Juliusz Osterwa’s Dal & Genezja: A Vision for Theatrical Religious Orders from Post-War Poland

From Kazimierz Braun, A History of Polish Theater, 1939-1989: Spheres of Captivity and Freedom (Contributions in Drama & Theatre Studies, #64) (London: Greenwood Press, 1996), p. 20, bold added:

While in Warsaw the Clandestine Theater Council worked on practical plans for the operation of theater after the war, in Cracow [the famous actor and director Juliusz] Osterwa alone drew up a statement on the moral, ideological, and religious foundations for future theater. Osterwa based his concepts on a thorough critique of the prewar Polish theater, including his own work, from an aesthetic as well as ethical point of view. He concluded that the Polish theater, along with the entire country, must undergo a “great transformation,” as a result of their “purification” by the sufferings of war. The purpose of the transformed theater would be an absolute devotion to the service of the nation and of God (testimony to Osterwa’s Catholicism). In the process of developing these postulates, Osterwa created a vision of the entire theatrical life in free Poland, encompassing different types of theater institutions, their objectives, organization, architecture, and rules for the Actors’ Union. To establish new work ethics and transform theater people internally, Osterwa envisaged two theatrical associations, Dal (“Further away”) and the Fraternity of St. Genesius or Genezja (“Born again”). Dal was to be a community of theater artists oriented toward service to society through service to art. A personal vocation to devote one’s entire life to theater would be a precondition for membership. Besides training, rehearsing, and performing in the productions, members would supervise community groups, teach acting, lecture, preach, and publish theater manuals. They would work within a cooperative structure, and their way of life would approach the monastic. Genezja would be an artistic-religious order, a brotherhood of theater people, representing the next step up beyond Dal. Service to God, within the Roman Catholic Church, would be the first priority in Genezja and the basis of service to society, through the medium of theater. The monk-members would lead a monastic life, observing religious practice, training as actors, preparing performances with religious themes, and organizing church ceremonies in which they would participate as lectors, vocalists, and preachers. Both Dal and Genezja were clearly utopian projects, but, like every utopian idea, they challenged the present and contained a seed for the future: a call for total sacrifice to theater and for the subordination of theater itself to higher values.

Anyone know where this statement can be found, or if either of these two ideas have been taken up? Anyone want to make them happen?

Grotowski’s Vision for a Theatre Renewal

From Jerzy Grotowski, “The Theatre’s New Testament”, in Towards a Poor Theatre, ed. Eugenio Barba (London: Methuen Drama, 1991), pp. 50-51:

From where can this renewal [in the theatre] come? From people who are dissatisfied with conditions in the normal theatre, and who take it on themselves to create poor theatres with few actors, “chamber ensembles” which they might transform into institutes for the education of actors; or else from amateurs working on the boundaries of the professional theatre and who, on their own, achieve a technical standard which is far superior to that demanded by the prevailing theatre: in short, a few madmen who have nothing to lose and are not afraid of hard work.

It seems essential to me that an effort be made to organize secondary theatre schools. The actor begins to learn his profession too late, when he is already psychically formed and, worse still, morally moulded and immediately begins suffering from arriviste tendencies, characteristic of a great number of theatre school pupils.

Age is as important in the education of the actor as it is to a pianist or a dancer – that is, one should not be older than fourteen when beginning. If it were possible, I would suggest starting at an even earlier age with a four year technical course concentrating on practical exercises. At the same time, the pupil ought to receive an adequate humanistic education, aimed not at imparting an ample knowledge of literature, the history of the theatre and so on, but at awakening his sensibility and introducing him to the most stimulating phenomena in world culture.

The actor’s secondary education should then be completed by four years’ work as an apprentice actor with a laboratory ensemble during which time he would not only acquire a good deal of acting experience, but would also continue his studies in the fields of literature, painting, philosophy, etc., to a degree necessary in his profession and not in order to be able to shine in snobbish society. On completion of the four years’ practical work in a theatre laboratory, the student actor should be awarded some sort of diploma. Thus, after eight years’ work of this kind, the actor should be comparatively well equipped for what lies ahead. He would not escape the dangers that threaten every actor, but his capacities would be greater and his character more firmly moulded. The ideal solution would be to establish institutes for research which again would be subject to poverty and rigourous authority. The cost of running such an institute would be a half of the amount swallowed up by a state aided provincial theatre. Its staff should be composed of a small group of experts specializing in problems associated with the theatre: e.g. a psycho-analyst and a social anthropologist. [What about a theologian? – Cole.] There should be a troupe of actors from a normal theatre laboratory and a group of pedagogs from a secondary theatre school, plus a small publishing house that would print the practical methodical results which would then be exchanged with other similar centres and sent to interested persons doing research in neighbouring fields. It is absolutely essential that all research of this kind by supervised by one or more theatre critics who, from the outside – rather like the Devil’s Advocate – analyse the theatre’s weaknesses and any alarming elements in the finished performances, basing their judgements on aesthetical principles identical to those of the theatre itself.

Is this something we can, or ought to, do as Christians in the theatre? What would a network of small ensemble theatres made up of spiritually- and artistically-motivated Christian actors/pedagogues/researchers look like?

Would it be a network of Christian “theatre monks”?

Another Prayer for Those in Theatre

Here’s another prayer for artists:

A PRAYER FOR THOSE IN THEATRE

O Christ,
by the miracle of your blessed Incarnation,
you became an actor in human history,
bringing Heaven’s light to a world steeped in darkness.
The drama of our Redemption
was played out in your Passion, Death, and Resurrection.
Help us whom you have called to play a role in spreading your Gospel.
Strengthen our faith during this Year of Faith
so that our witness may win many hearts to you.
Bless us with the graces of the New Evangelization
so that we may show your hope
to those oppressed by tragedy and hardship.
And may we at every moment enact the love you share with your Father
so as to draw many to the friendship made possible by your Presence,
you who are our Lord, now and forever. Amen.

-Rev. Peter Cameron, O.P.

Original source

The World Over + Fellows Hip Interviews

Today’s post is my first post as a regular contributor at Transpositions, the academic student blog of the Institute for Theology, Imagination & the Arts at the University of St Andrews, where I’ll be beginning my PhD in Theology & Theatre this September. It’s about my most moving experience as an audience member at the theatre, when I wept for half-an-hour straight:

‘The World Over: Touching the Live Wire of Love’

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Our new poster!

Also, here are a few recent podcasts for which I and the other The Fellows Hip: Rise of the Gamers cast members and creative team have been interviewed recently:

A Casual Stroll to Mordor: The Fellows Hip Interview (cast + director, interview at beginning)

LOTRO Reporter: Interview with Opening Act Productions (director & producers, interview at 30:42) & The Fellows Hip Redux (cast, interview at 34:00)

Chris and Bill at LOTRO Reporter and Merric and Goldenstar at A Casual Stroll to Mordor were all friendly, welcoming, and all-around awesome, so if you’re a Lord of the Rings Online fan, I highly recommend listening to their podcasts.

ETA: Here’s a new full-length print interview with the producers at Massively!: The Road to Mordor: A talk with the crew of The Fellows Hip: Rise of the Gamers

If you’re interested in learning more about The Fellows Hip, here are a few links:

The Fellows Hip Movie Trailer

The Fellows Hip Facebook Fan page

The Fellows Hip DVD Pre-Orders

We also got a mention on TheOneRing.net!

The Creativity of Yes + Fellows Hip Trailer

Today’s post is a guest post on Transpositions: “The Creativity of Yes: The Marian Role of the Viewer”

And The Fellows Hip‘s first trailer is out!

We’re trying to attract distributors, so please “Like” and comment if you’re willing. Here are some other ways you can help us find distribution:

1. View our YouTube videos, and give a thumb’s up to your favorites. (These videos need to be in the thousands of views!) http://www.youtube.com/user/OAPfilm

2. Leave a Comment and Subscribe to our YouTube Channel.

3. Join our Facebook Fan Page. http://www.facebook.com/group.php?v=wall&gid=39670886057

4. Follow us on Twitter! http://twitter.com/#!/OpeningActProd

5. Join in on the conversation with our blog. http://thefellowshipmovie.blogspot.com/

6. Join and let others know about our email list. (Submit your ZIP code – or city for those outside the U.S. – to let distributors know where screenings should take place!) http://www.thefellowshipmovie.com/zip.html

7. Pre-order the DVD (and receive exclusive special features). Pre-orders not only help us finish the film faster, they also show distributors stronger than anything else that there is an audience for the film. http://www.thefellowshipmovie.com/film.html

8. Do you know someone who could help in getting the word out to the masses? I’d love to talk to that person.

Stay tuned for more information on a podcast interview that the other lead cast members and I are doing next week! In the meantime, you can read this recent article on the film. ETA: The podcast is now up! Interview begins at 34:00: LOTRO Reporter Episode 88 – The Fellows Hip Redux. (And here’s a second interview, recorded prior to the cast’s, with the awesome Fellows Hip producers – begins at 30:42: LOTRO Reporter Episode 87 – Interview w/ Opening Act Productions.)

In other news, this week I received a full work-study grant to attend this year’s C.S. Lewis Summer Institute at Oxbridge, run by the C.S. Lewis Foundation, where I will be presenting a 20-minute version of my thesis, “C.S. Lewis on the Moral Responsibility of the Christian Artist”, as part of the Academic Roundtable. Thank you to the Foundation, and let me know if you’ll be attending! I presented a longer version to the Oxford C.S. Lewis Society this past Tuesday, which was received well, and the attendees created some interesting discussion of their own afterwards.

I’m still looking for members of religious orders in the professional theatre, Christians who run secular professional theatres, and professional theatres which excel at community-building for my Theatre R&D tour this summer. Stops so far include New York City, Toronto, Boston, D.C., Chapel Hill, Austin, Los Angeles, Vancouver, and Chicago, with a few stops in smaller areas such as Alberta and Kansas. I hope to have a draft itinerary up in my next blog post (probably after my final Oxford exams, which run June 6-17). Let me know who I should visit!

Behind-the-Scenes Interview: “Nate” in The Fellows Hip

Two summers ago, I shot my first feature film lead role as “Nate”, one of four teenage Lord of the Rings Online gamers and Tolkien geeks in the comedy feature film The Fellows Hip: Rise of the Gamers. As the film nears the end of post-production, you can now watch my behind-the-scenes interview, shot on set:

(Btw, I realize I misspoke and said that Estel was Quenya for “hope”. It’s actually Sindarin. Goheno nin, Elvish linguists!)

A fan has suggested I attend this year’s Tolkien Society Oxonmoot in Oxford in September, as well as the Tolkien Society Return of the Ring event at Loughborough University in August 2012. Is anyone interested in learning more about the film and talking Tolkien at either of those events, especially if I can wrangle some other members of the film to join me?

Thanks for watching!

Other Fellows Hip-related links:

The Fellows Hip Movie @ Facebook (#1 place to keep up with current news – new posters, videos, & updates posted regularly)

Opening Act Productions (with Fellows Hip posters & production sample videos!)

TheFellowsHipMovie.com (pre-order the DVD, request local screenings, & watch production samples!)

The Fellows Hip @ IMDB

Opening Act Productions @ Twitter

Opening Act Productions @ YouTube (with more behind-the-scenes videos!)

The Place of “Place”: Community-Building in American Theatre

Today’s post is a guest post on Transpositions, the student blog of the University of St Andrews’ Institute for Theology, Imagination and the Arts – where I will be starting a PhD in September! I’m looking forward to serving as a regular contributor at Transpositions starting July 1, and will be splitting my blogging time between there and here.

Read today’s guest post: ‘The Place of “Place”: Community-Building in American Theatre’.

Previous Transpositions guest posts:

‘Is Tolkien Useless?’ (Sept. 14, 2010)

‘Harry Potter and the Eucharist of Empathy’ (Oct. 22, 2010)

Trevor Nunn’s Oxford Shakespeare Lecture

I just attended Sir Trevor Nunn’s inaugural lecture as the new Cameron Mackintosh Professor of Contemporary Theatre at Oxford, held at St Catherine’s College. Before I give my notes of the lecture below, here’s a quick update on my professional life:

-Became the new Reviews Editor for the C.S. Lewis Chronicle, the peer-reviewed, MLA-indexed journal of the Oxford C.S. Lewis Society. (If you would like to see a book reviewed in the Chronicle, or would like to review a book yourself, please e-mail me.)

-Submitted my first book review for said journal. This is my first book review for any peer-reviewed journal, so it’s quite exciting. I reviewed Letters to a Diminished Church, a 2004 collection of Dorothy L Sayers’ essays.

-Wrote another guest post for the St Andrews’ Institute for Theology, Imagination & the Arts student blog, Transpositions. It’s called ‘Harry Potter & the Eucharist of Empathy’, and will most likely be published this Friday. I had to edit the original post down to meet Transpositions’ length guidelines, so I’ll be linking to the Transpositions post here when it’s published, and then publishing the full-length post on this blog a week later. Edit: You can now view my post at Transpositions here.

-Began Michaelmas Term with a high 2:1 on my medieval history/theology collections, a class on Thomas Aquinas, and an essay on Julian of Norwich and prayer. Partway through my tutorial on Julian, my tutor, the venerable Sister Benedicta Ward SLG, asked, ‘By the way, do you read any C.S. Lewis?’ When I answered, after a pause, that I was the Vice-President of the Oxford C.S. Lewis Society, her face lit up, my face lit up, and we proceeded to go through Narnia, the Space Trilogy, and more, relating Lewis’ stories to Lady Julian’s teachings. Best tutorial I’ve had, I can tell you. It’s love.

Now to the notes.

*******

Sir Trevor Nunn, ‘All the World’s a Stage – Shakespeare, the Player Poet’, St Catherine’s College, Oxford – 18 Oct 2010

Began by debunking the various ‘claimants to [WS’s] work’:

-Earl of Oxford: died in 1604 – several WS plays were written after this date

-Christopher Marlowe: died in 1593, again too early

-Francis Bacon: style is completely different – is it at all likely he would write in one prose style in all his public work, and then lead a secret life as a verse playwright?

-Edward VI: died in 1553 at age 15; this theory (propounded by one person) claims that he didn’t die, but instead went into hiding, and wrote the plays from his secret location. He put a secret code as to his identity on every page of the First Folio, BUT the code is different on every page (since of course he couldn’t have anyone finding out who he was and causing trouble for the supposedly deceased king!).  Not only that, but in the 1609 quarto edition of Shakespeare’s Sonnets, when the cover page says they’re printed ‘by G. Eld for T.T.,’ that T.T. doesn’t stand for Thomas Thorpe, the publisher, but for none other than the (by now elderly) ‘Ted Tudor’!

-The source of all these conspiracy theories is that educated scholars can’t quite believe that a relatively uneducated Warwickshire boy could actually have written these brilliant plays. Only an ‘educated man’ could have done so.

-Ben Jonson, fellow playwright and author of a eulogy to WS printed in First Folio, calls him ‘my Shakespeare,’ ‘my gentle Shakespeare’, ‘sweet swan of Avon’. Jonson was known for upsetting the establishment and being willing to be locked up for telling the truth and speaking his mind. Is it likely he would cover for some educated nobleman (e.g. Oxford) and write a lie of a eulogy? It’s not in his character.

Instead, WS was an actor:

-Theatrical jargon throughout plays (Rude Mechs in Midsummer, players in Hamlet, many more instances in Shrew, Titus, Love’s Labour’s, Henry IV Pt 1, All’s Well, Lear, Tempest)

-Theatre in WS’s time like early days of Hollywood – ‘new creative language being invented’ –> Elizabethans invented blank verse, soliloquoies, scene breaks within acts, etc. –> there was a ‘culture of collaboration’

-‘This special relationship with his audience was vital to his success as a dramatist’ –> WS knew that theatre was a business, and wrote crowd-pleasers [WS is prime example of how pleasing the audience doesn’t mean lowering one’s standards and selling out! Writing for the audience made his plays better.]

-Being part of a company (the Lord Chamberlain’s Men) meant he needed to write crowd-pleasers to bring in box office, and also needed to write meaty parts for members of his company –> the lead character’s age keeps ‘migrating upwards’ as WS writes through the years, probably because of the need to write parts for his lead actor, Richard Burbage –> as the actor grows older, the leads grow older (might explain why Hamlet is necessarily younger in earlier versions, but WS perhaps inserted lines to allow for an older actor in later versions –> did RB demand to play the part?)

-Hamlet’s Advice to the Players = evidence that WS was the first director of his own plays, and possibly the first director in England (extremely unlikely that Burbage candidate for company’s director, because he was too busy playing leads, whereas WS both knew the story and had smaller parts –> their relationship caricatured in Midsummer’s Rude Mechanicals, with Burbage=Bottom and Quince=WS)

WS as humanist [not Nunn’s word, but what he seemed to describe]:

-‘doesn’t depend on an afterlife to make sense of this one’, doesn’t identify himself with any particular religious or political belief [I might quibble with this one, as would others – he speaks the language of religion as one who is within it, though I would agree not partisan]

-classless –> knows the language of both the pub and the court

-believes that we can be redeemed by love

Discovering how Shakespeare could write such timeless work is ‘not about foreign travel, classical education, or English aristocracy’, it’s about one word, ‘and that word is: GENIUS.’

*******

+1 bonus story: Sir Trevor was talking about his difficulty with the passage ‘I am but mad north-north-west: when the wind is southerly I know a hawk from a handsaw’ in Hamlet (II.ii.). A hawk seems so different from a handsaw, that it’s not the discriminating judgement of the sober-minded that Hamlet seems to be implying to his friend that he can make. Is he really crazy? If not, what does he mean?

Nunn was travelling on the coast of England, and sat in this pub filled with stuffed birds. The proprietor turned out to be the taxidermist. Nunn saw a bird he didn’t know the name of, and asked, ‘What’s this one?’

‘Oh, that’s a hernshaw,’ the man replied. A heron.

So when the wind is southerly and warm, if the bird is soaring on the thermals above you, you know it’s not a hernshaw – it’s a hawk.

Hernshaw=handsaw. ‘Aha,’ Sir Trever thought. ‘Aha.’

Sir Trevor Nunn is the 20th Cameron Mackintosh Professor of Contemporary Theatre at Oxford University. He was the youngest ever Artistic Director of the Royal Shakespeare Company, and was Director of the National Theatre from 1996-2003. He has directed most of the Shakespeare canon (30 out of 37 plays), as well as the original productions of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats, Starlight Express, Aspects of Love, and Sunset Boulevard.

And may I say, the guy in no way looks 70. More like 50.

Working Summer

I thought I’d do an update post before I continued my series on a Benedictine theatre company.

I’m in what’s called the Long Vac in Oxford parlance – the long vacation during the summer, during which students are expected to do the bulk of the primary reading required for their course. I’m also using the time primarily to write my BA thesis on “C.S. Lewis on the Moral Responsibility of the Christian Artist.” I spent three weeks at Wheaton College finishing up my reading (I’ve now read all the published Lewis material, except for book reviews and other minor pieces that haven’t yet been collected into a book – though I did skim through the book reviews the Wade Center at Wheaton had on file, and took a glance at the Lewis Papers).

I then went to northern Virginia and shot two principal roles for an educational video, aimed at teaching bartenders and servers how to deal with unruly customers. (I played a restaurant customer who made inappropriate comments to his waitress, and also a bar patron who’d had a wee too much to drink – seriously playing against type!) It was nice to make some money this summer, instead of just spending it traveling.

I also did ADR (Automatic Dialogue Replacement) for The Fellows Hip. It was my first time doing ADR, and though we did about three scenes worth of dialogue, it took less than an hour, averaging about 4-5 takes per line. I saw a rough cut of the film beforehand, and I’m really looking forward to seeing the finished product.

By the way, you can now pre-order the DVD! It’s only $10 $15 ($14 $19 total with S&H in the U.S.) – AND this DVD comes with extra bonus features for folks that pre-order!

I then drove down to Virginia to attend a friend’s wedding, and then directly afterward drove up for another friend’s wedding in New York City the next day. I then stayed in NYC for a few days to see friends (and my favorite teacher at NYU), and next drove to Vermont to stay for a week at my uncle’s horse farm.

After a week of unloading hay carts, mucking out stalls, and doing various other tasks on the farm, I drove home to Virginia, stopping on the way to visit the Northfield, Mass. campus of the C.S. Lewis College (where I met Jean Mattson, wife of C.S. Lewis Foundation President Stan Mattson, sadly no relation to me) and to stay overnight with one of my NYU friends who is about to begin her last year of med school in New Jersey.

I arrived home last Friday, and attended a party for the 50th wedding anniversary of two of my Sunday school teachers on Saturday. Sunday was early Mass and then 11 a.m. service with my mother at the Presbyterian church where I grew up in the Faith. Today, I had lunch with another one of my Sunday school teachers, a gentle, wise, and holy man whom, along with his wife, my family greatly loves and respects. Afterwards, I went to see Inception, which is a pretty good movie. At the moment, I’m typing this while sitting in the living room with my parents, with the Jack Ryan flick Patriot Games playing on the T.V. (Jack Ryan, by the way, is one of those wonderful examples of how heroic figures can be interesting, much more so than anti-heroes, which seems to be an unbelievable statement to many actors  and other story-telling artists. I love when, in Clear and Present Danger, the corrupt CIA Deputy Director Robert Ritter tells Ryan he’s “such a boy scout” – as if that’s an insult – and needs to see the world and its moral choices in shades of grey, not black and white. Ryan retorts, “Not black and white – right and wrong.” Sadly, the voice of Ritter is all too often seen as the more true statement, and even the healthier [!] one. Actually, if we were all “boy scouts” like Jack Ryan, the world would be a much better place.)

This week I’ll be finishing up organizing my notes for my thesis, which I will start writing next week. I will also be visiting Duke August 16-20, which I’m very excited about. I’ll not only be seeing some friends, but also meeting with a couple current ThD students and a Divinity School professor. (Duke’s ThD and St Andrews’ PhD in Theology and the Arts are my top two choices for graduate school.)

Afterward, I’ll be coming back here for another week and prepping for my last year at Oxford, and then heading back to the U.K. the first week of September. My first stop will be the Theology, Aesthetics, and Culture conference at St Andrews, focusing on the works of David Brown. Next, I’ll be attending the Beatification ceremony of the Venerable John Henry Cardinal Newman, led by His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI in Birmingham on Sept. 19!  (Learn more about the papal visit, the first visit to the U.K. by a pope in his capacity as a head of state since Henry VIII, here.) Finally, my goal is to finish my thesis and hand in an edited draft to my supervisor for his comments by the end of September.

So, that’s what’s going on for me this summer. Let me know if you’d like to meet up at any point!

Benedictine Theatre Company: Arising & Running

I’m here at the Wade Center at Wheaton College doing research for my thesis on “C.S. Lewis on the Moral Responsibility of the Christian Artist,” supervised by Dr Michael Ward, author of Planet Narnia and Acting Chaplain of St Peter’s College, Oxford. I’ve finished my primary research, which included reading all C.S. Lewis’ work that has been published in book form, including his collections of essays, poetry, letters, and diary. I’m now working on the secondary reading, and should have that done by the end of the week, which will finish up my research, except for a few bits and bobs that I can access elsewhere. I drive to D.C. this weekend to do ADR for The Fellows Hip: Rise of the Gamers, and then a one-day shoot of an educational video that I just booked, for a guy I worked with a couple summers ago. So I will make a (little) money acting this summer, not just spend it on research trips! (I have some good news about The Fellows Hip, too, but that will have to wait until I’m given the go-ahead.)

And now for a continuation of our series on a Benedictine theatre company:

Prologue – Day 2

Let us arise, then, at last,
for the Scripture stirs us up, saying,
“Now is the hour for us to rise from sleep” (Rom. 13:11).
Let us open our eyes to the deifying light,
let us hear with attentive ears
the warning which the divine voice cries daily to us,
“Today if you hear His voice,
harden not your hearts” (Ps. 94[95]:8).
And again,
“Whoever has ears to hear,
hear what the Spirit says to the churches” (Matt. 11-15; Apoc. 2:7).
And what does He say?
“Come, My children, listen to Me;
I will teach you the fear of the Lord” (Ps. 33[34]:12).
“Run while you have the light of life,
lest the darkness of death overtake you” (John 12:35).

***

The Rule of St Benedict is meant to be read daily to the monks, and therefore there is a section assigned for each day, such that the entire Rule is read three times in a year. The Prologue is accordingly divided up into several sections. Today’s section is the second of the Prologue, for Jan 2 / May 3 / Sept 2.

It doesn’t give us much meat for our purpose, but is rather a call for the hearer to take notice, and begin the task of following God. We are back at the beginning of the Rule – a time for fresh starts, no matter how inert or unsuccessful we have been in the past.

This call to action reminds me of a blog post I read recently, on a “post-evangelical” Christian blog called the Internet Monk. In this blog post, blogger Jeff Dunn outlines a calling he has to start an artists’ “retreat/school/monastery,” a place where Christian artists can come “not to work on their art, but on their spirit,” as he said to me when I spoke to him via phone this past Saturday. Jeff and I both agree that Christian artists don’t have to make art that is explicitly Christian – that art is not merely an evangelism tool, but is in itself a way to glorify God. As he says in his post:

I love to help set artists free from the little Christian art box we like to put them in. You know—if you are a Christian painter, then you can only paint pictures of a pasty-white Jesus knocking on someone’s door, or of cottages in gardens with unusual light coming from their windows. If you are a Christian songwriter, you have to write plastic lyrics that portray Jesus as your girlfriend. And if you are a Christian novelist, you have to create fake characters acting in unrealistic ways in an unreal world. None of this brings glory to the Lord. It is simply an attempt to make money from people who need to feel good about themselves.

What’s different about Jeff is that he is right now starting his artists’ monastery. He’s got a plot of land lined up in Ohio, ready for purchase and renovation. You can find more info at his follow-up post.

I’ve let Jeff know that I’d like to help in whatever way possible. Right now that way is prayer. So if you all would please keep Jeff and this artists’ monastery in prayer, we would appreciate it. (And if you’d like to help, especially with funding, why not contact him?)

This past week I also met with Dan Roche, a professional actor/director who’s unusual in that he left Syracuse’s BFA program to study theatre at Wheaton, a college without even a theatre major, but with a close-knit theatre community and an opportunity to do plays more meaningful than the postmodern cynicism subtly or not-so-subtly encouraged at many of our professional undergraduate training programs. After starting Stone Table Theatre Company, which came out of a drama ministry started at his church, he worked in the Nylachi market for several years, before returning to Wheaton. He basically picked up where he left off, and recently started the Bird and Baby Theatre Company, which has as part of its mission the mandate to produce at least one play a season by or about one of the Inklings or related authors (C.S. Lewis, Dorothy Sayers, J.R.R. Tolkien, G.K. Chesterton, etc.). (You’ll see that I’ve added Bird & Baby to the list of links on the right-hand side of the page.) Their most recent production was a stage version of Tolkien’s The Hobbit.

Jeff and Dan have risen from sleep and started to run. I know of other folks, like the Pacific Theatre in Vancouver and Cambiare Productions in Austin. Who else do you know that’s running? I’m thinking of doing a tour in the future of theatres that either have a Christian mandate, or are run by Christians, to talk about their approach to creating theatre for general audiences. Who should I visit?

Part 1 of this series can be found here.