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.

    • 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.