At large, theater has left much to be desired as far as wholesome, ethical story portrayals. As the Company has observed, godly convictions are often compromised when the stage is in view. From immodest dress and behavior to toleration and encouragement of unchristian ideologies, many theater classics have been poorly presented. Theater has become a place of self-indulgence, feelings-based, where “art for art’s sake” is its own standard, instead of art being held to a standard of excellence. Just because it is regarded as a “classic” does not mean the story is valuable unto growth and maturity. “Popularity” does not constitute “morality.”
Christians have noticed what theater lacks, and many have tried to reverse the trend. But on the whole, the result has been a pendulum swing extreme. Instead of trying to reclaim the great theater classics by performing them honorably, many Christians have decided to dismiss secular theater classics altogether, choosing only to act and direct Bible stories, historical accounts, or stories with “evangelical” messages. While these productions are honorable and God-glorifying, the Company believes that in the same way Christians are not to become like the world, they are not to hide from the world either.
If Christians don’t engage the culture, Christians can’t expect to make a difference in the culture.
Still other Christian thespians have continued to perform the classics, but instead of reconstructing the art itself, they have mixed secularism with Christianity. A prayer at the beginning of a performance does not suddenly make the performance a God-honoring production. If there is still immodesty, swearing, or imprudent behavior on stage, or if rehearsals were conducted with disrespect toward each other, an opening-curtain prayer or mere reference to a Bible verse in the program is the equivalent of taking the Lord’s name in vain – speaking the right words without backing it with action.
In 2009, The Company of Strangers Theater was founded primarily to perform secular plays with a theological analysis, teaching people how to use their worldview filters. Plays usually depict real life situations, or real life philosophies, that every person experiences. Just as every person must experience life thrown at them at full force, they must also learn how to respond to the situations ethically. Circumstances aren’t ‘Scriptural’ or ‘secular’ – they’re simply Providential, and people are responsible for making ‘Scriptural’ or ‘secular’ choices in the situations given them. With this in mind, the Company’s mission is to perform a wide variety of plays to help sharpen the audience’s discernment and critical thinking skills as they identify the driving presuppositions and worldviews behind the action. There are many “mini-missions” that have resulted since The Company’s founding all those years ago, which can be read here, but this first mission still remains the foremost goal.
The Company of Strangers Theater gets its name from the Scriptural account of the Hebrew slaves in Egypt during Moses’ day. God called the Hebrews “strangers,” because they did not belong in Egypt, but in the Promised Land of Canaan. Today, Christians are destined to the Promised Land of Heaven, after serving our time on earth, wherein we can be considered strangers.
Another aspect of the name, however, comes from Psalm 137, which describes the captivity of God’s people after having forgotten God, unable to serve or praise God any longer. Christians shouldn’t wait to glorify God until it’s too late, being forced to become slaves and sojourners instead of kings and judges of the earth. The time is now.
When James and Jessica began attending the same homeschooling academy during their middle school years (both having been homeschooled their whole lives), there was an obvious chemistry…negatively. It wasn’t until high school that they started joining analytical forces. Before long, it became obvious (to everyone around them before they knew it themselves) that marriage would one day be on the horizon.
The foundations for the Company took root in James’ mind in 2009 during his sophomore year at Liberty University as a theater major. He pitched his ideas to Jessica, who has studied some theater at Sweet Briar College the year before. Along with a theater-crazy group of like-minded friends, cheesy advertisements, and a plethora of invaluable volunteered time and effort, The Company of Strangers produced their first show that August. To their surprise, it became evident that though theater was James’ love, it was Jessica’s gift. James’ brainchild has now become Jessica’s sole responsibility, with James helping in set design and production. James and Jessica were married in 2011.
In 2012, James graduated with honors from Liberty with a Bachelor’s of Science in Western Legal Traditions and Social Intelligence (ironically NOT with a theater major.) In his spare time, James enjoys hunting, working out, jogging, cooking, video games, and playing guitar. In May 2015, he graduated with honors from Liberty University School of Law. After James obtained a job at the WI Court of Appeals, he and Jessica moved to Waukesha. Now having passed the Wisconsin Bar Exam in July 2019, James works as an attorney for Meissner Tierney in Milwaukee.
Jessica enjoys reading, writing poetry and short stories, playing piano, singing, swimming, bike-riding, and taking walks. After years of working all kinds of jobs to put James through school, she is finally able to devote her full attention to theater, music, and being a housewife.
James and Jessica both have full intentions of continuing The Company as far as God will cause it to grow in the Greater MKE area. With how amazing a beginning and how much growth the Company has had, the only possible direction is forward, “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” Philippians 1:6.