REFLECTIONS ON ‘THE CHRISTIANS’

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Pastor Paul looks down at the pulpit as he addresses his congregation in The Christians, a play at Hardin-Simmons University. Photo courtesy Ben Burke

 

IF YOU GO
What: The Christians
When: Jan. 31-Feb. 4 (7:30 p.m. Jan. 31-Feb. 3; 2 p.m. Feb. 4)
Where: Hardin-Simmons University Behrens Auditorium
Tickets: Order online at www.hsutx.edu/tickets General admission, $10; senior citizens, military and non-HSU students, $5; groups of 10 or more, $4 (Call 670-1405 to order group tickets)
Details: The HSU Theater Department is presenting the play by Lucas Hnath (pronounced nayth); after the performances Wednesday-Saturday, a local pastor or chaplain will lead a 30-minute discussion for anyone who wishes to stay.

“It feels good to know people won’t just leave the show being entertained, but stirred in way that they want to look at their beliefs in a new way.”
Bridgett Mistrot (Elizabeth, pastor’s wife)

By LORETTA FULTON

The theater department at a Christian university presenting a play titled The Christians seems like a no-brainer. Until you hear the opening.

On a day that a megachurch is celebrating its debt being paid off, the pastor drops a bombshell: The church will be going in a new direction–no longer will they believe in the existence of hell. The church will no longer be a church that says what it teaches is the only way to believe.

“We are no longer that kind of church,” Pastor Paul tells the congregation.

To say that all hell breaks loose would be an understatement. The congregation is confused, angry, and stretched to examine its beliefs. The audience may feel some of those emotions, too.

The 90-minute play will address those issues. Following the shows Wednesday-Saturday, a local pastor or chaplain will lead a 30-minute discussion. The audience is invited to participate or they can leave before the talk-back.

The play is directed by HSU theater professor Victoria Spangler. Cast members are Bridgett Mistrot (Elizabeth, pastor’s wife); Titanyna Hudson (Jennifer, congregant); Michael Kelly (Pastor Paul); Brandon Sparks-Moffett (Joshua, associate pastor); and Robert Taylor, Jr. (Jay, church elder)

Following are reflections from four of the cast members. Photos are courtesy of

Ben Burke, Hardin-Simmons University educational theater major

ROBERT TAYLOR JR. (Jay, church elder)
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The Christians is a very interesting show to me. After being cast, I was very excited to read the whole show and see how everything played out. My character Jay, is the only character in the show that seems to not be concerned with Pastor Paul’s sermon. His concern is that if people are leaving the church, there won’t be a church. He sees everything from a business standpoint which is very interesting to me. He puts aside personal views for what, in reality, is the most important aspect of the church. “What good is a church that no one goes to?” is a line Jay says, and it could very well be the theme of the show. If a church doesn’t have donors it will not last, that’s just the tragic truth.

TITANYNA HUDSON (Jennifer, a congregant)
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This play really opened my eyes up to the real theological questions that people are asking. At first, I thought this play was dangerous, because I didn’t want to be the one responsible for ingraining any doubts about the afterlife in people’s minds. But then I read the play again, I prayed, and God really opened my heart to the beauty of this play. I think God wants us to have questions. I now know that I can’t force someone to believe what I believe. All I can do is just be a witness and testify about why I believe what I believe and listen to others when they do the same.

 

 

Michael Bentea Kelly (Pastor Paul)
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When I first read The Christians it took me 20 minutes, (it’s not very long), but I’m still not done processing it. The show is one of the few I’ve read that keeps me up at night asking question after question and going in circles trying to figure out where I stand in all of the chaos I never knew about. I play Paul, the pastor of the megachurch that The Christians focuses on. He and the rest of the characters travel on an unexpected and almost terrifying journey of faith-crippling discovery. I’ve never connected so much to a character’s frustration than I have with Paul and his powerful yearning to connect with the people that he loves. It draws out of me a longing I’ve never experienced and a hunger to be understood. What I hope audiences take away from The Christians is the simple idea that we are all closer than we think we are. It doesn’t take much to make a small connection with the person next to you if we can all remember to see past ourselves and cherish the little time we have with each other.

BRANDON SPARKS-MOFFETT (Associate Pastor Joshua)

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The Christians is an uplifting play that battles with the internal struggles against the belief that many people feel strongly about. The script gives so much life to each character and challenges us as actors to understand the experiences these characters go through. Not all actors have been through what the characters have gone through, so it’s definitely a true test as actors to be able to present the struggles that I myself haven’t been through in my life. Its changed my opinion of how I view things, such as, I’ve found more compassion for others and the problems they face in their lives. When I take the script home and read over the lines I find a new personal message every time, which is a true testament of just how influential this play actually is. This play has helped me be more sympathetic and I’ve become more open-minded and realize that anyone can struggle with problems they face internally. In “The Christians” I play Associate Pastor Joshua, who has been given a sermon that not only disturbed his faith but opened his personal wounds that we don’t usually notice in people on a normal daily basis. It’s amazing that people can have these problems and we don’t even see it in them. I love this play and can’t wait to see the audience’s reactions and to see how well we as actors conveyed the message of the play.

BRIDGETT MISTROT (Elizabeth, pastor’s wife)

Bridgett (1)The Christians has been such a fascinating play to work on. Not only because of all of the layers I’ve found in my character but because of the theologically thought provoking questions it has made everyone in the cast ask ourselves. It has both challenged and affirmed my beliefs. I play the pastor’s wife Elizabeth who, along with the other characters, has to ask herself some extremely challenging and new questions. Her questions leave her wondering who she was, who she is, and who her faith will lead her to become–all questions that I have personally asked myself. What I love the most about taking on this show is that we have been given the opportunity to encourage the conversation about one of the most important topics of all: faith. It feels good to know people won’t just leave the show being entertained, but stirred in way that they want to look at their beliefs in a new way. 

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