Theatre, Tony Awards & Engaging CultureNaima Lett | Blog | Thursday June 7 2012
DAILY DOSE OF HOPE – BLOG – NAIMA LETT
THEATRE, TONY AWARDS & ENGAGING CULTURE
©Tony Awards, CBS Sun June 10th, 8 pm
Tony, Tony, Tony!
Awards, that is!
(Not the music group, Tony! Toni! Toné!)
They’re back. The Antoinette Perry Awards for Excellence in Theatre aka The Tony Awards will air LIVE this Sunday at 8 PM ET. The award garners its name from the co-founder of the American Theatre Wing, the organization that created and sponsors the awards.
For those of us who are theatre babies, it’s the coronation ball.
For the rest of world, probably not so much.
And for the faith-filled world, it’s Tony what?! :=)
Now, before my faith fam clicks away, journey with me for a minute.
A couple of things you may find interesting:
First, Condola Rashād, 25, daughter of Phylicia Rashād, has been nominated for Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play for Stick Fly, which was co-produced by Grammy Award winner Alicia Keys. Phylicia, fellow Howard University Alum best known for her role as Clair Huxtable on The Cosby Show, became the first African-American actress to win the Tony Award in 2004 for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Play for A Raisin in the Sun. Like mother like daughter. Not bad for Condola’s first time on Broadway.
Secondly, I wouldn’t want to be competing in the Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role in a Play category. Whew! Heavy hitters. Philip Seymour Hoffman, James Earl Jones, Frank Langella, John Lithgow! Geez! It’s like a Who’s Who of not just theatre, but TV & Film.
Which brings me to the crossover effect! Did anybody watch NBC’s breakout hit Smash, co-produced by Steven Spielberg? Broadway staples like Megan Hilty and Bernadette Peters (whom I had to privilege to work with on Lifetime’s Living Proof) finally received a vehicle into prime time. I’ve never really been a fan of lead Katharine McPhee (American Idol runner up, Season 5), but if you ever want to get a snapshot of the behind-the-scenes scandal of our theatrical world, Smash nails it.
I’m not saying you have to watch the Awards on Sunday, especially if you’re not familiar with the shows on Broadway; but I do think it would be incredible if you took a second and looked at the Tony website, to figure out what’s actually nominated and ask the question, “Why?”
The arts, in general, and theatre, in particular, have consistently been the great barometer of our society. If you want to know where a nation is headed in a couple of decades, look at what’s playing on its stages now 8 shows a week, Tuesday through Sunday. That’s where the intellects, who make the decisions that affect the whole country, gather to engage, feel, think, and experience.
The very issues that are playing out politically today played first on our stages in the early 1990s and 2000s. Our faith fam are alarmed and trying to
figure out what in the world happened, and my usual answer is, “We left.”
What do I mean?
Instead of engaging culture and staying in the arenas that really matter to hold the dialogues, bring the truth perspective that we are privileged to have, and shine brightly as light as we’ve been commissioned to do, we opted to take our ball from the game, go home, and start our own game in our own backyard with just us and a “Do Not Disturb” sign on the fence.
Emmy Award-winning producer, the late Bob Briner, wrote an entire book about this phenom in 1993 called Roaring Lambs: A Gentle Plan to Radically Change Your World. Briner said that he wrote “with the hope that Christian young people will choose careers and professions that will place them in the ‘culture shaping’ venues of our world” i.e. film, television, theatre, literature, visual arts, and the academies. He dared ask the question, “Where are all the Christians?”
Well, today, I’d like to piggy back on Briner’s charge and invite followers of Christ back into the cultural dialogue, and not necessarily with a boycott sign. While that may soothe the inner voice that says, “I did something!”, boycotting doesn’t involve relationships – you know, rolling up our sleeves and doing life with folks – talking, arguing, loving, respecting.
Why are we so afraid to get in public, and love and respect people enough to intelligently disagree? Notice, I didn’t say, ‘burn books’. I’m advocating to pick up the books, read them, and intelligently and articulately disagree where truth is concealed. Jesus did it all the time. But He actually disagreed more with the religious leaders. Go figure! Might’ve had something to do with being called to the nation of Israel first.
Paul, on the other hand, called to Gentiles, lit it up. Have you read the Book of Acts? What about Acts 17? Paul’s discourse in Athens on Mars Hill placed him right smack dead in the middle of the market place with Epicurean and Stoic philosophers, Jews, God-fearing Gentiles, and everything in between. Paul didn’t get upset when people disagreed or sneered at him. He didn’t swoon and say, “Woe is me! Secular men don’t agree with me!” He spoke truth. Some believed. Some didn’t. Who believes is not up to Paul anyway. He does his part, which is to engage in the dialogue.
Let’s do that!
Engage in culture.
Engage in the dialogue.
Briner reminds us repeatedly in his book of Jesus’ call in the Book:
14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
WHO’S THE LIGHT?
We’re the light of the world, Fam.
The world is not the light of the world.
Blind can’t lead the blind.
We’re the light and we’re not supposed to hide off in our own little corner with our own little agenda for only us to enjoy. We’re called to let our light shine so that others will see our good deeds and glorify our Father in heaven.
Go represent, Fam!
Go be the light wherever you are.
PRAY FOR US
And do me a favor: Instead of the default set on ‘bash’, please pray for our fellow fam that are called to be light in the theatre world and on Broadway and on TV and in films. Pray, pray, pray! We need your prayers and support and love. We’re doing our best to be light. And we’ve got opposition coming from all sides, especially from our family of faith.
So, please, intercede for us. Stand in the gap.
Pray for us like we’re your children & if we are your children, even more so.
Pray for the Lord to infuse us with His Spirit and add oil to our fire.
Pray for Him to give us wisdom, discernment and courage not to compromise.
Pray for us to love people like God loves people, and stand fearless as witnesses for truth.
We’ve been given a beautiful gift of expression that is able to transform hearts and minds. Pray for purity of our gifts in place of perversions. And especially pray for our motives – that we would remain humble and close to the Lord. His Spirit is able to convict us. Trust God. He will lead and guide us. We ask for your prayers.
And I don’t do this a lot, but I specifically ask for your prayers for me and Kevin as we share God’s word and love with the dream makers and dream chasers here in Beverly Hills and Hollywood. This is our family, just like our faith family, and we are doing our best to translate languages on both sides so that there is more understanding… kind of like a bridge of sorts.
Why? Because we want to be a part of the conversation and the arts platform today that shapes the culture that affects our children 20 years from now. Don’t you?!
Shine, Light. Shine!
P.S. We’re preaching for our doctoral residency on Friday, so no new blog tomorrow. :=(
This blog will post today and tomorrow. Have a great weekend!
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