Growing up and going to school in the South, I spent most of my life in an environment where those around me shared my basic spiritual ideologies and religious faith. While no one’s journey in faith is identical to anyone else’s, I rarely found myself in circumstances in which my beliefs were overtly questioned.
However, as a young Southerner (and recent college grad) moving to the “scary” Northeast, I was nervous. As much as the prospect of accepting a dream job on Broadway delighted me, it raised a lot of questions. I’d spent semesters traveling for a slew of internships, but I’d never lived anywhere but my hometown for longer than six months. How would this move affect my spiritual life? I’d grown up watching entertainers who spoke about their religion or faith facing ridicule in the limelight. Was Broadway going to challenge my own deep-seated faith?
Short answer? Not at all.
I am happy to report that, on the contrary, working in the Broadway community has not only helped to define my own faith but to strengthen it. Here’s how.
I feel a closer connection with God through the powerful music and meaningful plots in Broadway shows.
A couple of years before I moved to New York, I saw the Broadway run of “Amazing Grace”. The show wasn’t a critical success, but for me its soulful message of deliverance hit home. Sitting in the back of the orchestra, I remember Tony nominee Josh Young’s booming vocals as he embodied the former slave trader turned penitent priest who wrote the enduring title hymn. The night ended with the cast leading the whole house in a moving rendition of “Amazing Grace,” uniting an audience from all walks of life and all religious creeds in a moment of peace and forgiveness. It brought me to tears. I didn’t know it at the time, but I’d caught a glimpse of my New York future. I wouldn’t be alone in this city.
And indeed, the city is always offering a spiritually-themed show. On Broadway right now, "Indecent" is asking urgent questions about faith and art, and Show-Score members like me are loving it, giving it a score of 86. Then there's "The Crusade of Connor Stephens," which dives into a religious family that's dealing with the aftermath of violence. It has a score of 79, and I'm eager to see it.
I found a church made up of theater industry professionals.
Once I moved to Manhattan I visited churches in every neighborhood looking for the right fit. I explored the coffee house churches of Union Square and the cathedrals of the Upper West Side. At my seventh church visit, I found a place where I felt doctrinally sound. That would have been enough to convince me, but it got better. I’d unknowingly walked into a congregation of theater pros. In the first few months I encountered a Tony nominee serving communion, a leading lady singing solos, and several ensemble-ists shaking my hand every week. The “worst-case scenario” I’d imagined—defending my faith in a faithless theater community—was a figment of my imagination.
By entering such a competitive industry, I found myself relying on my faith to guide me through tough moments. And I still do today.
A dear friend warned me that my first year in New York—my first year in the theater world—would be the hardest. I laughed her off at the time, but she was absolutely right. In a mere 12 months, I faced layoffs, health scares, the loss of loved ones, and countless days of severe self-doubt. But in the midst of mental and physical challenges, I found myself turning to my guiding spiritual light. I learned to take the lessons taught to me as a girl in Sunday school and apply them to my daily professional life. Through my faith, I have found peace in my tumultuous industry. In the business of Broadway, I have found an amazing spiritual grace.
Does your faith impact your theater going? I’d love to hear how spirituality and the theater intersect in your life. Let’s discuss it in the comments!