Posts Tagged ‘Christian Actors’

“Epiphanies of beauty”

In 07 Observations on 2013/07/12 at 12:00 AM

Holy Wood Acting Studio holds its Grand opening Event on March 25, 2011 and an extensive course begins on March 28, 2011

We need Christians to respond to the call of Christ the Divine Artist and take their place in creating new “epiphanies’ of beauty”; people who can help others to do the same by pursuing the vocation of the arts. I am thrilled to report on a new venture which is taking this task to heart by training future actors. The leaders of this effort, rather than retreat from Hollywood, have set up a new studio right in its heart. It is called Holy Wood Acting Studio.

A class discussion at Holy Wood Acting Studio

A class discussion at Holy Wood Acting Studio

LOS ANGELES, CA. (Catholic Online) – The relationship between the theatre and the Christian mission has been a bumpy road. Some of the early fathers, like St. John Chrysostom in his homilies on St Matthew and Tertullian in his admonitions against the shows, deterred the Christians from attending. This was because the theatre of the time extolled destructive behavior and denigrated the human person.  This does not mean that the theatre, or any art form, was rejected by the Church. In fact, history is filled with the Christian contribution to all of the Arts.

In the First Christian Millennium, the environment into which the nascent Christian Church was sent revealed an expression of theatre which had devolved to a sad low because human culture had become debased. No longer recognizing the beauty of creation and the dignity of the human person the culture reveled in sexual debauchery. It was because of this that early Christian leaders discouraged participation in the theatre. Unfortunately, hostility between Christians and the theatre continued into the third and fourth centuries and much theatrical presentation mocked the Christian rites and the Christian message.

The Christian faith proclaims that in the Incarnation of Jesus Christ the transformation of the entirety of all human experience and the created order has already begun. The early Christian community knew the goodness of life affirming theatre and artistic expression. The early Fathers understood the capacity of the Gospel to humanize men and women – and through them replace debased “art” with true beauty. The fullness of liturgical expression and the works of art produced by the early Christians demonstrate this fact. So, the Christians did what Christians are called to do, they transformed the culture from within and the arts flourished.

As for the Second Christian millennium, the first half of the Millennium witnessed a mature flowering of a Christian worldview with developments in art and Christian participation. However, in the aftermath of the so-called “Enlightenment” and the reactions to its aftereffects in some segments of the Protestant reformation, another season of suspicion arose concerning Christian participation in the arts. The theatre was again seen as suspect and discouraged in some Christian circles. It was considered “corrupt” and either abandoned or minimized as to its importance.  A sad and limited view of both man and the world created for him by God the Divine Artist followed.

As we began the Third Millennium, a Playwright, Actor and Artist occupied the Chair of Peter. In his 1999  “Letter to Artists” the venerable John Paul set forth an ambitious call for the participation of artists in the renewal of humanity through the flourishing of a new Christian humanism. With prophetic clarity he wrote of the “artistic vocation” as one who carried it in his own heart and incarnated it in his numerous plays and other writings.

Recognizing this between art and Christian mission he reminded us that Christianity is a true humanism, revealing the fullness of the human person re-created in the Lord who became like us so that we could become like Him. However, the Pope wrote that  “. in the modern era, alongside this Christian humanism which has continued to produce important works of culture and art, another kind of humanism, marked by the absence of God and often by opposition to God, has gradually asserted itself. Such an atmosphere has sometimes led to a separation of the world of art and the world of faith.”

That separation between the arts and a living faith has no place in a mature Christian worldview. It proceeds from a poor anthropology, a misunderstanding of the nature of man/woman. It represents an inadequate understanding of the scope and implications of the Incarnation of Jesus Christ. Finally, it promotes a theology of the Church and her mission that views “the world” as a hostile environment from which the Christian and the Church must recoil rather than a palate worthy of loving transformation by those who carry on the redemptive mission of Christ the Divine Artist.

Creation and Redemption are the grand masterpiece of God, the Divine Artist. He created the world out of love – as a manifestation of His Beauty. It is important in our time to reflect on what this relationship can become as we face an imploding Western culture. There is a connection between beauty and the arts and the Christian vocation to manifest the presence of the living God in this world which He still loves.

To be fully Christian is to be fully human. In this “Letter to Artists” the Venerable John Paul II wrote of “epiphanies of beauty” and called the artist the “Image of God the Creator”. He began this …


Influencing today’s culture

In 07 Observations on 2013/07/12 at 12:00 AM


I grew up with movies like Boy’s Town, Bells of St. Mary’s, Spartacus and Ben-Hur. Feature films were devoid of four letter words. Actors kept their clothes on. You coud see love in their eyes. Sexual tension was the climax of a scene not beginning. Actors and actresses stayed married to the same spouse. We looked to them for more than just the latest fashions. We looked to them as role models. They exemplified good moral character both on and off the screen. I wanted to grow up to become “Charlton Heston”. I still find myself quoting his lines from Ben-Hur to make sense out of life

That was yesterday.

Today too many of those we see in the movies we see moving to divorce courts, rehab centers or jail. Celebrity gossip fuels an multi-billion dollar industry. Too often these “rich and famous” complain of empty lives. In some cases their success can be fatal. Scripture verses like “what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world but loses his immortal soul” never rang more true.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

It shouldn’t have to be this way.

One acting studio is devoting itself to changing the culture of acting for the better.

It’s starting by reclaiming the name of the city synonymous with the film industry: “Holy Wood.” (For those who don’t know: “Hollywood” was originally “Holy Wood”, named for the cross of the crucified Christ.)

Holy Wood Acting Studio recognizes the power that actors have to influence society. It doesn’t believe their behavior should simply be a reflection of it.

As its website puts it, its mission “is to turn out actors who will lead the way towards a moral center for the movie and television industry…and prepare them to take a leading role in guiding these great media to that moral center that, in the past, proved that fictional drams can be honest, entertaining, popular and influential. ”

To accomplish this, Holy Wood will build what it calls the “Four Pillars” of success in acting – training in the art itself, leadership, personal and moral growth, and physical fitness.

To accomplish this, CEO, Carlos Espinosa, has gathered the best acting, leadership. spiritual and fitness coaches he could find.

To accomplish this, Holy Wood will advocate the Pope John Paul II’s “Theology of the Body”, the approach to spirituality that emphasizes individual dignity, the complimentary roles of men and women, and how romantic love can only find fulfillment in marriage.

Holy Wood opened its doors in Culver City March 25th.

This new acting studio with spiritual vision will limit its initial class to 50 enrollees.

If its vision is realized perhaps my grandchildren will want to grow up to be the Holy Wood actors they see in the movies.

I invite you to join me in praying for this new studio’s success.

More information on Holy Wood Acting Studio can be found at http://www.holywoodactingstudio.com

Click here for more on Theology of the Body.

Holy Wood rather than Hollywood

In 07 Observations on 2013/07/12 at 12:00 AM
“In his  letter of recommendation for the Holy Wood Acting Studio, Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez recalled Pope Benedict XVI’s address to artists where he called them “heralds and witnesses of hope for humanity.” Their pursuit of authentic beauty “unlocks the yearning of the human heart, the profound desire to know, to love, to go towards the Other, to reach for the Beyond.”

–Years before he was know as Pope John Paul II, Karol Wojtyla hoped to become an actor.

The late pontiff studied drama in his native Poland at Krakow’s Jagiellonian University. Later, while preparing for the priesthood at a clandestine seminary, he also was a member of the underground Rhapsodic theater company.

“Artistic talent is a gift from God,” John Paul once said. “And whoever discovers it in himself has a certain obligation: to know that he cannot waste his talent, but must develop it.”

The Holy Wood Acting Studio in California is following the beloved pope’s direction by helping aspiring actors develop both their artistic and spiritual gifts.

“Our mission is to turn out actors who will lead the way toward a moral center for the movie and television industry,” the studio’s website says. “All our courses emphasize personal and professional growth and development, not limiting such growth to acting potential, but also transforming the trainees into leaders in their families and community as well.”

Founded by a family of devout Catholics, the studio in Culver City, Calif., convened its first classes last month — a summer session for a dozen students — and is set to begin its first yearlong session (for up to 50 students) in September.

“Acting is more than just a career — it’s a calling,” co-founder Max Espinosa, the studio’s director of operations, told the National Catholic Register recently. “Why? Because it affects people. Art has the power to change people’s lives. Hollywood goes around the world and reaches the masses. It all starts with actors.”

The studio’s students are trained in the same Meisner acting technique taught at many secular acting studios. They also take courses in personal and spiritual development, nutrition and fitness.

“Hollywood is Hollywood. You can’t reinvent it, but you can affect and transform it through your own actions,” Joseph Griffin, a veteran actor and the father of 11 children who teaches a leadership course at the studio, told the National Catholic Register. “We can influence and
create a different narrative in Hollywood when we have these leaders. That’s what’s lacking.”

Griffin and Espinosa came up with their idea for the Holy Wood studio after a mutual friend — an Opus Dei priest — introduced them. Most of the instructors at the studio are, like Griffin and Espinosa, practicing Catholics.

In the Catholic tradition, there is a long history of engagement with the arts. Actors even have their own patron saint — Genesius, a third-century Roman actor who performed in a number of plays (at the behest of the emperor Diocletian) that mocked Christianity.

According to legend, Genesius had a conversion experience on stage while performing in a satirical play about baptism when he had a vision of angels holding a book where all of his sins were listed. As the story goes, Genesius asked to be baptized — for real — while still onstage,
enraging Diocletian who had the actor beheaded when he refused to renounce his newfound faith.

Genesius, considered a martyr for the faith, is also a patron saint of comedians, dancers, clowns, musicians, stenographers, epileptics and torture victims.

Catholics have been working in the entertainment industry for many years and more than a few have achieved great celebrity and acclaim, such as actors Martin Sheen, John Mahoney and Nicole Kidman, and directors Martin Scorsese, Joe Eszterhas and actor/director Mel Gibson.

Gibson’s 2004 film, “The Passion of the Christ,” the highest-grossing R-rated film of all time at more than $611 million worldwide, is widely considered to have been a Hollywood “game changer,” opening the door in the industry for film and television projects that deal explicitly with issues of faith.

In his June 7 letter of recommendation for the Holy Wood Acting Studio, Los Angeles Archbishop Jose Gomez recalled Pope Benedict XVI’s address to artists where he called them “heralds and witnesses of hope for humanity.” Their pursuit of authentic beauty “unlocks the yearning of the human heart, the profound desire to know, to love, to go towards the Other, to reach for the Beyond.”

The acting studio held its first classes on June 13, the day after Pentecost Sunday, which recalls the event described in the New Testament when, after Jesus’ resurrection, the Holy Spirit descended on his disciples — “as a mighty, rushing wind” in “tongues of fire.”

With that sacred wind propelling them, Holy Wood’s aspiring actors hope to discover a new kind of success in Hollywood — on a wing and a prayer.

Cathleen Falsani