Sunday, January 3, 2010

Performance and Preaching

I've found an interesting article fromRichard Ward on the intersection between performance studies and preaching. Using performance studies theory, he explores what it means for a preacher to be one spoken to and speaking the biblical texts, how preaching is more than the conveying of information, or even persuasion, but is part of the worship of the church.

Herb Sennett uses the performance theories of Schechner and Turner, who go beyond 'aesthetic drama' to analyse the performative elements of life, to understand the performance of preaching. He also dabbles in a bit of Bahktin, ("We act confidently only when we do so not as ourselves, but as those possessed by the immanent necessity of the meaning of some domain of culture." The African American preacher finds his significance in the community of faith and in the community in which he lives. Within these structures, he knows who he is and why he is. With that confidence, he acts as he ought and as he is guided by the word of God.) to explain how the black preacher in America functions within the community.

In the same journal Eli Rozik tears apart the argument that theatre developed out of religious ritual, either in Greece or in Medieval Christendom. The twentieth centuries penchant for constructed ritual in theatre is due to it's rampant individualism, not some innate connection between the two. Rozik really isn't impressed by quasi-religious symbolism in theatre,quoting Schechner,
"a contradiction undermines these efforts. [...] When artists, or their audiences, recognize that these staged "rituals" are mostly symbolic activities masquerading as effective acts, a feeling of helplessness overcomes them. So-called "real events" are revealed as metaphors."
but is a lot happier with the religious use of theatre.

Jana Childer offers some areas where the practice of theatre and preaching may over lap.
"Skills that build the use of concentration, imagination and observation (a la Stanislavsky, Boleslavsky, Viola Spolin, etc.) are of equal use to the preacher as the actor - both for the moments in the pulpit where the preacher operates as an actor (assuming a personae) and for the moments in the study where the preacher operates as playwright."

2. Attitudes
"Attitudes of respect for space, audience, body, and the text’s author which are common in the theatre, and especially important in the experimental theatre, may contain some answers for modern preaching’s problems."

3. Habits of the heart
Habits of the heart which are often cultivated by preachers, [page 7] including faith (i.e., confidence in the Creative Power) and openness (i.e., toward reciprocity and the mutual transformation it implies) may be of interest to some actors.

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