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Interpreting The Role
© 01.29.2013 By D. Eric Williams

This article appeared in the January 31 edition of the Cottonwood Chronicle

WisemenThe dramatist is what J.R.R. Tolkien calls a "successful sub creator. He makes a secondary world which (our) mind can enter. Inside it, what he relates is 'true': it accords with the laws of that world." In other words, a skilled storyteller dreams up a believable world with its own truth, origins and unfolding of history. The writer/director also provides outlines and pointers for actors in his drama. Outlines are not the same as truth or law but are promptings on how to present the assigned role. The director's goal is to maintain harmony in disclosing the reality created by the writer.

The first thing an actor is expected to do is memorize his lines. However, he must not simply commit words to memory; he must also understand an entire culture. Performing artists should know their character and the other characters so the story flows naturally. This is especially important for an actor as he brings his own personality to bear upon his role. It is interesting to see how different thespians will interpret the same character. Although my entire family enjoys Scarlet Pimpernel books and films, we recognize that not all Scarlet Pimpernel movies are created equal. For instance, some actors interpret the role of Sir Percival Blakeney in a fashion off-putting to my household while other performers play the part to perfection. Yet, no matter how an actor interprets and presents his role he must remain true to the story. It simply would not do for a histrion to insert Big Jake McCandles a la John Wayne into the position occupied by Msgr. Chauvelin in the Scarlet Pimpernel. This would be theatrical rebellion of the most inexcusable sort. Any performer who demanded the right to insert a foreign character into the drama would soon be out of a job.

We learn something about God and his creation by taking note of writers and directors of performing arts. As mentioned last week this is so because they are thinking God's thoughts after him. They reveal they are made in the image of God in their unintended imitation of the Creator.

God has created a particular reality. He has determined what is truth and what is non truth. His own being determines right and wrong and he conveys that in his revealed word; no one has the authority to change the definition of truth or the distinction between right and wrong. This is his story not ours.

Along with absolute truth God provides guidance to actors in his cosmic drama. Every human being has a conscience and those who are in Christ have the more important counsel of the Holy Spirit.

Just as an actor in a human drama must memorize his lines and learn the "culture" of the contrived universe, we also must learn the language and culture of the kingdom. We must be steeped in the Scripture, learning to think, speak and act in Christlikeness. But we are no more puppets in this Grand Adventure then is the actor in a Hollywood film. Like the movie star, we are given freedom to interpret the role assigned us. This doesn't mean he gives us leave to be Big Jake McCandles on the Scarlet Pimpernel set. That reflects the behavior of the unregenerate not a follower of Christ. Instead, we are encouraged to develop our personality, skills, interests and passions within the parameters of godliness as presented in the script. And this is a mystery. There is no doubt God is sovereign and that all things take place according to his determined will. Nothing can thwart his plans and nothing happens apart from his will. Nevertheless we make daily decisions about how to think, speak and act that originate from our truly free will. This is our interpretation of the role. It is a part written by the Almighty in the inalterable cosmic drama that we make our own in Jesus Christ.

We must not think that rave reviews ensure our performance will be a hit. Apart from Jesus Christ even critical acclaim ultimately bombs at the box office and the role graciously granted concludes at death. Apart from Christ the bad actor suffers hell for his failure to do justice to his part. Only those in Christ are blessed with an eternal role in the unending Grand Adventure.

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