Ten years ago, Pastor Paul’s church was a modest storefront. Now it houses thousands, with a coffee shop in the lobby and a baptismal font as big as a swimming pool. But Paul is about to preach a sermon that will shake the foundation of his congregation’s beliefs. Backed by a live choir, The Christians is both epic and unexpectedly intimate, an unflinching look at faith in America — and its power to unite or divide.
Scenic Design: Dane Laffrey Costume Design: Connie Furr Soloman Lighting Design: Ben Stanton Sound Design: Jake Rodriguez Production Stage Manager: Marisa Levy
Critics' Pick. THE FIRST IMPORTANT NEW PLAY OF THE FALL SEASON. Ingeniously staged by Les Waters, this terrific play about the mystery of faith by Lucas Hnath — one of the freshest playwriting voices to emerge in the past five years — is MESMERIZING.
—Charles Isherwood, The New York Times
DEEPLY AFFECTING. EMOTIONALLY DEVASTATING. A white-knuckled drama about a theological battle. This is a production we can believe in.
Tim Sanford: What were your early influences that pushed you into becoming an artist and a playwright?
Lucas Hnath: I think it came in part from growing up in Orlando so close to Disney World, which is an incredibly theatrical place. In a lot of ways my interest in theater and in art started there. I really wanted to make Disney rides when I was a kid.
The Christians Symposium — where the playwright asks the questions. Moderated by Lucas Hnath, featuring a panel with Lesley Hazleton, Mark Schultz, and Reverend Ann Kansfield. To avoid skipping errors in the beginning of the video, skip ahead to 2:12.
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.
Lucas Hnath has described ‘The Christians’ as his “big little play about faith in America.” When I first encountered it in its premiere production at the Humana Festival in Louisville, it seemed unequivocally big to me. I saw mainly the broad, timely thematic conflict that ensues when the pastor of an evangelical, Bible-literalist church preaches a game-changing sermon.
Three summers ago, Lucas Hnath sent me an email at Actors Theatre of Louisville, where I used to be the literary manager, with a Word document attached. “Well gosh,” his message began, “this was kind of fun. I went through my list of notes and organized it and turned my shorthand into complete sentences. So here are 17 ideas for plays.” (“There were even more that I didn’t include,” he added.)
Over time, words change meaning, and language evolves just like everything else. Back in the day, for instance, if your son was a “determined bachelor,” you’d be proud of his knighthood, and if he brought home his broke, underage girlfriend to meet you, you could call her a “naughty wench” without ruining Christmas. “Sick” was ill, and so was “ill”; “thongs” were flip-flops, “bad” was bad, and a “gay marriage” wasn’t anything to argue about. And whether you consider the evolution of language a science, a history lesson, or a damn shame, it's an insight to the evolution of how we think.