LANCASTER, Pa. — When Sight & Sound Theatres creators Dan Deal and Kristen Brewer decided to tackle the biblical account of Queen Esther for their next live stage production, they had no idea just how timely the story would be.
Mere days before the spectacular stage production was set to premiere back in March, Sight & Sound was forced to close its doors due to lockdown orders in response to the novel coronavirus. Over 400 performances of "Queen Esther" scheduled for the following nine months were canceled, and over half a million tickets were refunded.
Despite setbacks, Sight & Sound decided the show must go on — digitally. On Friday, “Queen Esther’ will come to life, making its worldwide debut on the new streaming platform, Sight & Sound TV.
In an interview with The Christian Post, Brewer, the lead writer and co-producer of “Queen Esther,” noted that in the biblical story, protagonists Esther and Mordechai struggle to understand the difficult circumstances in front of them, paralleling current events.
“Both of the primary characters are really struggling and wrestling with the idea of not feeling like God is present and not feeling like He's being active,” she said. “But God is hidden in every detail that is happening. It culminates in, ‘Oh, this is what He’s up to all along. This is why she’s queen.’ It’s just beautiful.”
Deal, who wrote, co-produced, and directed “Queen Esther,” told CP that while Sight & Sound never could’ve predicted current events, they’re resting in the fact that “God is in control.”
“We're thankful He's running the show,” he said. “No matter what's going on in life, God is present, and you can turn to Him and trust Him. And that's why the line in the show, ‘remember who you are,’ is repeated. Remember who you are in Him. Remember that no matter what you're going through, that He's with you.”
Complete with elaborate costumes, live animals, and an impressive set, “Queen Esther” is the result of four years of exhaustive theological and historical research, according to Deal. Every song is steeped in biblical truths, reminding audiences of God's faithfulness throughout difficulties.
“We incorporated a lot of the Psalms in this production; we wanted it to be deeply rich in Scripture because you need that to turn your eyes back toward the Lord to walk through whatever situation you're walking through,” he said.
The importance of women, highlighted in the story of Esther, is also a focal point of the theatrical production. Brewer noted that though women aren’t always named among the “heroes of the faith,” like David and Abraham, God often uses women for His purposes in both the Old and New Testaments.
“God loves women; God uses women for His purposes,” Brewer told CP. “A lot of [the show] is about identity. ... Esther's parents poured into her. When she was very little they said, ‘Be still and know He is God. You are His. Stay planted in His love, and you're going to be able to weather anything.’”
“There are a lot of different types of strong women portrayed on stage, where you have some who are clinging a little bit to earthly power to try and feel strong and empowered, but Esther knows she is rooted in the Lord, and she's letting Him drive her life. She is finding her confidence in her identity in Him. And I think that's an extremely important message for not just women but for all people.”
Esther, she said, was used by God as a “vehicle” to save the Jewish community.
“You read the book and you realize there's always going to be a plan of attack on the people of God, whatever that looks like,” she said. “In this story, there's a very clear antagonist. Without that part of the story, can't really understand what the call on Esther’s life was, to be a vehicle for salvation for them. That's who the Lord wanted to use to save them from this enemy.
“One of the lines of the show is ‘God has a plan, there is an enemy, and we have a choice.’ And those three things work together to sort of create our current circumstances, whatever that is."
Emphasizing that God’s Word “doesn’t return void,” Deal said the goal of Sight & Sound is to present biblical characters “live and in front of you so you can see His story through them.”
“We're seed-planters,” he said. “The beauty of being a theater is anybody will come to it, and hopefully they're just being washed in God's Word and the story of people who are choosing faith over fear.”
Brewer said she hopes “Queen Esther” reminds people that they “are who they are, where they are and when they are for such a time as this.”
“That message is for everyone: God has a plan and a purpose for their life. They can walk away knowing that. It’s a call to action, even if that action is ‘be still,’ that’s very active. Be still. Trust Him. Trust Him with your life.”
The live performance will now be available to watch on Sight and Sound's new streaming platform sight-sound.tv on Sept. 4 at 7 p.m. ET along with other stage productions by Sight & Sound Theaters on Labor Day weekend.