Talking back to Hope Theatre

“The Christians,” the recently staged production by the Hope College Theatre Department, is a play full of questions but few answers. Seems right when delving into themes of faith and doubt. Seems right for good drama, too.

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Richard Perez, assistant professor of theatre and director of “The Christians”

Yet too many questions with not enough answers can be unsettling. So, Richard Perez, the play’s director and an assistant professor of theatre, employed the use of “talkbacks” at the conclusion of each of the play’s six performances to help theatergoers navigate and give voice to the tricky topics of love and fear, belief and uncertainty.

Unlike a panel discussion, Perez’s talkbacks did just what the name implies: they offered audience members the chance to ask their own questions to diverse, three- to four-person panels made up of 20 different Hope professors and administrators, as well as pastors from the Holland community, each night. Even Hope President John Knapp took part. The post-production discussions provided opportunities for open dialogue and furthered conversations about thematic aspects of the play. In doing so, viewers of Hope’s production of “The Christians” were ultimately seeking input and insight about questions important to their own faith lives. This kind of engagement on matters of faith is a hallmark of a Hope College education.

“’I’m so glad they did that (offered talkbacks),” said Hope freshman Michael Macks, who attended on opening night. “It gave me a chance to hear what other people thought about some of the questions I had, such as, do some people believe a certain way because their parents do? When does faith become our own?”

The post-production discussions provided opportunities for open dialogue and furthered conversations about thematic aspects of the play. In doing so, viewers of Hope’s production of “The Christian” were ultimately seeking input and insight about questions important to their own faith lives. This kind of engagement on matters of faith is a hallmark of a Hope College education.

“I have been so pleased with how well this play was received,” says Perez. “I heard many people talking about their impressions and questions as they were walking out of the (DeWitt) theater. One of our intro theatre classes spent an entire class period on it even though that is not what the professor had originally planned. I could not have asked for anything more than that.”

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Hope College’s production of “The Christians,” the play’s collegiate premiere.

A fast ride with five actors, a nine-person choir and no intermission, the play is also currently being staged off Broadway to excellent reviews. Hope College gave “The Christians” its collegiate premiere and was even mentioned in a New York Times article about the playwright, Lucas Hnath.

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