Theater can serve church-like life role

Benjamin Bonenfant plays Pip in “Great Expectations,” now playing at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. This is his first season at OSF. Recently, Bonenfant was Prince Hal in Colorado Shakespeare Festival’s productions of “Henry IV: Parts 1 and 2″ and King Henry in “Henry V.” This is the second in a two-part column; the first was published on Aug. 8, 2016.

EH: How does theater relate to politics and society?

BB: Right now, in our political arena, there is an on-going theater of the grotesque that is really unsettling. We see revolutions, fascism and these regime-toppling ideas being tossed around, rather than any sort of discourse between two moderate sides. It’s horrifying. It feels like a spectacle.

How theater relates to social issues? There’s a lot to be said for what theater can accomplish and how it can be relevant. I love the diversity and inclusion initiative in this company. For example: There is a preexisting narrative that the world of Dickensian London was a predominantly white place. That is part of a false narrative. There were people of color all over England in Dickens’ time. We have a production of “Great Expectations” that is very diverse. We introduce a diverse world of Dickens to the minds of people who didn’t know there was one. We also reflect more authentically a cross-section of the human experience. It broadens the capability of this story to apply to everybody. This is the kind of narrative we need in this country. Continue reading Theater can serve church-like life role