We have been rehearsing for our church production of 'The Promise' for the Christmas program. We are starting to get the idea, so the first night was our real thing performance in front of the audience of nearly 2,000 people from the community. Eventually 8,000 folks will get to see this message of Hope, live on stage for Christmas. btw it was flash vid online during the five performances. HoffmantownChurch.org
On the first night they stuck me with a 40# sheep to carry and hold. The other shepherds got to carry wimpy little 10# goats. You know how sheep turds are little kibbles? Well that thing weighed the same as the big bag of birdseed from Walmart, and it was obviously full of Kibbles.
With it's fat body firmly pinned in my arms, I held it's tail tucked down under it's butt. My thought was to hold them in, until the scene ended, then walk back to the Wranglers and let them deal with the inevitable 'blowout'.
I had been holding that 40# hunk of mutton in my arms for well over fifteen minutes in the lobby, while dozens of excited kids petted the hell out of it's soft black wool, so I was already tiring.
The music cue, then the doors opened at the back of the auditorium. Four Shepherds entered carrying animals in their arms...little animals...for three of them. The long walk through the aisles and audience, was not too bad. The first ramp level up the catwalk in front of the audience, around the orchestra pit, then to the right, then another ramp left, up to the big stage, was a bit dicey.
At least going up I could see the black runway in front of me. The Shepherd kids ran back and forth in front of us and kept encouraging our progress to see the newborn Baby Jesus.... we all four shepherds and the kids made it up the ramp across the runway and up the other ramp onto the stage. So far so good.
I held the sheep's face away from the audience to keep it from getting scared. That left the butt pointed in their direction.. Maybe not so good an idea? At that point the weight was getting to me. I dropped to one knee near the Manger and started to set the Sheep down carefully on all four wobbly legs. Apparently it was also getting stiff. Finally didn't have to hold all of that 40# weight in my arms. There is a limit... over 25 minutes so far, now shaking.
Well as I leaned down in preperation for setting it on the floor, that thing started to rumble like a volcano. Immediately I felt the load of 'buckshot' blow out past the tail and over my arm, spraying a pattern all over the floor.... under the Baby Jesus (live Baby) in a feed trough.
The very young mother 'Mary' was kneeling right in the middle of it, and a young Shepherd boy was next to her. I pinned the Sheep to my right leg with my right arm, while keeping my left hand clear of that volatile butt...... the Sheep's.
I spotted a choir member's 'do rag' from the previous scene, laying next to the stable wall to my right. Sneakily I dragged it over and tried to wipe away the kibbles from Mary's legs. Well that was scary, if I carressed her bare legs, I would have caught 'Holy' hell for being a pervert 'hitting on' Mary....at the Birth of Jesus...
Quickly the Three Kings, followed by their flashy caravans, all started entering through the audience aisles. I now felt like the scene was doable to completion. 'Doctor Bob's Goat (he was a shepherd too) was constantly 'Nannying' right in my ear. Audience at first 'bleat' thought we were torturing the baby Jesus. When they quickly figured no baby sounded like that, they were amused.....for the first five minutes.
The Three Kings walked slower than I would have liked at that time. The King with Myrh approached with my grand daughter in his caravan, carrying his stuff. He finally got into position and shielded my sheep's butt from view, good move King. Now I carefully wiped away more kibbles from the shepherd kid's kneeling spot, cautiously leaving Mary to her own.
That part was going as planned (sort of), slowly the Kings left the stage. Too slowly for me, my knee was almost locked into the kneel. They all left the stage one by one, with their long robes and procession of caravan servants and guards. After that departure on the first night, the stage went black. I struggled to my feet, my knee was numb. Still retaining a death grip on that sheep, I lifted it up into the standard?... Sheep carrying position.
Now that fat Black Sheep was blocking my view of the runway leading to the stage stairs. Following the other Shepherds with their little tiny goats (why did I draw the biggest, fattest animal?), I stepped off the stage with faith alone into that black void of eternity. That's when I leaned precariously and the stone wall beside me started falling over.
Here goes the elegantly dressed 'Silver King's (that's what we called him) Caravan. He is actually the Frankencence guy. The King's well decorated entourage leaves the stage on the middle ramp...closely followed by? a Shepherd? Doc Bob... whoopsie, WTH? Glen (head shepherd) sent his Shepherd boy running to go fetch Bob back to leave with the rest of us lowly shepherds. Walking along with the King, was apparantly a little presumptious on Bob's part..
OK no great damage, so far so good. Doctor Bob hasn't fallen....tonight. Well yes he did fall into the orchestra pit... but that was last night. Baltazar (Gregory the narrator) reached down into the pit and yanked Bob back up onto the runway.
Then we went to wardrobe for our change into Priests for the next performance. As Priests in our long robes, we do a lot of scenes. We are even present at the market place where the thief steals the money from the Tax collector and gets chased through the aisles.
Of course he was quickly caught by Hittite 'Security', Then returned to be crucified with Jesus. Except For one night when 'Security' ran smack into the Roman soldiers. The Hittite (one of two brothers) fell into the lap of a person in the audience.
Fortunately the funeral procession, with it's seven members and our #2 Priest (Doug), had already cleared the aisle, or it would have been awkward with the corpse falling out of his 'bearer'. We needed that corpse for Jesus to "Raise from the dead". If he had fallen out and scrambled to get back on his board, our audience would have really become suspicious.
The scene depicts the same marketplace where Jesus and his disciples roamed aound with the crowd before his being ID'd by Judas. "Thirty pieces of Silver" could buy a full time slave in those days. Nowadays it can't even buy a politicians influence.
During this time period, Jesus was very busy casting out Demons, healing the lame, reviving the dead (guy on the board). Some of it on 'The Sabath'(a big No No). The crowd of close to one hundred very vocal choir members, roamed the aisles with lots of live Chickens, Rabbits, Sheep and Donkeys (Eyore and Piglet). Choir members also make good Lepers and Beggars. Did I mention that they can even sing? Some were very good dancers. Baptists can really dance, did you think they couldn't?
Myself, Daughter inlaw and her daughter, makes a three generation family performing 'The Promise'. Several friends (like pretty Kim, the dental hygenist who brought us all tooth brushes) of course added to the pleasant variety. We all kept the large, dedicated, 'behind the scenes' crew very busy for 12 to 14 hrs a day. Some of whom (like Kay) sewed and fitted all of our intricate costumes. The orchestra worked many long hours to get the music script absolutely perfect, directed by Terry, our dedicated leader.
We four Priests are present as Jesus "turns water into wine" (a good trick, used by 'Manischevitz'). Priests are present in the temple (a hastily erected tent in our case) when Jesus proclaims himself as fullfilling Prophesy.
Now THAT revelation really gets us angry. Our livelihood is being threatened. No one really needs us anymore. Everyone can now invite God to be their OWN personal confidante and Savior. We are no longer the 'Go to' guys. We Priests angrily want Jesus charged and found guilty in a court of law. Bob also played a Priest. With Bob now dressed as the #3 Priest, I being #4 in heirarchy (kinda like a Union), we witness the Jesus (believe me, he was 'railroaded') trial. BTW in case you wondered, Jesus did not have a good lawyer present for his defence.
The trial scene of course involves the Priest Union. 'Caiaphas' (Dale) being the High Priest... the union 'steward', our boss. Pilot's pretty wife cautioned her husband to Not get too deeply involved with crucifying Jesus, because she rightly figured "He was, who He said He was". That would have made their cushy lives infinitely more complicated.
That is why Pilot said he "Washed his hands of this Deed" (and he did, physically). Throwing down the towel, Angrily he told the crowd, "Crucify Him Yourselves"... Pontius Pilot was originely from Petoski Michigan. Did you ever hear of Petoski Rocks?
Lights went to dark at the end of the trial, we started down the ramp. Bob, #3 Priest, just in front of me, wobbled then started rolling down the long ramp like a big black and white ball, bowling over the line of choir members coming up the ramp onto the stage. I quickly changed my mind and took the stairs while the wreckage was cleared.
This afternoon we do it all over, and again tonight, and two more on Sunday. 8,000 tickets are in the hands of the audience divided into five performances, so it's a big crowd. I may again try the ramp, and recon that dark stairway, not sure yet but the stair recon is a def...
Next performances pretty much the same except for my new 'carry'. Terry our director thought that sheep looked a little overweight. With little time for an Oprah diet, A little brown goat that weighed about 10# became my new bundle of joy. What a difference.
Brown Goat was nervous at first but I stroked his chin slowly. He calmed down... Then began to eat my wardrobe. He loved the rawhide and burlap coat (pretty basic threads). He even tasted the brown cloth over my head with the sweatband. To a goat, everything is for tasting. I always picked him and we both got along well together for the rest of the performances.
My other role, like the Shepherd seemed to morph at times, varying in each performance. Actually done first in the performance, is as one of the four Priests of the Temple. We start it all off on a music cue with a wedding procession. A joyous dance (choir members, not the priests). Mother of the groom, father of the Groom and Groom are actually family.
Priests are really pompous (pious?) types, with hats and long black robes, a white prayer shawl to cover our hats (mine and Bob's looked like coffee cans covered in black cloth and tassels). #1 and #2 hats looked like big wide inverted cones with the wide opening, up. We were told to 'duck and cover' (with our shawls) when we enter the Temple (a tent affair that kids set up before we enter). They were late popping it up last night, so we just stood where it was supposed to be.
They eventually stood it up around us. Jesus walks in.... 'like he owned the place'... and reads the ancient scrolls that announce his 'Destiny'. We are visibly angry and hate the competition for our respected, well paying cushy jobs. Well duhhh. We as Priests, get angrier in each successive performance. Jesus is really getting us Priests upset. Do you ever wonder why so many people in this world dislike him? Those Priests were like today's media. They can incite people to action.
Like earlier, our next performance scene as Priests, is at the Trial where the Head Priest, Caiaphas (still our boss, Dale) demands that Jesus be put to death for 'Blasphemy' (now there is a word you don't hear today). The crowd all cheers 'YES', Crucify him. We four stern looking Priests, all piously nod in approval.
Pontius Pilot (Caesar's Gov) wants nothing to do with killing a man that did nothing evil or violent, but the big vocal crowd, scattered in the aisles among the audience, all shout louder... "Crucify Him".
They then have to release 'somebody' for the big trial to have meaning. Caiaphas says "Turn loose Barrabas", the thief and murderer. Crowd agrees and yells louder for the release of... Barabas.
Jesus is grabbed even harder by the big, elegantly uniformed Roman Guards, dragged and whipped on, through the streets hauling his own Cross, to be loudly (hammer hitting a ringing pipe) nailed in place.
Orchestra plays 'The Via De La Rosa'. He is one bloody mess as they crank him up. We Priests all know he 'Is surely not the Son of God' or he would 'save himself'. The Sky goes black. Lightning flashes, Earthquake rumbles at his death, strange things happen at the temple, and we Priests quickly stumble off stage.... Surprisingly Doc Bob survived the earthquake scene, leaving the stage on both feet.
The following event, removing dead bloody Jesus from the Cross, got his close 'followers' really bloody as well. Their garments had to be all tossed into the washing machine for the next performance.
Jesus (Chris) was then entombed behind the huge rolling stone. Chris's wife was hiding inside the tomb to get him cleaned up and presentable for the Ressurection scene. Extremely well disciplined, high ranking Roman Guards, and no Priests were in attendance. Especially none as he emerges from the Tomb. That would have really gotten them upset.
Notes from History:
Unlike other false religions spread by illiterates trying to copy his deeds much later, Jesus 'Followers' started writing down the events as they witnessed them. Jesus (in his case, by his Father...in Heaven) was extremely well educated, as were some of his Desciples. They kept meticulous records.
After the trial, Crucifiction and Resurection, his Disciples rightly feared for their lives, were told by the resurected Jesus to get out of that area and spread the story of what occured. "The People of the Book" as the early Christian Believers were referred, began their well documented journeys. We know of their writings today as, 'The New Testament'.
Christian 'Believers' were hunted down, slaughtered, killed as exibitions of entertainment in the Colliseum, and hated for spreading the word that Jesus the Christ had lived on earth as a man.
Later Roman Governors, including such as Caligula, had Christians covered in Pitch while still alive, rammed a long pole up their butts, lit them afire and raised as burning, screaming roadside lights along The Apian Way (the countless holes from the poles, are still visible even today).
That ongoing process would surely discourage many from admitting to being 'Believers'. We all heard that "Nero Fiddled while Rome Burned". Nero also blamed the Christians for burning Rome.
Return to The Promise:
Several of us switched back into Shepherd's wardrobe for the final Manger event.
This program is reversed from actual chronology, to finally show the Manger scene last, as is the real Christmas message of Birth and Hope..
The Trial and Crucifiction actually portrays the Easter message. A few of our church folks at first didn't like the idea of combining the two programs this year. At first there was some dissagreement among our cast members, but they ended up enjoying it once they watched it in it's entirety.... but that's just people.... we are all flawed.....but as 'Believers'... Forgiven. :>)
The Priestly Shepherd, 'Blogengeezer'
Fun way to remember "The Reason for The Season" in Our "One Nation Under God", The United States of America.