Blank Canvas


“All the world’s a stage,

And all the men and women merely players;

They have their exits and their entrances;

And one man in his time plays many parts…” 

-       from As You Like It, spoken by Jaques; William Shakespeare


I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the concept of stage. You know - the inanimate area dedicated to some kind of performance.

It’s most likely because the Suncoast Creative team put on a Christmas show in December. It was a large feat that took months upon months to prepare between scriptwriting to preparing songs to choreography to set design and lighting that culminated in three shows: filled with light, sound and colour. Show after show, actors, vocalists, dancers and musicians filled the stage to tell story in the attempt to provide a message of hope in a fresh and innovative way. Rehearsals and series of late, late nights (thank God for the Tim Tams that got us through) ran for weeks and weeks before the production with a diligent array of artists honing their skills and parts to ensure their contribution to the show was something to that was worthy of the stage. And all these efforts were well rewarded with over 2000 people coming to take part in watching the extravaganza. 

The lights shone. The band played. The dancers bedazzled and the dramatists drew you into the action line-by-line, brought you to laugh and then evoked your tears – weaving you in as if you were part of the unfolding story. And soon enough, the final song played, the final bow was taken and the building began to empty. People had their coincidental chats with those they had been acquainted with and one by one the house lights turned off.  

And what had previously been a cacophony of light, sound and story falls silent. The stage is still. A few hours later, you might have been forgiven if you had asked whether anything had happened that evening if you had no prior knowledge of the previous few hours.

A few days later after the show finishes, the stage begins to disassemble. Props and set design begins to be bumped out and the stage transforms; it begins to look a little bare.  

And day after day, the stage continues to undertake it’s constant evolution. One moment, it contains a worship set – another, it’s a sermon. Just a day later, it might have a school presentation. Another, it holds another rehearsal, preparing for another show ahead. 

A stage is a blank canvas of sorts. To be sure, it will always contain the same basic elements of space and a floor. Some stages look different or have different purposes (e.g. proscenium vs. theatre in the round). Some may be painted or have polished floors.

But nevertheless, a stage is only what you make it.

A stage is only what you put on it.

A director chooses what elements may go onto a stage and the story that is told; performers dictate the excellence level they will exude through the rehearsal and repetition they give. A stage is as bare or as gaudy as the design team make it. But a stage is still just a stage nevertheless.

“Why the sudden analysis of the existentiality of stage?” you may ask. 

Good question.

As the first few weeks of 2019 roll through, I’ve been mulling over what this year means and what it might bring. I’m optimistic. I gaze down the barrel of the year and I see all kinds of exciting opportunities, projects I’d like to embark on, moments I’d love to seize. And for the Creative team, I’m believing for us to take the journey towards new heights.

New heights of God and all He does.

New heights of creativity.

New heights of influence.

New heights of community.

I’m incredibly pumped to head on this journey (and if you want to be part of it, come to Creative Launch on 5th February 2019).

However, if you were observant enough in the above paragraphs… you’d notice that everything I’ve just listed are verbs and adjectives. Doing and describing. 

I’m a dreamer. And I enjoy getting meaningful things done. I enjoy watching on as other people come alive in their God-given callings and giftings. I love imagining a concept and watching it become a reality.

Something I’m not so great at though is resting. It’s something I’m getting better at, but I’m still very much learning. It’s been a busy season for me – since August, I’ve been running at very fast pace (internally that is, still could never beat Tom Birrell in a race).

And in the last few weeks I’ve felt myself grind to a halt in certain areas of my life. Not because I necessarily wanted to. Through not enough thorough rest and my compulsion to complete, I’ve felt my vision-eyes fog over and began making some decisions and thought processes that if I had the opportunity to do again, I’d go about differently.

You could say I was operating from a cluttered stage. A stained canvas if you will. Attempting to rehearse and perform on a stage that still had remnants of props and staging from last night; performing Hamlet on a stage designed for Hamilton.

There’s nothing wrong with performing Hamlet or Hamilton. Nothing wrong in even performing in both of them. There’s something problematic though if you’re trying to do both at the same time though without taking time to clear the stage between them.

Once the stage is clear, only then can you bring new life and freshness to a stage. Only then can you have a fresh production or show take life.

You can then step out and feel at perfect ease rehearsing, improvising and creating. The stage is clear and free to do so. If it’s not, you’re inevitably going to have a smaller or uncomfortable space to work with – or perhaps even ruin the previous set and hurt yourself whilst you’re at it. 

What does clearing the stage look like? Perhaps it looks like taking some intentional time out to reflect and rest to give thanks and celebrate what God has done. Perhaps it’s to take time to recalibrate and work out how we could have improved or what needs to be fixed. Maybe it’s even a realisation or epiphany of repentance – and God promises that times of repentance bring times of refreshing (Acts 3:19-21).

How’s your internal stage looking? Because your next great work is waiting for you to clear your stage.


And that’s step one.


If you complete that step, that’s already a job well done. The next step is an optional extra, but one that’s well worth taking.

It’s to realise that you yourself are only ever an actor or an actress in the show. Learn your lines, rehearse your parts, get inspired, bring vision and ideas.  

But once you show to rehearsal, let the director direct. They have an idea of what the entire show is going to look like. They know how your part weaves into the grand scheme of things; how it weaves alongside the threads of lighting, choreography, sound, visuals, costumes and set.  

Don’t be one of those actors that are difficult to direct. I’m sure you have great ideas. The director might even use some of them. But famously, directors who have actors that don’t submit to the vision typically create tension and disrupt the show – and 99 times out of 100, it’s never as great as it can be.

For the Christian, the director is God. We’re joking if we think we’re the directors of our own lives. I can’t even choose what happens to me when I wake up in the morning. I don’t know what the oncoming day will bring. I can predict and influence events to be sure – but only God knows what’s going to happen (Proverbs 16:9). 

I know we hear some pretty lousy stories about directors – but Christ is the good director. As we step out and begin to trust him with our craft, with our decision making, with our studies, with our souls, with our lives – watch how He begins to direct and bring our movement into the fullness of what it could be. Watch how he reorients the scenes of our lives and fills them with colour and sound. Watch how as we surrender our lines of worry, fear, excuse and frailty and how He turns them into strength and something that can be used to tell His story in a way that resonates with the people He loves. 

So I plainly submit to you again this proposition for 2019:  

1) Take time to clear your stage (AKA take time to reset, to rest and regain or gain vision)

2) Let God direct you 

It’s simple really.

But if you’re like me, I’m sometimes just terrible at doing the simple. So pray for me. And I’ll pray for you. And hopefully together, we’ll learn together. And together we’ll see God continue to use our stage for his story and for his glory.



(P.S. Here’s a couple of highlight snaps from Hope Is Born 2018!)

The Hair & Make Up Room

The Hair & Make Up Room

The Sydney City Sleigh Ride Girls

The Sydney City Sleigh Ride Girls

“Fran”, “Darren” & “Sarah”

“Fran”, “Darren” & “Sarah”

Mary, Did You Know?

Mary, Did You Know?

Nathanael Hardy

Nathanael Hardy

“Charlotte” & “Darren”

“Charlotte” & “Darren”

The CProd 2018 Band (minus Kotoni & Brenton)

The CProd 2018 Band (minus Kotoni & Brenton)

The Cast & Crew of  Hope is Born  2018

The Cast & Crew of Hope is Born 2018

All photos taken by Nick Bradley & Ben Hyra.

Mark Dunlop