And the audience responded, clapping and cheering, booing, laughing, even yelling to the actors and other audience members.
Afterward, the theater company, Rover Dramawerks, hosted a reception, giving the audience a chance to interact with one another as well as with the performers, directors, stage manager, technicians, and all others who devoted their time to creating the show.
This zany play highlighted what all art does, namely, create a conversation between artist and audience, creator and observer. This conversation requires presence. Books and short stories require time to imagine the story and characters unfurled by the writer and reader. Plays, ballets, symphonies, and other performances require the time to attend a show, and usually the time to read the playbill to glean backgrounds on the composers, writers, and performers to enhance your understanding of the show. Visual art requires the time necessary for observing and entering the piece before you. Poems require the patience to allow metaphors and images to develop and connect over numerous readings.
In other words, art differs from surfing the web, lighting on first this, then clicking on that, flitting through the universe on the wings of an ADD computer mouse. In a world made up of 500-word blog posts and three-minute YouTube videos, we lose the ability to commit to a 300-word book or a three-hour opera (you thought I was going to say tour, didn't you?). Beyond the commitment, I fear we interact less with the art. Amuse me, but don't ask anything of me. Let me shut off my brain, with its smoking gears from our daily work and decisions, and veg.
I fear we've lost in our theology presence, commitment, and interaction. The play this past weekend reminded me of something I recently read in Performing the Sacred: Theology and Theater in Dialogue by Todd Eric Johnson:
And if we become a culture in which we are disconnected from bodily interaction and literally have platonic relationships, where our bodies don't interact and don't touch, then we have lost something of the image of God that is in us.
While I don't think all Internet interaction and community robs us of "real" human interaction or is less than other relationships (obviously, or I wouldn't be here), I believe that if we're not careful, we can lose the theology of incarnation and sacrament in our lives. We can lose presence.
I have cyber friends dealing with birth defects and cancer, but distance limits my ministry to them to prayer or an encouraging note. If I focus only on these friends, I lose the opportunity to minister to those in my community who undergo surgeries, loss, disease, where my ministry can expand to the hospitality of taking them meals, or the human presence of touch and presence.
Our art can step in and remind us of the presence of incarnation and sacrament: God with us, walking, eating, laughing, crying, touching. Our art can draw us to the function of the body of Christ.
Heather A. Goodman enjoys a good soap-box now and then. But no fear, in the future, most will be directed toward her as yet unborn child.