Stories make us more alive, more human, more courageous, more loving. – Madeleine L’Engle
From what I can tell, a really good story usually involves some moment of hopeless impossibility, followed by a resolution that is both unpredictable and inevitable. The audience, and often the characters in the story, come to the resolution thinking, “I never would have guessed that we’d find ourselves here, but of COURSE it would come to this. I’d have it no other way.” In the life of a small NYC theatre company, these moments are not infrequent.
The story of Firebone Theatre has become markedly more interesting since God began pulling us into Redeemer’s Center for Faith and Work. Up until this year, Firebone Theatre has been held together by a few dedicated artists and lots of prayer. After our last production we felt like the wind had been completely knocked out of us by whole experience, positive though it was. The romance of our story was fading, and we were starting to realize that we would need some serious support if this company was going to make it in NYC.
At the suggestion of some friends, my husband and I entered Firebone Theatre in Redeemer’s Entrepreneurship Initiative Business Plan Competition. A BFA in Theatre Studies and an MFA in Acting didn’t quite prepare us for the challenges of running a business. We’ve managed thus far with some street smarts and a lot of help from friends.
When we began attending business entrepreneurship workshops at Redeemer, we felt like we’d been given admission to an Entrepreneurship 101 course with some of the best leaders in Manhattan as our professors. The Business Plan Competition served as a boot camp for us as we were forced to craft our story and mission into a four page proposal, then a sixteen page business plan, and finally a six-minute presentation.
We are still shaping our mission, and we’ve had incredible mentors helping us find a clear and consistent way to communicate who we are both in and outside of the church. One of these mentors, Kenyon Adams, invited us to attend Redeemer’s “In the Living Room” series for artists. Entering this community of artists, all talking about what it means to know Christ in their work, was a breath of fresh air. One of our favorite evenings with this new community was when Makoto Fujimura came to speak about the Artist as Theologian. He told us the story of creating a painting based on the scripture “Jesus wept.” He reminded us that when Jesus cried with Mary and Martha over the death of their brother Lazarus, He already knew He had the power to raise Lazarus from the dead. He could have just fixed the problem. His tears were not practical or sensible. They were extravagant. And in that moment, his tears were exactly what was needed. Mako showed us that this is where the artist lives. In the impractical extravagance of the tears of an all-powerful God.
God is slowly changing the fabric of our theatre company as He weaves these bits of brokenness, redemption, theology and community into our identity. We are continually astounded by the incredibly artistic way in which our Creator works. We are confident that in the end, we will look back and say, “We never would have guessed….but of COURSE!” God could easily spare us from the hopeless impossibility of growing a theatre company in New York City, but then what kind of story would we have to tell?