Sunday, 18 November 2012

Actors and Priests: Theatre and Liturgy.

My good pal Ben and I went to see a production of Wm. Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night” at Sarasota’s Asolo Repertory Theatre this afternoon.

I know very little about theatre, but when the actor who played Duke Orsino spoke the very first lines of the play “If music be the food of love, play on..” I guessed that there might be a problem.

“Something” did not seem right.

Ben has spent a lifetime in and around professional theatre.

At the intermission (I called this “half past twelve -  bad joke!), he began to expound about the shortcomings of this particular production. I respected his professional judgment.

So we quit, and went home.

As I thought about this I “knew” from where Ben was coming.

For you see, as a retired Priest I often cringe at the sloppy, casual, or unfocused ways in which various Priests in various parishes lead the liturgy.  My professional judgement is offended, and I often want to get up and leave, (I did so once).

It’s not that I am “better” than those Priests.

It’s more like what happens when an electrician sees faulty wiring, a plumber sees lazily installed joints, a bricklayer has to re-do poor work.

As “pros” we actors, priests, plumbers, electricians and bricklayers want to do our very best.

 So we are dismayed when others in our skill-sets seem ready to settle for sloppiness and second best.

Since my retirement (2006) I have attended at least nineteen places of worship in the Episcopal Church.

In some of them the liturgy has been abysmally presented;

in others the liturgy has been mediocre.

In a few the liturgy has been good.

In three the liturgy has been excellent. 

They were:

1. Trinity Church, Wilmington DE where I happened to be in late 2006.

2. The Cathedral in St. Petersburg FL where I was for the funeral of the wife of the Bishop of South West Florida.

3. The Cathedral of St. Phillip in Atlanta GA where I was for the ordination of my friend Tracy Wells Miller.


Good actors and good Priests are similar. We long for excellence in our “shows”

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