The New Me: Part 2, “Theater with a Difference”

Shortly after arriving in Illinois in ’07, I was cornered by two different people about checking out Overshadowed Theatrical Productions. I appreciated their invitation as I had spent some time on stage and enjoyed it immensely. Unfortunately, I had to postpone my introduction. I wanted to make sure I was doing my new job well and I knew I didn’t need any distractions.

But it didn’t take long before my 6th grade class was well in hand and the drive to revisit the stage started to simmer in my limbs. I saw one of the Bible plays they produced and enjoyed it immensely. Shortly thereafter I found they would be performing Arsenic and Old Lace. I loved the movie growing up, the main character shared my namesake, and I wanted my introduction to this theater company to be fun and light-hearted. I auditioned. I got the part.

This post is not going to be a retrospective of the shows I’ve done at Overshadowed, but I need to mention this segment of my life as it has opened countless opportunities for service that I would never have had. Theater is a powerful medium because stories are one of God’s chosen ways of revealing truth. Just like books, movies, and television, theater has the potential to mold a generation. Any time the Lord hands you such a powerful tool, you’d better use it! Overshadowed’s (OTP) goal is to offer family friendly entertainment. Half of the shows they do are classics and the other half are Bible based. Most of the productions that I’ve been on stage for were stories straight from the pages of Scripture or scripts with a biblical theme. We have performed the same shows multiple times over the course of a year both in-house and as a travel team to churches.

Acting has always been a passion of mine because communication is so seminal to relationships. I teach speech for this very reason. As a side note, Christians must be very careful what theater companies they work with. The World and the flesh are both alive and active in their allegiance to the “roaring lion” who wants nothing more than our destruction. A cast builds such camaraderie that sinful relationships can easily sprout in such an environment. But performing with Christians (though not a sinless environment) definitely has its accountability.

During my years performing for OTP I have had the glorious opportunity to depict our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. The first time was for a Passion play called God’s Masterpiece. I tore apart the gospels like never before in an attempt to understand Who He was. Playing Jesus is IMPOSSIBLE. I might accidentally play George Washington correctly. We are both finite, created beings, but it is completely impossible for a mortal to perfectly portray the God of the universe. It is the “impossible role.” Not improbable. Impossible. But I endeavored to do my best. People would stop me and almost offer their condolences that I had to undertake such a weighty part. My wife told me (had she been a man) that she would never have accepted the role. It was grueling. Not only were there those excited to see the play, but I had a contingency of people who thought that having anyone play Christ at all was unwise at best and sinful at worst.

It was a challenging time to say the least, but the watershed arrived during a cast meeting when I shared the following with my fellow actors: I told them that I had been spending so much time “getting inside Jesus’ head” through my study of the gospels – trying to grasp why He did what He did, said what He said, and discern the way He did it all – that I stumbled upon a realization. I’m a Christian . . . that’s my job anyway! What man or woman who claims to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ does not have the responsibility to walk like Him, talk like Him, and love like Him? It was so extremely refreshing! I say this tongue in cheek, but I think everyone should have to play Jesus at least once in their life if that’s what it takes to waken them up to their responsibility for divine-immitation.

Playing Jesus has helped me see many things about my Lord I never really noticed before and I believe it has better suited me to the tasks He has for my life. His compassion was perfectly balanced by His passion. His love was perfectly balanced by His justice. He was just that . . . balanced. He knew exactly what was perfectly necessary in every situation. I cannot be omniscient, but I can study and look and observe in an attempt to respond correctly to the situations I’m presented with.

This slice of my life is being called “Life with a Difference” and it has a large part to do with my experiences at the Theater with a Difference. We must live deliberately like Jesus Christ. If we do not live differently we cannot make a difference.

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