Lantern theater bridges religious and secular

The religious and the secular make strange bedfellows during the holiday season as shopping and egg nog share the same space with spiritual obligations. The theater world in particular usually steers clear of religious work.

There are practical concerns – religious material tends to alienate theater goers not of that religion. Charles McMahon of the Lantern Theater doesn’t see much religious material onstage.

“Not usually material that’s very good.” said McMahon. “There are people who do work that’s religious – that’s not really our mission here, it’s not what we focus on. And very often the work is not dramatically compelling.”

But McMahon has made an exception for Anthony Lawton, an local actor and playwright on a mission to create spiritual theater for secular audiences. Right now the Lantern is presenting three of Lawton’s one-man plays in repertory: C.S. Lewis’ “The Great Divorce,” Shel Silverstein long poem “The Devil and Billy Markhum”, and an autobiographical work called “Heresy” which chronicles Lawton’s descent into sexual and moral depravity.

Lawton does not do Bible stories – he says they come across as hackneyed. He wants to neither preach to the choir nor evangelize non-believers.

“I want audiences who are very orthodox to question the underpinnings of their faith, and secular people to take a second look at the underpinnings of their secularism,” said the observant Catholic. “The truth lies between – I can’t say where.”

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

It will take 126,000 members this year for great news and programs to thrive. Help us get to 100% of the goal.