Chasing Gods From an Actor’s Perspective
Chasing Gods is a play written by Paris Crayton III in light of the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida on June 12, 2016. The play tackles some heavy and relevant topics—especially the role of contemporary religion upon hate.
The play centers around a family unit, broken by a condemning sermon delivered by Deidra Curtis (Mother) a day after the tragic shooting. In her sermon, Deidra quoted the bible verse from Leviticus which essentially professes the intolerance of homosexuality. Deidra seems to feel no sort of conviction for what she believes is “the truth and way of God” despite how many people she hurt with her words—especially her daughter, Olivia, who is a part of the LGBTQ+ community. Furthermore, her son Immanuel lost his best friend in the shooting and she offers him no sort of comfort or consolement in grieving this loss. This in itself demonstrates how faith can prove destructive to humanity and morality.
Faith, religion, and spirituality are meant to be avenues of bringing people together and spreading sentiments of love and peace. It truly hurts me, as a Christian and more importantly as a human being to see faith be utilized as a means of hate and passing judgement upon others. It is for this reason that I have struggled with my faith for a large portion of my life. As I have come of age and become more independent I have been forced to truly step back and evaluate what it is that I believe. In an effort to sum up something of this magnitude that cannot truly be “summed up”, I now know that I believe in love and compassion. This is what God is to me. God is a constant regard for humanity and your fellow brothers and sisters as well as an incessant pursuit of righteousness.
This same conflict of faith and the pursuit of truth is something that can be especially seen in Immanuel Curtis, the husband of Deidra and the character I had the privilege of portraying in this play.
Immanuel stands as stark proof of living a lie. His exit from the church is both a sign of conviction and self-displeasure at his own hypocrisy. In his guitar, we see a coping mechanism and a symbol of new beginnings. Often times, those who pass the most judgment and hate are the loneliest of us all. This hate stems from within and speaks more on the hateful ones themselves rather than the target of their attacks. Although this character was emotionally draining to play, I found in it a responsibility to bring to life because it represents a very common archetype in today’s society.
Chasing Gods challenged me as an actor and as a human being, and I sincerely hope that it incited much of the same reflection in viewers. In a time as divisive as the one we are living in now, it is more crucial than ever that we come together as the fellow human beings we are.
A Pushback Against the Glorification of Violence in the Music Industry
Violence has pervaded the music industry today, specifically in the form of suicide, self-harm, and/or substance abuse. I thought this topic was fitting due to the trend of normalization of evil through the medium of music which both desensitizes and disassociates us from the dehumanization which occurs as a byproduct of violence.
In the image, the two members of the pop punk duo can be seen standing side by side in direct contrast to one another. The difference of color in their red and blue shirts symbolizes the constant struggle between good and evil. Their white pants have connotations of purity and display how our innocence becomes subjugated by our experiences and struggles. The band’s lead singer, Tyler Joseph (right) can be seen aiming a finger gun at
Recently, the band has expanded upon these sentiments with the release of their latest album, “Trench” — especially in the number 7 track on the album, Neon Gravestones.
This song has scraped up a heap of controversy due to its challenge to the status quo in the greater conversation of those who choose to end their life by their own hands, either in the form of suicide or drug abuse. This song was just released this month, coming off of the recent suicides of musicians such as Chris Cornell and Avicii as well as the drug-related deaths of musicians such as Prince, Tom Petty, Mac Miller, and Lil Peep. These instances of violence in the music industry have become virtually normalized and we as a society hold these figures of influence in the highest of regards. The band’s message behind the song is not that we should think any less of these individuals who succumbed to violence, but that we as a society should resist the glorification of violence and avoid praising the prospect of an earlier grave. This challenge speaks to Arendt’s notion of the “banality of evil” and how at some point an aspect of violence can become so ingrained in a people that they become dull to the actuality of it and lose their sensitivity to it (a sort of victimization and loss of morality). Twenty One Pilots is making an effort to combat this banality of evil by opening up the conversation to it and taking direct action to discuss and resist it.
Pettigrew, Jason. “Choosing Life: Twenty One Pilots Avoid the Glow of ‘Neon Gravestones.’” Alternative Press, 10 Oct. 2018, www.altpress.com/features/twenty-one-pilots-neon-gravestones-interview/.
FueledByRamen, director. Twenty One Pilots: Guns For Hands [OFFICIAL VIDEO]. YouTube, YouTube, 7 Jan. 2013, www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pmv8aQKO6k0&frags=pl%2Cwn.
An Original Poem
The following is a poem I wrote in response to the tragic shooting that occurred at UNC Charlotte on May 1, 2019. I dedicate this poem to all those affected by this shooting and gun violence in general, but especially to the life and legacy of Riley C. Howell—The 21-year-old student who sacrificed his life on that fateful day to save the lives of others.
An Original Song
I wrote a piano piece inspired by and based around my experience in the Humanities at Davidson College. The piece is entitled, Incipience.
The fight is on…but they’re all bold as love.– Jimi Hendrix