Another entry in the saga of my soon to be former church's drama drama. This one turns it into a comedy.
Two weeks ago Wonderboy performed with his church choir at the annual Christmas concert. The adult choir, handbells and praise band performed twice, first with the younger children's choir, then later with Wonderboy's choir.
And the new drama group introduced their wares to the congregation for the first time.
Before the performance I had run into a friend of mine from the adult choir. She was one of my actors when I produced drama at this church. I learned from her that this group provides "free" chancel dramas in exchange for rehearsal and performance space. A quid pro quo arrangement. She also told me that in order to join this theater group in any capacity, one must pay monthly membership dues. Remember this part. You will find it interesting later on. She also said that she would be interested to hear what I thought after the performance.
First I will dispassionately tell you the choice of material. They enacted two pieces of scripture. One was Mary meeting her cousin Elizabeth. The other was Elizabeth and Zechariah.
Next I will say the good things that I can about their performance. "They were clothed. "
Now I will say what I would have said if asked my opinion. "I am certainly not in their league.", "Never in my entire life could I produce anything of this quality.", and "Words fail me."
During the first piece with Mary and Elizabeth, the woman portraying Mary would recite a piece of scripture, (always facing the congregation and never relating to her fellow actor) then stop for long enough to wonder if she was all finished, then start again. I found it an interesting choice to portray Mary as a narcoleptic. The woman portraying Elizabeth did the Celine Dion chest thump on her belly when saying "the baby leapt in my womb.....", which in real life would have likely rendered John the Baptist deaf as a post. When Mary was speaking without relating to Elizabeth, Elizabeth plastered a frozen look of rapture on her face. We used to call this "mugging".
The second piece was....well...um....here's where words fail me. Zechariah and Elizabeth re-entered with Elizabeth now carrying what looked like a football wrapped in a blanket. She wore the same plastered look of rapture. The actor portraying Zechariah started in strong with his first sentence. Then stopped cold. After a couple, er, ums, hehs, he would paw at the "baby's" blanket, obviously looking for lines that must have been hidden in there. Elizabeth's rapturous mug started to look strained the 4th or 5th time Zechariah pawed at the "baby" for his words. After awhile it kinda looked like he might be drunk. I had to cover my face, it was too painful to watch. It was the kind of awful bad that makes you feel sorry for the actors and want to go up, take them by the hand and lead them offstage with "Oh, honey, you need to stop before you hurt yourself any more." In Covenant Players we called this kind of really bad scripture enactment "bathrobe drama."
During this debacle my mom leaned over to me and said "I thought they were supposed to be pros?" She and I whispered some choice comments back and forth.
At the end of the program the director of this group was introduced as "our colleague." He is a man of remarkable girth. In a church consisting of mostly conservative families and older folks he has chosen a costume of black jeans, black long-sleeved t-shirt and a black beret to cover his bald pate. The only other color were his athletic shoes. They were white. Once. Very "artsy."
When the program was over and we stood to leave, who do you imagine was sitting right behind us? That's right, the head pastor and his wife. My mom said she hoped they heard her comments. God bless her!
The kids were wonderful. I pray that next year we'll find ourselves in a church that will inspire an inversely proportional mention of wonderful to "Egad".
The next day, while at Trader Joe's, I ran into another friend from this church. She had not attended the performance but told me she had heard plenty about the drama and how wretched it was.
As a curious P.S. a few days later my mom and I were visiting a local business we enjoy. The proprietor there knows most of what happens in this small burb of L.A. She said she knew of a woman who works as a T.V. anchor at a local T.V. station who this very drama group is always calling asking to perform with them in the church. She does not have to pay the dues to join them. In fact, they would have to pay her to perform with them.
I considered this an early Christmas present from Jesus. I will now exit this place laughing as I shake the dust from my feet.