Freedom is our third core principle. I can't speak for you, but I know from my own experience that I often go through life bound by fear of what others think of me. This causes me to suppress and hold back parts of who I am that I deem strange or odd. It causes me to put up walls so that I can protect myself from others. All of this leads to isolation unless I fight it.
One of the greatest tools that God has used to help draw me out of my fear has been theatre. Learning how to speak in front of people gave me confidence. At first it was only confidence in portraying another character or an idea, not confidence in my value, but it was a step in the right direction towards embracing freedom.
A few years back I read a book by Mark Westbrook called "Truth in Action". One of his main ideas was that acting is revelation not transformation. You never become the character on stage, rather that time on stage is exposing you. This shift in thinking made theatre frightening for a time as I began to see acting as walls being torn down, allowing people to see parts of who I was that weren't usually given prominence.
But then I read "The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness" by Timothy Keller. It's a little booklet that I wish I could assign to every actor I work with. It's premise is that freedom is found in ceasing to judge yourself or to allow others to judge you and resting in the justification that Jesus offers to everyone and bestows on you if you are apart of His bride.
I immediately saw the connection to my acting. When I'm on stage I don't need to worry about impressing the audience; I don't need to worry about whether they think I did a good job; I don't even need to worry if I think I did a good job. I would do my best - of course! to not would dishonor God - but I would not strive for justification, because I had that in Jesus.
Before I went on stage during my run as Mrs. Boyle in NCC's production of Mouse Trap last fall I would remind myself of that truth: that I didn't have to justify my worth through my performance. Usually I didn't have to think about it again. There was one night when a very special audience member was present and I had to fight not to worry about her approval, but other than that the simple reminder before stage helped me relax and have fun.
Ironically enough, where a Christian book helped me to free up my acting it took a theatrical book to help me free up in real life. Larry Silverberg's workbooks on the Meisner Method talk a great deal on focusing on others. He described exercises that help actors learn to turn off their self-obsession and really listen, respond, and interact with their scene partners.
It is a huge help to me when I am nervous about impressing people in every day situations to remember that I can calm my nerves by focusing on them, by listening to them, and interacting with them instead of using them to boost my own ego.
Mr. Silverberg also talked about how this freed us up to respond out of who we really are and what a gift that was to those around us. Isn't this the transparency that we talk about desiring was present in the church? The freedom for everyone to just be real, to put away the masks of togetherness and perfection and to allow the brokenness to show?
Theatre is a great way to encourage individuals to be comfortable with who they are. In some ways it is as simple training an actor to get out of their own head and care more about people. That transition of focus frees us up to relax and respond more naturally. Theatre also provides people with public speaking skills and experience in front of audiences which boost confidence and help with experience the freedom to be who we are as well.
But as much as I believe that theatre can help, I don't think it has the power to provide lasting freedom. Telling yourself that your value is not determined by others is true and is liberating for both on the stage and off of it. But unless you have something else to support your value you end up with a worldview that says I am valuable because I exist, and if you are anything like me that only works for as long as things are going the way you want them to. Once you make a mistake, or fail, or you name it, your value is thrown into question.
That's why I believe having the foundation of our intrinsic value must from God as our creator and Jesus as our redeemer. Resting on God's justification is what gives us lasting freedom. The theatre points to the fact that we can be free, but ultimately I believe that true freedom is found in Christ. We talk about that at POTS and correlate the two. When I am encouraging the kids to let go of self-conciousness, to let go of the audience and their friends estimation of their value, to let go of their performance defining them, I remind them that they can do this because God has made them with dignity and value, and because Jesus has bought them not perishable things but with His blood.
Embracing the value we have in Christ is where true freedom is found.