29 December, 2005

Logical Foolishness

    There is a very short, but packed, list of reasons why a Christian should not pursue a career in theatre and I have often struggled with my choice to pursue this career because of them.

- Rehearsals and performances inevitably fall on the Lord's Day.
- The number of roles and shows that do not compromise a Christian's principles continue to dwindle.
- A sort of unorganized "gay mafia" pulls the strings of Equity theatres forcing the Christian to speak carefully regarding his God's abhorrence of sodomy.
- A strange and disgusting sort of openness about sexuality pervades rehearsals and backstage during shows. 

    Perhaps it is my tenacity, perhaps it is my enormous love for the theatre, or maybe it's just my stupidity, but, despite all the possible arguments against it, I can't seem to give up my pursuit.
    There is one thing that keeps me hanging on.
    I've often heard it said that Christians should not pursue theatre today.  My question is, if not today, then when?  If Christians abandon the theatre world, not encouraging those with the talent -- maybe even the call -- to pursue what may be their vocation, then we have given over theatre to the pagans and Christians will never be able to participate.
    The surrender is already happening.  Christians, as a whole, have been withdrawing themselves from the theatre-at-large for a long time -- or, if they have not, then they (like Kristin Chenoweth) have compromised their principles to satisfy the "gay mafia".
    The Christians who have not completely abandoned the theatre in physical sense have done so artistically.  These are the people who write campy, trite, and laughable theatre that preaches more than it entertains.  They have surrendered the good stuff to the pagans and settled for passion plays and morality plays worthy of the scoffing they receive from both the pagans and people like myself.
    I would, somehow, like to stop this surrender.  I don't know how it is possible: perhaps simply by sticking to my guns, maybe by starting my own theatre company . . . I don't know.  But I refuse to believe that that the only places left for Christian theatre-lovers are high-school drama, evangelical fluff, or the audience.
    God commands we have dominion over the earth and I don't believe he made an exception for the arts.

18 December, 2005

Seeing the Big Picture

    In my admittedly limited experience in the theatre world, I have observed three different types of actors: the egomaniacal actor, the workcentric actor, and the big picture actor.
    The first -- and most annoying and aggravating -- is that narcissistic, egocentric, drama queen who must have the leading part.  He views all other parts (most especially chorus or ensemble parts) as wholly inferior and nearly pointless.  As such, when he gets these "inferior" parts -- which, because of his attitude, he usually does -- he complains and moans throughout the entire rehearsal process (and sometimes the run of the show) and does not perform to the best of his ability.  This is the type of actor I would dearly love to slap upside the head and tell to get over himself, that the show is about more than just him.  Of course, even if I did this, he wouldn't listen.  It would just serve as more fodder for complaint.
    The second type -- the category that most actors fall into -- is the kind who will take any work that comes to him: chorus, ensemble, featured, supporting, or lead.  He would, of course, rather have the leading role, but smaller roles are fine too -- just as long as he is working.  He still sees the leading role as the most important, but will take the smaller roles if he must.  He is much like the egomaniacal drama queen in that he, also, sees the non-leading roles as unimportant -- throw-away parts.  Because of this, when "stuck" with the smaller roles, this actor will also give less than his best.
    The third -- and most rare -- type of actor sees the show as a whole and his character's role in the show's context.  He sees that without his part the show, though it may not fall, the show will be drastically altered.  What is Pippin without its players?  West Side Story without its Jets or Sharks?  Les Miserables without its idealistic students?  Less than nothing.   What is My Fair Lady without Zoltan Karparthy?  Parade without Newt Lee?  Sweeney Todd without the Beggar Woman?  Cookie-cutter stories with trite endings.
    The actor who sees the big picture and his character's role within that picture is the actor who works the hardest and brings his character to life with energy and depth.  This is the actor that can make or break a show.  This is the actor that directors want to cast.
    This is the actor I aspire to be.

12 December, 2005

The Wonders of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

    It was like being five again.  Lucy wandered into Lantern Waste and her eyes expressed the wonder I felt upon first reading that moment in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.  Simply put, the movie was wondrous.  I felt transported.  It was the most entertaining film I've seen all year and that's not an exaggeration.  At the end of the film, I accidentally started a round of applause when I clasped my hands together with pure, unadulterated joy and I'm not sorry I did.  Nearly everyone was wide-eyed with delight when they left the theater and more than one young man I know had the urge to engage in a bit of sword play.

    Though I enjoyed it immensely, there were some things that the adaptation changed or left out that I felt distracted from the original intent of the story.  For one, Edmund is far too sympathetic before his repentance.  Lewis makes it clear that Edmund is as selfish as they come, deceitful and filled spite.  The movie makes him a sort of unwillingly selfish character, forced to be so because of Peter's superiority complex. This makes him too sympathetic from the beginning, makes Peter less noble, and, most importantly trivializes Aslan's sacrifice.
    While we're on the topic of Aslan, he should have been bigger.  Aslan needs to inspire awe from the first moment you look at him.  Not just a "Whoa, that's a lion!" awe, but a fall-down-on-your-knees-with-reverence awe.  And, while the scene at the Stone Table was certainly powerful, it would have been more so had the writers kept intact what Lewis thought to be so important that he repeated it at least five times: Aslan's complete submission to the White Witch.  Lewis repeatedly wrote how Aslan could have easily killed everyone present, but remained silent and did not resist.  In the movie, there was some shying from the ropes and lifting of the lip as if to bite or growl.  Aslan's submission is one of the most important parts of the story.  He was so committed to sacrificing himself for Edmund -- and, indeed, all of Narnia -- that he didn't even give a hint of resistance.  His not-so-submission made him too normal and less worthy of awe.
    But I fear Peter got the worst of it when he was adapted for the film.  Somehow he became the token unwilling hero who becomes the great king in the end.  I understand the writers were trying to give his character a greater arc, but it there was nothing smooth about it.  Peter got stuck in the unwilling rut for WAY too long.  He was so unwilling, he didn't treat Aslan with respect and even seemed whiny at times and preoccupied with sending his brother and sisters home, even though he knew they were to be king and queens of Narnia with him.  Then, all of a sudden (about the time the Witch mortally wounded Edmund) he became the great hero, fighting for his Narnia.
    This brings me to one of the most irritating parts of the film.  During the battle, when it seems clear that Aslan's forces are going to be defeated, Peter tells Edmund to take the girls and go home (something that never happened in the book).  Edmund starts to obey his brother, the High King of Narnia, but when he sees the White Witch turning his comrades to stone right and left, he decides to go after her.  The beaver reminds him of Peter's command and Edmund responds with, "He's not king yet."  This is the most warped view of the book in the entire movie.  If the writers had just left Peter's newfound army-of-one attitude out of the film, this (among other things) would have never been an issue.  In the book, Peter calls Edmund a hero.  In the thick of the battle (in which they were BOTH fighting) Edmund saw how the Witch was turning their army to stone with her wand and he took it upon himself to break the wand, nearly getting himself killed in the process, but turning the tide of the battle.  Peter rightly calls him a hero for it.  There's nothing heroic about his insubordinate actions in the film. They only serve to show how his character never really changed, which is very annoying and nearly ruins the story.

    But, like I said, the story is pretty much intact and the movie is so captivating that the little annoyances don't really matter.  I highly recommend this film to anyone, but especially those who have read the book.  (I actually went with one person who did not read the book and, after the movie, she told us that she was a little confused, but she enjoyed it very much.)
    Go see it.

08 December, 2005

The Light in the Piazza . . .

I don't see a miracle shining from the sky
I'm no good at statues and stories
I try

That's not what I think about
That's not what I see
I know what the sunlight can be

The Light, the Light in the Piazza

Tiny sweet
And then it grows
And then it fills the air
Who knows what you call it?
I don't care
Out of somewhere I have something I have never had
And sad is happy
That's all I see

The Light in the Piazza
The Light in the Piazza

It's rushing up
It's pouring out
It's flying through the air
All through the air
Who knows what you call it?
But it's there
It is there

All I see is
All I want is tearing from inside
I see it
Now I see it everywhere
It's everywhere
It's everything and everywhere

The Light in the Piazza

My Love

    Yesterday I finally realized what this song is about.  When I first heard it I thought I wouldn't know until I saw the show, that somehow it's meaning was wrapped up in the plot, but it really isn't that complicated.

    The Light in the Piazza isn't literally the sunlight that peeks over the tops of the old and beautiful buildings in Firenze to spread its warmth over the city.  It's that feeling.  It's the feeling that's completely indescribable.  That feeling when you realize "I love you" isn't strong enough.  The feeling that comes when you say "I love you" and wonder why it doesn't carry the weight of your heart.  And you search for a word, any word -- any number of words that may, perhaps, convey your meaning.  Maybe you find them.  Maybe you don't.
    Clara found her Light in the Piazza, but the words are different for everybody and the search for them is exhausting.  It was Clara's simplicity that made it so easy for her to find.  Don't use your head, trying to find the words in your dictionary-like vocabulary . . .

    Use your heart.

07 December, 2005

Pride & Prejudice

    The newest adaptation of Jane Austen's brilliant and celebrated novel, Pride & Prejudice, while not the fleshed-out, gorgeous perfection of A&E version, is too beautiful not to see. I'd write a review, but I don't think it requires one. Just see it.