Can We Be Too Dramatic? : Blog for Lectors and Messengers of The Word

Can We Be Too Dramatic?

by George Miller on 06/25/13

Opinions run from one side of the pole to the other on this one, and often from highly credible people in our church.

On our "Best Sites" page is a link to a piece, Reading the Word Sotto Voce, by Deacon Douglas McManaman who cautions lectors about being too dramatic and relying too much on performance techniques to make the word of God come to life.

When you read this piece you may get bothered because it differs largely from what most lector training programs and materials teach. Lectors with an acting background may find this piece particularly annoying because it puts down any need for their professional skills.

But what if the respectful use of these skills can bring the word of God to life, captivate its listeners and make them feel as if there's nothing but the content of the reading at hand?

The best actors never look like they're acting because they've studied the story and internalized the attributes and emotions of its characters enough to "become" them. And when they read the word of God, they can do the same. They become servants of God's word by abandoning themselves to it; not masters of it by lofty self-conscious performance.

In his compelling book, The Spoken Christ (Crossroads 1990), Fr. Willard Francis Jabusch cautions, "We don't add our own novel emotions or dramatizations into the text, but we must be able to interpret the richness that awaits us in the text and then convey that richness to our listeners." We must in his words, "Go all the way in your effort to be faithful to the text."

Faithful to the text instead of to our performance. Making sure we don't cross that fine line of drawing more attention to ourselves than the message.

In the eyes and ears of our listeners, the word of God should always eclipse us, just as the song eclipses the great singer, the dance the great dancer.

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The grass withers, the flower wilts, but the word of our God stands forever... Isaiah 40:8

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