Theater as Lived Faith

By: Katie Rosenberg

October 21, 2015

Katie Rosenberg conducted interviews with Georgetown undergraduates from diverse religious backgrounds on how faith inspires their artistic work as part of her research as a Doyle Undergraduate Fellow.

Michael Donnay is a junior at Georgetown University, majoring in History and Classics. He regularly attends 7:30 p.m. Mass here on campus and often contributes to the service as a member of the choir and as an alter server. Beyond his involvement in Campus Ministry, Mike is active across campus in many extracurricular areas, including in theater and music. Among his involvement, he is a Theater and Performance Studies Minor and next year’s executive producer of the Mask and Bauble Dramatic Society.  

Mike’s interests lie primarily in the technical aspects of the performing arts. He has repeatedly served as a designer, in multiple capacities, and as a stage manager across campus. He explains, “I really enjoy live theater and live performance, especially getting to work behind the scenes.”            

In the way many students feel a connection between performing and their religious faith, Mike asserts a similar connection from behind the scenes. He explains, “The best Mass is the one where you don’t realize that anyone is doing anything but things are just happening. In a way, that is what stage managers do in theater, too. If there is a very good stage manager, you don’t realize what they are doing. A really great Mass is one where everything goes smoothly and gives you, as a participant, time to reflect and really engage with what is going on, while everything else is sort of just happening around you.”

Beyond the service of Mass, however, Mike sees a connection in the ultimate goals of both theater and religion: both are means through which to attempt to transcend an earthly reality and attain something greater. He explains, “Whenever I’m altar serving or singing in the choir I tend to approach Mass as a piece of theater, with the ultimate goal of transcending what you’re doing to get to something higher, which, in a way, theater as theater is also trying to do… You’re trying to transcend something. At the same time, the way you do that is by doing very practical things very well.” In Mass, as in theater, the particular practicalities build to—and come to represent
—something beyond.  Mike concludes, “A theater is a sacred place because you can make things happen that aren’t supposed to happen. You can transcend reality in really wonderful and imaginative ways—in ways that a normal room or a normal space can’t. There’s something really powerful about that.” 

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Theater as Lived Faith