What “Discipleship through Drama” Looks Like

What "Discipleship through Drama" Looks Like

Kittywham Productions has a tagline that only appears on one or two pages of our site. But it’s a phrase that carries rich meaning: “Discipleship through Drama.”

“Discipleship” gets a fair amount of airtime in Christian circles, which I think is good, although I wonder if sometimes it becomes a vague, almost mystical concept. As I understand the word, discipleship simply means learning about Jesus and growing in relationship with Him. To be a disciple is to be a student, and to be a student—in the oldest sense of the word—is not simply to “study” something, but to desire and dedicate oneself to it, to pursue it zealously.

Perhaps the term discipleship can seem slightly vague to us because it does, in fact, have at least two meanings. The practice of discipleship means being a disciple, but it also means helping others to be disciples. When we describe our scripts with the phrase Discipleship through Drama, we really do mean discipleship—both senses of the word. I intend for my plays to help audiences grow in their relationship to God, but I hope for the actors to be learning at the same time. I want my scripts to turn all eyes upon Christ and to portray Him, and life in Him, as they really are.

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How does this work, practically? How does discipleship happen through drama?

We encounter truth in many different forms, but one of my favorite forms is Story (no surprise there—it’s kind of why I write plays). And stories work primarily by showing us truth, rather than telling us. In a story, we watch characters like us living life, either living it well or living it badly, and true stories show us that the good life is desirable and the bad life is not.

So in The Twelve Months of Christmas, for example, I created two main characters: Charlotte Holland, the protagonist, and Morris Holland, the antagonist. Charlotte cares about others and serves selflessly, and (although she doesn’t walk an easy path) she reaps the benefits of her actions and lives a full, contented life. Morris, on the other hand, cares only about his own interests and treats others with contempt—and he’s about as miserable as you can imagine.

Now, unless I’ve done my job terribly wrong, no one leaves the theater thinking, “Wow, how about that Morris guy! I just want to model my life on his, you know? I’m gonna try to be more like him from now on.” If that ever happens, I should lock my author’s pen in a steelclad coffin, bury it deep underground, and retire to the countryside to raise chickens in solitude. Seriously.

No—if the play succeeds, what happens is that people walk out of the theater pondering the character of Charlotte Holland and thinking to themselves, “What a lovely young woman! So compassionate, and gracious, and full of joy. The way she sacrificed for others was so beautiful. How can I be more like her?”

That’s discipleship.

1970 02 03_0711The Cast

But discipleship happens on another level: the activity of performing a play teaches the actors themselves.

In a way, the story impacts the actors much as it impacts the audience, but on a profoundly personal level. The cast members aren’t sitting back passively, receiving the story: they’re imagining themselves in the characters, in the story, almost experiencing it firsthand. They speak words that were put in their mouths and imprinted on their minds. They express emotions and attitudes that aren’t their own. They’ve almost become another person.

What better way to teach? Drama can speak and show truth to the audience, but it invades the actors. The appeal of the good life or the repulsion of the bad life becomes impossible to ignore when you’re an active participant in it.

That’s what “Discipleship through Drama” means for us. I hope these thoughts are helpful, especially for those of you performing our plays this year!

P.S. We’ve got big things planned for this weekend—a sitewide sale! You can follow our Facebook page for updates or check in here after Thanksgiving for the lowest prices Kittywham has seen all year!

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