When art, faith go hand in hand

Faith meets fun through a new local theater group.
BOARDMAN -- If you might snap if you see Tiny Tim one more time, maybe it's time to set sail for a remote tropical island.
"Treasure on Christmas Island" is an original holiday production by 34west Theater Co. in Boardman. In it, Molly Jacobson, played by Jennifer Knecht, sets sail with Captain Blackbeard, played by Jeffrey D. Querin, to discover the meaning of Christmas, which everyone has forgotten.
The real meaning, of course, isn't saying "God bless us, everyone" after finding a chest of gold doubloons.
Theater founded: 34west is a professional theater company founded last year by Querin, 28, and Stephen Baldwin, 26, both of Boardman, who are Christians. It's in its first full season. It's very much a ministry, said Baldwin, who dreamed up the idea when he and Querin were working in Houston, Texas, for a professional theater company. They were in a touring show and thought, "We can do this," said Baldwin.
Cutting out violence: And many families and people of faith have long been concerned about violence and nudity in television and movies.
"There's a huge need for quality entertainment," said Baldwin, a native of San Luis Obispo, Calif.
Baldwin is the associate director who loves working with children. Querin is the artistic director. Together they shape the productions.
34west fills a niche in this area by being a professional faith-based theatrical group. A number of churches present large-scale Christmas and Passion presentations, many others churches have adult and youth drama groups, and area theater groups have youth presentations.
Theater is an effective tool to spread the message of Jesus Christ, Baldwin said.
Subtle message: However, 34west is aware of the danger of beating people over the head with a message. That's where the professional part comes in.
"We take the kids on a journey," said Baldwin. "We tell the same message in a different way. That's the fun thing about it."
"The Little Prince," by Antione de Saint-Exupery, for example, is a classic spiritual tale but is not notably Christian. 34west is already booked to perform it at two public schools.
"It's a message of friendship and love," said Baldwin. The production is very philosophical but stresses the message of loving one another, he added.
The arts and faith both tell timeless messages. From 34west's view, Baldwin said, "All truth is God's truth."
Earlier this autumn, 34west presented "Abraham & amp; Sarah," a musical version of the Biblical story that described the foundations of Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
The theater company has been using Old North Church for its productions because of support from its senior pastor, the Rev. Brent Allen. In return, the theater company has been working with the church's drama team.
34west is also working in the Cleveland and Pittsburgh areas at retreats.

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