- Faith & Family
Nowadays, Tyler Perry, who in some circles is known as the king of Christian-themed plays, many of which began as gospel musicals, have grossed over $500 million. With messages of hope and inspiration, it would seem that
gospel dramas have gained mainstream acceptance. But before Perry, there were outstanding plays and films that included “Unequally Yoked,” “A Good Man is Easy to Find” and the classic, “Your Arms Too Short to Box with God.” However, does the fact that a film or movie include an encouraging message mean it should be considered part of the Christian entertainment genre?
Michael Matthews, a popular playwright known for gospel-themed production says no.
“I think the most of today’s plays are really geared toward secular themes; I think they have gotten away from the gospel,” said the 58-year-old playwright. “True Christian entertainment should how a person is uplifted by giving his life to Christ — that’s what I consider to be gospel plays.”
Writing and producing gospel musicals since his first play, “Wicked Ways,” was staged in 1984, Matthews has been dubbed the “godfather of gospel stage plays.”
Some Christian plays and films have touched upon every subject from infidelity to homosexuality, while others have preferred to stick to more traditional themes and settings such as saving a beloved church from foreclosure. Ft. Lauderdale Christian playwright Cynthia Diane Bell believes that the message is most important in defining what is and what is not Christian entertainment.
“I’m going to always acknowledge God and I’m always going to have scripture in my plays,” she said.
Bell has written and produced a number of plays, including “Two Wrongs Don’t Make a Right” and “And the Church Said Amen.” Their content have crossed genres from a murder mystery to a historical drama about Black life in America.
“I believe in having an open mind about things in general,” she said.
However, her husband, Johnny, a fellow author and a minister, noted that there are limits to the type of content his wife is willing to include.
“We have a stopping line,” Johnny said. “There are some boundaries we don’t cross.”
For example, the only curse characters in her play will use is the curse word “hell”— since it was also used in the Bible.
Matthews bringing his new play to town
Meanwhile, Matthews latest play, “I Need a Man,” will be performed at the James L. Knight Center on Friday, March 23rd and Saturday, March 24th. The drama musical weaves a tale about a mother with four daughters who whole-heartedly believes that the only fulfillment her progeny can have is by having a man. Matthews says the relationship drama only underscores a larger issue.
“All my plays are gospel musicals and when I say “I Need a Man” I mean that the man that you really need is Jesus Christ,” he explained. “[The audience] walks away with the knowledge that no matter what the situation, Christ is the answer for a good relationship with your mate or your children.”
By Kaila Heard