PART ONE of my story about GODSPELL
I messed up my line every time in rehearsal. I only had two lines, and mine was the first line of the song. There was no warm-up. No lead-in. No chance to find my way in the song. No chance to start slow and pick up momentum. It was just cue music, grab mic, and sing. Sing.
I’ve held a mic on “stage” before hundreds of times. I’ve given sermons, speeches, toasts, and prayers in front of large crowds and small gatherings. I’ve even sung in front of people before, but always as a member of a choir. I had not been nervous in a church in years. Yet I knew my line was coming. From the moment the previous song started I was already thinking about it. My turn to clutch that mic and sing was coming.
Every time in rehearsal I had messed it up. I came in late. Or I was way off key. Or I botched the wording. Up until the show I was ‘ofer.’ I should have been terrified. It thought I was going to be terrified, but here’s the crazy thing, when it came time for my two-line solo, I wasn’t nervous. I sang it. “You are the light of the world,” I said as I pointed to one of the people in the audience. And then the ensemble came in behind me “You are the light of the world.” I felt good, so I kept going. I don’t know if I was off-key or not. I knew at this point the only mistake I could make was to hold back. “But if that light’s under a bushel, it’s lost something kind of crucial,” I sang. And for a moment, if only in my mind, I was Donnie Osmond as Joseph or Michael Crawford as the Phantom. I was hooked.
A few months ago I sat in a coffee shop and met with the Director of the Center for Living Arts, Dino Hayz. The Center is one of those little gems you find in old cities. It is not a big theater, but it has a lot of heart. Focusing mostly on youth theater, the Center specializes in doing quality shows quickly. Before there was a Center though, there was Dino and his wife and friends that put together a company to do Godspell in churches. They have been doing Godspell in churches for over ten years. They consider it their life’s ministry to spread the message of love and community that is a part of Godspell to as many people as possible. “It’s not so much a musical,” he explained to me, as it is an experience. “I want people to experience Christ’s love through what is happening all around them.”
We sat together and talked about an idea. It was an idea hatched by our children’s minister months (years?) before. What if we did Godspell together at our church? What could we create if we took a few of the experienced members of Dino’s company, and did Godspell with the talented and willing people from our church? What if, instead of them doing Godspell at our church, we did it together with our church?
I left that lunch knowing that we were embarking on something good. I had no idea just how magnificent it would become.
On the day of our placement auditions, I wondered who would come. On the first night it was clear that we had created something special. 20 people came. There were two kindergartners, a handful of junior high and senior high youth. There were a couple of adults who had never been in a show before. There were a few remarkably talented singers. There was a senior member of our church choir, and regular singer from our praise band. We ranged in age from 5-65(ish). We were men and women, boys and girls. Some brought members of their family in the journey with them, others came with friends. Some came eagerly. Some came only because they were dragged, almost literally, from other tasks. We were scared, excited, and willing.
We supported each other. As each person took turns singing a few lines a capella from a song of their choice we cheered. At least one youth simply had someone standing next to her for support, so she wouldn’t have to stand alone. The truth was, none of us were alone. On the very first night we were creating the community that Godspell is about. From moment one, we were living the musical. On that night, each one of us put a pebble in our shoe and called it “dare.”
They say live theater gets in your blood. People talk about it in the same way they talk about addiction. Intellectually, I accepted that it must be true, but until the word “crucial” left my lips, I had never experienced anything like it.
Being a part of this production Godspell changed me. I’m not even sure how exactly yet. I know I want to be a in another musical. I know that I want to have that 10-minutes-to-showtime excitement again. I know that I want to have that it’s-almost-my-line sense of calm confidence again. I want to look out into an audience and see their smiles, read their expressions, bask in their gripped silence. I want to look into the eyes of a cast member in the midst of another show and whisper, “we’re really doing it,” with the same mix of fun and terror that I had last Saturday. I want to put my arms around a group of friends after a show well done. I want to crash into bed, emotionally spent, and dream about the songs I just sang.
When I think about the journey that started with a lunch in a coffee shop in October, and ended on a spring afternoon… Well, I have to stop myself.
This journey is going to keep going. There are going to be more shows. There are going to be more rehearsals. There are going to be more chances to sing about love. Nothing ended that night. It turns out that something was sparked. Relationships have been forged. Dreams have been shared. A vision has been caught. There’s more to come. The show will go on.
And if you’re looking for a ensemble to “do” Godspell in your church, I know just the group.