The script of Salvation Army history is replete with dramatic stories, melodramatic performers and versatile stages. Our romance attracts larger-than-life personalities, and our mission brings out expressive human energies, from the early Effingham Theater in London’s east end, to Gowans and Larsson musicals, and more.
Today, a continuing expression of that theatrical heritage can be found in The Salvation Army Times Square Corps Theater 315, our very own state-of-the-art off-Broadway corps in New York City. With a string of recent performance successes that include the stories as diverse as Hosea, Pilate and the Skeleton Army, Theater 315 is rightfully gaining a reputation as a place for creative excellence. At the heart of the operation we find artistic director Christopher Monroe, veteran thespian and accomplished playwright about to embark through the month of October on an ambitious project depicting the archetype drama of Job, that most remarkable Old Testament personality.
In addition to being a soldier of the corps, Christopher is both the script writer and the director. We caught up with him during rehearsals for the story behind the story:
Where did the vision for writing a theatrical script for Book of Job begin?
CM: I think it originally began while I was studying theatre in college, and I recognized the similarities between dramatic works by ancient Greek playwrights and the ancient Book of Job. We studied the play Antigone, for example, so when I looked at the Book of Job I thought, ‘Oh, it’s a play!’ So from that point on, I believed the Lord put a play in the middle of Scripture. In the theatre, we believe that a play is not meant simply to be read – it’s meant to be performed. So, since then, I imagined a production of the Book of Job was inevitable.
More recently, after adapting the Book of Hosea into the stage production Door of Hope here at the Times Square Corps in 2019, I envisioned adapting the Book of Job for the stage as well.
Is there one insight from your creative process that has been significant for you, or would be of interest to our readers?
CM: There are many I could list, but one insight came from trying to understand the character of Elihu. It seems the way this book is written, it is up to the reader to really wrestle with and try and make sense of this mysterious figure. I do not think he is an easy one to figure out – and I think that may be by design. Presenting him as a kind of enigma may have actually been the author’s intention. For me, reaching definitive conclusions about Elihu helped me not only better understand the story as a whole, but also realize how to present it on stage as a play, with a story arc, and with clear dramatic structure. I encourage those who read the Book of Job, or attend one of our performances, to give Elihu a second thought.
How extensive and successful have the auditions been?
CM: The auditions went very well. We conducted them on two different days and had a decent turn out. We prayed God would bring the right people to the production, and we got the actors we wanted, all of which are perfectly suited for their roles. We are so grateful for such a strong cast – as well as a very robust crew!
Finally, any particular quotes or insights that would be of significance for our readers?
CM: The Book of Job is a very intense story and deals with some very heavy and awful events. However, the more time I spend with this story, the more beauty I find in it. We may forget it at times – but this story does actually have a happy ending! But more importantly, what I witnessed during this process was how strong the Gospel shines so brightly through it. I believe this book is imbued with the revelation of the person of Jesus Christ and His sufferings on our behalf. It makes sense that we would compare our own personal stories and struggles to those of Job – but I think it may be more apt, and perhaps wiser, to compare the story and struggles of Job to those of Jesus.
Thank you, renaissance man Christopher Monroe – book me a seat on the front row.
Performances of Book of Job are scheduled for Thurs-Sat, each weekend in October, and tickets can be reserved at: