The Sower Logo

Home Arts & Culture Staged Reading of “The Christians” at Olde Glory Theatre

  • By Victoria Cameron

On Sept. 15 and 16, Associate Professor of Communication and Theatre Bryan Moore directed a staged reading of “The Christians” by Lucas Hnath at the Olde Glory Theatre.

Although Moore teaches theater at Concordia, the staged reading was not affiliated with the Concordia theater department. This was a personal project, although many Concordia students and faculty members supported Moore and were a part of the reading.

The production consisted of the staged reading and a panel of area clergy and lay people. Moore focused on the theater aspect and let a colleague prepare the panel.

Moore’s cast was handpicked at the beginning of the school year. He specifically recruited students that had been in previous theater productions. Due to the theological issues the play raises, Moore gave the actors the script before rehearsals so they could decide if they were willing to put on the play.

Fortunately, they all rose to the potential challenges of the play and were unafraid to tackle the theological issues.

“They were all very receptive to the conversation that could come from it and had some strong thoughts about the topic, which was great,” Moore said.

The play was in the form of a sermon, and included an actual sermon, a testimonial, and scenes structured like sermons. It wasn’t too difficult to produce as a staged reading, since the format of one person walking up to the microphone to speak was kept the same.

The play opens with the character Pastor Paul giving a sermon in which he rejects the idea that a loving God could possibly send anyone, even a non-believer, to hell. He informs his church that this is a new direction he will be leading the church in, and they will never again be horrible people who tell others they are going to hell. Associate Pastor Joshua cannot accept this, and challenges the idea, saying hell is in the Bible. Paul deflects his arguments and claims that the mentions of hell in the Bible are all mistakes of translation, and that it actually referred to a physical garbage dump. Finally, the congregation votes on which pastor they are willing to follow. Only 50 choose Joshua, and so Joshua and those 50 members leave.

Following continued tensions among the remaining members, more and more people leave the church, until Joshua’s new church is bigger than Paul’s remaining church. Paul’s church contacts Joshua and asks him to come back and replace Paul as pastor. He refuses but tells Paul, and, as opposed to earlier in the play, he is able to argue his case for hell effectively.

Although Joshua resolves many of the arguments against hell, the play still ends on an uncomfortable note. The audience is left with questions. Anticipating this, Professor of English Dr. Lisa Ashby selected a panel to talk through some of those questions.

The panelists, all pastors or theology experts, shared their thoughts on the play. They also discussed the theological issues of what happens when there is conflict in a congregation.

“It makes us realize how dangerous it can be when a person tries to put themselves in the center of what goes on in church instead putting Jesus in the center, especially when problems and issues arise,” Moore said.

Other topics mentioned by actors included the importance of communication, not struggling with doubts on your own, and the focus of the play’s conflict, namely the existence of hell.

Senior Tyler Raabe, who read the part of Associate Pastor Joshua, found this especially prevalent, as he could not remember the last time his congregation talked about hell. To him, it seems that Christians don’t necessarily know as much as they should about their own religion.

“I want the community to take away a better idea of how to hold the conversation of hell, especially us as Christians. How do we hold a conversation with other people, maybe people who don’t know what it is or don’t know much about it? I hope it encourages them to look up what Scripture says about hell,” Raabe said.

Ultimately, the play left the cast, panelists and audience all glad they went through the experience, even though it wasn’t all easy answers. Additionally, Moore was reassured by the conversation it produced.

“It gave us an opportunity to challenge, but also reaffirm, our faith. It made us realize why we believe what we believe, and as long as our faith is strong in that belief these kinds of human choices can be considered but ultimately overcome if we realize it’s not what we think it should be,” Moore said.

Please leave a reply. Your comment will be reviewed by the Sower editors before posting.