Tag Archives: 9 Weeks of Passion

How I Became Andrew the Disciple (9 Weeks of Passion, Pt. 1)

The first meeting was Sunday afternoon, February 12. The wrap party ended late Saturday night, April 15. During those nine weeks, friendships were formed, 200 or so team members gave what they had and—by God’s hand—over 3,100 lives were changed. To produce The Crown, the story of Jesus’ life through the eyes of a child, each person had to bring passion to their role. And as we experienced over and again the key events that define Christianity, The Crown stoked our passion and faith.

In early February, Pastor Bill Walton of New Life Kids was thinking through the church’s upcoming “Thorn season” where New Life would have an audience of 50,000 for its extravagantly produced passion play. Yet he saw an audience missing in the strategy: 1st thru 5th graders, who were too young for The Thorn’s sometimes-violent images. He began to dream big about a kids’ play.

As Pastor Bill had a few members of The Furnace on his team already, he soon called our leader David about a partnership. Days later David announced at the Furnace gathering that The Crown would count as part of our prayer meeting commitment – and I was in (not that I’d had too much prayer… this just sounded like an opportunity God would use to answer some of those prayers.)

The first part of rehearsals actually resembled Furnace meetings: music playing, corporate prayers to God led on the mic, worshipers pacing (which looked a little funny once we got costumes: scary demons lifting their hands, Pharisees praying over the chairs where the audience would be watching.) Everyone connected to The Crown hit it off right away, especially within the teams.

For instance: on Sunday nights, we 12 disciples had less than an hour to eat between rehearsals and the evening service (a Furnace requirement, and all but two of us are Furnace guys—we’re working on them.) Thus, if you were in the parking lot those days, you would notice two packed cars racing to Fazoli’s or Chipotle – and racing back. I won once.

There was the costumes team, who impressed with how quickly they could get everyone’s measurements without stopping the flow of rehearsals, then have finely-stitched robes ready within hours. The three lead actors had to continually adjust to script changes that came a lot that first month. Some of the hardest work fell to Jordan and the team directors: creating scenes from scratch for a production in its first year, which they spent every minute doing.

Throwing up at rehearsal (9 Weeks of Passion, Pt. 2)

The thing about rehearsals: when you don’t know what your role is yet and often sitting through six takes of the same scene, 3 hours stretches for a long time. I remember one day we had to practice in the main sanctuary. We couldn’t hear directions or the music cues as we tried to get through Jesus’ miracles scenes.

“You’re getting me a little frustrated,” one of the other disciples told me. “When I try to joke around, you get in super-serious mode. Then in a flash you’re laughing with the guys. What’s up?” “It’s a tough balance right now,” I told him. “We want to have fun, but we’re really trying to listen to the directors and make the most of our time. We just have to press on.” Which we did – some pressing on under extreme pressure.

There was Katie, the warring demon who tore a muscle early on and needed crutches; still she showed up at nearly every practice, often on very strong pain medication. [As an aside: we constantly prayed for those injured, and at the last rehearsal Katie shared that she’d recently gone in to a routine exam feeling a lot better. Her doctor ran tests and documented that her muscle had “grown back”, which had to be a miracle!] Hannah, one of the Jerusalem dancers, also hobbled around after an accident. Many faced minor illnesses and exhaustion throughout those nine weeks, yet God sustained us.

I came in one Monday night with what I thought was a small fever. Even after lots of Sprite and prayer, the queasy feeling wasn’t letting up. Thankfully I was near a restroom (and between scenes) the first time I needed to throw up. I should’ve left then, but I seemed better. The second time wasn’t as clean. Just as the Garden Scene ended, I felt the sickness come on. I ran through the double doors backstage, heading for the sink at the café.

But I didn’t make my goal. I splattered the floor just a few yards from the sink. It was cleaned up with some help, though I had to take my robe home for cleaning. 2,000 years ago, maybe the disciples had to occasionally run a “heavy wash” cycle too.

The really remarkable fact of The Crown is how smoothly practices and preparation went for 11 certain days… when primary director Jordan, at least five centurions and a disciple left on a mission trip. I mean, there would only be one day after they got back before performances would begin – and we still had a long way to go.

But the other directors picked up the slack. Director Amanda led the blocking and hands-on direction, while John (aka Jesus) pulled in Pastor Bill to help with calling cast members who were late – of course, I never got one of those calls.  : j

Things started to come together quickly. Right before the first showing, I rushed to Wal-Mart to get little toy fish. You see, Peter and I liked the fishing poles we got for our scene where Jesus calls us. Though it wasn’t historically accurate, they said we could keep ’em if we located some fish for our lines. It ended up getting a few laughs.

Now if you multiply that one set item by 300, I think that’s how many things the stage crew had to watch and ensure were in the right place at the right time – for every performance.

Lives Changed… and a Trip to the Hospital (9 Weeks of Passion, Pt. 3)

Dress rehearsals started to be all the rage (I guess that’s how it normally is with plays right before they go live.) We guys never seemed to have time to carry our costumes down to the men’s room everyday and put them on. Surveying the sight of female angels trying to avoid seeing the guys next to them in boxers, I noted, “What a progressive church we are, with our co-ed dressing rooms.”

The excitement was high once performances began—hundreds of kids were packing the place! Around The Thorn, it’s normally a circus (there were even tigers this year in the main play), but The Crown certainly increased the carnival atmosphere. We Crown cast members who mingled in the foyer beforehand could heckle not only our fellow centurions (“one day we’ll be free from the Romans!”) and Pharisees (“the Messiah is among us, you must believe!”) – but also The Thorn’s Sadducees, Governor Pilate and soldiers as they walked by. As a disciple of John the Baptist, I assisted Jonathan as he “baptized” passers-by in the water fountain.

One aspect of performances we learned on-the-job was the post-show interaction with the kids. This was mostly run by the Security/usher/”kid control” team, who worked overtime to connect with the young audience, keep them focused and not lose anyone. We did autographs for awhile (John has been teased for signing “Jesus” on kids’ Bibles), but we quickly went to group games. Red Rover was outlawed – yes, actually crossed off the ushers’ recommended games list – after some roughhousing during the first weekend.

Without confirming or denying the role of any Furnace guys, it is known that the main boy star actually went to the hospital after an unnecessarily competitive round. He recovered and we all learned a lesson: “Red rover, Red rover, don’t let centurions come over.” Duck-Duck Goose and Simon Peter Says went much better.

The nine showings flew by—except perhaps for April 15’s three-in-a-day marathon, which went mostly without incident. However, in one bit that wasn’t staged, a young member of Satan’s forces got punched in the face. Now I’m sure all the angels and demons could tell you about a few bruises they got during their choreographed fights. When their sword and bowstaff skills were combined with the elegant costumes, and the strobe lighting illuminated the scene along with sound effects, music, and spotlights, it really looked cool.

At any rate… during the Pilate scene, many of us changed wardrobe and joined the mob. With clenched fists, we shouted, “Crucify Him!” as the Pharisees and (in the unseen realm) demons egged us on. I wasn’t watching closely and socked a young demon right on his cheek! It must’ve hurt, but he kept going like a trooper.

There are many small moments I’ll remember: Peter and I trying to impress the angels by doing some of their ballet moves, the Pharisees joking about the disciples’ “supper club,” hearing kids in the audience gasp as Jesus made the blind man see… and most of all, our prayer times backstage.  Just after Jesus carried the cross, Pastor Bill would come up to explain what Christ’s death meant for each of us. Meanwhile, small groups would huddle up backstage and pray for the Holy Spirit to speak to each person in the audience.

“Lord, we ask that these seeds planted in the kids’ hearts would grow a thirty, sixty, even a hundredfold harvest,” we prayed quoting Matthew 13:23. The prayer focus was a little different each time—an intercession team from the church joined us a couple nights—and we really believed God was working. Pastor Bill confirmed this in a big way when he said that every time he walked out to give his talk, he strongly felt God’s presence and his words came without effort. He recounted seeing a dad in the audience, tears in his eyes, raise his hand to receive salvation.

Over 3,100 children and parents who saw The Crown made that life-changing decision. Even if it was 1 person, those nine weeks of make-up, scriptwriting, set-building, dancing, demon-battling, soldier-marching and hours of A/V work would be worth it. “Worship only the LORD,” says Exodus 34:14. “For he is a God who is passionate about his relationship with you.” His passion continues to fuel ours, and that makes all the difference.