Not so long ago, a Christian theater group functioning as a full-time parachurch ministry would have been downright unthinkable in many church circles. But in the waning days of the sixties an idea for Christian street theater, and eventually full-blown drama performed by Christians in a professional setting, began to take shape.

An early effort that followed the above script was Lamb’s Players in National City, California, just outside San Diego. Incorporated in 1971, Lamb’s grew out of an experimental group at Bethel College (Minn.), then trooped to San Diego’s warmer climes (where founder Steve Terrell grew up) since street theater does not do well year round in Minnesota. Robert Smyth came on board to start a resident ensemble in 1976 when Lamb’s was operating out of a quonset hut. The group soon located a vacant Christian Science church—complete with theater seats, ticket window, and organ chambers well suited for a light-and-sound room. Converted and given a Spanish look (reflecting the area’s colonial heritage), the building is now “way too small for all that we do,” Smyth said during an interview last summer. Later, touring the darkened house, it is hard to imagine the intimate 150-seat room was ever anything but a theater-in-the-round.

Strike The Original Script

Lamb’s, which has ten full-time staff, is the only professional nonprofit theater organization in the U.S. that does not receive government funds—not only because of potential church/state conflicts, but, says Smyth, who is artistic director, “We really feel the people who see our work, who believe in it, will support it.”

Lamb’s many varied activities have embraced touring companies, an award-winning professional mime company, a dance troupe, and a puppetry ...

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