout.

Samuel Johnson said that Lear, and its conclusion, were “unbearable”. There are clearly scenes which are almost unplayable: Edgar accompanying his father, as he casts himself (as he believes it) off the cliffs of Dover failed in both productions, and felt unrealistic. But amid the difficulties there can be triumphs; and we see these in the figures of Sher and Jackson, and their profound and impressive performances amid the chaos. Fail again; fail better: that’s the modern King Lear for you.

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Posted in * Culture-Watch, History, Theatre/Drama/Plays

(AC) Rod Dreher–Why The ”˜Hamilton’ Dust-Up Matters

I mean, is it the case that liberals believe that artistic performances ”” theater, music, and so forth ”” must be limited only to people who share their moral and political views? If I were worried that the Trump administration was going to be hostile to minorities and gays, I would have gone out of my way to make Mike Pence feel welcome at Hamilton, and hoped and prayed that the power of art moved his heart and changed his mind. But that’s not how the audience saw it. They wanted to show Pence that he is not part of their community, and the cast took it upon itself to attempt to catechize Pence at the end of the show. (And people say Evangelical movies are bad because they can’t let the art speak for itself, they have to underline the moral and put an altar call at the end!).
Let’s think about it in religious terms. If you were a pastor or member of a church congregation, and a Notorious Sinner came to services one Sunday, would you boo him as he took his seat in a pew? Do you think that would make him more or less likely to value the congregation and accept the message from the sermon? And if you were the pastor, would you think it helpful to single the Notorious Sinner out among the congregation, and tell him, in a bless-your-heart way, that you hope he got the point of the sermon (him being a bad man and all)? You should not be surprised if the Notorious Sinner left with his heart hardened to the religion and that congregation. Any good that might have been done toward converting him to the congregation’s and the pastor’s way of belief would almost certainly not come to fruition.

Look, I’m not saying that churches should downplay or throw aside their sacred beliefs to be seeker-friendly. Sure, congregations should treat visitors with respect, but the church exists to fulfill a particular purpose, to carry out a specific mission. Its behavior must be consonant with that mission. Nevertheless, a church that repudiates hospitality to guests, and thereby chooses to be a museum of the holy, violates its purpose, and diminishes its power to change the world.

So, do liberals want theaters (and campuses) to be museums of the holy, where the already converted commune with each other? Does one have to be baptized into the mystery cult of liberalism before one is allowed in the door? Because that’s the message from last night’s display at the Richard Rodgers Theater. And if this kind of thing keeps up ”” Trump will do nothing to stop it, because it benefits him and his tribe ”” America will lose one more gathering place for all of its people.

This is by no means only the fault of the left.

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I will take comments on this submitted by email only to KSHarmon[at]mindspring[dot]com.

Posted in * Culture-Watch, * Economics, Politics, * International News & Commentary, America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Education, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Politics in General, Psychology, Religion & Culture, Theatre/Drama/Plays, Theology

(CEN) The Rev Peterson Feital –A pioneering ministry to the country’s Creatives

He is known as the ”˜Red Carpet Curate’, but the ministry of the Rev Peterson Feital is far more significant than the tabloid nickname would suggest.

Last year he was appointed the first Missioner to the Creative Industries by the Diocese of London. It was just the latest of innovative new appointments that is being made by the Church of England as it seeks out new mission opportunities.

But what does this post of Missioner really entail? Sitting in the heart of Soho, he told me about the vision he has for his strategic role. Surrounded by creatives on every side ”“ London’s arts and media specialists contribute over £70 billion a year to the UK economy ”“ he is very aware of the unusual environment in which he finds himself.

The people he has in his patch include film-makers, actors, designers, advertising executives and many other professionals. But their lifestyles are rather different to the people around them.

Read it all (may require subscription).

Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Culture-Watch, * International News & Commentary, Anglican Provinces, Art, Church of England (CoE), England / UK, Religion & Culture, Theatre/Drama/Plays, Urban/City Life and Issues