All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts, . . .
[As You Like It, Act II, Scene VII]
One can forgive a playwright for casting all of life as a stage. Indeed, Shakespeare by so doing ended up revealing a psychology of human social interaction that is informative and helpful. What role did you play today? What lines were you given? What improvisation did you make when interrupted by an audience member or by a misplaced prop? What kind of entrance did you make this morning, grand? Quiet?
Every Sunday we of Riverside Baptist Church worship in an auditorium at a local middle school. It has a stage with a beautiful burgundy curtain. The chairs squeak. The sound reverberates against hard walls, making the speaking and singing parts at times difficult to hear. But you recall middle school and plays don’t you? How exciting it was to work for the first time on a theater crew, arranging the moving parts of scenery and stage; how tense for actors to remember their lines and for singers to sing in tune; and how delightful to play one’s role before parents and family and friends. To say that each Sunday we “play” at church is not flippant, but is as profound as Shakespeare’s keen insight into our daily lives that unfold into Acts, scenes and exits.
Like the Pulitzer Prize winning play, Our Town, we begin with the Stage Manager making announcements and orienting people to the surroundings, helping the audience to transition from “audience” to the role of “congregation” and this occurs just after the stage crew has covered a simple plastic table with a cloth, placed flameless battery-operated candles on it, along with a chalice that was made by a local potter in our last service in the building that used to stand on the corner of 7th & Maine. As Thorton Wilder has the Stage Manager say, this is Maine Street (our Maine is named after the state) and this is Our Town. And our “sanctuary” now is a middle school auditorium and the props include school paraphernalia collected in corners, school signs and wide hallways with their shiny floors. As with any play, whether or not you can see the world through the thinly constructed scenery depends on your own imagination and willingness to look into and through your own life. Charles Isher, writing for the New York Times wrote about Thornton’s play, “Wilder sought to make sacraments of simple things. In Our Town he cautioned us to recognize that life is both precious and ordinary, and that these two fundamental truths are intimately connected. “
This he could have written about Our Church. When you drive down Maine Avenue in SW these days, you’re likely to be distracted by cranes, large trucks, unfinished buildings being pieced together and flagmen. But along that avenue is a rippled roofline of Arena Stage, a beautiful and provocative building that dominates the skyline and by its transparency invites any and everyone in to view a stage, a play, and their life. But it’s not the only stage in town. Just down the road in a brick middle school, an audience gathers weekly to learn lines, sing interludes, make gentle entrances and courageous exits. Indeed, we “make sacraments of simple things.” Every week, each Sunday, 10 a.m. just off of Maine. ~Ladies and Gentlemen, See you Sunday ~