“Putting on Christ” changes everything. It changes the way we see other people, it changes the way we spend our day, it even changes the way we act! My son just finished his role as Jesus in the Passion of Christ. We had two requests for the children to bring the play to other groups. I found this a bit odd because our group is just a group of 14 children with very limited resources and no real acting experience.
However, an email arrived this morning that explained why there was so much interest. Our director, a professional actress who is on the national scene, explained that she learned a tremendous amount from our children. “Really?” I thought to myself. As she explained the details in her email, it all started making sense.
Apparently, there are two significant problems for professional actors: 1) Memorizing their lines and 2) Delivering those lines with sincerity that fits the character. Our children did the “impossible” by conquering both of these quickly.
Our director spent some time explaining how modern acting has really moved away from Stanislavski who encouraged his students not to manipulate the scene but to find the truth of the scene and to be open to the truth each time that a scene is performed. If you and I go to most theatrical shows, we will see the actors manipulate the scene in a way to manipulate the audience. As an audience member, we might not even realize that we are being manipulated, because some directors and actors are very good at this craft. Also, if that is all we see as an audience member , we just accept that is how it is supposed to be.
Stanislavski did not know that when you put this discipline in practice that what you are in fact doing is opening yourself to The Truth and allowing the Holy Spirit to cooperate with it using the actor as an instrument. I think this is what happened when our innocent acting troupe took their memorization and listening skills seriously. I also saw how many people wanted their photo taken with my son, “Jesus” after the play. They just wanted to share in the moment of Truth which we all had just experienced. What a blessing we had a Director who showed us the truth and beauty of the art of acting!
Could you take 14 kids, ranging in age from high school to kindergarten, spend only 7 1/2 hours with them, and then produce a Passion play? That’s what our awesome director did, along with myself and 2 adult volunteers. Our production had lights, music, scenery, props, costume changes–basically the works! The kids had to memorize their lines, follow all the staging cues, and work without a few actors due to illness during part of the rehearsal time. Truly, we had less than 7 1/2 hours of time with them before this group had to perform before a live audience.
Tonight, during the actual performance of The Passion of Christ, the children took to heart what our director said during rehearsal. They fully understood that their performance was to give glory to God. Their honesty and openness made quite an impact on our audience of about 50 people, ranging in age from octogenarians to newborn babies.
After the performance, many people wanted to thank my son for his role as Jesus. He is very humble and graciously accepted their kind words. On the drive home, I asked him how he thought he did, since I was mostly backstage and didn’t see the performance. In his usual low-key manner, he said, “Well, I think I had a lot of help.” I asked, “From the Holy Spirit?” He said, “Yes, definitely.”
You wouldn’t know it from seeing him on stage or from talking with him afterwards, but my son’s role as Jesus Christ deeply impacted him. He told me this was a very difficult role for him for a variety of reasons. Knowing my son, I didn’t ask for those details just yet. He will slowly reveal them as he sees fit. I am so proud of him for taking on this enormous role. After the play, I saw a transformation in my son. I don’t think I can put into words what I saw. It was in his eyes. I think some of my photos captured it. I don’t know, but I think I saw the eyes of Jesus.
Tomorrow night is the big performance: The Passion of Christ. As we ran through the lights and sound this evening before our final dress rehearsal tomorrow morning, our director was commenting how much she enjoys this time of a production. All the creative thoughts and ideas finally becoming a concrete, physical reality. I agreed with her as I pricked my finger because I wanted just one more safety-pin to hold up the backdrop.
The backstage is something to behold. Giant crosses are resting against the walls. A mannequin’s head holds the Crown of Thorns, which stands next to the purple robe and burial cloth. Costumes hang in rows on coat racks, ranging from browns to greys to shimmering pink. Our backdrop is a rolling cube which allows us to easily change between 4 different backgrounds for the scenery. All of it is very simple but effective.
We have no idea who will show up for this production. Last semester, we set chairs for an audience of 50, and ended up adding another 30 chairs to accommodate the crowd. But that was a Friday night, and we had to go with Thursday evening this semester. We are all wondering if families will skip soccer practice or forget about it being a school night and turn their hearts to the story of the Passion? I’ll let you know how it goes, but for now, I guess I will rely on the Holy Spirit to fill our room. All for Jesus, Mary & Joseph!