The time has come to say adieu to my Monroe Project, though I think I will continue working on Jesus Play and explore other options within the realm of drama ministry. I am particularly interested in the role drama has with Maranatha Touring Choir, especially as I navigate the ins and outs as the new director.
To summarize my work:
1. The seven-week period stretched into approximately nine weeks total, though it was broken up into segments to allow for MTC Tour and other considerations. During that time, I researched the role of drama in the church, directed Celebrate Life! for MTC, and wrote Jesus Play as my own contribution to the growing collection of religious dramas.
2. Though the focus of the project was on the practical application of drama ministry through MTC and writing Jesus Play, I did some research on the history of theatre within the church as well as on the role drama has in modern ministry. An accompanying paper briefly discusses my research, as well as my experiences as a director and playwright.
3. I took on the role of Drama Director for MTC this year, which proved to be a challenging and enlightening experience. Because the choir had performed Celebrate Life! the year before, my job was mostly to remind them of the staging. However, I was able to work with the four narrators, especially one newcomer who took on his first ever acting role, to enhance their performances through timing, line delivery, embodiment, and group interaction. I think my biggest accomplishment was helping the novice actor grow to the point where he nearly matched the experienced performers in terms of energy and delivery. I also learned valuable lessons not only in regards to directing (what techniques work or don’t, how to run an effective rehearsal, et cetera), but also in terms of the spirituality of drama ministry. As a perfectionist, it was sometimes hard to “let go and let God,” but by the final performance, I was quite happy with the work my actors and the rest of the choir did—I even got goosebumps at one point, I was so impressed by their performance!
4. Jesus Play focuses on the twelve disciples as they encounter and learn from Jesus throughout his three-year ministry. The cast is relatively large, but props are minimal and sets are verbally suggested, making the play useful for theatre troupes, youth groups, and other groups whose anticipated participation is high though skill level may vary. One identifying feature of the play is the use of the entire sanctuary (or wherever the play is being performed) for staging, which literally places the audience in the middle of the story. One important aspect in the writing process that bears mentioning is the vast amount of information I discovered by delving into the biblical text and historical notes as I developed characters and wove events together into a narrative. There’s a lot more to the Gospels than we think, from references to Jewish practices to characterizations of Jesus and his followers that are, to say the least, unexpected!
5. To follow-up my project, I would like to explore the use of “theatrics” in worship services—part of worship is performance, but how strong is that association? Also, I was intrigued by the enormous influence the Medieval morality play cycles had in terms of culture and the development of theatre as an art form. Finally, I would love to try my hand at writing other types of religious dramas—maybe, with practice, I’ll actually accomplish something producible!
This project made for an intriguing summer of research and revelation. Through frustrating at times, I learned a lot from both theatrical and religious points of view. I look forward to applying the lessons learned through this project in MTC, my further studies, and my own religious experiences.