The Intersection of Community and Theatre

The audience enthusiastically rose to their feet as the last few notes of the Day by Day Reprise danced across our lips for the final time. However, as I grabbed my fellow cast members hands preparing to take our last bow together, I was unaware of cheers that were emanating from beyond the forth wall. As I stood on the old, worn stage and grasped tightly the hands of people I had come to adore, the line between theatre and reality blurred. From the first rehearsal our director had emphasized that Godspell was a show first and foremost about forming a community, yet I don’t think I fully comprehended the full meaning of that concept until that moment. It wasn’t simply acting anymore. As I glanced at the beautiful, tearstained faces around me I was struck with the realization that life had truly imitated art. On stage and in real life we had formed a community.

Community is a word that is often thrown around without much consideration. Many people pass through life without ever comprehending the meaning of the term, let alone experiencing it. I am thankful to say that as a result of my time performing the role of Robin in Godspell, I now possess a deeper understanding of this vital concept. Community is not simply a group of people who are forced to spend time together, nor is it a group of people that always agree with one another. In fact, I have come to see that community is something else entirely.

True community is formed when people come together around something bigger than themselves. The truest community is formed around the biggest thing of all: love. I don’t mean the thing we so often see falsely advertised as love on the Hallmark channel or in sappy novels. It’s not limited to some fleeting emotion of affection; rather it is a steady, minute to minute choice. It is a choice to put the other person ahead of yourself, and a willingness to forgo your own desires for the sake of their greatest good.

This is the type of community that was so clearly modeled for us in Godspell. The disciples did not come together because they were in any way alike. In fact, they were all exceptionally unique individuals, each with their own quirks and viewpoints, and yet they were drawn together by love. The definition of love himself called them to form a community not because they were perfect people, but because he loved them and he created them with a need for each other.

Off stage I found this to be true as well. Each person in the show was distinct from the others. We all brought different experiences and beliefs to the table, and yet none of this hindered us from becoming close. We were a theatre family and the show was so much bigger than our differences. That is not to say that our unique personalities didn’t matter, in truth they simply enriched our relationships. I learned an enormous amount from the people that I disagreed with and the people I didn’t understand, along with being encouraged by the cast members who understood my point of view.

This lesson was reinforced nightly as I performed my part in the show. Jesus didn’t respond uniformly to each of his disciples. He cared about the little things and related to each of our characters personally. He had specific moments of connection with each disciple, and the way he treated each of us was special. It wasn’t a one size fits all type of love. It was a love that transcended the boundaries of what was expected in order to meet the characters right where they were at. This deeply personal and relentless sort of love inspired me to examine the way I interact with those within the communities I’m a part of. To love is to be vulnerable and that is an extremely difficult thing, but community necessitates us to take that risk.

Community doesn’t require that we surrender our individuality, but that we simply shift our gaze. Once we submit to the fact that we are loved and there is nothing we can do to affect that, it frees us. We can then take our eyes off of ourselves and see the beauty in others. When we all make a conscious effort to live in this manner, our true personalities only become fuller and we become more unified as a group. This requires boldness and honesty like that demonstrated by the disciples in Godspell. They were not afraid to be themselves or to make daring choices. So often we find ourselves surrounded by people who are far different than we percieve. Too often our work places, church pews, and theatres seats are filled with people we don’t truly know. It’s unfair to point fingers at society or individuals and blame them for this epidemic of fake community. Authenticity, like love, is contagious and it starts with one person. Just as Jesus unified a community through his example in Godspell, we too can set a new standard of community by how we live our lives.

Through my experience in Godspell I learned that living in community is hard, but I also learned that it’s worth fighting for. It’s difficult to recognize that we’re all broken people that are created with an innate desire for love and belonging. It's hard to resist complaining about others as they try and figure things out, and even harder to be honest with people ourselves. However, the alternative to community is bleak. If we insist upon keeping up our façade of self-sufficiency in isolation and maintaining only surface deep relationships, life may be painless, but we will never experience any real happiness or fulfillment. When we buy into the idea that life is all about us it actually cripples us. We are liberated when we come to understand that none of us will ever have it all together. By being real with our uncertainty and the difficult things in life, we can come together at a place of honesty and hope. Only then does genuine community exist. Like the song in Godspell says, “When your trust is all but shattered, when your faith is all but killed - You can give up bitter and battered, or you can slowly start to build... A beautiful city.”





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