The Spirit at Work in the Performing Arts

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March 30, 2011

Ted Schwartz gave a workshop about the spirit in the performing arts. Despite the sleepy time-slot, immediately after lunch, soon everyone in the audience had forgotten their digestive drowsiness and was thoroughly engaged. 

He talked about the Spirit at work in the relationship between the audience and the performers. Is the Spirit always at work in the performing arts? What does that mean? Does the Spirit always make us comfortable and feel good in art? What about the dark side of theatre and arts?

Schwartz showed a series of comments he had received from audience members. The tone of the responses ranged from ecstatic and filled with praise, to hate mail. Audience members asked what kind of performance could he possibly have done to deserve the latter, filled with hatred and threats.

Pointing out that in fact, both the positive and the negative reviews were from the same night of performance, Schwartz asked, "Where is the Holy Spirit here?"

My favourite part came when he tested it out with us as he performed a 7 minute "overview" of the book of Revelation, part of a longer piece called "Tattered and Worn." Through the eyes of Zeus, a homeless man who finds a book in the subway, Schwartz streams together Zeus personal story  with the wild visions and images of Revelation.

The juxtaposition sat with me.

Recently having read J. Nelson Kraybill's Apocalypse and Allegiance: Worship, Politics, and Devotion in the Book of Revelation, I couldn't help but connect the concepts of empire with the story of the homeless man, the realities of economic injustices in the world, and the beast of the market that demands allegiance over all.

But then the real hope on Zeus' face appeared at the end and I saw John's vision for the new world through his eyes. "No more tears, pain, all the suffering is gone…. Don't be afraid, don't be afraid, don't be afraid."

Was it the Spirit at work?

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