Book Review by Jennifer Hunter
In Practicing our Faith: A Way of Life for a Searching People by Dorothy C. Bass, the chapter on forgiveness talks about communion being restored. In theatre, the word communion is understood to mean possibilities such as cast, crew and staff. How the theatre practitioner communes with collaborators determines a struggling or successful production. The process can serve to help or hurt depending on whether the team is communing together in a cohesive manner. Where there is true communion, there is hurt, forgiveness and healing. Painful situations will arise, but how forgiveness is incorporated and how a yearning for healing is experienced can determine the growth of the theatre program, the individual and the students as they all reach out to the community around them.
There are some key elements mentioned in the book that challenge and excite, especially to those who consider themselves a theatre artist. "Forgiveness works through our ongoing willingness to give up certain claims against one another, to give the truth when we assess our relationships with one another, and to give gifts of ourselves by making innovative gestures that offer a future not bound by the past" (135). It starts with the theatre practitioner…one has to give up their claim, one needs to speak in truth, and one needs to put forth the effort of the giving part of forgiveness. When a rift or chasm occurs, it is common to see individuals take the role of the outsider or a removed pose. Bass encourages us to "unlearn these habits of feeling" (137). Another area that is frightening for the theatre practitioner is using the word vulnerable. Some feel power is lost if the director is vulnerable. As the book says, "Jesus becomes vulnerable to the world of human beings…even though he is vulnerable to these, he does not allow himself to be defined by them" (140). Harmony is attainable through vulnerability.
Whether it is acknowledged, all yearn for healing in their lives. Bass says, "The central image for us is not cure but wholeness" (149). Theatre practitioners teach acting and character classes and use phrases such as “one has to know oneself first before embodying a character." One can't know himself without forgiveness and yearning to be whole. Theatre practitioners have the ability in classes and productions to "touch" and "commune" with others. "When we embody God's healing presence to others through touch, concern, or liturgy, we take part in God’s activity of healing the world" (157). Being a "healing presence" is an important part of the process, a modeling to students that is encountered in the classroom as well as in real life. Some particular exercises including "touch" encourage true forgiveness and healing. A purging, catharsis, or brokenness can be a true breakthrough for students. Bass is really encouraging one to search oneself, to challenge the other to find forgiveness and healing in relationships. The chapters identify basic human needs and prime them into questions to be answered. This book can have a significant impact on teaching and how relationships are communed with students.