Lack of Faith

Lack of Faith
Lack of Faith
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 It’s become a spring ritual in the Richmond theater world. As the annual Acts of Faith festival winds down, talk circulates about how thematically cogent the festival is when you have shows included like the breezy comedy “Hay Fever” or the HIV/AIDS drama “Before It Hits Home.” Are there just too few good shows that address faith directly to keep this thing going? Has ‘faith’ lost its zip as a topic to build a city-wide festival around? Isn’t it time for something different, like Acts of Love or even Acts of Anarchy?

 

That’s what I thought until I talked with this year’s festival coordinator, the Rev. Terry Menefee Gau. Gau is more than just a seminarian: she’s a veteran local actress getting ready to star in Sycamore Rouge’s staging of “The Glass Menagerie.” She gently reminded me that the purpose of the festival is not to offer a comprehensive exploration of faith but to provide an opportunity to ask some challenging questions in a public forum. “The talkbacks after the performances are key: they have provided the opportunity for some very rich conversations,” Gau explains. “We’re providing a safe place where some big questions can be discussed openly.”

 

She goes on to say that, as a nation, we’re supposed to have these conversations as part of maintaining a free society. But too often these days, the conversation is dominated by loud, belligerent voices on the fringes. “As a culture, we are less religiously educated than in the past,” Gau says. “We’ve lost this vocabulary; people may know what they believe, but they don’t know how to say it. And this is at a time when questions around religious diversity and religion in society are only getting more complicated.”

 

The main thing that I took away from talking to Gau is that the Acts of Faith festival isn’t just about a slate of similarly themed shows. It’s about inciting conversation and there is no shortage of big questions waiting to be asked. Rather than sitting back and grumpily wondering ‘what’s this show got to do with faith?’ I’m going to challenge myself to go to more talkbacks and ask that question directly. From the sound of it, I might be pleasantly surprised by the response.

 

The last show in the Acts of Faith festival, Va Rep’s Cotton Patch Gospel, is still running at Hanover Tavern thru 4/28.

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