Tag Archives: theatre

Drama is Not Cute

I am an unabashed fan of mimes, skits, plays, and human videos being done within the Church. Drama is one of my passions, and all these things being done within the walls of the Church is something I genuinely get excited about. Excited to watch it, excited to participate, excited to direct it, and excited to critique it.

I went to a talent competition this weekend, and the whole day was about drama. I took notes during the performances and tried to pick my own winners. I compare my picks with the actual winners. It helps me be a better drama coach, and it will help me prepare the kids that I will eventually work with.

I heard something yesterday that was meant to be a positive remark, but as a drama person, I took it the wrong way. I was watching the younger kids perform, and the person announcing the different people coming to the stage also tried to engage the audience. During a lull while waiting for the judges to complete their comments and calculate their scores, the announcer told us, “any pastors in the audience, this is a great way to start off the service.” I honestly can’t remember exactly what he said after that, but the gist of it was “this is cute, and you should definitely incorporate in this in your service every now and then.”

picard

Yes, a seven-year-old in a tutu jumping across the stage is cute. There’s no denying it. But the reason there is dance or drama on any given Sunday is NOT because it’s cute. Drama people don’t perform because it’s cute. We perform because there is a message. Because of an anointing or a call on our lives. We are there to worship. Our focus is not on the crowd, it should be on Jesus.

As one who has spent most of my life working on something relating to a church drama, the fact that people still think of it as just “cute” instead of an actual ministry or something that has significance upsets me.

A singer or minister doesn’t want you to walk away from what they have done remembering what kind of outfit they wore. They want to know if what they did resonated within you. If it ministered. If it did, they succeeded.

Yes, the seven-year-old will be cute. But why is the child on stage? Do they want to show off? Or do they want to do something for Jesus? If it’s the latter, encourage that servanthood mentality and foster it in any way you see fit. Give them an opportunity to perform and to grow within their church family. But don’t let it remain “cute” to the congregation. Remind them it is another avenue of ministry. Trust me, your own drama person will thank you for the distinction.

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The Secret Grotto

Apologies for my extra long blogging break! I have returned!

Today I’m going to borrow a bit from The Little Mermaid and talk about the Church’s stance when it comes to the arts. Trust me, there is a connection.

As you watch The Little Mermaid, you discover that Ariel loves everything from humans – a world her father has forbidden for very good reasons – they eat fish! Her life is in danger if she is around humans, and he has made a blanket ban on anything relating to humans.

Ariel, though, ignores her father’s orders. She collects human artifacts that she has found within the sea. Knowing her father’s stance on the matter, she stores them all in a secret grotto. Here she can revel in her collection without fear of being scolded, judged, or punished.

grotto

King Triton finds his daughter’s secret grotto, and he does what he thinks is best to protect his daughter from the dangers of the human world – he destroys it. Unbeknownst to him, the enemy is watching the entire showdown, and uses the explosive episode to lure Ariel away from the safety of her father. It lands her into a horrible trap, and the rest of the movie follows Ariel and her family trying to reverse it.

ariel

So, why did I just give you a rundown of a Disney classic? Because it hit me one day that the Church has done the same thing with the arts.

Art, music, dance, drama – there is a place for it within the church. They are powerful tools, and the secular world has embraced them enthusiastically. The arts tend to draw a different crowd, and the majority of them do not embrace the Church. There is unfortunately an ugly side to the arts that can be used by the enemy to draw people away from the Lord. The arts are fascinating and powerful, and can be dangerous and offensive if the artist chooses. As a result of this odd little bundle that the arts represent, the Church chose the same path that King Triton did in the movie – they kicked them out. To protect everyone, it was just best not to do that. Period.

In the years since the Church rejected the arts, it has realized that was a mistake. They have reopened the doors to the arts, set guardians to protect against the ugly side of things, and hoped for the best. But the history is still there, and it is clear that in the majority of churches across America today, that the arts are still not fully trusted. They’re welcomed at certain times of the year, and then they’re bottled back up and not mentioned again.

nativity
I happen to be an individual who has lived in the grotto. It wasn’t a secret, because I was blessed to be in a church home that welcomed my gifts and abilities. But it was still different. And it’s different for anyone who wants to do something in the arts – play a different kind of music, paint for a living, perform in community theater, or be a dancer. Those are all perfectly acceptable things, but they’re not the run-of-the-mill Sunday morning fare. And because of that, it’s either pushed to the side, ignored, or rejected. It’s sad, but true.

kids shepherds

The arts are powerful means of media that can be used to draw people to Jesus. But, first, we have to get the Church to accept that we don’t have to live in the grotto in order to please them. Not everyone will patiently wait for their turn in the Church. Some will decide to leave the safety of the Church forever because the people don’t want them. They will use their gifts wherever they can be accepted – bars, clubs, Hollywood, and Broadway. Sadly, there isn’t a lot of Jesus there.

Don’t exile your secret grotto people, Church. Embrace them, love them, and use them. If you don’t, they’ll find another audience that will. Sadly, the enemy is waiting to steal someone else away. Don’t let anyone else be drawn into an elaborate trap that could be avoided.

 

 

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When the Director is Wrong

When I started my schooling at my local university, I spent the majority of my time at the theatre department. At the beginning of the year, there was a department wide meeting for all students and teachers. The department head used this time to tell them of his expectations for them throughout the year. It was here that crews were explained – a component of certain classes that required hours of work outside of the classroom. It was here that I learned “if you’re on time, you’re late” (a philosophy that helped break me of my habitual habit of being five minutes late for everything). It was also during these meetings that I developed a fear of the man. Not that he was cruel or even scary – he just meant business. I resolved early on to stay on his good side.

DIRECTOR-x-1in

As my time at the theatre department went on, I learned more about our department head. He directed at least three of the five main stage productions the department put on every school year, not to mention the summer theatre productions. The man knew his stuff. He was also a teacher for the Directing I class, a required course for my field of study.

Directing I was only offered once a year. I did not meet the prerequisites the first time I needed to get in. Several of my friends in that program did a summer course to fulfill the requirement and take the class that fall. I did not follow them, since my funding wouldn’t have been available for the summer courses. A few friends were in the same class as me that fall, and I learned all about the Directing class, and the Dreaded First Test.

Anyway, I got into the Directing I class. It was quite a struggle, but I managed to survive the class and come out with a decent grade. My fear of my teacher during that time was not only well-founded, but fostered during that semester. My friends and I were all relieved when the class was over. We still had Directing II, but that was with a different teacher. We had survived. We were done.

That spring semester, I took another requirement for my major – Stage Management. This crew was very labor-intensive. Whatever show you were assigned, you were required to be at all rehearsals and performances from the first audition to the final performance. Monday through Friday, 6-11pm, for about a month.

I was assigned The Tempest, the final spring production of that particular semester. I was relieved that I could manage at least one of my Directing projects without a stage management crew. The director for this play was the department head.

As an assistant stage manager, I was not required to do a great deal. We listened to the stage manager, taped down the set parameters, filled our binders with the script, and made note of the actor’s movements on stage. Once the actors learned their parts, we were all assigned certain characters to follow their lines. Whenever a character missed a line or said it wrong, it was the responsibility of whoever had them that day to make note of it and give it to the actor after rehearsal.

The set didn’t move, so we didn’t have to worry with scene changes. We just had to focus on the actors and make sure our notes were right. In case the need arose, any one of us could be called upon to fill in for an actor who had already stepped out for the night (never happened to me, but it did to others).

The director worked with his actors and demanded their absolute best. He was very insistent, and was generally the same type of person that scared me. I did my best to blend into the background and do my assigned job.

The set was finished. The production moved to the stage. They practiced and practiced and practiced. Everything was done – except the curtain call. The director meant to block it, but never did. “We’ll do that tomorrow.”

Finally, it was opening day. The cast knew their parts, but they didn’t know the curtain call. The cast arrived and gathered for the final notes from their director. They did discuss the curtain call, but did not walk it through. “You come in, then you, then you. Everyone bow.”

The show went fine. The final line was given. It was time for the final bows. There were no trips, no bumps, and no hesitant actors wondering whether or not they should enter yet. Everyone made it on stage without a problem. The main actors bowed. Everyone bowed together. The stage manager did her job, and gave the order for the lights to black out. The audience clapped and the actors filed offstage.

Each side of the stage had a stage manager wearing headset that connected them with the people running lights, the stage manager on the other side, and the head stage manager. These people gave us cues as needed. For this play, it was largely unnecessary, but they were there.

I was not wearing the headset, but a friend was. As the audience filed out, the director marched over to the person running the sound and demanded their headset. The frightened student complied. The director proceeded to yell at the head stage manager over the headset. He felt she had called for the lights too early.

After the cast left, the stage managers gathered in our usual classroom. We discussed what had happened between our stage manager and the director. Our stage manager made a very good point. “We never rehearsed it.” The director, we found out belatedly, wanted the entire cast to take another bow because they had done so well. The stage manager had no way of knowing that, so she called for the lights.

During a quiet moment, just before we were dismissed for the night, the director walked into our classroom. He ignored us and focused on the stage manager. “I’m sorry. You were right, and I was wrong.” And he walked out.

I promptly pulled out a sticky note and recorded the momentous occasion. The scary director had admitted he had made a mistake. Not only to the stage manager, but in front of others.

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The rest of the production, the stage manager let the cast take two bows before calling for the lights. The director never said a word about it again.

I saved that sticky note, written at the time to document the department head admitting that he was wrong. He had always acted as if he was right. In this particular situation, he was not. The students had known that, of course, but we did not expect him to admit it. Yet, he did.

Maybe he was gently reminded of the facts after he yelled at the poor stage manager. Maybe his anger wore off and he realized he was in the wrong. Whatever actually happened, he resolved to not only apologize to the student performing arguably the hardest job of the show, but he did it publicly, before her subordinates. Maybe it was calculated, maybe it wasn’t.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but he illustrated a life lesson that night. Never be afraid to admit when you make a mistake. Even if you’re the director. It takes the pressure off of everyone to realize that the person in charge is just as human as the one taking all the orders.

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Acting and Being Social

I have learned over the years that while I am not an extrovert, I can at least mingle with others if I have a script to follow. “How are you? How are your kids? Did you see that cat video?”

It is at times like this that I am thankful for my theatre background. I learned a great deal during my acting classes, mainly about my limitations as an actress. But I did learn that if I had a script, I was more confident. The script gives me direction, so once I was pointed in the proper direction, I was good.

drama masks

This is the age of social media, so I am rather grateful that I can promote my book and influence possible readers from the safety of my computer. Social media, to me, means communicating with others through writing. Imagine my delight when I discovered texting. 😉

I’m still consulting my script on this whole promote yourself to find your readers thing. I’m looking at certain lines going, “Really? Do I have to?”

I was recently given an opportunity at church to promote my book just before I did a drama. I was thrown off, since I wasn’t expecting it. I quickly gave the pertinent info, but failed to tell them what the book was about or even that it was also an ebook. Fortunately, the pastor helped me out.

I’m finding myself giving the same info to curious people about the book, so I guess I’m still writing the script that I’m supposed to be studying. Perhaps that’s why I draw a blank sometimes. However, I’m going to keep working at this script I can do my part perfectly. Thank you for your patience if I happen to stumble as I walk on stage.

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The Theatre

I went to East Carolina University to study Theatre Education. While I did not manage to land a teaching job, I did receive invaluable experience and a great appreciation for the art of theatre.

While my other theatre school friends have gone on to live fabulous lives following their teaching and acting careers, I am following my own dream of writing. Today, I will focus on the wonderful, frustrating world of theatre.

Do you know how many people work together just to get the lights working on the stage? Did you know there are such things like light design concept and unifying design in costumes?

Did you know that working in the set design crew as a freshman is guaranteed way to scare you into following all the safety rules? Try having your professor list every possible way you could die from every single tool that you will be expected to use in the near future. First lecture was the scariest. And the most informative. Safety goggles on, and never look at the light created while welding without wearing a mask. Be careful using a router. And an electric stapler. Pretty much everything, be careful.

While I managed to keep my life during the first semester at ECU, I did gain a new appreciation for the people whose lives were interwoven into creating the sets for each play. I managed not to break anything while creating a crucial piece of the scenery, the tear.

tear

A long, asymmetrical piece of wood was lowered in throughout the play, ‘tearing’ the document in the background. Very cool effect.

Since my time at ECU, I have gained a new respect for everyone who is dedicated to the theatre. Their lives are spent telling the story for the audience. Each piece is different, but crucial for the production of the play. As my lighting professor pointed out, there can be a great play going on, but no one will see it without the lights.

My experience in the theatre has helped me greatly in working in church dramas. Though the knowledge is helpful, it is horribly distracting if I am not the director. Fortunately, none of my directors have killed me yet and have welcomed my input.

As we approach the season of church and school plays, give a little extra love to the people running the show. Trust me, they need it!

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