HCRU Interviews: Maranatha Purring

Regent University’s slogan “Christian Leadership to Change the World” applies to many areas of life.  One area in particular that it covers is the Arts arena. Maranatha Purring is an amazingly talented actor who has chosen Regent to be her place of study. She has performed in Much Ado About Nothing recently and did her thesis roll in Dracula, Regent’s open play for the 2016-2017 school year. Maranatha is not only a talented actor but also an amazing person, so it was decided that it was time she and her story were told to the rest of campus:

HC: What year are you and what has your experience been with the program at Regent?

MP: I’m a third year Grad student so I’m about the graduate in May. I did some theatre stuff in undergrad but I never pursued it or trained in it. I actually helped run the theatre club we had in undergrad and I loved doing that. I got to direct here and there and I did teach theatre for the local school, but I never thought it was a career choice I could follow. But then I had some good friends who really believed in my talent and encouraged me to audition, and with a lot of…tough love, I came and auditioned! Then Dr. Kirkland [The Department Chair of Theatre Arts] called me the day after my audition and asked me to join the program. So I was like ‘Woah! I guess my life is shifting!'

It was really hard at first because I just didn’t feel like I belonged in this world—in this industry. I was surrounded by so many talented people and professors, and I was so daunted. But then, I started to settle into it and find some peace because God awoke in me the love for theatre. And the professors here are just so…they’re amazing. Incredible. They’re so passionate about their art, but they’re also so passionate about their students. There is love; and I could feel that before I fully believed in myself.

I’d say first year was hard and rough and lots of tears and ‘What am I doing?’ Then second year was like, ‘Maybe this is for me…’ And then third year I’m like, ‘I’m exactly where God wants me to be.’ I really accredit that to my professors and how they’ve invested in their students. It’s been fun! I love it. I’ve gotten as much experience and training here as I could have ever hoped or dreamed of.”

HC: What do you do in acting, and what other things do you do outside of acting?

MP: “I write. Not necessarily for the stage or film. Someone once described my writing as Prose/Poetry; I write very abstract, creative, short stories: Highly metaphorical, high concept. I write as a way of processing. So writing is big thing I do.

I love to work out. I kind of got into that once I started acting, especially because I realized I wanted to be connected to my body.

I am also a writing coach at the writing center here at the school because I have my undergrad in English Education and Literature and I love that. I have a huge passion for teaching and writing because it’s another form of expression and communication. It’s in the same vein as acting; it’s an art form. Being able to take thoughts in your mind and express them on a piece of paper so that way it’s conveyed to a reader—a type of audience—it’s an art form. So, I love teaching and writing skills. For instance, I’ll grade my siblings’ papers: they’ll email me their papers, I’ll mark them up, and send them back.”

HC: Dream roll?

MP: “Peter Pan in Peter Pan the Musical!!! I want it. It’s going to be mine one day, I’m convinced. I know I’m not a dancer, but I’m a mover, a physical actor, so I could at least fake my way enough to be good enough to do it. They don’t always cast dancers, but they’ll usually cast at least Dancer/Gymnasts/Physical people and I’m like, ‘I’m a big stage combatant, I do a lot of physical theatre, commedia dell’arte: I love Chekhov. Please let me do Peter Pan! I am Peter Pan!’”

HC: How do you integrate your Worldview into acting and writing and all the things that you’re passionate about?

MP: “Well, there’s this thing called—and this is something Dr. Kirkland really talked about a lot first year, and I really buy into it—kingdom truths. Or another way of saying it is universal truths. Because God has built into us our spirit, there is a knowing already of eternity, even though some of us don’t name it. There’s this sense that there is something more. Because there’s human connection, there’s relationship, there’s love, there’s all these things that set human beings and their souls apart from the rest of creation. So, naturally, those things surface in every story, regardless of whether it is a “faith based story.” Kingdom truths surface in stories, you can’t get away from it.

So, for me, it’s finding those truths in stories. I’m not about filtering out content as a way of determining whether or not a story is something I’ll get behind. It’s filtering out whether this story is telling a truth or telling a lie. Take, for instance, the play The Miracle Worker: it’s the story of Helen Keller. She’s blind and deaf; she’s just enclosed in darkness. She keeps people at arms’ length because she’s trapped in this world of darkness, and she doesn’t accept love because she assumes she can’t have relationship because she can’t communicate. And it’s not until Annie comes into her life and finally breaks through all those years and years of darkness until she understands that communication is possible which means relationship is possible, and all of a sudden that darkness is bridged. And love happens—relationship can happen. That’s a kingdom truth! The idea that you’re trapped in darkness and there is nothing that can change is overcome by the fact that communication is possible: now there can be connection, there can be relationship, and you are thus rescued from darkness. So every story—if it’s being told from a place of truth—has a kingdom truth in there. And for me it’s about finding the truth that’s existing in the story and driving that home.

I was in The Miracle Worker and I played Helen Keller. I actually met God by playing that role. Because it was in that scene—it actually happened on stage in front of a performance. I mean, I grew up a Christian-ish but it wasn’t personal for me. And it was in that scene where Helen’s in darkness and she finally understands that language exists: which means she can communicate with this person (Annie). This person (Annie) was trying to get through to her, just like a person in my life was trying to get through to me and love me this whole time and I didn’t see it: I realized that was God reaching to me. And it was in the moment! The tears came and it was just so real. Afterward, someone came up to me and they’re like, ‘Maranatha, I know this isn’t, like, a Christian play…but, I feel like I saw God on the stage…’ and I’m like, ‘Ya did, too!!’

So that’s me, that’s my faith in stories and the people working the project are the first ones to be impacted by the story: audiences come second because actors are the ones who have been reading the material over and over and over again; re-doing a scene over and over and over again: trying to find those discoveries and trying to find the stories being told. Trying to understand what these characters are saying. So it’s going to finally sink into me as an actor and impact me as a person.

So, for me, integrating my faith is about what the company is getting out of this story: are they investing in it, are they clinging to these truths? And, are we as actors telling the truth? Are we being honest? That’s my faith in my art.

HC: Do you have a question, rhetorical or not, for the readers?

MP: What is it that you want? I always had a want and a passion for theatre since I was little, but I assumed that that was just a want. However, I always wanted it. God doesn’t put desires in us empty. If there’s a desire, it’s because it’s for something that exists in us that’s meant to fulfill that longing. Because there was a deep longing in me for theatre and storytelling for as long as I can remember, but I kept it somewhere else because I assumed that that didn’t have meaning. I didn’t explore that want or pursue it. ‘I have this longing, that’s deep, and drives me crazy. That must mean something.’ And then to realize, if you want something, if you want it hard enough, you’re going to find a way to get it. You just are.

Even if it takes a while, even if it’s freaking hard.

Because that want is there, because there’s something outside that’s going to fill it; and you just have to find it. God doesn’t put things in you empty. So my question is: what is it that you really want, that maybe you’re ignoring or you’re assuming isn’t anything or it scares you too much to allow you to want it?

That was also me with theatre, I was scared to want it. But my mountain to me is not somebody else’s mountain. My mountain is my mountain, just like somebody else’s mountain is their mountain. But on the other side is what they want and they probably already know what it is, but maybe they just aren’t acknowledging it or looking at it or letting themselves look at it. Let yourself want it. Explore it. There’s no reason not to. You’re on the planet, you’re a human being, you long for something, there’s a reason you long for it: it exists out there somewhere.”

This is only a glimpse at the amazing personality that you can see take the stage several times a year. Make sure you see the next play at Regent, The Seagull coming soon and remember: There’s always more to the actor then their performance. Don’t be afraid to get to know them!