We Make the Text Dance.

I just finished directing the perfArts team for Urbana15 in St. Louis, Missouri, on the floor of the Jones Dome, where the Rams used to play football. This is the article I wrote for Urbana’s conference newspaper, Urbana Today:

The Urbana 15 Performing Arts Team tells stories and makes them live in ways that will help you experience and remember them, be challenged and changed by them. We do this because Jesus did it, laying out the gospel using comedy, drama, angst, and suspense in stories and images that have not only stayed around, but have also shaped us for thousands of years. We think that’s pretty compelling.

For us, the best part of the process is getting inside the story, seeing what the characters saw, understanding how things went down and why, and asking, What was that like? We spent over a year studying the passages we’ll be working on here at Urbana, getting to know Matthew as a writer and his audience as hearers. The Performing Arts Team basically takes the same path as the Bible Study Team, studying, exploring, applying, and coming to grips with the text.

What does that look like? Here’s a glimpse. Last summer we were sitting outside a cafe studying the women at the tomb. (I don’t want to wreck anything for you, but Jesus rises from dead at the end of Matthew’s Gospel.) Galvin made this observation about the text: “It’s kind of odd that Jesus meets them. The women are already doing what the angel told them to do—they’re on their way to Galilee to tell the disciples he has risen from the dead.”

We all look at the text: he’s right.

He continues, “It almost seems like they’re the last ones hired.” Referring to the parable of the workers in the vineyard in Matthew 20, he says, “Like the landowner, Jesus doesn’t really have to show up to greet them—he still does. But why?” Clearly there’s a connection. We explore it. It thrills us, and informs the way we understand the passage and develop the art.

Then we make the text dance. And sing. And act. Why? Because while talks and Bible studies are fantastic (we love them), different modes of communication help different kinds of people . . . and some stories are better danced than acted or sung than spoken. Art calls our attention to fine points in the text; it directs us to what we might prefer to avoid and coaxes us to consider angles and voices that might otherwise have stayed hidden. It condenses human experience — like poetry, but beyond words, with image, action, and inflection.

As it becomes available you’ll be able to see our team’s videos posted here. Scripts will be available in the “Shop” section soon. May our work lead you deeper into Scripture and closer to our creative, purposeful God who wants to transform your heart. Enjoy.