By: Kevin Bohli
“Every genuine art form in its own way is a path to the inmost reality of man and of the world.” (Pope John Paul II in his 1999 Letter to Artists)
One art form that explores these realities and translates well to working with young people is that of theatre and the dramatic arts. Acting is one of many creative ways to teach the faith to youth those who watch and those who participate gain a deeper understanding of these “inmost realities” of which our late Holy Father speaks. He had a love of acting and was himself a playwright – an inspiration to this generation of young thespians.
Acting is as attractive to young people today as ever. By providing programs and opportunities for them to develop their theatrical gifts, we can help them connect with the Church and grow in their faith. The Office of Youth Ministry hosts an annual competition to showcase these talented youth who find themselves drawn to the bright lights and big stage.
The One-Act Play Competition is one of the longest-running youth ministry events in our diocese. In fact, there used to be a regional competition where the winning plays would continue on to compete against other dioceses, but over time ours is the only one still being held. One-Act is a unique event that draws out young people who might otherwise not get involved in Church life.
In the past few years, a short film component has been woven into the event as a way to reach out to a generation who’s grown up with media outlets like YouTube. By providing young people, especially those who are technologically proficient, with another medium through which to share their talents, interest in the event has increased.
The plays and films in the competition feature only youth as actors, and some are even directed by the teens. Though the plays and films are not explicitly required to demonstrate a Christian teaching, many do provide a Christian message and offer a challenge to the audience to live a Christian lifestyle.
Countless hours are invested in each production, requiring effort and commitment on the part of the youth involved. The plays are impressively well-rehearsed and performed; oftentimes they are presented again at the home parishes as fundraisers or simply for entertainment.
All Saints’ Keziah Higginbottom shared that she enjoyed “using and sharing the talent that God gave [me] with others.” Luke Nyman from St. John the Baptist parish remarked, “It is cool when you think about [Pope John Paul II’s] love for drama … and how he is similar to St. John Bosco … both loved to reach the youth however possible, and the arts are a great way to connect with teenagers.”
This year’s One-Act Play Competition and Short Film Festival is being held at Pope John Paul the Great High School in Dumfries on Saturday, March 26. Seven parishes will be presenting their work beginning at 10 a.m. A vigil Mass at 4 p.m. and award presentation will close the day of friendly competition. All are welcome to come support the young thespians and filmmakers!