Last week we talked about the anti- theater bias that used to be part of church tradition, and how it has recently changed, and instead the church boycotts specific movies and pieces of theater. This week we are talking about how the change took place.
There are those who would say that this was not a positive change, and that by accepting theater the church has compromised and opened the door to sin. I disagree. I think the church's acceptance of theater was God's design. There were two things that happened to open the door to theater, and they happened right around the same time period. First, there was a Hollywood writer who was also a Christian named Charles M. Tanner who felt God's call to start a drama troupe in 1963. Second, around the same time, there was a lot of street drama happening as part of the Vietnam protests and the fight for racial and gender equality. There were several leaders in the church who decided that if these "Marxists" could use theater so effectively, why shouldn't the church do the same. At that time there was an explosion of theater, both people performing in and for the church and doing street theater to try to draw people to the church. At first, it was working wonderfully and was a partial cause of what many call the Jesus movement of the early '70's.
The problem is they never grew past those initial stages. They separated themselves from the professionals, and never learned to make professional looking and sounding theater and movies. Many within the church also saw theater as something easy to do, and didn't spend the necessary time in rehearsals. There was a group of people who became serious about theater and they began doing professional theater, starting their own theaters and looking for more professional pieces to do that still had messages they could support. Theater in the church faded out, but now theater and movies were acceptable, as long as they fell within certain parameters.
This is where I come in. I was one of those people who caught the bug in the '70's. I want to do professional theater that has a message. I believe theater can change lives if we develop professional habits and tell stories and not just preach at people with our movies. The theater and movies must entertain first. The actors and directors must be serious about their craft. They must be willing to be part of the professional community and learn from them. They must make professional theater and movies.