"Lots of questions have emerged, which now need answering. The text may allow ambiguity, but the actors can't act it. We need to make choices. That's the difference between reading a play and acting it.... We might not have all the answers, but perhaps we have some of the right questions".
Gregory Doran, Director, "Hamlet", Royal Shakespeare Company
(Stratford-on-Avon, 2008 - starring you-know-who)
This is great. He suggests that good acting requires recognition of the ambiguity of the text, of bringing good questions to it. And yet to act requires choosing a particular interpretation at a particular times and being committed to living that, to performing it.
The implication is that to act decisively without recognition of the ambiguity of the text somehow renders the text as 'flatter', or with less life and meaning to it. Good actors, good casts, bring good questions to the text. So it's a really interesting question to ask how you can act/perform with conviction and at the same time recognise the provisional nature of your interpretation. To act decisively in the moment is to make choices based on a sense of the story as a whole, of your character's place within it, and also of the context. But good interpretation requires good questions (and also the spirit-gift, that glimmer of 'a-ha' that is more than your 'cleverness'...).
The finesse of good performance is not making it up on the spot, but knowing the story and the character deeply (as Samuel Wells, NT Wright, Mary Hess and others have said) - inhabiting and indwelling them. A good playwright produces the questions and ambiguity in both the plot and the characters - that's what keeps the story alive for different audiences and generations. A good cast and actor convey the wholeness of the story with both ambiguity and conviction in particular contexts at particular times. A rote performance is a flat performance (believe me, I've been in a few). In other words, a good story raises the big questions, and while the story offers a resolution, it is a good story because different people at different times and in different places 'lose' and 'find' themselves in the story. To tell a story well requires having knelt with the questions. Godly Play works so well as a story-telling approach and philosophy because we are invited to respond to the words "I wonder..."
I have no doubt that the flattening of stories (and of art, craft, music) is at the heart of modernity and the church's dilemmas. As we know, stories, like images, are icons, and to open a window is to ask a question. No deep question, no deep revelation (ok, that's not true at all... revelation is primarily about grace.... but anyway...)
I have realised that this whole metaphor applies to discipleship, and I am now seeing it as a way of thinking about how our church is struggling with its mission and future. What are our 2 or 3 deep questions? What is the deep part of the story that speaks to these? Where does the voice of the story resonate with our character?
(which as such different questions from 'how is our church performing?')