“Our performing arts program has been hit harder than any other program at Timothy. There have been no live performances or opportunities for our students to shine.” Those were the words spoken by Timothy Christian Superintendent, Matt Davidson, at the conclusion of the live dramatic presentation, “Were You There?” in March. Those words summarized the burden on the hearts of Directors Katie Crichton and Erin Lanenga. The students involved in the performing arts, particularly the high school seniors, had no opportunity to use their God-given gifts and talents in ways they had always done previously.
Just before the Christmas break, Katie and Erin met to discuss the possibility of a live performance for their students during the second semester. They both thought and prayed about it over the break and returned with the idea of an original drama/musical based on the Easter Story from the Gospels. It was going to be a lot of work. Someone had to write the script, plan the music, choreograph dances, recruit the cast and figure out rehearsal schedules. Other members of the Timothy Music Department enthusiastically embraced the idea and made significant contributions.
A script was written, music was composed and selected, students tried out for various roles and “Were You There?” was in progress. The production included actors, soloists, vocal ensembles, dancers, orchestra, stage managers and numerous other roles. Over 70 Timothy students participated. It was truly a collaborative effort.
From the beginning, it was clear that “Were You There?” needed to be a live production. The only way that could happen would be if it was held outdoors. Therefore, in addition to the production itself, unique logistics would have to be navigated. A stage would have to be designed and erected, lights and sound would have to be put in place, the orchestra would need a place to play and be heard, and actors would have to use microphones in a unique fashion. A company was hired to handle those unique logistics. And the audience…well, they would be in cars in the parking lot listening intently and occasionally participating by honking their horns, waving palms or shouting out loud.
Senior Bethany Myers, a veteran of many Timothy dramatic and music productions, had just about given up on the possibility of a live production during the school year. The health guidelines that were in place due to the pandemic seemed too restrictive for a musical production. When it was announced that there would be a production, Bethany and her peers were extremely excited. The entire cast committed themselves to making sure that nothing jeopardized the production. They closely followed all the health protocols, including social distancing and mask wearing. The directors and student leaders emphasized that cast members should also be diligent outside of school, guarding against COVID exposure.
Some might observe that the story of the events that led up to Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection is very familiar to people. However, the Word of God is always powerful. Even the familiar can take on new significance. At every rehearsal Katie Crichton was struck by the power of reviewing the Good News of the gospel. Christians can become so familiar with a Bible story that those stories can lose their impact. But this experience was just the opposite; the familiar took on new significance.
For Erin Lanenga, the lives of the Biblical characters in the gospel story took on new significance. “Their stories became more relevant for me. I could identify with them more closely. Their stories became my story.”
The role of Mary Magdalene was particularly powerful for Bethany. “Mary Magdalene was far from perfect. She had a lot of burdens in her life, yet Jesus embraced her and his love transformed her life. As a person who has perfectionistic tendencies, Mary Magdalene helped me realize that Jesus doesn’t expect me to be perfect. I can relax some.” Another spiritual benefit for Bethany was a deeper realization of the power of God’s mercy. “God’s mercy overpowers our imperfections.”
What began as a discussion of a way to have a production that would allow for performing arts students to “shine” became life-changing for all who participated: not only for those directly involved, but for an entire community. Such is the power of the gospel no matter how it is presented.