"The Play's The Thing" -- Rev. Joy Mounts

The Play’s The Thing

Rev. Joy Mounts, Associate Minister

“...the play's the thing
Wherein I'll catch the conscience of the King.”
Hamlet Act 2, scene 2

It is a pivotal moment in the Shakespearean play Hamlet. The prince, Hamlet, decides to have a company of players visiting the castle present a play that will (spoiler alert) forcibly remind the current king, Claudius, how he murdered his brother - the previous king - and took the throne and the queen. But it will do more than that. The play within the play will also set into motion events that will lead to further revelation and in turn, more tragedy.

What Hamlet has to say about the power of a play to help us understand deeper truths in ways that we might not otherwise is not tragic at all. Plays can do this in all manner of ways. They can challenge us, shine a light on hidden things, lift our spirits, or simply be great entertainment.

I was reminded of all this during the recent FCC Theater trip to Martin Luther on Trial. A lab production play, presented by the Fellowship of Performing Artists, it is still in development. There were a few spots where I felt a little work needed to be done, but overall I enjoyed it. Set in the afterlife in a place between heaven and hell, Lucifer has called for Martin Luther to be put on trial for committing the “unforgivable sin.” This is defined in the play as rejecting God. The play has a lot of humor as well as darker moments. I was moved by the flashbacks to the challenges of Luther’s life and faith. He was a deeply flawed person, as we all are. He struggled to understand, to live his faith, to help others and to push away his personal demons. Here was a man who changed the Church in profound ways and was a deeply committed Christian, but also always second guessed himself. It was good to be reminded of his humanity, sometimes lost through the mists of time, and that many of the challenges he dealt with are all too familiar to most of us. I know they are for me.

To sit in the darkness and be reminded of how God uses flawed people in more ways than we can imagine was one of the gifts of this play. I hope that as they put the finishing touches on it they will not change or soften this.

What are the things plays, books, poems, etc that help us to catch our conscience in ways that lead to deeper self-knowledge, help us to live our faith lives, and remind us of the grace of God? That help us to be ourselves as God sees us? As the winter turns to spring, perhaps now is the perfect time to consider this, find it where we can, and see where it takes us.

Happy Growing Season! Peace,
Joy