Dramatics: Always to be Condemned

In order to fully understand the sub­ject on hand, and in order to give an in­telligent consideration and discussion of the problem, it is above all necessary to define drama so that it can be discussed in an acceptable way. We have agreed to accept Webster’s definition which has already been stated. However, I would like to repeat it: Drama is a composition in prose or verse, portraying life and character by means of dialogue and action and designed for theatrical performance.

Now it is first of all necessary to dis­tinguish between the drama and the dra­matist; between the actor and the acted. It must be clear that I am not arguing against drama, the acted. On the con­trary, I am arguing against the drama­tist, the actor, the one who acts out the drama. I would in no way condemn the play as such, for then I would have to condemn all literature of every kind. But on the basis of my definition of drama I condemn the actor for again according to Webster a dramatist, an actor, is a performer of drama.

It is often said that we are all drama­tists because we are all acting our own lives constantly. This, however, is not true. We are not portraying life and character. By the very meaning of the word portray we do not fall into this class, for portraying is depicting, and depicting can only be done of past events.

Although it is true to a small degree that an author experiences some of the sensations of an actor while writing a book, a novelist and his work do not fall into this class. He is not portraying life by means of dialogue and action. He is doing it by words only. He is portraying action with words, not portraying life with action.

Some would also, maintain that Scrip­ture uses dramatics in many instances, for example: the Levitical sacrifices, feasts, laws, etc., as pictures of some­thing greater; Isaiah walking “naked and barefoot” as a sign of the captivity of Israel; and many others. But you im­mediately sense that this is not drama in any sense of the word, nor are the pro­phets dramatists. The prophets were not portraying life, they were portraying character. They were showing, by signs, God’s will.

Often speakers are accused of drama­tics. But the emphasizing of your own ideas and thoughts by gestures and mo­tions is not dramatics according to our definition.

All the above mentioned forms of get­ting a message across are not included in my definition of drama, as you can read­ily see. If someone should insist, how­ever, that they are a type of drama, I would say that then in that sense drama and dramatization is good. I think I have made plain the differences between these and the drama of my definition, so that we can condemn the other without touching these.

What then is included in the definition? To that I would answer, every bit of act­ing life from humorous skits and dia­logues to the most technical and highly organized drama of Hollywood. Here we had better ask the questions: “Why is portraying life by means of dialogue and action wrong?” In order to make this clear, I would like to discuss first pro­fessional drama as practiced by Holly­wood and all Civic players who do so for remuneration, and second the thousand and one plays, dialogues and skits we run into in our high school and college life. It must be understood first of all that all acting by the very nature of the word is attempting for a time to be someone other than yourself. To what degree this is done, is shown by the quality actor you are. Attempting for a time to be some­one other than yourself, you assume that person’s character as you know it or as it was shown by you. Involved in assum­ing that character is taking on the as­pects of that character which are his emotions, feelings, desires, will, etc.

Professional actors spend their whole lives acting the lives of others. They make it their calling to entertain a pleasure-mad world. God in His eternal counsel never called a person to such a life’s task. Nowhere in the Bible do we find a single instance of it. Man in his original state of righteousness had no need for entertainment. He was happy in fellowship with God and needed noth­ing to divert his mind from carnal un­happiness. As a result of sin he seeks amusement. Furthermore, a person who spends his whole life acting, assuming the role of another person, warps and dis­torts his own personality and uses that which he received of God to take his place in tile reality of life, in a manner which does not comport with its nature and development.

Is acting then, not a gift of God so that it can be used correctly? Remember that all acting of any kind is attempting to reproduce the feelings, personalities, passions, emotions of some character, fictitious or real. And in that light I would say: No, acting cannot be a gift of God. This should become clear from the following.

First of all, when we act, we must necessarily act out sin. Entering into the emotions, feelings, passions, thoughts, whether that be on a large scale or on a small scale, involves taking upon one­self that sin. And is not our own sin great enough without trying to assume someone else’s besides? Does God find pleasure in the fact that His creatures willfully add to their sin by assuming- for a time the sins of another?

You say, well, act out good things! Can a sinful creature, dead in sin, act out good things without sinning? It leads to a set-up of this nature. On the one extreme we have the very best a man could act out, namely: holy things, such as prayer, devotions, preaching. But if these things are not done from the heart to God, are not they mockery? And if these things are done from the heart, then it is no more acting, but true com­munion with God. On the other extreme we have all the very worst things in life: all the lusts, passions, desires of the evil heart man is filled with. These cannot be acted out in a pleasing manner be­fore God. The same objections hold with regard to the host of other things which fall between these two extremes. And so we have not yet found any way in which acting can be considered a gift of God and used aright.

In conclusion, what is our duty over against this evil of dramatics?

We must, first of all, as Protestant Reformed Covenant youth, take no part in any program of this nature. We may not play a role in any dialogue or what­ever it may be.

But we must do more. We must pro­test against any program that has dramatizing in it. May be you think it doesn’t do any good, but that does not lessen our duty. We must show that we as true children of God, by His grace, walk the way of true Christians, and if others choose not to, we must show that we will have no part in it. Then we are do­ing our Christian duty and then we are showing that although we are in the world, we are not of the world.


Originally published January 1950 / Republished March 2021, Vol 80 No 3