Thursday, February 15, 2007

Directing is to ministry...

"An artist is someone who draws attention to what is praiseworthy in the universe."
-- William Ball, stage director

Betty Bernhard, acting and directing professor at Pomona College, shared that quote with us tonight during a lively guest lecture on directing in our medieval drama class.

Her talk was practical and philosophical, and, truly without belaboring the point, she kept drawing parallels between directing and ministry and, at one point, between the director and God.

Much of her advice for directors would also be good advice for ministers. Rather than belabor that point myself, I'm going to capture some of her advice for directors and invite myself and anyone else who reads this simply to insert the word "minister" for "director" and consider the similarities.

For example, the director should tell the stage manager never to run from Point A to Point B during the dress rehearsal because it alarms the actors. The director, too, must maintain a presence of calm no matter what disaster may be unfolding.

"You have to be very calm even if it's killing you."

Actors need praise. They thrive on it. They live for it. As a director, Bernhard said, "you must discipline yourself to give praise."

The director serves as the host of the play much the way a minister extends hospitality to a congregation, she said.

And, with some excellent vocational discernment advice, she said: "Don't do a play that you don't really love."

The same principle applies to the people in the production: "Don't talk anyone into doing anything on your show that they don't really want to."

The director needs to make sure that the play and the players speak with and to the audience, not through it.

Directors have moral, ethical, spiritual and financial responsibilities for the show.

Directors have to be very enthusiastic.
Don't be a director if you don't have great stamina.

I asked her who chooses to be a director, who feels drawn to directing: "People who are good at seeing the big picture. People who are good with deadlines."

Bernhard cautioned us against a scarcity mentality telling us not to feel limited by what we do and don't have. "Follow God's example and create a universe out of what's lying around."

On a more personal note, I continue to be surprised by how excited I am to be doing a play again after decades of not. It has been very telling to realize anew that theatre is, indeed, one of my loves.

I recently heard someone describe a bright young woman who changed her major from psychology to engineering, gave engineering a noble try and then decided to switch back to psychology. Those who knew her well said that when she talked about sociological situations, particularly in work settings where a psychology degree might help in a human relations job, she would light up in ways she rarely did when she talked about engineering. That's good discernment.

I light up these days in this class. And, I light up when I talk about it. But, I'm not changing my major, because I also light up when I talk about ministry, and I light up when I talk about worship, and I light up when I struggle with theological issues in scripture. And, I no longer light up nearly as much when I talk about journalism.

My hope is that as a minister, I, too, can be someone who draws attention to what is praiseworthy in the universe.

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