Oct 15, 2006

Rota Day 3: "The Worst Performance Ever Turns Out Great"

Sunday, October 8, 2006

If only it was easy as this to "be like Jesus"! Bono Girl and I share the stage in the final scene of Brett Hadley's play Per Chance to Dream, staged by REAL Christian Theater at the Roundhouse in Rota, Sunday, October 8, 2006

Sunday was a thoroughly confusing day. It tested me on the very things that I have the most trouble with: Uncertainty and change. I hate not knowing what the plan is. I hate when the plan changes. Both things typified Sunday.

First we couldn’t figure out what to do for fun. Normally when we travel off island we have someone who just offers to take us around. They make the plan, they choose the activities and we just show up. (Recall the fantastic rock island tour we took in Palau). But this time, our tour guide was the Vice President, and her approach to planning an itinerary was “whatever you want to do.” We weren’t sure when lunch was supposed to be. We weren’t sure whether we should go sightseeing or go swimming.

We finally decided to go swimming. The men left the church and drove over to the Rankins to meet up with the girls. By 11 we were on our way. Our first stop was an absolutely fascinating place. It was a salt-water water park connected to the ocean. I’ve never seen anything like it. A couple of swimming pools, one with a large slide, fed by the ocean itself.

The Salt Water Park

The sea would roll over the pool deck and into the pools. One of the kids favorite things to do was sit on the pool deck and wait for the waves to wash through the railing separating pool area from ocean, and sweep them into the pool. There was an anything-but-lazy-river, a channel of water with a strong current that ran from the ocean through the park and back out to sea again. It was really an amazing place. It was just such a neat experience, wading through the pool deck—it felt wild, like nature had overpowered what was man made.

The Vice President wading through the salt-water park.

The kids swam for an hour or so (I chose not to. I just have a thing that I don’t like to swim if the sun is not shining).

Then it was back to the Fiesta fairgrounds where a humungous feast of free food was spread out for the taking. Another amazing thing about Rota. An all you can eat buffet and drinks, all completely free of charge.

During lunch we’d encountered more confusion. We still weren’t certain where we were going to perform our full length play Per Chance to Dream. We’d had permission to use the Roundhouse but after having gotten a look at it the night before we weren’t so enthused about that as a performance location. Among its many problems was that there was no audience seating at all. We thought about moving the show to the SDA church, but since the church was basically in a house in Sinapalo, we thought that might not be very practical either. The suggestion had been made that we perform in the early afternoon, while the crowd was still loitering after the feast. But I didn’t want to do that. This was a dialogue-heavy play, best viewed by a stationary audience committed to seeing the whole play from beginning to in. I didn’t want to have an audience of people wandering in and out, unable to follow the story. It just wouldn’t work. It didn’t seem like there was a practical way to do the play, and after I spoke with mayor on the phone and he informed me that they wouldn’t be able to move the sound system to the Roundhouse, it seemed like we’d have to cancel the performance.

I broke the news to the team, and they were horrified.

“I’ve got 30 people who are committed to coming for sure,” cried the Diva.

“Yeah, my family is planning to come,” chimed in the Vice President.

“We worked so hard on this play. We have to do it,” others added.

“Well, we’ll have to do it in the Roundhouse and we’ll have no sound,” I warned them. The kids were undeterred. We decided to go ahead and perform at 6:00 P.M. at the Roundhouse with no sound system.

We went back out to swim and sightsee some more after that. Around 4:00 P.M. our day of fun came to an end and we began setting up at the Roundhouse. We borrowed the Rankin’s home stereo to play the music sequences. We borrowed chairs from the church for set pieces and audience seating. We mounted our lights on folding chairs as well. The kids got into costume, and at about 6:45 the show began. To my amazement people actually showed up. Mostly teenagers, but a few families as well.

The show itself was horrible. And yet amazing.

Per Chance to Dream staged at the Roundhouse in Rota. Sunday, October 8, 2006.

Our makeshift sound & light "booth" for Per Chance to Dream. Britni sits at the plastic table holding the Rankin's home stereo. Most of the time she was sitting on the ground next to the table manning the dimmer switches for our lights from there.

Horrible because the venue was awful. The place continued to stink of urine. It was filthy. The hard concrete floor and high concrete ceiling created an echo chamber so that when the actors spoke their lines their voices bounced and echoed turning dialogue into a muddy, unintelligible garble. Horrible because the performance was very rough. The kids were nervous. The new actors just hadn’t had enough practice and the veterans were rusty. They skipped pages of dialogue. They spoke too softly.

Rough going. The dinner scene during the first half of Per Chance to Dream. We tried to clean the place up a bit before the show began but the soda can in the foreground indicates that we weren't entirely successful.

During the first half of the play, I was in total despair. I felt like everything had gone so horribly wrong. The play was dead. Flat. Impossible to follow. I just wanted to disappear, to be somewhere else. I wondered if we’d somehow missed God’s direction. Maybe I should have followed my better judgment and just cancelled the show. Was this an example of God’s strength perfecting itself in our weakness. Or was this an example of us trying to do too much, biting off more than we could chew, instead of just letting go and resting in the Lord. I just didn’t know.

The second half of the show, things improved. Lines were sharper. The audience seemed to respond more to the play. Harry, the consummate comedian got them laughing with his antics.

Bono Girl, the Diva, CK Girl, and Harry onstage during the second half of Per Chance to Dream.

And then during the final solemn scenes, where Bono Girl, the star of the play, her character on the verge of suicide gives a dramatic symbolic recitation of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven”, the very moment of disaster turned into an amazing miracle. During “The Raven” Bono Girl paused. Just stopped for a long time. The pause dragged. She looked down, gulped. I knew she’d forgotten her line. She had the script in her hand since her character is an aspiring actress and “The Raven” sequence is supposed to be Lizzy rehearsing for her audition. But I could tell she was stuck. Lost. Frozen. Devastated. And then she began to cry. The audience was silent, and it was then that I realized that they didn’t know. They thought this was part of the play. And it WAS part of the play. AND it was real. The two melded. Bono Girl choked out the next line, sobbing, and you could have heard a pin drop. My mouth hung open. I was moved by Bono Girl’s courage, by her will to go on. I was moved by the character, Lizzy’s pain and lonlieness, the sense of failure that both Bono Girl and the character she portrayed felt. The performance had already been one of her best up until the point she broke down, and the rest of the performance was riveting. She was on fire. She absolutely was Lizzy and she tore “The Raven” up!

Bono Girl holds the audience spellbound with her rendition of Poe's "The Raven."

When we moved from there to the next scene, set to “Exit” by U2 where Lizzy attempts suicide—where the actors we call “the barriers” dressed all in black with plain white theater masks, that symbolize the walls Lizzy has put up to hide her real self, now keep her loved ones from reaching her and her from reaching them, every one of us was there with Lizzy. And in the final scene, where I entered the stage, playing the role of Christ to comfort Lizzy, and remind her that she didn’t need to wear masks, to pretend to be perfect, that she was accepted as she was, I knew that God had lifted us up and carried us. The Worst Performance Ever had turned into something truly amazing. And what’s remarkable is that Bono Girl was so immersed in it, so blinded by her perceived failures that she didn’t see it until the play was over. She later told me that even during the last scene, our scene together, she was fuming with rage because she was sure that the audience was laughing at us. (There were some chuckles when I came onstage, and I’m sure that had to do with the fact that most people weren’t expecting a black Jesus with dreads to appear. I wasn’t fazed in the least though).

"Hello, my name is Elizabeth Meyers and I'm a precious child of God." The final tableau of Per Chance to Dream.

But after the play, as people came up to tell us how wonderful the play was, how touched they were by it, as we heard reports of hulking teenage boys teary-eyed, when one guy visiting from Vancouver approached me and asked where he could find the script for this play, we knew a miracle had taken place.

The evening ended in a glow of success and with the sense that God had been near to us in a very real way. That night when we gathered for our final worship together, it was clear that the team had bonded. The Asians were fully integrated to the team now. The Treasurer leaned casually against Bono Girl. Jeane, her limited English not withstanding joked with Special F/X and the Rock. We all felt the sense of unity and togetherness that the Diva gave voice to during her worship talk.

And the best thing about it was that this was not the end of a season. This was just the beginning.

It’s going to be a great year!

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