Ever since I can remember, I loved to entertain people. I had lofty goals of moving to New York, after I graduated from college, and taking Broadway by storm. But there was a war raging inside my soul during my formative college years – a war between the lusts of my own flesh and God. There was a disparity between what I witnessed at the university (including the local community theatre) and what God was teaching me through His word. I was a Christian. But I wasn’t living as a Christian. Adults from the community theatre (and more scarily, adults in leadership positions), invited me to join them for a beer at a bar not far from the theatre or a bong of marijuana at a cast party. On several occasions, these adults purchased liquor for me, a minor. A MINOR. I can remember driving home from theatre activities buzzed or higher than a kite. All of this was totally unbeknownst to my parents who, if they had known, would have pulled me out of this particular theatre completely. And perhaps, in hindsight, even pressed charges. I was also taught, at both locations, to “use” people to get ahead. After all, it’s about connections, right? So I viewed people as “stepping stones”, and nothing more. I hated who I was becoming, and I yearned for something more…
So, I dived into His word, and it filled me up. And as I was being filled, I discovered a huge monster of hypocrisy in my life. I LOVED the theatre, but I was growing more and more disenchanted with the type of theatre that I was being taught. For me, the last straw occurred in 1988, when I was told by one of my theatre professors at the university, over salads at a local pizza place, “I look forward to the day when actors can defecate, urinate, masturbate, fornicate and copulate on the stage, or in film.” I put quotations around that sentence because it is EXACTLY, word for word, what she said. And she was verbally supported and backed by a second female professor, who had also joined us for lunch that day.
I was devastated.
This was not the theatre that I fell in love with as a little girl. I went home that afternoon and, to the shock of my parents, declared I was changing my major from theatre to education. I no longer wanted to be an actress.
Now, let me state, I mean no ill-will by mentioning these two professors. Their names are unimportant now, and they are no longer employed by that university (in fact, one of them has since passed away). But unfortunately, their words still reverberate in my head, even today. As I look at the current, depraved state of Hollywood and Broadway, it’s as though their sentiments finally came true. I also mean no disrespect by mentioning the local theatre. It has changed directorial leadership since my involvement there. Despite my past experience, I still attend their shows quite often, and I encourage my acting students to audition there because the caliber of acting is quite good. And it’s a great learning experience for them, as well (three of my students have starred in shows there, to which I’m totally proud of them). But I also strongly advise my student’s parents to get actively involved themselves. My own parents were completely clueless as to what happened to me during and after rehearsals at the theatre. I often found myself in scary situations with adults that NEVER, EVER should have happened back then. But enough about the past, it’s in the past. Let’s move on to the present.
From 1988 to 1996, I avoided the theatre like the plague. I threw myself into my studies to be a teacher, a wife (married to my husband, John, in 1991) and eventually a mother to 2 wonderful boys named, Travis and Matthew. Theatre was dead to me, until we joined Graceway Baptist Church.
Yes, ironically, a church. And not just any church, a BAPTIST church.
In 1996, our worship pastor, at that time, learned that both my husband and I had a background in theatre. Ray Askren Jr. asked us to direct a children’s Christmas musical called, “The Little Christmas Lamb.” At first, I declined. But my husband encouraged me to say yes. It was through that production, I learned that I could do theatre AND please God. Theatre should be used to expose the injustices (social or otherwise) in the world by sharing the biblical truths of love and forgiveness as set forth by Jesus Christ. It should ultimately be used to lift up and glorify God. Through the drama ministry, Break of Day Players, that was born that year, I found my true calling. I discovered that I thrived most when I could help other people cultivate the talents and gifts that God gave them. I also realized that Christians (myself included) are funny, hypocritical creatures. On one hand, we’re fascinated by the films and plays that Hollywood and Broadway produce. On the other hand, we regard these bastions of entertainment as scary, evil places to which we are quick to judge and verbally rip apart because we see no light in them. In my opinion, we either need to stop supporting Broadway and Hollywood with our money/time OR we need stop our public derision for these industries, and actually become a part of the solution. Below is an excerpt from my Act Two book:
Humility is a quality that seems to be lacking among most actors these days. It is important that you daily ask yourself, “What is my motive for acting?” Is it for your own glory? Or for the glory of someone else? We will explore the importance of humility more in Lesson Two, Teamwork. For now, I will simply state that as an actor of faith, it is important that we dedicate every performance and rehearsal to the Lord. “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” 1 Corinthians 10:31. As ambassadors for Christ, we have a higher standard to uphold. Not only are we called to walk in truth and love in our daily lives, but we should strive to achieve that same goal in our stage lives, as well. We must love our characters, our fellow actors and the audience at large. Shortly after the Kitchen Sink Acting Workshop began, a high school student asked me for some advice. He was auditioning for a role in “The Pirates of Penzance”, and he wanted some tips for the cold reading part of the auditions. I told him to relax, have fun and do it for Christ. He replied, “Thank you, that’s honestly so helpful to hear! And very refreshing to be reminded to be Christ-like during this.” Of course, I gave him a few other pointers about having good eye contact, plenty of smiles, avoid rushing through the reading and using a vibrant, enthusiastic voice (he got the part, by the way). Musicals are big. His presence needed to fill the entire stage, yet blend in with the other actors.
Speaking of blending, there might come a time when your values and morals will be compromised as an actor. Decide now what you will be willing to do for the sake of theatre. Will you use foul language, pose nude or take the Lord’s name in vain? I hope not. I sincerely hope not. But these are real concerns in the world of secular theatre today. Do not be surprised if you end up suffering ridicule or persecution for choosing to follow the precepts of God. Jesus is hated in this world. And so, you will be hated also, if you should choose to listen to His voice. Only you can make that decision. It is between you and God. But as for me, I will serve the Lord.
Do you love to act, yourself? Then use that gift for the full glory of God. But I must warn you to be prepared to face the fiery darts of temptation that Satan will throw at you. Put on the FULL armor of God. Be wise as a serpent and harmless as a dove. Declare, this day, whom you will serve.
Do you have a child who wishes to pursue acting? Encourage them, despite your fears. Equip them with God’s word, despite your misgivings. And most importantly, pray for them because it is a warzone out there. To be frankly honest, it doesn’t matter whether your child wishes to pursue a career in theatre or medicine or engineering…
A roaring lion is on the prowl, “seeking someone to devour”.
NOTE: I realize that this blog entry might offend, surprise or insult some folks, but that’s not my intention. I’m only sharing my personal story, which I believe everyone has a right to do.