Daily Archives: June 5, 2005

The Godspell According to Alpha/Omega

During an enchanting evening attending the Alpha/Omega Players encore performance of Godspell, I found myself reflecting upon the nature of man, the consciousness revolution that occurred during the second part of the 20th century, how popular media is uniquely suited to conveying powerful messages, and the simple essence of spiritual truth.The show and the continued existence of the theater group have been made possible by new funding from the borough of Birdsboro and J.P. Mascaro & Sons. Alpha/Omega nearly lost viability as a result of low funding and the need for renovations to their building. The reprise performances of Godspell (June 3rd and 4th; first presented in April) were a celebration and a thank you to the community for the theater’s newfound lease on life. Casting was superb. The talented performers gave every ounce of energy and enthusiasm to their performances. And that created a palpable sense of enjoyment in the audience. As Godspell is a perennial favorite among small-theater fare, many folks were seeing it again. Alpha/Omega’s version was as good as this show ever needs to be. The ensemble sang the familiar repertoire pitch-perfectly and with great panache.Godspell presents a group of adults dressed as fantastic young boys and girls acting out sketches related to The Gospel of St. Matthew. The costuming and on-stage antics of the cast create a situation where humans are portrayed as idealized flower children – innocent and lovable. Our sympathies are with them from the start. Underscored in the Stephen Schwartz script is the utter simplicity of the teachings of Christ. They are comprised of comprehensible nuggets of spiritual truth – hard to put into practice but easy to apprehend. This is a laudable approach and it is appropriate to the underlying messages here.This practice of popularizing arcane spiritual and philosophical wisdom is as old as the theater itself and has its roots in the ancient tales told by all cultures. The revolutions in world culture that shook the 1960s gave this trend a media-induced boost. Churches held rock versions of the Mass and all forms of media became “message conscious” in a way that echoed marketing methodologies.The trend itself is not without its inherent problems. The way in which new and different concepts can be disseminated by mass media is most effective in swaying large populations under the guise of entertaining them. There seems no limit to the number of radical, socially problematic, and downright offensive messages that can be foisted upon audiences using these techniques. Yet, in the context of Godspell, there’s nothing to be concerned about except for the underlying persuasiveness and all-pervasiveness of this approach.An absence of Christ-like living is characteristic of our lives today. The most basic and self-evidently constructive ways to treat each other and ourselves – charitably and with respect – seem lost to us. The notion that our daily lives can be suffused with love for our neighbor is alien to most of the situations in which we find ourselves. A non-sectarian and generalized understanding of the values that can tether our minds and give us cohesiveness as a civilization is crucial to our continued well being. The flexibility and adaptability of Godspell make it uniquely able to grow with us and even give us a sense of tradition as we move forward through the postmodern era.

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