Why We Need "The Theatah"

Terrific essay from Peter John Cameron posted at Godspy on the relationship between drama and man's ability to understand himself. He includes this wonderful quotation from Hans Urs von Balthasar's 5-volume Theodramatic.
The task of the stage is to make the drama of existence explicit so that we may view it... Where existence is directly interpreted as theatre, the 'I' must be understood as the role...It continually delivers man from the sense of being trapped and from the temptation to regard existence as something closed in upon itself. Through the theatre, man acquires the habit of looking for meaning at a higher and less obvious level... Theatre's intrinsic function [is] to be a place where man can look in a mirror in order to recollect himself and remember who he is. . . .

(As an aside, anything anyone every quotes me about von Balthasar I love. I so want to be a Balthasar fan. However, I find his writing utterly impregnable. I have Theodramatic and I just know it holds the key to many mysteries that I care about, but I can never make it past the middle of volume 1. I can't even read his little short primer on prayer. So I admire anyone who can read him well enough to cull out something quotable. Maybe you have to be of Swiss-German descent. Or just way smarter than I am.)

From Cameron himself comes this thought, which not only captures the potential of drama (which includes comedy), but at the same time cuts to the heart of what is missing from contemporary theater.
Theatre must penetrate to the precise core of what people care about. It must respond to a lived question. It must attract and compel on the deepest level of meaning. It must interact with others at the point in which life begins to spark and flame. Otherwise, theatre remains at best merely an irrelevant distraction.

Cameron ends with this line from John Paul II which cuts to the nub of things.
Unless faith becomes culture it has not been really welcomed, fully lived, humanly rethought.

That's an idea that artists who are Christians need to come to grips with. Simply asserting and re-asserting the basic truths is not sufficient; true evangelization is a matter of somehow sparking the unbeliever's engagement with the truths of Christianity so that he can make them his own. When we start seeing the revival of art --not necessarily in the sense of return to old forms, but in the sense of engagement of the big questions-- and not the small-ball petty questions of contemporary "art," we'll know the springtime of evangelization has flourished into a fruitful summer of cultural renewal.