This story is absolutely true and no exaggeration has been added. If anything, what happened is understated, as it was rather traumatic. Get ready to laugh until you cry, as I can now do, after all these years.
As someone that is far from shy, I have always loved the theater. So, after many years of debating, I founded a community theater group on my own in 2003. We were called “The Not Quite Hollywood Players.” We did that name proud too. Our family met a plethora of people from the community, and people’s talents never failed to amaze us.
A young couple, the stars of many of our shows, were members at a local church. After months of inviting us to visit, we finally decided that it was the least we could do. So we set off one Sunday morning to visit the church. It was a day that shall live in infamy, as they say. For on that day we found the church that was right for us, and the day that our oldest daughter met her husband.
The pastor was an exceptional man, with whom we are still in touch. He knew of my talents of writing, directing, and acting. It was not long before he invited me to join parts of the services. When Easter rolled around, he invited me to write and direct an Easter play for the congregation. It was a huge honor for me, a woman. This was usually a man’s job.
It would be a crowning achievement with powerful music and scenes. But of course, God gave us a sense of humor, as this will show. It was a rainy Sunday morning and the church was filled to capacity, with a few folks even sitting on folding chairs in the back. After a rousing sermon, it was time for the play. I was sweating bullets, knowing that laughter was not the goal of this performance. It was all about dignity.
At first, there were just a few mess-ups. Slips of memory, uttering lines, slightly missed cues on pre-recorded voices, to which the actor just had to move their lips. Three of the apostles forgot to take off their white socks, wearing these with their sandals. Certainly not enough to cause more then a giggle. But as the show came to its crescendo, a storm outside was raging. It almost seemed to add drama to the story of Jesus, for as he was nailed to the cross and died, thunder underlined the power of God. Folks were moved to tears and I could see them at the edge of their seats. As lightning struck a tree nearby, some were ready to jump up, to throw their hands in the air to shout, “I believe, I believe!”
At the end of the death scene, our Jesus was to be placed on a stretcher and carried off, and out of the side door, next to the stage. However, our carriers had to be replaced at the last moment. Simple enough, right? All they had to do was scoop up our Jesus and carry him out the side door, as sad music played out to the end of the scene. But this is what happened, making it the most memorable Easter play that the church ever had and probably will ever have.
The two carriers walk up on to the stage with the stretcher and set it down. They loaded Jesus on to the stretcher and then each took their place at the end of it, ready to lift. Only the problem was that both were facing away from each other, and as they took their first step, they lost their grip, as they were both pulling away from each other. Jesus landed on the stage with a loud thump and a groan escaped his lips. As the show must go on, they both turned around and grabbed the handles again. As they stood up, they were now facing each other, which meant that one of them would have to walk backwards, which they were clearly told not to do, for safety reasons. So Jesus had to be set down again, and both now communicated with hand signals as to which direction they would have to turn. Needless to say, it caused laughter during this serious moment.
But that was not all that made this a memorable Easter. Once the actors had left the stage, powerful music played again, while Mary sang about her son’s death. The mood had returned to serious. But moments later, a commotion could be heard, just outside the door, next to the stage, followed by a few bangs and a loud “OH MY GOD, ARE YOU OKAY DUDE?” followed by a blood curdling women’s scream. Several ushers shot out the back doors. Our valiant veteran actress, Mary, stuck to the program and the solemn mood was quickly restored.
After a few more tear-inspiring moments of singing, our Jesus was scheduled to reappear from the back of the church, to walk up to the stage, as jubilant music played and the choir rejoiced his resurrection. And he most certainly made and entrance that I will never forget.
Missing his cue, the actor stumbled in to the church a bit late. His snow white Jesus dress was wet and had mud stains. One of his wings was broken and flopped about pathetically and Jesus had muddy feet and a few leafs and sticks in his hair too. On his forehead he sported a big red welt, and he carried an expression of confusion on his face. But he bravely staggered up to the stage and we ended the Easter Play as planned. The congregation gave us all a standing ovation. Shorty there after the service was over, people began filing out of the Church, but a few curious onlookers hung around.
Needless to say, I rushed on stage to find out what had happened, as our Jesus sank to his knees, now holding his head and asking for an aspirin. It seemed that the metal stair case, leading to the ground from the door next to the stage, was wet. As our Jesus stood up, he threw on his white gown and wings and then promptly lost his footing, tumbling down the stairs, landing in the bushes that covered that ladies restroom window, where an elderly lady was relieving herself. The site of a young man, clad in white and with wings, sailing towards her, hitting the window with his forehead was a lot to handle, causing her to scream and (as I then found out) faint.
Ten minutes after the service ended, the wailing sound of an approaching ambulance could be heard. And a short while later, Jesus was carried out on a stretcher, now by some EMTs, and so was that little old lady that had fainted. It was an Easter service that went down in history. It has taken me all this time to actually write about it. It was all so traumatic.
But it all happened exactly as I told it, and in the end … well, in the end it was kind of funny, and most certainly memorable. And again, it is all absolutely true, without exaggeration.