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board retreat photo

CITA turns the page in a weekend of stories

On the last Friday in September, the ten members of CITA’s board of directors and I traveled from around the country to Atlanta for a weekend retreat with ministry and non-profit consultant (and actor!), Jim Wert, to start discovering what the next chapter of CITA’s story might be.

Art Within generously hosted us in their facility in Marietta, about 30 minutes northwest of downtown Atlanta. Their inspiring space boosted our spirits and creativity as we looked back over CITA’s history, talked about how theatre and the world have changed in 30 years, and envisioned how CITA might serve now. We also got to go through Art Within’s REEL Experience, a team-building exercise which pushed us to think about the stories of our lives, the story of God, and how we as storytellers serve God and build his kingdom “on earth as it is in heaven.”

The retreat saw five new board members – Cristie Kearny, Evangeline Whitlock, Frank Mihelich, Kim Oberheu, and René Schiltz – join longtime members Bruce Long, Eric Jones, Joe Frost, Michelle Hoppe-Long, and Rich Swingle. These ten servant-leaders have an amazing depth and breadth of experience and expertise among them, while sharing a passion for Christ, the theatre, and CITA (read more about them here).

Nerf guns photo
Disagreements among the board did not typically result in violence.

We covered a lot of ground in 14 hours of meetings and, by the end, some really exciting ideas were bubbling up. But there’s still much to be done. Each of us is serving in at least one “work group” that will continue processing an area that needs further exploration. We’re meeting monthly online as the work groups report and make recommendations, and we’re planning to reconvene in person in mid-2019 to put the finishing touches on a new vision and strategic plan for CITA.

Jim Wert and notes photo
Jim Wert in front of the many pages of notes we generated.

While we work, we’ll continue the services we’ve been providing: the Secondary School Theatre Festival (January 31-February 2 in Charlotte, NC), The Happening (dates and location TBA), enewsletters, and Facebook engagement (CITA, Festival, New Works, and Networking Group).

We beg for your prayers and support as we do this important work for the future of CITA. If you have any suggestions, thoughts, or concerns, please write to our board of directors at board@cita.org or to me at luann@cita.org.

Stay up-to-date on what’s going on in our transition by subscribing to our enewsletter and following us on Facebook.

Luann Jennings is CITA’s Interim Executive Director. 

What happens next?

With the resignation of longtime Executive Director, Dale Savidge, our Board of Directors has entered a period of examination and discernment about where CITA is and where we go next. For the next few months, our online blog and monthly enewsletter will feature thoughts from our board and staff to keep you up to date on that process. If you have thoughts, ideas, suggestions, or concerns, please write to them at board@cita.org. This month we hear from our new Board Chair, Joe Frost

1996. Summer.
Fresh out of school with my bachelor’s degree in theatre from a small program in Ohio, and a lot of passion, but not a clear vision of what the Lord wanted for me next. Though I had already graduated, I tagged along on a trip designed for the next year’s group of our campus touring drama team – a trip to the Christians in Theatre Arts conference in Chicago, where I had the chance to meet so many people with the passion for connecting their faith to their artistry in theatre, and see it applied in so many different avenues – professional church drama, touring solo and small ensembles, educational theatre in colleges and university, theatre for youth, and engaging with professional theatre world. CITA and its community helped lead me toward my graduate studies, helped connect me to my career as a professor of theatre, and has continually inspired me to challenge my own ideas on how to approach the intersections of art and faith. Since then I have done work as a professional actor and playwright, taught at the university level, led theatre missions teams to Europe, experienced working in Theatre for Youth, done solo performance and written and devised many works for the stage. I know that CITA has both encouraged and equipped me.

2018. Fall.
Fresh off of the most recent CITA Happening in Houston, I am blessed with the opportunity to be the new chair of the board of directors, and we have a lot of work set out for us. We are so excited to gather in Marietta, GA this weekend, our group of board members, all with varying histories with and connections to Christians in Theatre Arts, taking this new opportunity to which the Lord has led us – to come together in search of a renewed vision for our organization, looking for new ways to encourage and equip believing theatre artists in the service of Jesus Christ while continuing to serve the many communities that have come together in CITA’s 30 year history. It will be a weekend full of challenging conversations, but we know as theatre people that there is something about live presence together that gives us the power to face difficulties, and we know as people of faith that gathering together invites the presence of the Holy Spirit with us, to guide our hearts and minds.

So, we ask you, any or all of you – members, friends, colleagues, family in Christ – to join with us in prayer September 29 & 30; for CITA, for the board of directors, that the mission of the organization, by which so many of us have been encouraged and inspired, will be affirmed through our upcoming process, that the Lord will reveal to us the next steps and provide direction for the passion we hold in our hearts, that lives at the intersection of our faith and our artistic calling.

Joe Frost photoJoseph Frost is a playwright, actor and director living in Jackson, Mississippi, with his wife, Shannon and their five children. He earned an MFA in Script and Screenwriting and an MA in Theatre Acting/ Directing from Regent University.  He has been involved in new play development for 18 years, with CITA, Belhaven University, Regent University, Crowded House Theatre, New Stage Theatre, and the Southeastern Theatre Conference.  Joseph is a member of the Dramatists Guild of America and is a Professor at Belhaven University, heading up their programs in Theatre Ministry and Dramatic Writing.

Dale Savidge photo

A Time of Transition

To the CITA Network from Dale Savidge:

I began serving CITA in the mid-1980’s as the first president of the organization. Sometime after that, the board asked me to continue as the Executive Director. It’s hard to believe that 30 years have passed. This wonderful organization has charted the course of my career in the theatre and I have been blessed to serve dozens of board members who have guided, encouraged and challenged me. I can’t think of a better way to have lived my life so far than as the director of CITA.

It is apparent to me that, to continue its service to Christians in the theatre, CITA needs fresh eyes and younger energy. Therefore, I am announcing my retirement as the Executive Director of CITA. The Board of Directors has embarked on a six-month transition period, during which they will be meeting with a consultant and planning for the future of CITA. Luann Jennings, our administrator, has agreed to serve as the director during that interim period and I have every confidence in her ability to lead the board through that process.

God has led me into the field of applied theatre and drama therapy, which I am practicing locally in Greenville, SC, and in trainings around the country. I have experienced the power of theatre as ministry and as therapy among the marginalized people of my community. I desire to see more Christian theatre artists explore how their faith and their love for theatre might intersect in their own communities.

I encourage each of us to pray for the board, for Luann, and for the future of CITA. I believe the best and most effective years for CITA are ahead of us. So while I have deep appreciation for our history I look forward eagerly to our future.


On behalf of CITA’s current and past Board of Directors and administrators – as well as the thousands of theatre artists in academia, ministry, community work, and professional theatre who have connected with CITA over the past 30 years – it is with much gratitude that we say:
Thank you, Dale, for everything you’ve done for all of us.

If you wish to write a note to Dale, please send it to admin@cita.org and we’ll be glad to forward it to him. 

In upcoming enewsletters and blogs, board and staff members will update you on our progress as we think, talk, and pray through a vision and strategy for CITA’s next chapter. We’d love to hear your thoughts. Write us at board@cita.org and your message will be forwarded to all of us. 

“Christians in theatre” or “Christian theatre”?

Some reflections on a perennial question by former CITA Executive Director, Dr. Dale Savidge

“What do the terms ‘Christian drama/Christian theatre’ mean and why do many Christians in theatre avoid using them?”

Many people avoid the term “Christian drama” or “Christian theatre” because they are grammatically and biblically incorrect. “Christian” is a noun, not an adjective. C.S. Lewis wrote somewhere that Christian art exists in the same sense as Christian cooking. So, early on in CITA, we avoided the labels because our focus was on Christians as people doing theatre, whether that theatre was in/for a religious organization or not. Faith-based schools, theatres, etc. or not. Doesn’t matter. The people are Christians and they are doing theatre. We sensed people somehow sanctifying their theatre by labeling it Christian – so the quality didn’t matter, the spiritual results did. Still hear that in some circles. But this is also said of education, music, literature, etc in those circles. Then people think of Christian drama as evangelistic drama, especially non-Christian theatre people. To them, the label means drama which propagandizes and sermonizes (as other subcultural drama does for other ideologies). Many of us ran away from these connotations.

Now, there is drama/theatre whose content is biblical, about Christianity, etc. So the subject matter is about Christianity and that is often called Christian drama/theater. I guess like Christian music or Christian art is about Christianity (whether written/produced by a Christian or not). So we treat such theatre first as theatre, then according to its content.  The content does affect the style and form and they are intertwined, but it is also possible to see them separately. T.S. Eliot makes this argument in his essay Christianity and Literature. But we can look at this like we look at the way the ideas in plays relate to their structure.  So medieval drama and Brecht’s plays share many similarities. That’s interesting, but we digress…

People now may avoid “Christian theatre” because they want to be seen as part of the larger theater community, to be taken seriously as theatres and artists and not dismissed by non-believers. Some of that is insecurity, some of that is a false sense of persecution, and some is elitism (i.e. “real” theatre isn’t obviously Christian – though it may deal with spirituality or religion). Some of that is wisdom, because in any vocation we don’t (and often shouldn’t) need to wave a Christian flag, post-doctrinal statements on our cubicles, advertise that we are Christians.

It is dangerous to generalize and I don’t want to suspect motives. My own experience is that when I’ve worked in non-Christian organizations (schools, theatres, and conferences) I don’t get the feeling I am looked down upon, second class, suspicious, etc. And I hear from a lot of professionals in the mainstream (even that term is discriminating) that they can make their way as a believer just fine. And I also believe there are times to be very bold and outspoken that we are Christians, that we identify with Jesus Christ the Son of God; when to speak that truth is a matter for  discernment but I think the Bible is clear that as believers we will have opportunities and we are obligated to speak of our faith, not just live it out in silence.

I’m comfortable not calling my work “Christian drama” but I am also fine with people calling what they do “Christian drama” because it means the content of what they are doing is derived from scripture or Christianity and is sometimes paid for by an organization which propagates Christianity. I am also eager to focus on who we are, Christians, first, before looking at what we do. And that has been the focus of CITA since its inception.