by Michael Edgar Myers
We've made many discoveries about presenting theater during The Pandemic Era. Among the discoveries is the ability to "repurpose" -- that is, representing establish material in new medium.
Those who dwell in the house of social media forever are well-acquainted with the idea. It's why you have variations of a post in one medium designed anew for others, or multiple postings from a single source -- Facebook begats Instagram begats Twitter begats TikTok begats Pinterest begats...begats...begats...etcetera and....
For Kingdom Impact Theater, this repurposing has taken the form of revisiting stage scripts written a couple of decades ago, reading to see how the story and theology remains relevant over the years, then editing and presenting excerpts on "An Evening with Kingdom Impact Theater," the new program we developed for online presentation during the pandemic.
What began as a holiday experiment during the 2020 Christmas season has grown into a monthly commitment -- on each third Thursday -- that has not only stretched us technically as performers, but also provided unexpected witnessing and live presentation opportunities as churches have resumed in-person worship.
The most mind-boggling sequence of events occurred following the online production of "HOLY Ghost Stories," the performance for October 16, 2021.
A few days later, we discovered from our tech director Garlan Garner, while we were performing onscreen, there was "another play" going on backstage between Garlan and a first-time viewer. That off-screen conversation caused Garlan to miss a couple of tech cues that, yes, affected our performance. However, when he told us the story a couple of days later, his account not only reinforced our mission, but also validated a risky request that a few hours before, I'd floated past the pastor of the church where we'd been serving and consulting for a couple of months.
The request: let Kingdom Impact Theater present the "sermon" on the next Sunday. The next Sunday was October 31...Halloween. It seemed a perfect opportunity to present "HOLY Ghost Stories" in our native comfort zone -- live theater -- but also to test and perfect some technical and marketing ideas we'd been experimenting with during the Thursday night shows and scads of online webinars we've researched since the pandemic began.
The script involved adapting sections of two previous scripts I'd written -- "HOLY Ghost Story," which was originally a Sunday Morning worship service short story I read, and a section from my full-length play, "The X-Trial," which I first did as a stage reading when I was a resident playwright at Chicago Dramatists. It's a play about the final weeks of Christ on Earth through a media lens. BEFORE the turn of the century...BEFORE social media existed.
I didn't write "The X-Trial" for an audience of church people. I wrote it for non-church people who may be a bit jaundiced about Christian faith, but remain curious.
A few years after my well-received Dramatists experience, when I'd been doing less professional theater and more ministry performance, I full-staged "The X-Trial," revising some to included our choir, as an Easter outreach. A cost-saving measure: Why purchase a published script when you can grow your own?
Working with church actors can be a different challenge than working with non-church actors when it comes to provocative moments in a script where personalities, theology and culture intersect. That clash can bee greatest when it comes to calendar holidays. While the Scriptures are clear on what events are to be commemorated, in the centuries since Jesus walked The Earth, there's been lots of co-mingling between what the Scriptures say SHOULD be celebrated, and what Christian people have done to celebrate Christ in a way to make him more palatable to the culture. In short, when it comes to, say, Christmas and Easter, there's lots of debating about what's "pagan" and what's "witnessing among the pagans." an
When October comes and there are increasing symbols of paganism and more un-Christ-like remembrances around my neighborhood, the idea of speaking Christ into a spiritually curious culture tweaks my creative consciousness. This is why we titled our October episode of "Evening with Kingdom Impact Theater" "HOLY Ghost Stories" when we scheduled the season in January of 2021.
When summer 2021 began, Lamarr Lark, lead pastor of Connection Church in Libertyville, IL, asked if KIT Ministries would assist with the church's Sunday Services of Worship when they resumed live meetings in August. The previous leader of musical worship had moved; we'd established a previous relationship; so could we be of aid while church leadership searched for a full-time leader. One of the dates for our serving was Sunday, October 31. Halloween. It seemed a Holy Spirit Moment to test the idea: could the scripts of old be -- resurrected -- as a church musical sermon?
Our online program has been showing us production possibilities, but more than that
1) that our old scripts remain solid and benefit from new wine skins;
2) people are curious to hear the old stories and have them explained;
3) while there is great potential for audience interaction, churches must intentionally prepare for, what we in theater call, "audience talkback." This means having written content prepared and asking the right questions, but more importantly, developing a discerning, listening ear for the visitor.
Toward that end, October 31 provides a chance to practice these ideas n-person.
Consequently, I did a literary version of a musical mashup. I took the short story, renamed is "Resurrection: A Campfire Tale," and the on-the-site reporter's scene of "The X-Trial," and renamed it "Jesus Sightings" to comprise the renamed, "HOLY Ghost Stories Live!" for presentation as the Sunday "sermon" message at Connection Church on Halloween
Here is the publc press release we created with the rrrest of the story:
“HOLY Ghost Stories Live!” is a dramatic interpretation of biblical accounts of the prophecies and events surrounding the final of Jesus Christ on Earth. These stories rely heavily on eyewitness stories written in the four gospels, imagining the tales as told by contemporary news media and late night campfire stories.
The program title is based on frequent scripture references to “The Holy Ghost” and “The Holy Spirit” as playwright and KIT Ministries director Michael Edgar Myers adapted two of his earlier scripts exploring spiritual warfare in ancient and modern times.
While tales about the climax of Christ’s ministry are generally told during the Easter season, scriptural language includes many phrases, themes and imagery reflected in narratives and décor of the Halloween season. “HOLY Ghost Stories Live!” contrasts words telling the life of Christ with popular symbols of death (tombstones), resurrection (zombies) and eternal life (vampires) to ask the question, “How do stories of Christian faith and spiritual beliefs remain relevant in the contemporary culture?” The timelessness of this query is noted in the show’s subtitle, “Gospel Reader’s Theater for Halloween and Other Seasons.”
Unlike a traditional “sermon,” “Holy Ghost Stories” addresses the question through monologues, humor and music. The interactive scripts allow congregational participation, incorporating thematic worship songs and opportunities for audience response live and online.
Connection’s lead pastor Lamarr Lark notes that Connection is hosting “HOLY Ghost Stories” in part because of the conversation opportunity afforded by the fact that 2021 is a rare year when “Halloween” falls on a Sunday – traditionally commemorated as the day Jesus rose from the dead. October 31 is also the date considered the beginning of The Protestant Reformation, a movement initiated when theologian and professor Martin Luther presented 99 statements questioning practices of the Roman Catholic Church, the official church in his native Germany.
Among Luther’s views: individuals had a more direct relationship with Jesus and The Holy Spirit than church doctrine was teaching. These ideas were viewed as protests of church leaders. People who agreed with Luther’s views became known as Protestants, which led to the establishment of countless Christian denominations emphasizing that direct relationship. By hosting “HOLYGhost Stories,” Connection Church provides a vehicle for individuals to further explore the personal relationships.
Connection Church, also known as “The Barn,” is located at 28230 N. St Mary's Rd., Libertyville IL 60048. Per COVID-19 regulations, live attendees are requested to wear masks. Online access to Zoom begins at 9:45 AM. The service starts at 10.
For information about directions or online sign-in, visit the church website -- connectionchurchlibertyville.org – or call (224) 504-2111.
The KIT 'n' Kaboodle Blog
The essays here are culled from our travels, conversations, worship experiences and discoveries.
Many are reprints from our newsletter, The KIT 'n' Kaboodle, or Facebook notes over time.
They're written by our ensemble, Garlan Garner, Michael Edgar Myers or Vikki J. Myers -- solo, or collectively.