Going to “Church”
Andy Dayton, Associate Web Producer
While much of the SOF staff was in D.C. last Thursday for Krista’s conversation with E.J. Dionne and David Brooks, a few of us went to “Church” at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. The “Church” I’m referring to is a performance of experimental playwright Young Jean Lee’s play, which the New York Times’ Jason Zinoman described as “an unorthodox contemporary worship service, complete with sermon, praise dancing and a gospel choir.”
It was definitely an engaging experience — at times funny, thought-provoking, stirring, even just confusing. Lee’s parents were converted evangelical Christians, but Lee struggled with her parents’ faith: “I was not a religious person. I resisted and fought through my entire childhood and adolescence.” Writing “Church” was a challenge to herself to create “the last show in the world that [I] would ever want to make,” and what resulted was an ambiguous adaptation of a church service — one that refused to be completely earnest or ironic, but fluctuated somewhere in between.
After seeing the performance, Nancy — who’s been filling in for Colleen during her maternity leave — tracked down this conversation between the creator of “Church” and playwright/director Lear Debessonet. The two women touched on how Christianity is often encountered in contemporary theater:
Ms. Lee: Most of what I’ve seen up until this point has been critiques and making fun. Christians are just not taken seriously at all, which is what my show came out of. But I have a feeling there’s going to be a big wave of theatrical stuff dealing with evangelical Christians over the next year.
Ms. Debessonet: I think the downtown artistic community is realizing we don’t really have the option of dismissing [evangelical Christianity] anymore. This is a force in our world. There are so many millions of people that do believe this, and for us not to even attempt to engage them or understand what’s driving them seems irresponsible artistically.