Devils We Know

Joan Marcus/Stagezine

THE DEVIL HAS long been wildly popular on stage, dating back to the Middle Ages when church authorities routinely cancelled performances because they worried that representations of the devil were so deliciously tempting that weak believers might falter. The dualistic image of a good, sweet angel on one shoulder and dirty demon on the other has infiltrated popular culture from children’s cartoons to adult sitcoms, signifying the struggle of our tempted conscience. And the devil always has the better jokes. In literary works, such as Paradise Lost and Doctor Faustus, the devil’s presence has driven plots forward through acts of temptation, leading the protagonist into some lusty or murderous act. The cliché is brought to life: “The devil made me do it.”

In 2015, the devil makes a serious comeback on Broadway in a successful run of Robert Askins’ new play, Hand to God, nominated for five Tony Awards, including best play and best direction. Askins takes his audience on a different kind of devilish journey.

In the basement Sunday school room of a Lutheran church in contemporary Texas, we meet a woman named Margery, who is experiencing profound grief after the recent death of her husband. She tries her best to move forward, filling her life to the brim with religious activity, starting a teen puppet ministry in the church and teaching the youth group to make puppets that will sing songs and tell Bible stories. Her son, Jason, a student in this fledgling class, has created a hand puppet named Tyrone who seems fairly ordinary, harmless, and cute. Jason is a good puppeteer, gifted, in fact. We see his talent unfold as he tries to impress Jessica, a girl in the youth group, with an artful rendition of Abbott and Costello’s “Who’s on First?” routine.

Read the Full Article

July 2015
​You've reached the end of our free magazine preview. For full digital access to Sojourners articles for as little as $2.95, please subscribe now. Your subscription allows us to pay authors fairly for their terrific work!
Subscribe Now!

Why Gay Couple Barred from Leading Worship Will Keep Singing with Hillsong Church

Monty Brinton / CBS ©2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc / RNS

Josh Canfield and Reed Kelly previously competed on the reality TV show “Survivor.” Photo courtesy of Monty Brinton / CBS ©2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. / RNS

Canfield and Kelly have decided to keep singing each Sunday at Hillsong, despite the restrictions. They recognize that the decision they’ve made is not one that every person in their position should make. But they believe it is the right one for them.

“If every gay person leaves their church because they have been treated poorly, nothing will change,” Canfield said.

“They still want us, and we feel called to stay. And we’re telling all our gay friends at Hillsong to do the same.”

Gay Mormon Characters Step Out of the Shadows

Religion News Service graphic by Tiffany McCallen and Kellie Kotraba/Columbia FA

Religion News Service graphic by Tiffany McCallen and Kellie Kotraba/Columbia FAVS


Twenty years ago, a gay Mormon character stepped onstage for the first time. His name was Joe Pitt, and he was in Tony Kushner’s Angels in America, Part One: Millennium Approaches.

Pitt lived in New York with a good reputation and a bad marriage to a woman addicted to Valium. As colleagues dealt with the devastation and uncertainty of AIDS — it was the 1980s — he grappled with openly acknowledging his sexuality. He was Mormon. And gay. And the two didn’t mix.

Before Pitt, there was a gay Mormon character in a novel: Brigham Anderson, in Allan Drury’s Advise and Consent, published in 1959. But words like “gay” and “homosexual” weren’t used; it was all innuendo.

Now, the scene has changed: Gay Mormon characters and themes have a growing role in theater and literature.

A Controversial Broadway Play on the Virgin Mary closes Why?

Photo by Paul Kolnik/courtesy The Testament of Mary production

Fiona Shaw in a scene from 'The Testament of Mary.' Photo by Paul Kolnik/courtesy The Testament of Mary production

NEW YORK — A Tony-nominated play that offered a controversial take on the Virgin Mary reflecting on her life held its final performance on Sunday, closing after only two weeks as poor ticket sales never matched high expectations.

Now the question is: Why?

Shows fold on Broadway all the time, of course, and as The New York Times noted, just 25 percent of them ever show a profit. But was there something about The Testament of Mary that doomed it to failure?

After all, biblically themed shows are all the rage on television and especially on cable; the recent History Channel miniseries The Bible generated huge ratings, and a host of shows and films are trying to explore — and perhaps exploit — similar territory.

Mormons Steal a Page From ‘Book of Mormon’ Popularity

The satirical “Book of Mormon” has prompted ads for the real thing. Photo courtesy Religion News Service.

Liked the show? You should try reading the book.

That’s the message the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints is sending in three full-page advertisements in the playbill of the stage musical “The Book of Mormon.”

The occasionally blasphemous musical, which won the Tony Award for best musical in 2011, follows two hapless Mormon missionaries who are dropped into a remote village in Uganda to evangelize the locals. The hit show, already sold out for its run at Toronto’s Princess of Wales Theatre from April 30 through June 9, was co-written by “South Park” creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone, along with Robert Lopez, who also helped write the similarly irreverent “Avenue Q.”

Top Ten Reasons Why I (Heart) Kristin Chenoweth

Mizz Chenoweth (with Elmo) at the Drama Desk Awards, 2012. Bruce Glikas/FilmMagi

Mizz Chenoweth (with Elmo) at the Drama Desk Awards, Feb. 2012. Photo by Bruce Glikas/FilmMagic.

If you've ever seen or heard Kristin Chenoweth sing, you know she is a pint-sized ray of sunshine. She oozes joy and grace and love for her audience from every pore of her 4-foot-11-inch frame. Plus, girlfriend has a spot-on, finely calibrated sense of comic timing. (I dare you to watch her perform and not at least crack a smile. She is enchanting, her natural ebullience utterly infectious.)

What you may not know is that Chenoweth, 44, is a Christian. Born and raised in the Southern Baptist tradition where she accepted Jesus into her heart at the tender age of 8, "Cheno," as she is known to her legion devoted fans, now describes herself as a nondenominational "non-judgmental, liberal Christian." Her devotion to Jesus and His Way is something she's never been shy about, both before and after she took Broadway by storm in her early 20s.

“I'm sick of people who've never been to church telling me that church is full of hypocrites, and people who've never read the Bible telling me that it's baloney," she wrote in her 2009 memoir, A Little Bit Wicked. "I'm a very controversial figure in the Christian world. I don't believe if you're gay or you have a drink or you dance, you're going to hell. I don't think that's the kind of God we have. The Pat Robertsons and Jerry Falwells of the world are scary. I want to be a Christian like Christ — loving and accepting of other people."

Simple Pleasures: Three O'Clock Lattes, Show Tunes

What's better than a piping hot, non-fat, sugar-free pumpkin latte right about now?

Sipping a piping hot, non-fat, sugar-free pumpkin latte while listening to Kristin Chenoweth sing "Taylor the Latte Boy," that's what.

Go grab your latte. Kristin and Taylor will be waiting for you inside when you get back.

Warning: Sing-along flash mobs may ensue. Use headphones as a precautionary measure.