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Doubts, Sorrows, and the God Who Carries Them: Reflections From a Dumpster

Doubts, Sorrows, and the God Who Carries Them: Reflections From a Dumpster

What is the place for a show called Doubt?

Calvary’s fall theatre production, Doubt: A Parable, tells the story of a nun in the 1960s. The nun believes a priest has been sexually abusing a boy named Donald in the parish school and sets out to have him removed. The topic and content raise the question: What is the intent of a production titled Doubt?

I read the script for Doubt my first semester at Calvary, and immediately loved its literary craft. I read it again the next year and found it resonated even more. It echoed passions God had already begun planting in my heart. As Calvary gears up to tell this thoughtful story, it is vital for us to know why it matters.

Finding Freedom in a Dumpster

How does this story speak the truth, love, and beauty of God? The answer, for me, was found in a dumpster. Some of the most prayerful and vulnerable moments of my life were spent there when, as a cabin leader playing hide-and-seek with the campers, I found myself crouched in a dumpster with plenty of time to think and process.

The camp I counseled at serves indigenous kids in western Canada, and I felt way out of my depth. Their culture is defined by both a history of sexual abuse perpetrated by religious leaders in schools during the 1800s and a destructive cycle that has far outlived the original abuse. Victims turn to substance, sexual,  and domestic abuse and suicide in a culture that identifies itself by these tragedies. Every year, the reservations hold memorial services for the children whose identity and innocence were taken in the residential schools. These wounds of sexual abuse, inflicted by those who were and are meant to protect, last generations.

In a training session at the camp, a man who grew up in the indigenous culture spoke from Isaiah 53 and pointed out a verse I had previously overlooked. When we share the gospel, we communicate that Jesus can save you from your sins. This is true, but it is only part of the picture. Was he pierced for our transgressions, and crushed for our iniquities? Absolutely. But that was not all Christ accomplished at the cross. Isaiah also says, “Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering.” So often we give Christ our sins but hold on to our sorrows, even though we cannot hope to carry them. And it is this deep grief that Doubt addresses.

These offenses create pain that only the God-man can heal. But the story and the pain run deeper. What Donald needs—someone to carry his pain—he looks for in Father Flynn. This solidarity is exactly what Sister Aloysius, Sister James, and even Father Flynn are also looking for. Someone to lift the weight.

The God Who Carries Pain

Pain is very real. You don’t have to look farther than your neighbor down the street to see that our world is wracked by the consequences of sin and legacies of suffering. We know what it is to hurt. Our lives have given us huge burdens to carry, but sin is an offense against God and causes sorrows that only God in the flesh can carry.

The truth is, the only thing people can do with their pain is feel hurt. We can’t fix it; we can’t ignore it, and no matter how we try to hide it, it’s going to come out eventually. That’s what I came to grips with in the dumpster. My campers had complicated, often horrible lives, and I couldn’t fix them. They had burdens far beyond their—or my—strength.

But, if a person understands that Christ not only paid the price for his sin, but also willingly carries his suffering, he is freed. Not from pain’s existence, but from its control. Instead of being dominated by struggles, he can surrender them to God in a continuous act. That is the glory of life with Christ—something Donald and my campers don’t have. They have all the sorrow and none of the hope.

As I huddled in the dumpster, my thoughts turned to Psalm 139, our theme passage for camp. David asks, “Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence?” He paints a picture of God hunting him down wherever he tries to hide. Everywhere we go, God is with us, offering to take our punishment and our sorrows. That is true for everyone. It’s true for the girl who changes foster homes every year, for the boy who just lost his father to cancer, for the doubting, for the abused, for you, and for me. God continually, perfectly, lovingly offers to carry our pain.

Creating a Space for Redemption

How does Doubt speak into this need? Doubt does not flinch from the truth of human depravity but acknowledges the pain and speaks to often-overlooked brokenness. And all of these things are exactly what the church is called to do. I love Isaiah 61 because it reveals the heart of God “to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound.” This is the same spirit we want to see reflected in ourselves, our school, and the global church. But it is God who does the binding; we can only be conduits of His healing.

At camp, I discovered that I could not change the sorrows inflicted by centuries of abuse. I can’t get my camper’s father out of prison or stop her uncle from raping her. All I could do was love and create a space for God to speak. Michael Card calls it “a frame around the silence where God speaks to the heart,” a space without distraction that encourages vulnerability with the Creator. A space that offers redemption.

So, back to the original question: Why Doubt? Why this play now? Because we need that space. As a campus, as a community, as the body of Christ, we need a space for vulnerability. We long for a frame around the silence for God to speak and for Christ to heal. We are weighed down with burdens only Christ can carry. How much lighter the load would be if they were surrendered to Him.

As we prepare for this show, I feel very much like a camp counselor again. I am staring down the giant of Sorrows that Calvary is about to meet head on. Doubt reveals a world’s weight of sorrow we cannot carry. But my time in the dumpster taught me that we were never meant to. We love wholeheartedly and pray for God to speak in the space we create.

Because in the end, this production is God’s work. All we can do is lend ourselves to its power, stand in the wings, and pray: “Thy Kingdom come.”

“Newsies” and the Arc of the Moral Universe

“Newsies” and the Arc of the Moral Universe

"Newsies" and the Arc of the Moral Universe

When the Christian Bale version of Newsies first came out in 1992, it was a box office failure, and reviews were mixed. It cost $15 million to make and grossed $3 million in ticket sales. When Disney hired Christian Bale to play the role of Jack Kelly, they didn’t even tell him it was a musical. When it didn’t yield the expected dividend, they put the reel on the shelf and forgot about it. Yet I loved it, so much so that I naively wrote to the Disney Company and asked if they’d allow me to write a stage version of the movie. I was convinced it was perfect for the stage! Apparently, so did many other theatre groups, as unauthorized and illegal stage versions kept cropping up all over the country. Newsies was gaining steam. 

Well, just like you can’t keep a good newsie down, I guess you can’t keep a good story down! Disney finally decided that if there was a populist movement behind this story, maybe they should take another look. In 2011, the stage musical premiered at the New Jersey regional theatre, Paper Mill Playhouse, to popular acclaim, and it went on to Broadway in 2012 for a three-year run. It cost $5 million to stage, which was recouped in seven months, and became the fastest Disney musical on Broadway to make a profit. Walt, you should’ve listened to me…feels so good to be right! 

Pushing personal validation aside, the larger question remains. What is so appealing about this story? Why are we drawn to it? Why did audiences come to their feet multiple times in the middle of scenes during Broadway performances? What are those toe-tapping newsies fighting for that makes their story so compelling? It’s a question I always ask my casts, so I asked them. What do the newsies want? “Justice.” “A chance at a better life.” “To be respected.” “To not feel powerless.” “To have some control over their own destiny.” “To love.” “To be loved.” “A community.” “A family.” “A home.” 

And so, the question comes to you: what do all those answers have in common? We live in an age where we see not only young, mostly white and uniformly beautiful people dancing across a stage at Calvary University with these same needs, we see these desires in all colors and all ethnic groups across this globe. Refugee camps in Syria. Human trafficking in China. Detainment camps at the Mexican border. Clandestine schools for girls in Afghanistan. The corners of intersections outside your local Walmart. Marginalized, impoverished, powerless people are everywhere, all dreaming the same dream: Santa Fe. 

Where does it say ya gotta live and die here? Where does it say a guy can’t catch a break? 

Why should you only take what you’re given? Why should you spend your whole life livin’ 

Trapped where there ain’t no future, even at seventeen, Breakin’ your back for someone else’s sake? 

If the life don’t seem to suit ya, how ‘bout a change of scene, 

Far from the lousy headlines and the deadlines in between? 

Santa Fe! My old friend, I can’t spend my whole life dreamin’ 

Though I know that’s all I seem inclined to do. I ain’t getting’ any younger, 

And I wanna start brand new. I need space. And fresh air. 

Let ‘em laugh in my face, I don’t care–save my place, I’ll be there… 

Just be real is all I’m askin’, not some painting in my head 

Cause I’m dead if I can’t count on you today. 

I got nuthin’ if I ain’t got Santa Fe! 

 Jack personifies his dream of Santa Fe in Act One’s final defining moments, “Just be real is all I’m askin.’” So, what is it that fuels our dreams and weaves the common, connecting human thread? Hope. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” This is our hope: God is not only just, He bends the arc. Newsies is a story about the bending power of hope. 

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 

Through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; 

And we exult in hope of the glory of God. 

And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; 

And perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; 

And hope does not disappoint… 

Romans 5:1-5a

Newsies opens March 7 with an 11:00 a.m. matinee and continues on March 8, 9, 15, and 16 at 7:30 p.m. and March 10 and 17 at 2:00 p.m. For tickets, go to our box office: https://www.calvary.edu/theatre-box-office/

 

Auction Postponed with Many Events on the Horizon

Auction Postponed with Many Events on the Horizon

Weekly Portraits of Calvary Life

Due to the forecast of more winter weather, the Feast & Fund Auction has been postponed until March 29.  We hope our supporters will be able to change their plans or make new plans to attend on this date.  Click here to sign up.

March is a very busy month for Calvary.  The Theatre Department will be presenting Newsies seven times over the next two weekends.  Click here to purchase tickets.  We also have Calvary Days, our campus preview event, coming up next weekend.  Click here for more information.

In the midst of all this activity, Cycle 4 will be ending, and a new cycle will be beginning.  Shortly after that is Spring Break which coincides with the Chorale Tour.  Click here to see the Chorale’s schedule which includes stops in Kansas, Colorado, and Nebraska.

The end of March brings the new auction date and a recital by senior Cherrish Palmer.  Would you pray that the weather has no further impact on any of these events?  We thank the Lord for each of the students, faculty, and staff who make these events happen.  Would you pray for health and energy to abound?  Finally, we hope you’ll consider attending one or more of the upcoming events!

Sara Klaassen

Alumni Relations Coordinator

Upcoming Calvary Events

Calvary Days                                March 7-9

Newsies performances               March 7-10, 15-17

End of Cycle 4                              March 8

Start of Cycle 5                            March 11

Chorale Tour                                March 18-26

Feast & Fund Auction                 March 29

Cherrish Palmer’s Senior Recital        March 29

Students Perform in All My Sons

Students Perform in All My Sons

Weekly Portraits of Calvary Life

Last weekend Calvary’s Theatre Arts Department presented Arthur Miller’s All My Sons.

Ann Deever (Mallory Pihl) and Chris Keller (Vincent Matteson)

The story of the play takes place a few years after the end of World War II, so our student body supported the cast and crew by dressing in ‘40s fashion on Friday.  We are thankful for all of the time and effort put in to producing this show by many students and faculty members.

Ann Deever (Mallory Pihl) and Kate Keller (Christy Stone)

George Deever (Zeb Johnson) and Joe Keller (Corey Ruehling)

The play is a tragedy and centers on the Keller family.  It presents thought-provoking themes of family relationships and suicide, and the actors sought to really understand what the world was like during that time period.

‘40s Fashion Day

Sara Klaassen

Alumni Relations Coordinator

 

Upcoming Calvary Events

Clay Shoot                               October 20

Cycle 3 begins                         October 22

Charles C. Ryrie Lecture Series          October 23-26

Theatre Arts Silent Auction     November 2

Masterworks Chorus Performance    November 9

Upcoming Soccer Games

October 25-27, MCCC Tournament at Haviland, KS

Upcoming Volleyball Games

October 26-27, MCCC Tournament at Joplin, MO

Upcoming lux voces Performances

October 28, 10:45 a.m. at Belvidere Heights Baptist Church in Grandview, MO

 

Calvary Profs Collaborate around the Themes in “All My Sons”

Calvary Profs Collaborate around the Themes in “All My Sons”

Mrs. Rose Henness, Mr. Norm Baker, Dr. Luther Smith, and Ms Ana Sharp during the talkback

It is always an honor for Calvary’s Theatre Department to host interdisciplinary collaboration with our faculty around the themes of our productions. This year’s fall production, All My Sons, by 20th century American playwright Arthur Miller, is incredibly rich in content and even wealthier in its themes. Chapel on Wednesday, October 3, provided students and faculty with the opportunity of diving in! Following a scene from the play performed during the assembly, Calvary faculty, including Mrs. Rose Henness (Director of Institutional Effectiveness), Mr. Norm Baker (Bible and Theology), and Dr. Luther Smith (Biblical Counseling), joined senior Ana Sharp (dramaturg), director Bobbie Jeffrey, and the cast of CU Theatre’s All My Sons for a talk back.

 

 

 

Vincent Matteson as Chris Keller, Jon Van Pelt as Jim Bayliss, and Mallory Pihl as Ann Deever in a scene from “All My Sons”

Discussion was filled with the following highlights:

  • Dr. Smith, Mrs. Henness, and Mr. Baker all recommended students attend the play. The literature was new to all of them and had them turning its pages at a rapid rate!
  • Mrs. Henness spoke about the dysfunction of family secrets and how destructive they are.
  • Dr. Smith mentioned that theatre is often a vehicle for truth that reaches people other methods cannot.
  • Bobbie Jeffrey, Theatre Arts Department Chair, spoke to the tragic elements in All My Sons and why studying tragedy as a literary genre is important
  • Ana Sharp not only shared information about WWII survivors’ battle on the homefront with what is now known as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but connected it to the U.S. Government’s decision to hide its effects rom the public.

 

Levi Bennett as Frank Lubey and Mallory Pihl as Ann Deever

Students tweeted in questions which were moderated by John Oglesby, our assembly spokesperson. One of the favorite interactions of the talkback had to do with a section of dialogue from the play referring to drunkenness. A question was asked about the Christian stance on this subject. Dr. Smith immediately raised his hand for the mic: “Alcohol good; drunkenness bad,” to which Mr. Baker added, “Ditto.”

 

 

Vincent Matteson and Corey Ruehling as Joe Keller

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The discussion was animated and lively, and was an example of what academic theatre does best. Join us this weekend to get even more! Optional talkbacks with select faculty, director, cast, and crew will be held after every performance, and it would be our honor to have you join us. Tickets are now on sale: https://www.calvary.edu/theatre-box-office/

Exegesis and Hermeneutics for Theatre: Dramaturgy!

Exegesis and Hermeneutics for Theatre: Dramaturgy!

Ana Sharp, Dramaturg for “All My Sons”

It’s a crazy idea, right? Exegesis and hermeneutics in theatre? Well, yes! The same principles apply and are almost as rich in the study of theatre and production of plays as they are in the study of the Bible and the story of our lives! Our fall production, All My Sons, by Arthur Miller, has been rich in something known as dramaturgy. What better way to share with you the principles of dramaturgy than to introduce you to Ana Sharp, our own exegetical and hermeneutical dramaturg.

Here are Ana’s responses to my interview questions:

  • How do the terms exegesis and hermeneutics apply to theatre?
In theatre, as in the Christian walk, we are faced with the task of making choices based on a text we may not fully understand. Dramaturgy, like theology, is a field built around a premise of high respect for a text and its author. Dramaturgs and other theatre artists strive for an accurate exegesis (interpretation of the text), and with every play we need to choose the right hermeneutic (strategic approach). 
 
All My Sons requires a historical-literal hermeneutic much like we would use for the gospels. The more we know about the historical events, culture, and world surrounding the events of the story, the better we understand what the author wanted to communicate and, by extension, the better we can communicate the author’s intent to the audience.
  • How does good dramaturgy help cast, crew, and director of a production?
The historical setting, moral themes, and story structure combine to form what we call “the world of the play.” Every design choice, every directing choice, and every acting choice is informed by the world of the play.  All My Sons takes place in a world where honesty matters, and every choice has far-reaching consequences, beginning with one’s closest relationships and extending to people one has never met. It also takes place at a specific time (August of 1946) in a specific place (Ohio, USA), and in a neighborhood of a certain income level. 
 
Dramaturgy is digging into every detail the playwright gives us in order to firmly establish the world of the play in the minds of the artists creating it onstage. Good dramaturgy contributes toward solid acting choices, informed directing decisions, and a unified storytelling effort on the part of the design team.
  • Why is excellent dramaturgy particularly important to this year’s fall production, All My Sons?

Arthur Miller, playwright

First and foremost, this play deals with a war that really happened, and pain that millions felt. Arthur Miller wrote with compassion and sensitivity to the humans wounded physically or emotionally by World War II. They were his first audience. We have the honor of telling this story in the 21st century, and the least we can do to honor the sacrifices of that generation is to put the world they lived in on stage as accurately and respectfully as possible.

 

 

 

 

The P-40 Warhawk, a WWII plane at the nexus of the conflict of “All My Sons”

All My Sons is a story that was very pointedly written for its time. Its message is timeless and forever relevant, but its setting requires some translation. The show was set in the “present day” when it first opened in 1947. Its first audiences would have needed no introduction to the social and political climate of the time—they were living it! 71 years later, however, the events and sentiments surrounding the story of the play are more obscure to us. Themes of integrity and honesty will  always resonate, but what are Post Toasties?  Who are the Gumps? Dramaturgy for this show is heavily focused on helping the cast and crew understand the world of 1946, so they can deliver every nuance of the story to the audience.

 

 

 

  • Could you share with us All My Sons dramaturgical connection to Greek tragedies?
Absolutely! Without revealing too many spoilers, All My Sons conforms to the structure of antique tragedies such as Oedipus Rex or Antigone. A tragic hero with a fatal flaw makes a single huge mistake and eventually has to face the consequences of that choice and do their best to right it and bring their world back into balance. All My Sons even conforms to Aristotle’s “three unities” of time, place, and action. The events of the play take place within a 24-hour period (unity of time) in one location (unity of place), and everything that happens on stage feeds into the eventual crisis and climax of the play (unity of action). 
  • What’s your favorite dramaturgical tidbit from researching All My Sons?

Aside from absolutely geeking out over the classical tragedy parallels mentioned above, I’ve immensely enjoyed reading the old comic strip “The Gumps” which is mentioned in the show. The style of humor is fun to compare to modern meme culture. The more things change, the more they stay the same!

Join us for an exegetical, hermeneutical, incredibly moving experience! Tickets are on sale now!