Where Theater and Design Collide
28 December 2019
The view of theater that has been held by many evangelicals is in great need of a redesign.
When opening and reading the Word of God, we access the perfectly designed and brilliant story from the Author of the universe. When looking at the art form of theater from a biblical perspective, one must know that there is a story being told in some way, as well. In Hebrews 11:3, one reads that God created the universe with His command; there was nothing and in an instance there was something. Creative design, therefore, is the stepping stone for how theater should be visualized according to a biblical perspective. In the purest form, the art of theater is storytelling. Consequently, If the art of storytelling were to be visualized as the Bible portrays it in its simplest form, it would become a selfless framework of art in a world that is craving selfishness.
Stripping Away the Medium
When God created human beings, He imprinted on the DNA of every single man and woman His image (Genesis 1:26–27). The most outstanding evidence of God’s creative artistry is the intricacies of design that are woven into the makeup of our very bodies. It is unique, therefore, in our image to create to the glory of God. When the medium that a creative individual uses is stripped away, the end product is a man or woman glorifying God with the innermost parts of his or her being. He or she is glorifying God with a uniquely displayed form of truth, which is, in essence, the nature of God (John 14:6). While we are saved by the grace that God gives, we become slaves to His name. Although we are slaves to Jesus, we are free to create to the glory of his name. While our creation is simple and incoherent compared to the perfect beauty of God, our creation becomes merely a depiction of His story.
It is in the building of the temple of God that we see a representation of creative design from creation itself. In Exodus 35:30–33, Moses called for Bezalel who was “filled with God’s Spirit… to design artistic works in gold, silver, and bronze.” Would God fill someone with His Spirit and understanding in order to execute work that is against His nature? If the very Spirit of God was within Bezalel, God’s artistic nature is greater than that of His creation. For how could mere human beings create something that would surpass the knowledge of God in any field?
As Christians, we become living letters to the world (2 Cor. 3:3). When the medium is stripped away, true art is revealed. This art is creatively designed by the Creator of the universe because we as His sons and daughters are the exact representation of His artistic abilities. We, therefore, have a unique and special privilege to not only represent God as His living and breathing artwork, but to create to the glory of God so that He alone is revealed. It becomes a distinct situation in where the artwork is capable of creating separate from the original creator. However, just because of the origin, isn’t all forms of art associated with the Creator Himself? At the center of it all, we as Christians are the artwork of the living God.
A Story of Truth
In order to understand the biblical grounds for creating and uniquely designing within the medium of theater, one must understand the Bible itself. The Bible is simply an inspired narrative of the story of the all living God that will never be outdated. From examining the minute details of a verse to the comprehensive makeup of one of the books in the canon, it is imperative to remember that it is a literary composition of God revealing His nature to humanity. The canon that we have tells a wonderful, beautiful, and compelling story about who God is and why all creation should worship him with every ounce of their being. The story that is told is a story filled with truth that must be proclaimed.
The basic characteristics of a story are those of remembrance. This is why stories have been passed down from generation to generation because the words create something that is not seen, visible. The words of Hebrews 11:3 come to life in a way that no other truth can. A story has a way of penetrating the thought process in our brain and embedding it with the detailed truths that are found within that story. If one were to be asked his or her favorite theological concept from the second chapter of Titus, in all probability most will not be able to answer such a question. However, if the same person were to be asked his or her favorite parable from the Bible or even a story within the canon, there would be an answer.
The characteristics of a good story in today’s culture have been defined according to the complete plot of the Bible. It becomes the epitome of a good story because it is truth (Ps. 119:160). To creatively design the art form of theater to tell the truth and story of God is to glorify God. To view the canon as a collection of inspired stories is to see the truth of God in an entirely new light. Within the story the plot shifts from conflicts of sin, to temporary solutions, and ongoing process, to the ultimate solution and promise for a glorious sequel. The story of God is truth in its most basic form that needs to be told.
A Story Designed
In order to design theater in a way that is communicating the biblical truths of the word of God we must proclaim truths. However, there is a difference from proclaiming things that are true in a historical and biographical sense, and proclaiming truths that are found in His word. It is when we as creative mouthpieces of the nature of God shy away from the truth that is held within His ultimate story that we defile His name. When we defile His name by proclaiming a story that does not hold biblical truth, we are communicating propaganda. We then turn our fight no longer into a fight for the kingdom, but a match between the propaganda we refuse to release from our clutches and the real art of truth.
It is to tell the story of God from a fresh perspective without losing the integrity of His story that we win the match for biblical art. God reminded the people of Israel through the fresh perspective of drama in Ezekiel 4:1–3. Jerusalem was to be besieged, and the warning to the people was taught in the form of a drama. Using a brick, Ezekiel was directed by the great Director to draw the city of Jerusalem and use it as a sign for the house of Israel.
So was the ultimate purpose in using this illustration to amuse the city of Jerusalem? Did God intend on placing this dramatic piece of literature in His inspired story for humorous reasons? Why then should the theater that is designed in churches be seen as a simple or, to some extent, a lesser form of art? Why is theater designed within churches for the sole purpose of comedic relief? The intended purpose that God had was that of literal life and death, a serious matter in which He displayed using dramatization of an event to come.
Where theater and design collide is where one finds the purpose as to why he or she is performing. The art of theater is something that must be honed just as any other craft. To design and craft the story and retelling of biblical truths is the core of drama. One must gain a fresh perspective without losing the integrity of the story being told. However, where the method to present the story may change from one complex design of theater to the next, the message must remain.
The Story Left Untold
The great storyteller, Jesus Christ would speak truths to His disciples and followers alike in stories. However, there were some stories that were told that were not understood by the audience listening. In John 10:6, Jesus gave an illustration, yet His listeners did not understand what He was telling them. The more peculiar part is that it was acceptable to Jesus that they did not understand. Knowing they did not understand He did not try to dumb down the message in order to still relay the biblical truths He was proclaiming. Instead, He let them be, knowing full well they did not understand. A story becomes two fold in meaning; it glorifies God because it exists and it speaks truth in the simplest form. While the truths may not always be revealed or relevant in a person’s life, the story does not lose value because our God does not lose value. As storytellers, the design of theater we bring is to communicate truths and to do so by glorifying God as Creator. To dumb down the message would be to dumb down the creativity that we reveal as the living and breathing artwork of God.
A redesign of theater comes from a redesign of the thought process as to how God views art and creation. The Author, Script Writer, and Director of the universe is fully revealed in what His creation chooses to create. To design the smallest details of theater is to create something that is seen from something that can not be seen. Often times the stories that pierce the heart of a person are ones that said person can not describe. We, as Christians, are the artwork of the living God. Should we then not proclaim His name by sharing His story? In designing every aspect of theater from a biblical perspective, the art of storytelling comes alive in a person’s life; becoming a selfless framework of art in a world that is craving selfishness. The art of theater allows a person to glorify God by partaking in a tiny part of the structure of design that He instituted.
Please note that this article was actually written during my college years. Although, I have modified it to better match my thoughts as of today.
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