Editor’s note: The discerning reader will?notice Cole NeSmith’s “most creative thing” is also Sleep No More. Check out his take on the what made it the most creative thing he’s seen.
My husband and I are in a line outside a hotel on a rain-soaked New York City street. We walk inside and are taken to an elevator where we receive two masks, which are to remain on our faces at all times. More instructions are given: you can go anywhere, follow anyone, touch anything?and absolutely no talking.
What unfolds over the next two-and-a-half hours is unlike anything I?ve ever experienced. I find myself thrown into the story, based on Shakespeare?s Macbeth, but with the fourth wall of theater completely thrown out. Scenes are happening simultaneously, actors are rushing in and out of rooms and up and down stairs of this multi-level ?hotel? (warehouses which have been completely propped out to excruciating detail and lit both beautifully and eerily). It feels like one of those Choose Your Own Adventure books brought to life. It?s a production called ?Sleep No More?.
The audience is brought together for the final scene, and it?s at this point that I realize I?m not entirely sure what?s going on.
As my husband and I leave the performance, we take a few selfies with the masks and then take them off so we are finally able to talk. He shares his strategy of how he went about exploring, and I begin to piece together that if there was a wrong way to approach this performance, I had somehow done it. He talked about following the actors acting out their scenes, while I spent a lot of my time digging through the sets, looking for clues to solve what I thought was the central mystery.
He had read up on the performance before we went; I had not. And that little bit of information he?d read made the difference between him feeling a part of what was going on, while I felt somewhat confused and on the outside, wanting a show do-over. I don?t usually read extensively about a performance before I see it, but when you go to the theater, there?s usually a playbill handed out outlining the acts, the actors, and maybe even a letter from the director. There is a set-up to what you are about to experience.
So while it was probably the most creative thing I had ever seen, and while the experience I had was still incredibly cool and unique, when I look back, I think if there had been just a little more guidance, it could have made all the difference for me.
I sit in a lot of creative meetings. At least once a week we gather to brainstorm, to pitch, to tweak, to make the blank page come to life. And the bulk of what we spend our time on is the idea.
What?s the song we?re going to sing, and how will the lighting be, and what will the stage design look like, and how does the script start and finish and what does it say, and what?s the best way to incorporate Scripture, and should it be done live or should we film it?
All of that matters tremendously. The idea is king. But I wonder if a lot of times, a really good set-up is queen. I don?t mean a set-up that takes away from the creativity or spoon-feeds the idea, but a set-up that?s able to enhance what is about to come, that helps people prepare for the experience so that the idea can be the fullest possible version of itself. Maybe it?s sharing the inspiring quote or Scripture, or hearing an interview with the artist about what was going on in their life when inspiration struck.[quote]The idea is king. But I wonder if a lot of times, a really good set-up is queen.[/quote]
I believe God uses arts in the church in profound ways. I have heard story after story of how a piece someone saw on a Sunday morning changed the way they engaged with the world, themselves, and even God. As artists in the church, I think we have a responsibility to take as many people with us on our creative journeys as we possibly can, and I think a good set-up is a great place to start.