The renowned painter Pablo Picasso once said, “Art is a lie that makes us realize the truth” (Fitzhenry 45). The principle behind Picasso’s wisdom was severely questioned during the realism movement of the late nineteenth century, as societal growth and scientific discovery brought a more honest perspective to the world. The theatre tried to become a verbatim reflection of the life that surrounded it, and the goal was to make this staged “lie” as minute and undetected as possible. Today, we are able to see that such a mirrored replication of life allows little room for a heavenly or spiritual presence on the stage. Where does an ethereal Being belong in realistic drama? The opinion of this paper is that God is seen in realistic theatre through the viewer’s biased eyes, rather than the actual subject material presented on stage.
The time period of the realism movement was unlike any other. As men like Darwin and Freud challenged the scientific world with questions of creation and the human mind, scientists Albert Einstein and Alexander Graham Bell took the technological world by storm with inventions like the light bulb and the telephone. Old theories were finally questioned and new ideas were considered. Relativism became an option for the first time in history. As stated in Living Theatre, theatre began to experience a similar growth, as playwrights shunned the standard neoclassical ideals of the past and opened themselves up to a world of possibilities. Neat stories with neat endings were no longer considered the only option, and playwrights sought after a more truthful look at everyday life. Real life situations like double standards, disputing marriages, and disease torn families became viable subject matter for the stage, questioning the meaning of these issues in the midst of all the havoc. Oftentimes the play could finish, and the question still loomed (Wilson 375).
So the question is posed, can God find a place on the other side of the footlights of realistic drama? The supernatural subject material, according to the loose guidelines of realism that exists, is not a part of everyday life and therefore excluded from realistic drama. However, as is often the case with theatre, what is viewed onstage can be easily skewed when placed within the context of an audience member’s personal belief. A person can look through his own rose-tinted glasses when watching a play, and if not careful, he will only see what he wants to get out of it. When supporting a specific belief, a person can often find unexpected correlations between that belief and everyday life.
In the Christian belief specifically, there can be an emphasis on the all-pervasiveness of God in realistic theatre. According to this train of thought, if God is the Creator of the Universe, He is considered to be in all things. Therefore, God does not have to be a character in a play or mentioned a certain number of times for His name to be seen in a piece of art. ...