Because our society is mostly Christian, most of the entertainment industry caters to that idea. Theatre has made references to Christianity throughout centuries; however no one has performed atheism. To prove this notion, it is important to prove Christianity in theatre really exists to begin with.
In "The Laughing Dead and the Lively (or was it lovely?) Virgin," the authors trace the relationships between theatre, ritual, circus and Christianity (Bosque 1). It examines the New Circus theatre in Chile. This can show how different cultures use Christianity in theatres, proving it exits to begin with. This idea offers an almost humorous look on the ritual of religion. It plays with the ideas of blurring the boundaries between life and theatre (Bosque 1).
To further prove Christianity exists in performance and theatre, we must search for the different forms that have been established. Wayang Wahyu is a Catholic form of shadow theatre (Poplawska 1). It presents a history of Christian theatre. This can further prove Christian theatre is more abundant and even exists. Marzanna Poplawska shows how the different forms of church politics are used in theatre in different cultures (Poplawska 1). This also focuses on the past decade's attention to the rising appearance of religion in such forms as anthropology and ethnology.
This can add to the history of religion in theatre further ignoring atheism. Park Honan in "Theatre and Religion: Lancastrian Shakespeare/Region, Religion and Patronage: Lancastrian Shakespeare," reviews two books comparing Shakespearian theatre to theories of religion. This could be helpful to add to the history of arising atheism and its association to theatre and performance. Shakespeare, as many like to study, uses much religious morality as he does non-religious morality.
One does not need to be an atheist, theist or any deviation of belief in order to enjoy Shakespeare, however there is much religious influence upon his writings and stage practice. Donalee Dox in, "The Eyes of the Body and the Veil of Faith," describes how Christianity was used in ancient and ninth through twelfth century performance (Donnalee 1). At this time, Christianity was largely studied, practiced and lived by. This indicates an extreme history to the idea of Christianity and theatre. Christianity has threatened, more specifically in ancient times, the wrath of "God" would punish all who disobeyed him.
Because of the fear of believers, there was never any question or free thought. Performance was a useful tool in ancient and ninth through twelfth century times. The theatre practices were commonly used as a way to enforce the Ten Commandments and ethics in the bible. Christianity in ninth and twelfth century theatre can be helpful history in figuring out how atheism has been overlooked throughout history. Christianity in theatre, in fact, does exist and this can further suggest atheism has not really been performed, whereas religion has. Theatre at this time was used as a tool to teach.
There is a larger emphasis on performance studies to educate students on the subject on religion (Gordon 1). In the lengthy "Pilgrams' Progress," it suggests non-Christian theatre professionals are dismissive and hostile. It uses Christian theatre artists' to show salvation and excellence on stage. In an atheist's views, this article is completely discriminatory further adding a notion of bias toward atheism and atheism in performance. Celia Wren provides information on how the CITA organization has strove to work against anti-Christian theatre and performance.
Christians, in this article, seem to be unable to understand how one can be involved in theatre and not be a Christian (Wren 1). CITA is dedicated to enhancing Christianity in theatre. According to a Christina artist, Dale Salvage, he had experienced a feeling of isolation while viewing traditional New York theatre (Wren 1). I find this quite puzzling, since all the sources so far I have examined have suggested Christianity is such a part of theatre.
Even in the same article, those involved in CITA find that all theatre is Christian. The CITA organization has formed programs to do skits in churches, professional theatre companies, independent artists and Christian universities (Wren 2). This is a nightmare for atheists. The early colonists enacted laws against theatre, because they saw it as a godless business (Wren 2).
This organization wants to do these jobs to prove God does exist in theatre. An atheist's point of view would be to go back to colonial times. When putting H.G. Well's novel, "The Island of Dr. Moreau" on stage, CITA made God a very relevant piece in the audience's understanding of the novel, which was clearly not the intention of a well renowned science fiction author. An important concept in the article to further add to the irony, was the idea that actors do not like boundaries included in their work, however Christianity has very clear boundaries (Wren 4).
Not only are theatre groups helping in the spread of religious awareness, but dance performance is as well. Cia Sautter in "Teaching the Dance of World Religions" she explains the past decade's attention to the rising appearance of religion in such forms as anthropology and ethnology, however continues to explain that such forms of performance such as dance has left it out. Sautter sets out to teach men and women alike that religion can be embodied as well as taught in theatre. This article can further add to the abundance of religion in theatre, further ignoring atheism.
American Theatre' offers a look at the relationship between religion and theatre. She points out the problems with the purpose of religion in theatre. This article can directly support the introduction of atheism to theatre and performance. Both theatre and religion struggle to find truth (American Theatre 2). I want to focus on this as a commonality between atheism and Christianity and yes, there is such a thing.
This article especially points out the commonness between theatre and religion which, in turn, acts as a link between atheism and religion. The practices of religion and Christianity are not so far from the morals humans share. Just because someone is Catholic, does not mean he or she does not agree with an opinion with someone who is Jewish, Buddhist, etc., just as an atheist may agree with some of the morals of Christianity.
With theatre acting as a linkage, humans can express their thoughts, opinions, views and morals as a common ground for those of different standpoints. There have been several attempts to impose the ideas of free thinking, but the men and women who did so were immediately punished. In, "Sade or The First Theatre of Atheism," in Paragraph Anne DeBrun and John Phillips uses historical references to 18th century French poet, Marquis de Sade (LeBrun 1).
During this time, sacrilege was a capital offense and the poet was one of the first to offer the idea of free thinking (LeBrun 2). Sade, who was clearly an atheist, depended on theatre to express his ideas. Sade's theatrical ideas utilized how, in the drama to desire, the mind transcends the body and the body transcends the mind (LeBrun 4).
In 1782, Sade wrote "Dialogue entre un pretre et un moribund," in which he created a character representing the morality of his plays (LeBrun 5). Even though it was not put into a play, Sade included endnotes that read like stage directions in which Sade's atheism truly are shown (LeBrun 5). He suggests the idea of interdependence of mind and body further supporting the earlier claim that the mind transcends the body and the body transcends the mind. Sade, in his ideas, went further than the philosophers of his time.
This suggestion of the use of the body and the mind could be a perfect into the theatrical world. By becoming an actor, an excellent use of the body, one can portray the images and puzzles of the mind, of which have nothing to do with Christianity or religion. Sade's theatricality is aimed less at representing particular fantasies than at showing, in relation to each fantasy, how thought is rooted in desire (LeBrun 5).
On stage, Sade could show his audience how a god is not responsible for human desire, but human thought is. Sade wanted each of us to become open and aware of what was considered unallowable (LeBrun 6). Sade was truly ahead of his time in introducing such ideas, not only to get him thrown in prison, but to show humans the power they each had in their own free thought. By using theatre, Sade did not only tell, but showed us the power we each have. It seems less people today have used this daring idea and have maintained their scripts including Christian and religious references.
We should go back to Sade's time where we can portray our free thought and body on the stage, and especially in today's world where we would have no fear of becoming incarcerated. In, "Don't Want to Be This The Elusive Sarah Kane," Annabelle Singer analyzes the playwright, Sarah Kane's ideas shares her ideas how the presence of a god has failed to weed out the good and bad, her own morality and refusing to become a part of the institution of the church (Singer 1). This aspect of performing atheism is unique in that it goes against the norm, further proving the idea that theatre does not reach out to a fair population or society.
By seeing how Sarah Kane portrayed free thinking on stage, we get a better idea of how atheism can be performed. Kane can be referred to as a modern-day Marquis de Sade. She explored, more specifically, the idea of morality versus mortality. This concept is quite similar to what Sade did. Kane focused more on ethics instead of religion to live life by and she showed it in her plays. In her writing, she has always emphasized performance over texts and action over speech (Singer 1).
This is also quite similar to Sade's work in that it demands the work of the body to show instead of tell. The beauty of performance lies within its ability to be interpreted. By merely showing one idea, an audience may come up with completely different ideas and all in the way it is performed. Perhaps by not wanting to direct, Kane knew there was many abilities and capabilities of others to perform her ideas and more.
Therein lies another important concept; by displaying, on stage our human capabilities and ideas with our bodies, we can further prove there is power within each of us instead of a higher power to assist in these endeavors.
Kane's writing is a good example of this idea. To point out the integration between religion and free thinking, we must first look at our history. There is much evidence to support Christianity is heavily relied upon, however there is minimal history supporting atheism on stage. By further focusing on Sarah Kane and Marquis de Sade's works, the hidden history becomes visible. One must get a closer and more in depth look between religion anf theatre and performance in addition to the history between the two.
In "The Spirit and the Flesh: Christianity, Judiasm and the Theatre," it takes a look as this idea more in depth. It also points out the problems with the purpose of religion in theatre (American Journal Nov. 2000). This article can directly support the introduction of atheism to theatre and performance. It seems religion and Christianity are performances in themselves because they entail ritual. In religions, followers practice and, in a sense, rehearse their religion. This can be viewed as in a performance aspect.
Atheism has no rituals, causing it to be more difficult to rehearse, which in turn is the exact concept of atheism. This would make it all the more challenging to perform atheism. How can one put a non-ritualistic way of life into rehearsal and on stage? Instead of taking it to that extreme, it is possible to perform anything with the absence of religion and god.
By simply taking the all so taken-for-granted text away from performance, this in itself, can be performing atheism. By slowly and progressively removing references to a god and religion from our theatre and performance, this is performing free thought and in turn, pleasing atheists.
Bosque, Andres del, Salinas Maxmiliano and Enzo Cozzi. "The Laughing Dead and the Lively (or was it lovely?) Virgin." Performance Research 1999, Vol. 4: 78 "Criticsm, Theater, Film, Journalism, Etc." Reference & Research Book News Feb. 2003, Vol. 18: 212-221
Dox, Donnalee. "The Eyes of the Body and the Veil of Faith." Theatre Journal Mar. 2004, Vol. 56: 29-45 Honan, Park. "Theatre and Religion: Lancastrian Shakespeare/Region, Religion and Patronage: Lancastrian Shakespeare." Notes & Queries Sep. 2005, Vol. 52: 404-406 Le Brun, Annie and John Phillips. "Sade or the first theatre of atheism." Paragraph Mar. 2004, Vol. 23: 38 Poplawska, Marzanna. "Wayang Wahyu as an Example of Christian Forms of Shadow Theatre." Asian Theatre Journal 2004, Vol. 21: 94-202 Sautter, Cia. "Teaching the Dance of World Religions." Teaching Theology & Religion Jul. 2005, Vol. 8: 176-183
Singer, Annabelle. "Don't Want to Be This The Elusive Sarah Kane." TDR: The Drama Review 2004, Vol. 48: 139-171 "The Spirit and the Flesh: Christianity, Judiasm and the Theatre." American Theatre Nov. 2000, Vol. 17: 18 Wren, Celia. "Pilgrams' Progress." American Theatre Nov. 2000, Vol. 17