A Christian Theatre Manifesto Part 1


black box theatre

by John Ellis

Earlier this week, I wrote an article for PJ Media about the Erwin brother’s latest project called Kingdom, a collaborative Christian filmmaking company. If you’re unfamiliar with Andy and Jon Erwin, they’re the creative force behind the movies Woodlawn, Mom’s Night Out, October Baby, and this past year’s smash hit I Can Only Imagine which grossed almost $90 million at the box office against a budget of only $7 million.

Continue reading

Advertisements

God Is a Storyteller and He Calls His People to Love and Tell Stories

sistine-chapel

by John Ellis

During our annual church men’s retreat, I had the privilege of spending about thirty minutes discussing philosophy, art, and the Bible with the guest speaker. He’s an accomplished and feted theologian, and I was happy to discover that he is also incredibly knowledgeable and conversant about art, specifically storytelling.

At one point, our conversation turned to the parallels between ancient Greek drama (post-Thespis) and the Old Testament prophets, specifically Ezekiel. As we discussed the various dramas enacted by the priestly-prophet known for his vivid storytelling, the guest speaker threw in a rueful aside about how many within the reformed tradition are opposed to drama in the worship service. He then added the off-hand comment, “Pointing to Ezekiel, I tell people that skits and drama are appropriate for the worship of God.”

Continue reading

Christian Apologetics as Interactive Theatre


APOLOGETICS 3

by John Ellis

The brilliant director, acting teacher, and theatre theorist Peter Brook opened his seminal book The Empty Space with these well-known sentences:

I can take any empty space and call it a bare stage. A man walks across this empty space whilst someone else is watching him, and this is all that is needed for an act of theatre to be engaged.[1]

To be fair, those sentences are probably not well-known to most people. But most people aren’t theatre artists. And in the world of theatre, those sentences hold a place of prominence and respect bordering on sacrosanct. Sadly, in my experience, while many of my theatre colleagues expressed love and admiration for Brook’s opening sentences, few took his teachings in The Empty Space with them as they entered in to the making of theatre.

Continue reading

Unfinished Theatre Business


empty theatre

by John Ellis

The first time I truly stepped through the fourth wall while acting, merging the world of imagination with the world of reality, I was terrified. So much so, I almost didn’t make it to my seat at the table where expectant, half-smiling audience members sat, staring at me. Every instinct I had was screaming for me to stay behind the door jamb serving as a stand-in for the proscenium arch.

No bright stage lights. No break between seats and stage. No flimsily constructed set where I lived and which the audience was only allowed to observe from a distance. No tacitly agreed upon relationship that kept me over here and the audience over there. There was nothing to hide behind as I sat down and began the play, making eye contact with the audience as I spoke directly to them.

Continue reading

The Public Theatre’s Assassination of Donald Trump and the Hypocrisy of Conservatives

 

caesar750xx629-354-25-0

by John Ellis

The New York City Public Theatre’s famed Shakespeare in the Park finds itself embroiled in controversy over its production of Julius Caesar. Utilizing a contemporary setting, the theatre obviously intends for the audience to see President Donald Trump as Julius Caesar, or vice-versa. From the red tie, blue suit, penchant for tweeting, and the iconic “Donald hair,” the Public Theatre is making a not-intended-to-be-subtle statement with the portrayal of the character Julius Caesar. If you’re familiar with the play, you then know that Trump/Caesar is assassinated in Act 3 scene 1. For the record, I’m quite confident that the statement the production team is trying to make is not that President Donald Trump should be assassinated. More than likely, the statement revolves around things like authoritarianism and political violence.

Continue reading

My 2017 Reading List: April

manreadingabook

by John Ellis

After the month of April, my goal of reading two hundred books in 2017 may be out of reach. Having read nine books last month, my total for the first four months of the year is fifty-one. This means that I will need to read one-hundred and forty-nine books during the remaining eight months of 2017. At an average of 18.6 books per month, it’s doable, but highly doubtful. To be fair, in April I began reading Paul: An Outline of His Theology by Herman Ridderbos. That dense tome has eaten up (in a good way) much of my reading time.

Continue reading

National Endowment for the Arts: Adding Insult (bad art) to Injury (stealing from taxpayers)

nea

by John Ellis

After announcing the topic of this article, a friend tweeted me, “Winning friends and influencing people!” His tweet recognizes that this is a topic that many, if not the vast majority of artists do not want to consider. I get that. When your rent payment is dependent on subsidies from taxpayers, you don’t want to even think about messing with the source of much of your income. But a group of people no wanting to consider something doesn’t mean that the thing shouldn’t be considered.

Continue reading