The cost of challenging one’s beliefs, the responsibility of leadership, and the distance that exists when people of strong convictions and common faith discover that they might not believe the same thing takes “Center Stage” with the production, “The Christians.” The stage play opened Thursday, September 14, 2017, and runs through Sunday, October 8, 2017, and is the theater’s first production of the 2017/18 Season.
Does absolute tolerance require tolerance of the intolerant? Can a divided head find a way to lead? When the stakes are eternity, what happens if your pastor is wrong? These are some of the questions raised in The Christians, which features singing by the Greater Baltimore Church of Christ Choir (performing Sep 7–17); Community Choir of Baltimore Center Stage (performing Sep 19–Oct 1); and New Psalmist Baptist Church Choir (performing Oct 3–8).
“The Christians specifically examines leadership and faith,” said Baltimore Center Stage Artistic Director Kwame Kwei-Armah. “Faith is fundamentally what we have all been discussing since 9/11. The church in this play is a metaphor for our communities and our country.”
He added, “What happens when you no longer trust those you have entrusted to lead you? I’m thrilled to bring this production to Baltimore and for Center Stage to serve as a convener of many more conversations about leadership...in Baltimore, in Maryland and in our country.”
Baltimore’s Center Stage’s Associate Artistic Director, Hana Sharif is directing the production, which boasts a majestic set converting the venue’s Pearlstone Theater into a modern-day megachurch.
“It has been incredible,” said Sharif. “Night after night, the audience has responded. I don’t think there is anyone who has walked away without affirmation of their experience or belief system or questioning it. The charge for us was to be a place where everyone felt they had access to this journey and experience. I wanted people to connect no matter what walk of life or religion they come from.”
She added, “That is the fabric of Lucas Hnath’s work. There are a lot of Bible verses in the play. He went as far as to choose translations from different versions of The Bible— some not being part of the mainstream. He wanted to create a patch of work that examined different aspects of Christianity. We used that as a filter for how we looked at the work and in creating the tapestry of the church. This piece really allowed us to have a beautiful sense of community connectivity.”
During its run, there will be activities aimed at engaging theatergoers in conversation. This includes “Table Talk” for impromptu, audience-driven conversations, as well as post-show panel discussions with leaders from different faiths and opportunities to meet the actors.
“We also have a very diverse cast,” said Sharif. “The show and the audience has been a wonderful representation of the City of Baltimore. This show tackles such essential questions. Religion is used as a metaphor to address questions regarding leadership and sacrifice. We are dealing with such things right now in the arena of politics and economics.”
She added, “This play helps us to navigate our way through questions relating to humanity. This is a beautiful compelling story that I hope that everyone twill have an opportunity to enjoy.”
Baltimore Center Stage is a professional, nonprofit institution committed to entertaining, engaging and enriching audiences through bold, innovative and thought-provoking classical and contemporary theater.
To purchase tickets for The Christians or for more information, visit www.centerstage.org or call the box office at (410) 332- 0033.