By Tess McKinley

Several years ago, I had a dream of creating a redemptive theater company on Boston’s North Shore. Because of poor health and work constraints, that dream all but died. With health improvement, I gratefully acknowledged the Lord’s intervention on my behalf and asked him how I might best serve him. The deep desire of my heart – the dream I dared not speak of – grew stronger than it had ever been, and I sensed the Lord calling me to produce a musical adaptation of Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities.

 In January 2018, I met with Father Tim and shared my dream. He agreed that it sounded like a calling, so he gave me permission to move forward. Four contra dances served as fundraising events in the church’s parish hall. In November 2018, we produced A Tale of Two Cities with a cast of CTR members and some local actors. Many who had wondered what we were up to, then joined us to use their talents in this ministry. This year, we produced Jane Eyre in November 2019, for which we built sets and installed new stage lighting (thanks to the Vestry).

We gave ourselves the name Imago Stage Company. The imago stage of an insect is its final mature stage when it is able to reproduce. The imago stage also refers to a person’s maturity, particularly as it relates to a parent or mentor who has made a significant impression upon the person’s identity. These ideas reflect the mission of the Imago Stage Company: to tell classic redemptive stories which engage the imagination of our audiences in spiritually transformational ways.

The power of story has been transformative for me, as my experiences as an actor/director and a literature teacher have caused me to reflect on the evil within us, the potential for goodness, the quest for power and significance, the natural tendencies of narcissism, selfishness, and betrayal as well as the unnatural potential for empathy, self-sacrifice, and compassion. Good stories in some way reflect The Great Story of Christ’s redemption. Stories stir our desires in many ways. We know there is evil and we yearn for it to be overcome with goodness, rightness, and truth. Although we may not be aware that these are all desires for God, our love of story exposes the depth of our need for something (Someone) beyond ourselves.
Although most stories center around plots that focus on good versus evil, conflict is not always good guys versus bad guys. It is not simply conflict between characters, but conflict within each character. We are fascinated with heroes and villains. Psychiatrist Carl Jung believed we identify with villains because we need to confront our capacity for cruelty. In order for us to identify with heroes, they must have some fundamental flaw or weakness. We relate to Superman because kryptonite humanizes him. Achilles’ heel made him vulnerable. And when a hero conquers the villain, we are freed vicariously from our own feelings of inadequacy.

Why Musical Theater? Music is transformative as well, uncovering our deepest longings, causing us to sigh or dance or weep. The passion of story told through song is irresistible. It expresses what we feel but cannot articulate. It enlarges our heart and connects us with all that it means to be human. Theater invites us to enter into another time, another place, to see through the lenses of characters who remind us of ourselves and those who are unlike us. As the house lights dim and the play begins, we suspend reality and allow ourselves to grieve past choices, mourn our selfish desires, laugh at our inadequacies, and imagine the impossible. Theater “holds the mirror up to nature,” as Hamlet describes it.

What’s Next?
Our plan is to build a team of technicians, designers, and artists who will work together to stage at least one production each year. We hope to draw more of the community to participate with us in staging these musicals, and to draw in an audience who may otherwise not be inclined to step into a church. We welcome all who can partner with us with prayer, financial support, and artistic contributions. We are grateful for the support and encouragement of the CtR staff who are assisting us in building a website. We are grateful for God’s provision for us over the past two years and we pray for his continuing guidance in the future.
Stay tuned for more information on the Imago Stage Company. CTR fully supports Imago Stage’s vision-  to tell classic redemptive stories which engage the imagination of the audience in spiritually transformational ways. In the coming weeks, there will be an opportunity to partner with Imago Stage financially to fund the Fall 2020 production. If you’re interested in getting involved through acting or behind the scenes, please contact Tess McKinley at [email protected]