For both believers and nonbelievers, the pageantry of religion can sometimes feel like a whole lot of extraneous fuss. The stained glass, the snakes, the evocation of languages long dead — up, down, up, down, up again, down again. Shouldn’t you just be able to close your eyes and stand alone on a mountaintop wearing a simple shift to commune with the spirits? Even that, though, is a kind of ritual. The externalization of faith, whatever form it takes, is unavoidable. But it is also meaningful to and necessary for religion. All religions share a common attempt to communicate something that is, by all accounts, inexpressible: belief. Religion itself isn’t belief but razzamattazz, and all the glorious rituals and songs and handicrafts are in the service of communication, and thus, community. Years ago, during my youthful days in theater school, a teacher summed up this process quite nicely. “But Stefany,”… More…

It’s about 5:00 in the afternoon, it’s been raining all day and now into the night, and the radio says it’ll keep raining well into tomorrow. The phone rings. It’s my arts editor at the Baltimore City Paper. He sounds like he’s ready to go home. “I’ve got a play for you,” he says. The rain is beating against the windows. “Hapgood,” he says. “By Tom Stoppard. You good with it?” Before I can think of an excuse not do it, he thanks me. I pop a burrito in the microwave and watch it expand slowly. Then I find my green notebook, call and cancel on my girlfriend, and grab the car keys. I head out into the cold, wet Sunday night. This will be my 123rd night of Baltimore community theater. But who’s counting?

I started counting five years ago, when the editor at City Paper decided he needed… More…