By Brad Wise
“People come to the theater for truth. And we have that in spades.”
My poet friend (and avid theater buff) said this recently while we were planning an upcoming live show. Months before that conversation we were sitting around the Rebel Pilgrim offices where I work. (We’re a production company that produces entertainment and agency work.) We were just doing what we do—telling stories; riffing on ideas; playing around.
We started spitballing an idea about gathering our friends together to produce some kind of live show. We have talented artist friends (poets, storytellers, improvisers, photographers, illustrators), and we wanted to gather them together to see what might happen.
Those early conversations about what this show could look like, feel like, etc. would shoot off in a variety of weird ideas. But what it always came back to is: we should just do what we do.
Tell stories. Take risks. And play.
As the show now gets close to opening, the question everyone keeps asking is, “Will it work—will people like it?”
I honestly have no idea. I think so. But I’m not sure that I care if people will like it. I hope they do. Yet putting on this show isn’t about trying to create something people will like. It’s about telling truth.
So I hope people will connect with Sean’s raw poetry about young love like I did. I want people to laugh at Isaac’s grade school stories like I do. I want people to marvel at the quick wit of my friends doing improv comedy like I do. I want people to cry happy and sad tears when Brooke and Aaron share their adoption story. When Sarah shares stories about her grandma, I want people’s hearts to ache with the kind of hope that remembers the past but looks to the future with bubbly anticipation. And on and on with each segment.
I sincerely want people to like the show. But even if they don’t, that doesn’t make our stories any less true. We’re just sharing our experiences and the talents we’ve gained through them. We’re taking a risk to see if our experiences with truth resonate with theirs.
And I’m brimming with carbonated hope that it will.
Starving for Authenticity
As I mature as an artist, I’m realizing it all comes back to truth. It’s not about looking at what other successful artists are doing and interpreting that as a trend for me to mimic. It’s about me expressing what’s true and authentic to me.
I’m discovering that people want this so much that they’re willing to spend their time and money to go out and experience it. And not just in the theater but everywhere. In this day and age any artist—anyone who uses their talents to communicate—can give people truth.
If you’re reading then there’s probably some part of you that identifies with being an artist or at the very least there’s something in your gut (maybe your toes) that nags you to create something. If you’re a visual artist or designer, I believe pretty strongly that we are living in a new golden digital age. I’m not saying anything you don’t know—social media runs on visual media. We spend countless hours on Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, Tumblr, and Twitter scrolling through image after image in search of what?
I’m starting to wonder . . . what if it’s truth? What if we’re addicted to our screens because we’re starving to experience authenticity in its infinite forms? The graphic quote from C. S. Lewis that we share on Facebook. The photo of our best friend holding her new triplets we like on Instagram. The funny but true meme we retweet. These are all pixel-based expressions of truth, and we love them, right?
So what is your art? Are you a great iPhone photographer, communicating your brand of truth in a way that only you can? Are you a designer who has more to say than your client is currently allowing? Do you have beautiful handwriting that, with some practice, could be used to make calligraphy quotes or messages of hope for your friends? Have you written about your past failures and future dreams so that people who’ve been there too can discover they’re not alone? The list of potential forms of expression and art goes on and on, but again, it comes back to truth.
What Is in Your Hand?
It’s like when God asked Moses what was in his hand. We often overlook that as a simple question, but it was much deeper. God was asking Moses what experiences he had (represented by the staff he was holding) that he could use to speak truth and spark freedom. Moses was an outcast shepherd. So what he had in his hand was the talent to lead people, his true people, out.
What is in your hand? What are your experiences that have developed your talents? When combined these can be an expression of truth that sparks a level of freedom for your friends and family and maybe beyond.
Perhaps I’m focusing on social media too much, but I really believe there has to be something deeper and more spiritual going on with our need to scroll through all this visual media. Maybe back in the day people gathered in theaters, hoping to experience truth together. But now it’s mostly online. Anyone with something to say has an outlet to say it. That’s good and bad, isn’t it? What if we artists tipped the scales to the good?
What If We . . . ?
“What if we . . . ?” I believe those three words, when strung together in the right sequence and with the right tone amongst the right people, can change everything.
If you utter those three words to dreamers, they will dive headfirst into the world you’re about to create because they can see and feel the invisible magic of potential. Say them to doers, the faith-filled makers and solvers, and they will put blueprints to wonderments and trust you can hold in your hand.
So what if we . . . told a new story? One where a benevolent band of hope-pedaling dreamers and doers linked arms, hearts, and minds to build something together. A movement of hope rooted in God’s truth. Something bigger than we originally imagined. Something better because we never saw the end coming. Something brighter because the journey took us all.
Truth transformed by artists can fill cynics’ lungs with wonder, overwhelm the downhearted with hope, and spark action with the disenfranchised who forgot how it felt to be part of movement. What if we took what’s in our hands and told new stories—world-changing, wonder-filled, dangerously beautiful stories—that sparked hope to the disenfranchised, and action to the downhearted?
What might happen? Let’s find out together.
Brad Wise is the cofounder of RebelStorytellers.com and cohost of its podcast in Cincinnati, Ohio.