Taibi Magar is unabashed in her fondness for The Christians.
“I absolutely love the play,” she said.
But Magar’s admiration for the show doesn’t only come from her role as the show’s director for the Chautauqua Theater Company’s production this season.
Magar said the show is unique and gripping; that it asks audiences to be active listeners. It isn’t just a piece designed to entertain — it’s a work that brings up questions about the nature of faith and community. Magar thinks it’s deeply worthwhile.
“The show is an incredible, incisive, well-written, beautiful investigation,” Magar said. “It makes you think, and it makes you talk. It perfectly aligns with what I love about theater.”
The Christians runs through Sunday, with performances at 4 p.m. Friday, July 12 and 2:15 p.m. Sunday, July 14 in Bratton Theater.
When it was decided that the show would be a part of CTC’s 2019 summer lineup, Magar said she was excited to be a part of it.
“I’d always heard about Chautauqua, and I really wanted to check it out,” Magar said. “I’ve tried to make it work in past summers, but the timing is always really hard. But when The Christians came my way, everything seemed to dovetail perfectly.”
Magar thinks the show is a perfect fit for Chautauqua. She said the thoughtful examination of the play’s deeply faithful community seems intrinsically Chautauquan.
“Honestly, when (CTC Artistic Director Andrew Borba) sent me the email, I thought, ‘Oh, this is so perfectly aligned to the spirit of Chautauqua,’ ” Magar said. “ ‘Why hasn’t anyone done it here before?’ ”
Magar has worked all across the country and internationally, taking on both classic pieces and cutting-edge shows. She said her favorite thing about directing live theater is that things are never dull.
“Theater demands your presence,” Magar said. “Your body and mind are required in the present moment. It’s always new and fresh. Nowadays, where everything is online and person-to-person contact is getting rarer and rarer, I think the theater only becomes more important.”
Magar is the recipient of a Stephen Sondheim Fellowship, an Oregon Shakespeare Festival Fellowship, a Public Theater Shakespeare Fellowship, the Theatre for a New Audience Actors and Director Project Fellowship and won an Obie Award in 2018 for her role as director of Is God Is.
Among the multitude of other shows she has directed, Magar said working on The Christians and bonding with the cast and crew has been a rewarding experience.
“I’ve gotten to create a family with this show,” Magar said. “It doesn’t always come together and work so perfectly, but this time is has.”
Jamison Jones, CTC guest artist and Pastor Paul in The Christians, said working with Magar has helped him grow as an actor and truly delve into his role.
“Having Taibi leading the charge as director has, in the best way possible, made analyzing and understanding my character even harder,” Jones said. “She never let me make a choice that was just the first thing that came to me. We challenged everything and dove so deep into this, and I appreciate her role in that.”
And while Magar was encouraging and pushing her actors, she said the show was pushing and challenging her. Magar said she never realized how directly the show’s questions — and how they’re raised — apply to the world beyond the theater.
“We’re in an extremely tense time; it feels very divided,” Magar said. “We aren’t listening anymore. … (This piece) is really important. Instead of lashing out at each other, the characters in this play try to deeply listen to each other and that’s something very admirable.”
Amidst the volatile conversations and monumental issues plaguing the world, Magar said that The Christians feels like a breath of fresh air.
“The spirit of the play is one of genuine, un-reactionary, thoughtful debate and conversation,” Magar said. “It’s something I think we could really use in our world right now.”