We were in rehearsal for several weeks on various dates. The youngest person in the cast, was the baby Jesus, oldest performer was John at 80 years young. He was a Pharisee and Shepard along with myself and others. For some unexplained reason, John was assigned by production, to follow My lead? The blind leading the blind?
Our first few practices were in street clothes with the house lights bright, so no problem walking up and down the ramps leading to the stage. As we finally started to improve on our routine, the routine changed to accommodate time constraints. We retirees don't do well on random routine change. Finally the costumes were finished by the sewing ladies that worked through the summer on the lavishly impressive new garments. Our old 'hand me down' costumes were past legal drinking age.
As we ward-robed up, it became obvious that John had problems with dressing the same way for each performance. The helpful Shepard boys helped him get it right.... some of the times. Others helped him with his costume before each performance. Eventually the need to have him on stage in costume and on time, sort of became my responsibility, for some reason only God knows. :>)
John had real trouble once the house lights dimmed. He is 80 years old and his eyes no longer area as bright. John does not 'push'. He only 'pulls', and reluctantly at that. I found that by pushing him through the crowded stage performers and then pulling him when the edges of stairs and stage needed navigating, he followed my lead...sort of. In the darkness, I stepped down into the black abyss trusting a stair would be there, and then guided John clinging to the foam wall past the crevasse. We then proceeded to back stage sanctuary into the little 'Inn' on right stage at hiding times, awaiting other Pharisees
John can take dozens of tiny steps 'up' the ramps, but despises 'down' the ramps. Stairs were little better, done one at a time by sitting on the edge of the stage while clinging to the railing. This 'lights out' maneuver caused great confusion to the choir members using the same stairs. John was a US Army soldier in Korea of the 1950's, so my military reverence for him as a brother in arms, ruled over my somewhat reluctant sense of assistance to the needy.. I need to work on that.... before I am 80 :>)
The first entry has the party invitees (the little kids) entering the auditorium through the aisles and dancing onto stage with the singing choir in wedding attire (one of the rare times Baptists dance?). The Pharisees escorted each 'Bridal Party' to the wedding feast where Jesus was an honored guest during his precursor to popularity. We all then follow the dancing children (sometimes Angels) and proceeded down the aisles of the packed church to the choir's lively music on stage. The orchestra is in the pit playing the score flawlessly, to choir director Terry Adam's
We as Priests, were to then hurry from the crowded dancers (they had loyally practiced their complicated dance routines more hours than everyone) on stage and snack on pretzels while waiting in the halls for the succession of 'Miracles', as described in the Bible. During this time, Gregory (Balthazar) our great Orator
Each Miracle was then performed by Jesus, such as turning the water to wine at the wedding, healing the sick and lame, restoring life to the dead. All as Jesus is recorded to have performed during his life. We waited and watched from the hallway as the numerous 'props' were exiting the auditorium. Eyore the large Donkey and his little friend Donkeyote?, were endlessly exercised in the hallways by their owners. Sometimes their 'water broke' and the emergency maintenance crew was called to the scene of the flood. Soon our que. We noted the full auditorium scene of 'The Marketplace' beginning.
With John in tow, I re-entered up the back stairs to get at least two Pharisee's on stage, just as the two young spear bearing brothers comprising our 'Security', carried the tax collector's table into position on stage. John and I stood behind the tax official. The very fast and agile young 'Thief' then stole the tax purse from the table on que, whereupon the two uniformed 'security' brothers chased him, leaping from the stage with their spears and through the audience, accompanied by much shouting of the vendors.
The marketplace scene was chaotic and noisy as the people roamed among the audience hawking their wares, including many small live animals carried in arms of children. Jesus came on scene, riding on a live donkey (Eeyore)down the aisle to great expectations of leadership as their King. The crowds were ecstatic about his arrival as 'The Messiah'. We, now as four Priests, briefly stood silently behind the 50 or so dancers at the rejoicing.
We then exited briefly to wait for 'Temple' que and pull our Prayer Shawls over our ornate hats, re-entered 'The Temple' on the right stage. Jesus entered the Temple surrounded by the Disciples, and read the scrolls to describe his own 'coming' as the Messiah. The Pharisees were absolutely furious at him, declaring Himself as the Messiah and left the stage as the Temple was folded and carried off.
Eventually realizing Jesus was not their 'worldly' King as hoped, it finally turned to rejection. Priests left the stage for several minutes as Jesus was eventually betrayed by Judas and was then taken prisoner to stand trial.
As Pontius Pilot (excellently portrayed btw) and his attractive wife entered, we as the Pharisee's re-entered the stage, demanding that Jesus be brought to trial and judged for death by Crucifixion (only used on serious criminals and murderers). Pilot vocally and reluctantly signed 'the people's decree releasing murderer/thief Barabbas to the people, in place of sacrificial Jesus... All to Pilot's great disgust. He then washed his hands of the matter, throwing the towel to the floor. Caiaphas (played by Peter) loudly asked Pilot to change the wording of the decree but wisely backed off, as powerful Pilot (Caesar's managerial appointee) would not re-write ("It is written, as I have Written") the decree to satisfy the Politically Correct Pharisee's verbiage.
Jesus ('Chris' in real life :>) was roughly taken by the visibly cruel Roman soldiers for dragging through the streets (the auditorium aisles) The Via Dolorosa played by the orchestra and sung by the choir, accompanied the beleaguered Jesus, who was badly beaten, visible bloody and loudly nailed to the cross while moaning in pain. The scene was very bloody and realistic as he died in convulsions along with the thieves high on Calvary, above the disciples in mourning.
The men portraying the Roman Soldiers were excellent in their beating and degrading of Jesus.... and anyone else that dared to approach him. (A disciple on stage was actually injured and taken to the ER) It took real talent for these very strong, very fit young guys to carry the bodies, including thieves (the brothers from our 'security') off the crosses. They vividly and realistically demonstrated their trade in physical abuse. So much realism was involved, an emotional elderly woman in the audience of one performance, actually used her cane to take a swipe at the soldiers dragging Jesus down the aisle.
As the earthquake and lightning at death ensued, we as Pharisees, fled the stage. Our next scheduled role, was as Shepherds at the birth of Jesus Christ. Back to wardrobe for three Priests, and change into our raggy stock-men outfits, as the rest of the entombment and resurrection was portrayed on stage.
quick as a bunny I got John out of his Priest outfit and into his Sheppard garb. Only then did I change into my own Sheppard gear.
We went to the animal loading area for our critters. Last year I was assigned a large heavy sheep by this same stock raising family with their home schooled sons. Not desiring that 50 pound load this year (he is a fully grown large Ram now), I told them I wanted their youngish Peacock.... wrapped in diapers. Smart move, as the other Shepherds got the large Goats. We made sure John did not get an animal to complicate his performances.
Mary and Joseph entered with Mary riding on the Donkey. They found no place other than the stable and manger for the birth of Jesus. Fortunately as we Shepherds gathered round them, Mary and Joseph did not get any animal 'exhaust' on them, as happened last year when my sheep had a blowout as I slid him to the floor for relief. Baby Jesus was really great in every performance. No complaints, even as his actual mom was waiting hidden in the stable in case of problems.
Just previous to the entrance of Mary and Joseph, the Shepherds were waiting in the entrance hall for our grand entry, led by the exuberant Sheppard boys down the aisles to greet the birth of Jesus..... 'The Promise'...
Once on stage, we watched in amazement as the Three Kings (including Balthazar) followed the star to Christ's birth manger. Their newly minted costumes were regal and gilded 'to the nines' (term from antiquity). Their lavishly gilded entourage's extended for a great distance, winding through the auditorium. Two of my grand daughters and daughter in law, accompanied the Kings, as well as danced in scenes. This was a fun family affair throughout the entire month. After the Kings left the stage, we Shepherds mossied offstage in the dark to return our anxious critters to their owners loading facilities as each performance drew to a close.
Between performances (there were five in three days) we re-dressed as Pharisees a couple of times to greet the departing audience in the foyer. We got so many compliments. It was truly remarkable. Two hours of sitting in the dark and they all (thousands) still liked us? "THE PROMISE" is a Hit, and with good reason. The Promise gives HOPE in this "One Nation Under GOD". The United States of America..
MERRY CHRISTMAS to All. "Tis The Reason For The Season".