Friday, September 19, 2014

That Old Time Religion

Charlie Pollock is our Elmer Gantry.
Up next on the docket for the Signature Theatre 25th Anniversary Season is the updated version of Elmer Gantry, which features an updated book and brand new music! This revised musical is being directed by Signature Theatre’s very own Artistic Director Eric Schaeffer and features a fiery and talented cast and production team.

The basis for Elmer Gantry comes to the MAX Theatre stage from its source novel (also titled Elmer Gantry) by early 20th century writer Sinclair Lewis. Sinclair was a novelist and playwright whose wit, wry sense of humor, and striking observations about the American way of life earned him a Nobel Prize in Literature. (The first American writer to do so in 1930.)

For those of you unfamiliar with Lewis’s novel, Elmer Gantry focuses around the charismatic title character as he stumbles upon a struggling religious tour led by the pious sister Sharon Falconer. As Elmer ingratiates himself in the tour and the hearts of those around him, trouble is not far behind his revival meetings’ trail.

Revival Meetings
Famous preacher Billy Sunday preaching to
followers in one of his largest revival meetings.
A revival meeting is a Christian religious service held to inspire active members of a church body to gain new converts. A revival is ideally a renewed, radical commitment to Jesus Christ empowered by the Holy Spirit. The true, blue revival often results in dynamic evangelism, conversions, worship, purity, joy, fellowship, obedience, peace, fulfillment, and devotion in the life of the believer. (A good time for the churchgoer and an even better time for the church in the long run.)

The meeting itself usually consists of several consecutive nights of services conducted at the same time and location. This is most often in a building belonging to the sponsoring congregation but sometimes a rented assembly hall or pitched tent organized by a visiting group or preacher. The meeting often features a variety of performances and speakers, from fire and brimstone preachers to angelic choirs, live bands, faith healings and religious stage plays.

This event, with its new and eclectic style of sermons and delivery of the gospel, helped breathe new life into the American people and how they practiced religion. Their basic rituals, piety, and self-awareness changed as this form of religious expression gained steam and support throughout the early 20th century.

Instead of passively listening to religious discourse and lectures in detached manners, the American people began to be passionately and emotionally involved in their religion, fully investing themselves in the pageantry, spectacle, and spirit that revival meetings brought to their communities. This full investment in the power of religion brought individual Christians that much closer to God and Christ and made them all the more likely to continue to attend, participate, assist and donate to the church.

Elmer Gantry opens October 7th and runs until November 9th in the MAX Theatre.  For more information please visit our website or call the box office at 703-820-9771. Follow along with Elmer Gantry on social media with #SigGantry


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