Professor Starner Ministers Through Drama
While most know Dr. Rob Starner as a Greek and New Testament professor at SAGU, he is also actively involved in drama ministry. Starner uses his biblical studies and talents as an actor to bring to life characters of the Bible.
Though Starner has been involved in drama ministry since childhood, the first major piece he performed was an oral interpretation of Galatians for a class he was teaching. Starner later developed the piece and interspersed a simulated dialogue between Paul and his scribe that clues modern audiences to understand Paul’s arguments in subsequent sections of the epistle.
“People process stories by subconsciously placing themselves ‘in the shoes’ of the character or character group with whom they have the most in common,” said Starner. “In this way, hearers experience the text in personal and meaningful ways through the characters with whom they identify. When the text is ‘lived out’ in view of an audience, as in drama, the experience is intensified.”
Starner has played the role of Jesus multiple times in passion plays in local churches. According to Starner, “I especially cherished these opportunities, because I believed that my years of study of the gospel materials and ancient near eastern cultural backgrounds would help me understand the events of the passion from Jesus’ perspective and thus better equip me for the conveying that perspective to the audiences.”
In addition to his roles of Paul and Jesus, Starner has done a dramatic soliloquy he wrote about Joseph of Arimathea. The soliloquy launches an appeal for all Christians to take a stand for Jesus in the midst of an ungodly culture.
“Dramatic presentations are inherently powerful because ‘meaning’ is not some detached object ‘out there,’ but a reorientation that happens at the core of our being,” Starner commented. “The wide range of emotions that we experience gives testimony to that. The theatrical arts put flesh on the bones of the author’s story, giving color, shade, and sharpness to each of the author’s ideological points, and soliciting hearers to adopt the author's worldview.”