Well, that’s a bit of a high brow title to describe my community theater experience last month, but it was an experience to be celebrated, and what better way to celebrate than with a fake British accent. (Just ask Madonna…or Esther). Sometime in November, my roommate, who teaches children’s music classes at the local community center, was asked to be the pianist for the community theater’s production of "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever." She was already singing in another production, but after being assured that it just involved playing some hymns during the pageant, she suggested that they contact me. I was a bit skeptical, because I’m more than a bit stage shy when it comes to playing the piano (more on that later), but I figured it was just a couple of hymns, and I really could use the money….so voila. I got the job.
It was a bit of a shock when I showed up on my first day of rehearsal and found out that I wasn’t the pianist, I was the musical director. I was handed a stack of music–some familiar hymns, and two songs I HAD NEVER HEARD BEFORE, and told I had the next two hours to teach the music to the children. The bouncy, bright, precocious drama stage children. Well, if there are two things I’m good at doing it is "faking it" and yelling at children, so I jumped in as if completely un-phased. To keep a long story medium length, we kept rehearsing, I got a little more confidence, and then the theater magic gripped me and I had one of the most enjoyable experiences ever. And in keeping with BCC’s mission statement to mimic the Ensign wherever possible, here are the two lessons I learned:
1. Don’t let mean kids who point and laugh at you keep you from doing things you love. No, these theater kids were not the mean kids I’m referring to. (In fact, I kind of fell in love with the Christmas Pageant angels and sheep, especially after they said, in a whisper in the green room, "you’re kinda fun.") I’m referring to some mean kids in SLC circa 1991. The last time I seriously played the piano in public. After participating in a piano competition, I was asked to play in a kind of "honorable mention" recital. I forgot my Chopin prelude right in the middle, and had to stop, open my music, and resume. After I finished, I sat down in the audience, mortified as some apparent musical savants turned and pointed and laughed at me for the rest of the recital. Pretty soon I left for college, got focused on other things, and thought that playing the piano wasn’t worth the butterflies and panic that I inevitably experienced. I think I’m cured now. I LOVED playing on stage. I loved playing Christmas music and facilitating the spiritual experience that I knew the audience was having. I regained a confidence that I forgot I used to have.
2. Participating in a theater production allowed an amount of artisitic and spiritual pondering that I found exhilarating. For those of you who have forgotten, or never read the book, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever is about the family of mean kids in town that hijack the church Christmas Pageant so they can get refreshments. Throughout the story, they start to learn the language of Christmas, and bring their own touches to the show that remind the audience of the meaning behind the story. Repeating the same lines and same music performance after performance allowed my mind to wander into an evaluation of the Christmas story that deepened and heightened my spiritual appreciation of the account in Luke. (In between some of the performances, I was reading the excellent Newsweek article on the nativity…which also spurred my imagination.) I suppose that seeing each child act out a different part of the pageant allowed me to focus on each individual character and how their presence affects the Biblical account. I think I was most struck by the wisemen. In the play, the rowdy boys leave home the very impractical gifts of frankincense and myrrh, and instead bring the ham from their welfare basket to the family of refugees. I thought that in a way, the wisemen (and the shepherds too) were playing the part of the first Christians, giving up their time and precious goods to follow only a spiritual promise (evidenced as a star) and eventually worship at the feet of Christ. Maybe we are all following the spiritual footsteps of the wisemen and shepherds as we re-enact that same journey of faith everytime we are given the opportunity to provide Christian service or display our faith.