Phantom_of_the_Forum

Christians and swearing on stage

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Hey guys, I just stumbled upon this thread! I'm a teenage Christian who just scored the role of Velma in the local production of 'Hairspray!'. She is ultimately the 'bad guy', of the story, and there are a few connotations throughout the musical that imply that the character has been sexually active in the past. I don't have a problem with this because I know that this character is not supposed to be liked and needs to be portrayed in a vulgar way. However, she has a whole song she sings by herself, and the very first line is 'Oh my god'. So, here's my dilemma: Do I sing that line how it is, portraying the character as she is supposed to be? Or do I ask to change the line to something like, "Oh my gosh'? Thanks in advance :)

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Hello everyone.  I' a 20-something christian man who is an aspiring voice actor. Now, I know that's no theatre actor, but after searching for a long time this was the only instance of "Christian" "Actor" and "Swearing" I could find. And if you think about it, our stage is the mic, so we share some similarities...right? :) ?   I'm striving to become a pro voice actor/voiceover artist and I know that some roles might have swearing in them.  Of course, as actors we have the option to avoid auditioning for roles we KNOW will have profanity in them (Which, I'm sure some do. And that's totally fine, right?) 

I also know that as an actor, we have to perform our parts to the best of our abilities and to stay true to characters.

But what if we were NOT aware of swearing in parts before we got the part?  I was recently cast to do an audiobook after having sent an audition. There was no swearing in the audition itself, so imagine my surprise when there was a curse word in the book.  However, it's only one instance of "s**t" ... 

 

I'll be honest, I freaked out a little. I started to question myself but reassured me that  it was characters (in a book, no less) speaking and not myself.  I had tried to seek council with our pastor but he'd been just too busy to accept appointments to talk with him (Life happens, so it's completely understandable) recently.
 

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9 hours ago, DLSea said:

Hello everyone.  I' a 20-something christian man who is an aspiring voice actor. Now, I know that's no theatre actor, but after searching for a long time this was the only instance of "Christian" "Actor" and "Swearing" I could find. And if you think about it, our stage is the mic, so we share some similarities...right? :) ?   I'm striving to become a pro voice actor/voiceover artist and I know that some roles might have swearing in them.  Of course, as actors we have the option to avoid auditioning for roles we KNOW will have profanity in them (Which, I'm sure some do. And that's totally fine, right?) 



But what if we were NOT aware of swearing in parts before we got the part?  I was recently cast to do an audiobook after having sent an audition. There was no swearing in the audition itself, so imagine my surprise when there was a curse word in the book.  However, it's only one instance of "s**t" ... 

 

I'll be honest, I freaked out a little.   I had tried to seek council with our pastor but he'd been just too busy to accept appointments to talk with him (Life happens, so it's completely understandable) recently.
 

'I also know that as an actor, we have to perform our parts to the best of our abilities and to stay true to characters … I started to question myself but reassured me that  it was characters (in a book, no less) speaking and not myself.' 

Does this mean you are going to say the word anyway? I'm still struggling with what to do with my problem :)

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FWIW.  There are some pretty strong words in the Bible.  Like for instance I was recently made aware that the Greek word "Aphedron" used in two of the gospels is better translated as "sh*thouse."  -  " - ἀφεδρώνἀφεδρωνος, apparently a word of Macedonian origin, which Suidas calls 'barbarous'; the place into which the alvine discharges are voided;"

 

There are other examples of what many would consider to be swear words in the Bible.  For instance, this, and this, touch on it.

Also, what one person considers to be a terrible word, another can be baffled by the idea that it really is negative at all.  Words are largely a cultural constructs and it really does depend on the spirit that the word is said in, at least with some words.  IMO.  There are other words that probably can never really be seen as being acceptable.  And we all know what some of these words are.

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FWIW, my two cents: if you're playing a character who is profane, I do not believe that saying (or singing) the profane line means you yourself are being profane, but simply depicting a character who is. In the case of Velma in Hairspray, she's a villain, unethical, and the profanity "Oh my God" is totally within her character.

But of course, you have to decide whatever you're most comfortable with, and I think either choice is respectable.

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As someone who works in the performing arts, if you have a problem saying things the play's writer has written for a character you have no business playing that character. Even if the director/playwright/producer is willing to accommodate your issues, you should work those issues out and decide for yourself if you are comfortable saying those things. A character is not saying those words, you are. If you can't be authentic in the role, you disrespect the role, the play, and the audience.

Work it out, preferably not at the performance's expense. But work it out all the same. Being an artist of any kind including a performer, is about bringing you to the table, even when performing a character.

Joe

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On 6/15/2016 at 8:07 AM, jfutral said:

A character is not saying those words, you are. If you can't be authentic in the role, you disrespect the role, the play, and the audience.

I don't think it's a dichotomy. The character is saying the words, and so is the actor. Their motivations, however, are different. 

If I play Hamlet, I'm not plotting to kill my uncle, or even to kill Hamlet's uncle. Hamlet is doing that. But we are both saying the words. 

Edited by mrmando

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1 hour ago, mrmando said:

I don't think it's a dichotomy. The character is saying the words, and so is the actor. Their motivations, however, or different. 

If I play Hamlet, I'm not plotting to kill my uncle, or even to kill Hamlet's uncle. Hamlet is doing that. But we are both saying the words. 

Sure. And that's all conceptually true enough. But the saying in theatre is "the play's the thing". If you as an actor have trouble saying the words the playwright has written, to me, that's a problem, even if everyone is willing to accommodate the actor for their discomfort. The problem is the (usually) young actor hasn't worked out the issue yet.

If the actor has a problem saying something because they don't think the character would really say those words or as directed, that's a different discussion (if either the director or playwright is interested in the discussion). But if I am called to play a character that expresses profanity and I, personally, have a problem using profanity, saying "Oh, but its the character, not me, really" is not really working out the problem. This is not an out of body experience, those words will be coming out of my mouth, character or not. If that causes an actor problems they need to work it out. They have to be believable, authentic. One can undermine the role, if not the play, if the actor can't believably deliver the line.

My point is actually not whether the actor or the character is "saying" the words. My point is, if saying those words causes issues, and as the actor you will be saying those words, work out the issues before taking on such a role. Or maybe as the process for working on the role, but work it out, and not at anyone else's expense except your own (and a good mentor or two).

As the lighting designer who sat behind the tech table for 10/12 rehearsals only the have the rehearsal come to a screeching halt because of an actor in such a situation, it is not only disrespectful, it costs money.

Joe

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Yes, it's part of your work as an actor. Figure out why the character talks that way. Anger? Frustration? Boredom? General coarseness? World-weariness? Disillusionment? Wanting attention? For the shock value? Those are all potential motivations for the character. The motivation for you, the actor, is to find the truth behind those words (the subtext) and use your skills to illustrate that truth. 

Some Christians oppose acting at all, because it's pretending to be someone you're not. But not every untruth is a lie. 

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Few things are as sad as watching a production of Avenue Q neutered because of actor inhibitions.

Joe

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I look at everything I do onstage from the perspective of those I invite to watch it. If anything I do onstage causes anyone to question my witness, my faith, or my morals - that's when I do not do the part. 

You have to look at things not just from the perspective of how you personally feel about it, but also from the perspective of how those you are influencing will feel about it. What do you say when someone sees in your bio that you are a Christian, but the text of the play is full of vulgar language, nudity, sex, adult-themed topics, etc.? What will your witness say to them then? Will they be open to discussion with you at that point, or see you as yet another Christian hypocrite who talks the talk, but doesn't walk the walk. 

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On September 18, 2016 at 6:51 PM, AlyAl said:

What do you say when someone sees in your bio that you are a Christian, but the text of the play is full of vulgar language, nudity, sex, adult-themed topics, etc.? What will your witness say to them then? Will they be open to discussion with you at that point, or see you as yet another Christian hypocrite who talks the talk, but doesn't walk the walk. 

You mean adult themes, nudity, and sex like in the bible?

What I have found to be true more often than not is that your work as an actor will exist within the context of your life. How you live your life beyond the role you play will be the anchor of your witness. Your life is what will lead non-believers to think of you as a hypocrite or not, not the words you say in a play. The only people I have found that would consider that you talk the talk but don't walk the walk are other Christians. If that is the witness you are concerned about, sure, okay, let your bio speak for you. Personally, with the few exceptions of those who understand what I do for a living, I don't much care what other Christians think.

Joe

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