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In His Own Words

From Playwright’s Perspective by Lucas Hnath

When I was younger, I was supposed to be a preacher, but I decided it would be too much responsibility.

I didn’t want to worry about other peoples’ souls. I switched to pre-med. I didn’t want to worry about other peoples’ bodies. And so, I switched to playwriting.

The expectation that I become a preacher did not come out of nowhere. I grew up in churches. My mother went to seminary when I was in middle school. During the summer months I’d sit next to her during her classes. I learned some Greek, some Hebrew. I read books on stuff like hermeneutics. Some of it I understood. Some of it I pretended to understand.

In seminary you learn a lot about translation. You learn about how there can be more than one way to translate a word. And you come to realize just how many words the Bible has that could be translated this way or that way. The act of interpreting the Bible carries with it a lot of responsibility.

A friend from high school who ended up becoming a pastor recently said to me that pastors have to be very careful not to remake the gospel into their own image. But my question was, “How do we even avoid it?”

And while the plot of The Christians is far from ambiguous, the play is a series of contradictory arguments. No single argument “wins.” There’s no resolution. That lack of obvious resolution can be uncomfortable, agitating. But with a lot of practice, we can also learn to take pleasure in the agitation. And maybe something more complex and true becomes visible within the agitation.

I think back to my very brief pre-med days. I think back to a physics class I took. I think back to a picture from the course textbook. I think of this picture often.
The picture is of a very tiny particle. The only way you can see the particle is by colliding it with many other particles, from many different angles. But here’s what I’m getting at. Here’s something I believe:

A CHURCH IS A PLACE WHERE PEOPLE GO TO SEE SOMETHING THAT IS VERY DIFFICULT TO SEE. A PLACE WHERE THE INVISIBLE IS—AT LEAST FOR A MOMENT—MADE VISIBLE. THE THEATER CAN BE THAT TOO.

 

Excerpted from material originally prepared by Playwrights Horizons, for the New York premiere and reprinted here with permission.