Shiloh Church in Oakland, CA, just completed its fifth annual performance of The Beautiful Cross, A Poetic Flow, dedicated to the resurrection of our Lor and Saviour Jesus Christ. It was by far their best performance ever, and not just of the Easter production, but including those for the Harvest Festival (i.e. Halloween).
To be fair, I have worked for several professional theatres and my standards might be a bit high for what is essentially a community theatre in terms of training, budget, and experience. But many times I have not been impressed with the direction or script of productions that stray into the trite, convenient, or incredible.
This year’s production had few changes from the 2010 version, but the those made increased believability, relevance, and topicality, such as a skeptical professor poking fun at the claims of Harold Camping that Judgment Day will be May 21 of this year. My main objection was the lack of a program so I can cite performers by name; I will be contacting the church to get a cast list and updating that in the future if possible.
The performance remains a bit disjointed, jumping from Christ’s time to modern times and back, sometimes without correlation. However, part of this is the vigniette-style used, which is an artisitc choice as likely to work for someone else as it does not for me.
It missed a real opportunity to have a Christian in a group of four college students working together on a project to evangelize to a fellow student whose philosophies were clearly formed from distrust and disenfranchisement from a white dominated society that seemed to include Christianity. He could have reached out to her by referencing all the scriptures used in the lyrics of the artist whose shirt she bore, Bob Marley–perhaps the writer or director was unaware of this fact.
What these performances never lack is incorporation of other art. The poetry is good, the dance (particularly a fight between Lucifer and Christ correographed in ballet style) better, the music top-notch, and the singing incredible. Staging and costumes are also at a high level for community theatre, though not in a professional class.
The purpose of these performances is to evangelize and teach those unfamiliar about the sacrifice and triumph of Christ over sin and death, and there are always dozens or scores of people brought to Christ in every performance. To find out more about the church, its efforts and beliefs, check the link provided at the beginning of the article.