Friday, May 30, 2008

Why Christian Theatre is so Amateurish

My take on why Christian drama is amateurish.

  1. Resources. -- This is a church, not a theatre company. The emphasis is on the gospel message. The audience doesn't pay to watch. No money is gained to allow improvement of more future lavish productions. Also, between staging an elaborate production and paying off your church building fund, guess which is the higher priority?

  2. Talent pool. -- A small church will have limited number of people with drama, stage management, lighting, AV experience. Each person themself range from complete novices to experienced. Often times, anyone who auditions gets a part. Christian drama is amateurish because it really is amateurs that are doing it.

  3. Part Time vs Professional -- Part timers don't have their whole time devoted to honing their craft, unless it is their full time job as well. Liverpool football club of multimillion pound players perform much better than your Havant & Waterlooville of plumbers, postmen and teachers.

  4. Economies of Scale -- A professional theatre company can take advantage of better quality props and equipment that are reused over and over. Costumes in church need to be cheap for a one-off production. Lessons learnt and experience is gained and applied whereas church volunteers come and go.

  5. Too Christian in feedback. -- It's always nice to know that at least one soul is saved, the production is worth it. Unfortunately, Simon Cowell criticism is never heard. Political correctness is the key. There are times I wish I could say very American Idol comments... but I almost always demur to "It was okay. I'm quite sure it ministered to someone." (Great, now I can't use that phrase anymore...)

  6. Strength of leadership. -- If the leadership doesn't share the vision of drama as a tool, then it may always be lack of resources. I once attended a church where the gospel message must be directly depicted in the traditional format: angels, magi, shepherds, Jesus life, death and resurrection. No deviation from that formula allowed.

When I look at the above reasons, these are tough constraints to break through.

While we can't match big budget multi million dollar lavish productions like Les Miserables, Phantom of the Opera or Dim Sum Dollies. I feel there is still room for good scripts and acting that explore the struggles of the soul. I've been entertained by spartan yet very good plays from travelling drama groups like the Covenant Players and YWAM.

A church can't hire actors. This is where training I think is the thing that really develops the talent. The great thing about this is that it creates salt and light for the entertainment world. I wouldn't have gotten my break into TV or stage without me doing church camp skits and youth group sketches. Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey got their training in church. (Can't say much for their lifestyle now though.)

Development of good storytelling is important. Storytelling and parables was the tool of choice for Jesus. Everything hangs on a good story; without it, no matter how elaborate the sets, lighting, or how good the acting is, a forgettable story will not have the audience moved. Jesus didn't need multimillion dollar budgets to enthrall a crowd with memorable stories of Good Samaritans, Rich Fools and Prodigal Sons.

Pooling of talent between churches may help as well. It helps to cross polinate ideas and the sharing of resources.

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