Sight & Sound’s Noah: ‘Where Spectacle Meets Story’
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For so many, the story of Noah is an epic tale, one that is so vivid and undeniable that it has found its way into world culture for generations. You don't need to look far to see the ‘Noah Effect’ permeating as a theme on an infant’s nursery walls, at the mere mention of flooding, or behemoth-sized buildings the size of an ark.
Noah’s story is one of the most beloved Bible stories for children because it is so simple and understandable. Yet it is so much more than that. Scripture shows us that Noah’s remarkable adventure of faith is actually a tremendous blueprint for the promise of a savior.
Sight & Sound Theatres is well aware of the power of Noah’s story. So much so, that they are bringing one of the Bible’s best-known catastrophes to life on movie screens nationwide April 9, 11, and 13th in a Fathom movie event.
Filmed in front of a live audience, Sight & Sound’s production of one man’s faithfulness in the face of sure disaster has drawn more than 5 million people over the years as their most attended theatrical production.
I sat down recently with Sight & Sound’s chief creative officer Josh Enck and corporate communications manager Katie Miller to discuss why Noah has captured the hearts of so many throughout history, what his story teaches us, and how people’s faith will be challenged by this man, an ark, and animals two by two.
Katie, your grandparents founded Sight & Sound. And I know your grandfather began by doing multi-image slide shows in churches and theaters all over the country. From that point of your origin story to right now, it’s a completely different solar system. I'm sure you've talked to your grandparents about this, but did they ever foresee Sight & Sound growing into what it has become?
Katie Miller: No. And we know of course that Sight & Sound happened by God's design, by his leading. But I think there's a lot of it that we look back and go, how in the world did this happen? Even as a family, we say, ‘How in the world did this happen?’ But it didn't happen over night. We're in our 43rd year of history and I think that's something a lot of people would say, ‘If you want to build a Sight & Sound, how would you do it?’ I don't even know what to say because there was no blueprint. There's so much in our history that was unexpected even to us that God used repeatedly to take us from one place to the next. These are things we could have never done in and of our own strength.
This is your third production that will be featured as a Fathom movie event. Before this we had Jonah and Moses. Why did you choose Noah to be the current featured production?
Josh Enck: Noah and this is pun intended, it really is one of our “flagship” shows. It set the stage for Sight & Sound theaters back in 1995 when it premiered at the entertainment center in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. It quickly became the original favorite amongst the Sight & Sound fans. It has been on the stage off and on since 1995. It will take a hiatus and then come back. We'll polish off the script to make it more relevant for today. So, it's gone through quite a journey, but it's still stayed pure to what it originally was back in 1995. It is coming back on stage again in 2020 in Branson, Missouri.
These shows are produced so cinematically in nature anyway. We have a 300-foot wraparound stage. When we started shooting it with multi cameras just to capture for our DVDs, we started to realize that they really translate well to the cinema and your local movie house. We tested it and saw it on the big screen and we thought, my goodness, it presents the same emotional experience that a guest would have in the theater on the big screen in the movie theater. We start capturing all of our shows from that point on with DVDs and Fathom events in mind. Noah was recaptured back in 2016, and has been in preparation for a Fathom event since then.
What is it about the story of Noah that has captured the hearts of so many over the course of history?
Josh Enck: I like to say Noah is where spectacle meets story. It's one of those stories that has crossed over into a mainstream USA. I didn't grow up in an overtly Christian home, but I knew the story of Noah, at least the bits and pieces of it. Noah finds its way onto the wallpaper in nurseries for families that don't even believe in the Bible. It's the animal component. It's the big boat. It's the adventure story. That's what draws everybody to it. But if you really look at the construct of that story, we obviously believe as Christians that it's a true story; it makes you realize that it reflects our journey to Christ with the Ark of safety. There's only a one way for humanity to survive. And that's for Noah to enter this Ark, to enter that door into the Ark of safety. We strike a similar chord with the Ark of safety being Christ. The only way to God the father is through Jesus Christ, through that door. This show really shows that kind of duel story unfolding before your eyes. We really dig into the character development and what it must have been like for Noah's wife to say, ‘You're going to build a what? It's never rained before.’ This is very unusual. We stick to the scriptures, we bring out and magnify on a massive scale.
As you've mentioned that this is a very content rich story. This production features so many colorful stories like the ark, the animals two by two, the Flood, and the stark realization that Noah’s family will be the only remaining humans on earth after it takes place. Does this create a greater sense of challenge and responsibility on your part to deliver an authentic story or as close as you can get to it?
Josh Enck: Absolutely. But where there is grace … our heart is to always bring out what that Bible story is meant to be. In other words, we don't rewrite the scriptures to make it better for us to tell the story. We really do honor what's already baked into that story and has been changing for lives for thousands of years already. We already know that this is a powerful story of saving humanity and God intervening on man's behalf to show them a way to salvation. We're not going to get in the way of that. We want to honor what's already in the script or in Scripture. Whatever we add to it is to magnify the lessons that are already there. So to answer your question, it is very sobering and humbling to bring these Bible stories to life on stage and really know that you're impacting lives for eternity. They are all prayerfully considered and we use sermon accountability like nobody's business because we just want to honor what's already there.
Is there any one event from Noah’s life that you feel is the key to the story of this Biblical hero?
Josh Enck: Yes, I do. There's a scene in the show where they'd been on the Ark for many days. God's not speaking. They're running out of food for the animals. They're starting to wonder if God's going to give them a sign or if they're just supposed to wing it. Noah finds himself alone at the altar inside the Ark. He cries out, ‘Why are you so silent Lord in all of this?’ And his wife comes out and sits with them at the altar. She encourages him to say, ‘You brought us this far. We’re going to finish what you started.’ And it just shows that point in all of our lives where we hear a call from God. We have the energy and the zeal to pursue with all the vigor and energy. Then you break through and all these God things that are happening all over the place. But then you get to that plateau where you're like, ‘Oh, okay. All right Lord. I haven't heard from you for a while and things aren't going bad necessarily. I just feel stuck. I don't know what you're doing next.’ That's when we deepen our roots with our faith towards Christ and the people who love us the most come along side of us and encourage us to that next step. Before you know it, the rain will end, the sun will come out and we can disembark the Ark and start the new future that God has for us.
How will people’s faith be challenged by the story of Noah?
Katie Miller: Our hope in all of the stories that we present is that people will feel inspired by the Bible stories and by the characters. Being able to relate to them and recognize that if they can make the choices, that they can trust God's faithfulness. He's the same God today. His faithfulness is just as strong today. His promises are true today, just like they were in the time of Noah. Our deepest hope is that people walk out of the movie theaters with that same renewed hope and inspiration and connection to the Bible.
Will there be any special features at the movie event that people should know about? Panel discussions, keynote speakers, a video of how the production was put together?
Katie Miller: Sure. If you come about 30 minutes early to the theater, there's going to be behind the scenes features. You get to see the animals experience backstage. You will get to see some of the technical aspects of what happens throughout the show and hear a little bit about our history. We're super excited to not just be sharing the Noah story, but also the Sight & Sound story.
After people come see the Noah Fathom movie event, when audiences leave the movie theater at the end of the night, what do you want your audiences to take away from the experience? What is your greatest hope for the event?
Josh Enck: To create something that is wholesome, good, edifying for the entire family, is such as an awesome, purpose filled, investment of time and money. I would love for families to not only see this show but to experience something in such a unique way. We've all seen TV shows, we've all seen movies but to see a live stage event on the big screen … if you've never done that before, it's quite an interesting perspective. It's a unique perspective for telling a story.
Katie Miller: Our greatest hope is when people leave the theater they will be inspired to stay connected to Scripture themselves. There's no bigger compliment we can get then hearing of a family who had the Sight & Sound experience to go home and as a family read the story together. We talked about it, we prayed together; our kids had questions, and being able to really dig into Scripture. Hopefully, the Sight & Sound experience serves as a catalyst for that to extend beyond the theater. That is our greatest hope.
Watch a trailer for Sight & Sound’s Moses live movie event:
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