Today (Febrauary 17), the Apostles were at practice from 12:30pm until 5pm. That is nothing compared to Jesus (played by Troy Toney) who was there from 12:30 until almost 9pm. Still, that's what happens when you sign up for a production like this. You commit to sacrificing Saturdays and entire evenings, even early on in the process. Many of the cast have family they leave at home to come and prepare for this drama. We lose moments in this life so that we might produce something that will make a difference for somebody in the next life. These sacrifices and the knowledge of what they produce are what make this production worthwhile. Today, the Apostles practiced two scenes in depth. These two scenes are completely different from each other, which made for a challenging day. Here's what I can relate from my experience.
A Light Meeting Turns Serious, Then Sour
One thing that makes Above All unique are the tonal shifts in each scene. I mentioned how the Last Supper is made up of different moments, each with its own tone and action points. The Apostles go from jubilant to confused, to angry to sorrowful all within a few minutes in that scene. The first scene we practiced today was much like that. It is called Mary of Bethany and takes from the story in John 12, Matthew 26 and Mark 14. We are trying to portray a relaxing and joyful party at the beginning. It's genuinely easy to do because our group of actors get a long well and take time to hang out outside of Above All. When you see our group on stage, you are truly seeing 12 men who have bonded together and learned from each other.
The scene turns when Mary (played by Spring Wester) comes in and breaks the alabaster box over Jesus' feet. We are supposed to portray curiosity and then anger. She is wasting an expensive and precious ointment in our eyes. When Judas (played by Matt Hughes) starts to accuse her of squandering the costly gift, we are at first in agreement with him. I'm sitting next to Andrew (played by Logan Monk). My character, Matthew, having been a tax collector would have known the price. Even though the audience may not here it, I turn to Andrew and explain to him the price of the oil. This is helpful in giving his character justification to get angry with me. It's one of the things our team does well. We have figured out and studied who are characters are and how they would react. We also convey it to each other and that helps with how we portray the scene.
Finding Fun Between Takes
In between takes of the scene, we spent time cracking jokes and tossing grapes across the table at each other. Phillip (played by Anthony Thorpe) suggests somebody tackle Judas when he throws his cup down and runs off. Lazarus (played by Scott Hunt) recalls a time when he was an Apostle in Messiah and they put a live craw fish in a basket and handed it to Jesus (played then by Paul Smith). These moments between takes helps us to relax and grow closer to each other. Of course, our Main Above All Director, Keith Skluzacek, kept us grounded by having us take a lap around the church (one of his many motivational tools).
Small Scene, Still Important
The Mary of Bethany scene might not be what draws the patrons to Above All. However, when they are their (and hopefully you will be there, too), they will see a scene that has been planned, plotted and prepared for just as intentionally as the others. And if you focus on anything, focus on Mary. Even in practice today, she brought passion, tears and sorrow with her as she anointed Christ's feet. She feels it. We feel it. And we hope you feel it, too.
After that scene, we began preparations for the Garden Betrayal Scene, but we'll wait to recap that later as we have another practice and will have gone through the entire scene. Just as a primer for those coming to Above All this year, though: This year's Garden Scene will be much more intense!!
Chris Farris is the author of The Way, a manual detailing how to implement the Beatitudes into your life. He review events and other media and offers other insights into writing and working for the Kingdom of God.