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Jonathan Strayer: A Passion for Drama Ministries

Jonathan Strayer: A Passion for Drama Ministries

Jonathan Strayer Jonathan Strayer is Director of Student Activities and Resident Director of Ridley Hall at Baptist Bible College. Since graduating from BBC in 2003, he has been involved in a variety of different roles in the Communications Ministries-Drama program, as well as the Teen Leadership and Growing Leaders Conferences.

Jonathan and his wife, Rachel, also own and operate a small theatre group called Ghostlight Productions in the Clarks Summit, PA, area. They have been involved in Shakespeare in the Park in the community and are preparing for performances of Agatha Christie's "The Mousetrap," a mystery dinner theatre event March 25-27.

Read more about the dinner theatre here.

Having earned a Master of Arts in Theatre from Bowling Green State University in 2004, Jonathan has taught at Marywood University and Penn State University's Worthington Scranton campus, and is currently teaching at Keystone College in LaPlume, PA. He teaches several communications courses as well as a Survey of World Religions course.

Learn more about Ghostlight Productions here.

Learn more about BBC's Communication Ministries-Drama Program here.

Read more In the Spotlights here.

Insight Questions

What led you to BBC?
I never really wanted to come to BBC. There was a traveling group that came and visited my church when I was in high school and they left a bad taste in my mouth. I actually remember telling my parents I would never go to school there.

A few years later, I was attending Word of Life Bible Institute in Schroon Lake, NY and was looking to go to Cedarville for theatre. I could not quite afford Cedarville College (now University) so I decided to take a year off from school and work. A few months into my break, I realized I needed to go back to school or I may never finish college. A friend who was coming to BBC that January invited me to join him. I figured I would just take a few general education courses that would transfer and be on my way after that semester. I packed up my stuff and came to BBC only to find that my friend wasn't coming. Now I was here by myself with a roommate I didn't know. I hated it here.

Three days in I saw a poster for spring play auditions. I auditioned and was cast in BBC's original production of "Voices of the Civil War." I had already filled out transfer papers and was accepted to both Moody Bible Institute and Cedarville. I ended up staying at BBC because of the students I connected with during that play and Dr. Brian Maxwell.

What program were you in, and why?
I first came in as an Outreach Pastor student, because the Communication Ministries program didn't yet exist. After my first semester, the Communication Ministries program was launched, so I switched programs. I wasn't exactly sure where I was headed with my life, but I knew God had created me to do theatre; to be involved in ministry and community outreach using the arts.

What or who had the greatest impact on you as a student?
This question makes me think of two individuals. First is Dr. Brian Maxwell. Dr. Maxwell was my program advisor, my director, my teacher, and my encourager. As an advisor and director, he challenged me to push myself artistically and to not be satisfied with the status quo. As my teacher, he pushed me to try new things and to be open to learning in ways that I wasn't used to learning. As my encourager, he taught me to hold to what I believe God made me to do and to pursue further education in that field.

The second is Mr. Tim Kirk. He was my English Composition teacher my senior year. Mr. Kirk knew I was planning on attending graduate school and he pushed me to be academically prepared and ready for the challenges I would have ahead of me. In grad school, I looked back so many times and thanked God for Tim Kirk. He was a great influence on me.

How did your ministry here on campus first begin?
When I finished graduate school, I moved back to Clarks Summit and began working as the Technical Director of The Electric Theatre Company in Scranton and began building and designing sets for the plays here at BBC. During that time, Rachel and I applied to be RDs on campus two years in a row, but were never selected. Two years later I was at the student center building a set and Matt Pollock stopped up to chat. He told me to stop up to his office sometime and we could talk some more. The school was in need of a Resident Director for a men's dorm and a Director of Student Activities. I was already on campus so much and working with the students that applying for the positions seemed a natural fit. A few months later, I was hired.

Where and how did your passion for drama start?
In third grade I was in a play at church about the story of Esther. I played the part of Mordecai. Somebody in charge found a wig in their basement or their attic and thought it would make a great beard. They cut it up and pasted it to my face. It smelled terrible, it itched, and I hated it. I remember sitting behind one of the walls of our set and telling another boy I would never do anything like that again. I remember saying, "I hate drama," and I did. I didn't really do anything else with theatre until I was in high school. I remember being very hypocritical about my faith and the way I lived and I was called out by a friend who was living for God. I'll never forget what she said, "You're such a hypocrite, you ever think about joining the drama team?" The truth was that I had never thought about joining the drama team, but that wasn't the point of what she was saying. I arrogantly recognized the fact that I put on a good show for all to see, so the next week I joined the drama team. I was cut to the heart by the scripture-based messages of the cheesy little skits that our team did and quickly realized the arts are an amazing way to reach people.

What different roles have you had here at BBC?
Formally: Student, Resident Director, Director of Student Activities, and Director of BBC's Growing Leaders Conference. Other roles include TLC and Growing Leaders workshop leader, set designer/builder for TLC and BBC's plays.

Has there been a highlight of your ministry here so far?
Probably the highlight so far is the upcoming dinner theatre and the interaction we have with the students; teaching them and helping them workshop characters is great.

In what ways do you enjoy teaching at other schools?
One of the really great things about teaching at other schools is I get to work with all kinds of different people. One of my goals is to provide them with a friendly, loving, non-threatening, and non-judgmental interaction with a Christian.

What kinds of witnessing opportunities has God given you at other schools?
I have had many interactions with students and professors at the other schools where I've taught. The most recent opportunities came as a result of my teaching the Survey of World Religion class. There was a colleague I've known for almost three years now who started asking me questions about the Bible and God. This professor is really searching and I'm glad God has placed me there to be a light.

What classes do you teach and what is your favorite thing to teach?
The classes I've taught are Public Speaking, Personal Communication, Group Communication, and Survey of World Religion. What I enjoy teaching the most, however, is theatre. I love teaching and work-shopping creativity and performance, stagecraft and artistry, acting and directing. Because I don't formally teach any of that, Ghostlight is my primary outlet for making that happen.

What is Ghostlight Productions and how did it start?
I remember the night Rachel and I came up with the name "Ghostlight." It was April 2006 and Rachel and I were at the Friendly's in Clarks Summit. I wanted to have the word "salt" in our name and Rachel liked the word "light" (as in Matthew 5:13-16). Well, no matter how much I twisted my brain I couldn't come up with any salt related names that worked and quite honestly, I wasn't crazy about the light concept. Almost simultaneously we both recalled an instrument used in theatre called a ghostlight. A ghostlight is a tall light or lamp with no shade that is placed on the stage at the end of the day. When all of the theatre lights are turned out, the ghostlight provides the light needed to see the way out and subsequently the way in the next day. Now with that understanding of what a ghostlight is, read Matthew 5:15: "Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house." We aren't doing theatre to be preachy or to force our beliefs on people. We are doing theatre to build relationships with our community and to share the love of God through our lives and through our artistry.

That said, the short version is Ghostlight Productions is the brainchild theatre group Rachel and I started in 2006. It started with just the two of us doing small, little productions here and there, but has since grown into an effort that includes our local community and public performance. The first public production from Ghostlight Productions was in the summer of 2009, as we produced William Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night" as the first-ever Shakespeare in the Park at South Abington Park. We had six performances attended by a total of 688 people. It was great! We are now gearing up to do our second production, a mystery dinner and dessert theatre, Agatha Christie's "The Mousetrap" March 25-27. And the second annual Shakespeare in the Park is just around the corner in June. Check out www.ghostlightproductions.org for more details.

What are your other interests and hobbies?
My interests mostly lie in the theatrical world, but I do like to work on my cars, sculpt, write, build, paint, mountain bike, hike, grill, fish, and watch movies. I do not, however, have time to do any of those things. I am very interested in my wife. I do have time for her.

What do you see for your future in ministry?
Rachel and theatre. Beyond that, I don't know. I am a firm believer in Ephesians 2:10 and that God created me with a distinct purpose. I believe that purpose directly coincides with what I'm interested in, what I'm good at, and what I love to do.

How are you involved in your church?
We attend Heritage Baptist Church in Clarks Summit, PA. Rachel and I started doing drama in the services at Heritage in 2006. The primary purpose of what we have done is to get the audience thinking, to engage their minds so that when the Pastor gets up to speak they are already thinking about his topic. Our sketches are always done in conjunction with the theme and message for the day, so that our portion compliments the rest of the service.

What is your favorite verse?
Ephesians 2:10: "For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." And Matthew 5:15 "Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house."

Contact information
Email: jstrayer@bbc.edu
Phone: 570.585.9040
Website: www.ghostlightproductions.org

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Posted on: 3/19/2010 12:30:54 PM

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