In much the same way as Christianity, one of the primary focuses of Theatre–especially at Alamance Fine Arts Academy–is truth. John 16:13 says, “But when the spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth.” John 8:32 says, “Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.” The implications of these promises of something true, purified, and distilled fulfilled in Christ Jesus through intentionally studying scripture mirrors my process of teaching and my students’ process of performing theatre at Alamance Fine Arts Academy.
A large swath of theatre in the 21st century has lost its roots in truth instilled by the great theorists of the craft like Konstantin Stanislavski. Theatricality and “Wow Factor”, once potent tools in the director’s quest to communicate truth, now have risen above truth as the primary purposes of a production. This is another inevitable consequence of our money-minded, over indulgent and excessive society. Top to bottom you can see commercialization’s grasp on theatre. From the same cookie cutter, popular musicals performed in rotation in community theatres to the shows making millions on Broadway and the West End like Frozen, Spongebob, Mean Girls, and Moulin Rouge.
Stanislavski in his groundbreaking book “An Actor Prepares” addresses such overindulgence in theatre by saying, “If you have a rifle, hanging on the wall in the first act, it should fire in the last act.” What Stanislavski means, is that the purpose of theatre is to convey a truth. A truth created by the playwright and interwoven within the script. The job of actors and directors and all who work in theatre, is to find that truth and figure out how to present it to the audience in the most effective–and some would argue succinct–way possible. That is our only job. Everything we do must therefore be in the service of that job. Of telling our truth. While excessive theatricality is only one of the many ways we divert off the path of truth in theatre, it is one of the main missteps infecting theatre today.
At Alamance Fine Arts Academy, students and staff within the theatre department focus with renewed vigor on conveying truth in our productions. In the same way that every decision we make as Christians strengthens or weakens our walk with Christ, so too does every decision made in theatre either to make the truth we are telling more clear or less. From sets, costumes, and props to the shows we pick and casting, everything we do is in an effort to make our message clearer. In further alignment with Christianity our message is often that of hope, love, friendship, and peace.
While in our walks with Christ it is impossible to do everything right, it is our perpetual striving for betterment both as actors and Christians that count. Our continual seeking of truth in a fallen world leads us to Christ. It is my prayer that such striving for truth in AFAA’s theatre productions–through the stories we tell and the refined way we tell them–creates an atmosphere in which the spirit can move and our quest for truth as actors can lead others to Christ.
Alamance Fine Arts Academy’s theatre department has two productions coming up this spring with powerful and poignant messages that I think the Lord will work through. One, called Cry Wolf! Is a new show based on the interweaving tales of old fable characters like the three little pigs, little red riding hood, and the boy who cried wolf. The other, a show called The Diviners, examines the hypocritical and selfish actions of seemingly “good” people and the selfless actions of “bad” people. Both shows at their core have touching messages about friendship, acceptance, and love, conveying a message that is both timeless and timely as we begin a new decade and strive to make it a better, more sustainable and safe decade than the last.