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The cast of “Kiss Me, Kate” performers a scene. | Courtesy Elena Creed

When I attended “Kiss Me, Kate” on Saturday night, I found it so wonderful that I returned again Sunday afternoon. All of the actors and actresses shone, and the pit and crew were wonderful. But I was shocked by the many references of an immoral nature made throughout the show, from broomsticks to the content of “Brush up your Shakespeare.”

I am fully aware that “Kiss Me, Kate” productions are usually much more bawdy than the Hillsdale production, and I recognize the theater department’s effort to soften the show’s sharper sides. Still, I knew a family in the audience who had brought their young girls to the show, and they were concerned about the more inappropriate parts of the play that may have seeped into the ears of their preteen daughters.

This led to me consider the balance of Christian liberty — Christians’ freedom to engage in any activities not expressly forbidden in the Scriptures — with the call to be continually renewing our mind with pure and true things, especially in light of Romans 12:2: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed, by the renewing of your mind.” I concluded that while believers may practice Christian liberty, we should be much more sensitive to the younger, weaker Christian consciences around us than currently are, and make our decisions accordingly.

On that point, two of the more uncomfortable scenes, interestingly enough, reminded me of certain Biblical passages: Act 2, Scene 4, and Act 2, Scene 6.

Scene 4 featured Lois Lane (Gianna Marchese, who performed wonderfully), who strutted around the stage seducing and reducing men, while justifying her sluttiness as her brand of faithfulness in the coy song “Always True to You in My Fashion.” The scene’s adulterous overtones reminded me of the same unease I felt watching “Broadway’s Next Hit Musical,” the company that came and performed earlier this year, feelings that Molly Schutte touched on in her letter to the editor about the show. Proverbs 5 and 7 came to my mind, which tell of the adulterous woman that calls men off of the street as they walk by, seducing them only to dump them, depleted and despairing.

In a similar fashion, Lois’ man, Bill Calhoun (played by Mark Naida, whose dreamy dancing sparkled), serenades his lover, despite his knowledge of her faithlessness. This reminded me of the book of Hosea in the Old Testament, in which God, through the prophet Hosea, shows how he loves his chosen people despite their lust for other gods and idols. These pictures, albeit not the pictures the playwright intended for us to summon to mind and may indeed be viewed as weak excuses for immoral content, are at the very least thought- and discussion-provoking.

This article is not a comprehensive review of morality in plays, suggestive content, or even advice for Christians in their life choices. Nor is it a wholesale endorsement of all shows, novels, films, or the like that contain questionable sexual references or otherwise uncomfortable scenes. Rather, it is me sharing of some of my initial thoughts and reactions to some of the more morally questionable aspects of the musical, along with an admonition to wise living. The Scriptures call us to a life of holiness defined by imitation of Jesus Christ, who, though he ate with tax collectors and sinners, remained pure in thought and deed.

While we should not ever judge the decisions of Christian liberty that our siblings in Christ may make (Romans 14:13), we ought to be ultra-sensitive to any siblings with a more pliable and influenceable spirit, knowing that seeing you, someone more mature than them in the faith, partaking, could encourage them to partake as well, even when they are not mature enough to handle certain content without stumbling.

Romans 14:3 and 14:21 remind us that to “Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him…It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother or sister to fall.” The musical serves as a type of spiritual food. Some Christians will believe it wrong to eat, and others will think it is perfectly fine, but no matter your own opinion, remember to both not judge someone else’s choice and also make sure that our decision to eat would not cause a brother or sister to stumble on their journey.

On the matters that Scripture does not explicitly give moral commands, it is up to us and our consciences, reinforced by God’s Word, to make the right decisions. Not only do those decisions affect us, but they can also affect our brothers and sisters in Christ.

  • BradinAZ

    Speaking as a Hillsdale alum, I’m just going to say that anyone this shocked by a 1948 musical is going to have a VERY hard time once they leave the protective atmosphere of Hillsdale and enter into the outside world.

  • Natalie Scarlett

    Disbelief and amusement at the fact that this piece is not in the Opinions section almost makes me think it’s satire but then I remember it’s not even April yet! I’m saddened to see my alma mater turning into another Bob Jones and that “sluttiness” as an adjective makes it way past the editors of a supposedly award-winning newspaper. I guess it proves, yet again, that art is wasted on many conservatives who are willfully stuck a box of their own construction. In my time at Hillsdale as a theatre major I found that “educating for Liberty” allowed for more than one limited perspective on sexual morality, especially when it comes to the humanizing thing that is theatre and the arts, and because of that I gained a robust education with some gaps I continue to fill in. It’s with chagrin that I observe how the Collegian still has the capacity to rabble-rouse with its lack of subtlety, singular perspective, and sexism. Notice how the worst comment about a male character is that he “serenades his lover, despite his knowledge of her faithlessness” while criticisms of female characters’ sluttiness [sic] abound. Sam Musser is a college freshman and this is the first thing he’s written for the paper. Let’s hope he gets himself a little more knowledge and experience from a truly liberating Hillsdale education before he writes his next theatre review using only one source. In the meantime. here’s a helpful and educational source for your benefit. I use this with my high school writing and theatre students.
    https://learning.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/10/22/thinking-critically-reading-and-writing-culture-reviews/?_r=0

    • Andrew Egger

      I hope your high school students don’t go through life thinking “sluttiness” is an adjective too.

    • George Gibbs

      Indeed, conservatives could use more “edge” without shooting to Trump levels of foot-in-mouth absurdity. Winston Churchill himself was certainly no prude.

  • Tyler Groenendal

    As an alumnus member of Tower Players, I think this piece demonstrates a profound misunderstanding of what theatre is. I am unsure why this was published.