May 18, 2008

Palau Tour 2008: "Finishing Strong"

The REAL team at the start. We gather for final instructions just before our first show in Palau at Palau Mission Academy, Friday, May 9, 2008. Clockwise from left, Me, "J", "The Treasurer", "CK Girl", and "J2".

This year's REAL performances in Palau were all about the strong finish. It seemed like our school and church shows on Friday got off to unsteady starts. The kids talked too fast andhustled through the skits without fire or flare. The audience was appreciative but uncomprehending. But about halfway through each of our programs, we seemed to catch fire and come alive. At our school shows it was usually during our Just for Fun segment--a comedic sketch called "Remotely Entertaining" in which each actor represents a TV channel with hilarious results ensuing as the channels are "changed" through the skit. A sample from the skit:

Ms. Foufou, French teacher (played by Mai): "And next week our guest will be the our district suprintendent who is--"
Granny Gabalot, storyteller (played by "Little Sister"):" the ugliest creature on the pond had turned into a beautiful--"
Canadian Cowboy (played by me): "pile of manure. After that experience I learned to always carry my--"
Television Dentist, (played by Bev): "Toothbrush."

This skit always brings down the house and it did in Palau as well. From there the actors were fired up and the audience was with us as we continued the progam. At our high school show we followed this one with our take on the parable of the unforgiving servant entitled "Chopsticks." This is a REAL classic, and in fact we presented it last time we were in Palau in 2006. This time though, we decided to present it with a twist--we did the whole thing in Chinese! There's a large population of Chinese students attending Palau Mission Academy. They're there primarily to learn English so we knew they'd appreciate hearing one of our skits in their own language. "CK Girl" and Judy, who are both Chinese Koreans and are, of course, fluent in Chinese performed "Chinese Chopsticks" and the audience--English speakers and Chinese speakers alike loved it! The funniest part was on the final line of the play, "CK Girl" switched back to English by accident! And she didn't even realize she'd switched languages! The audience (and all of us on the REAL team) were cracking up and Judy is shouting from offstage, "Chinese, Chinese. . ." and "CK Girl" couldn't figure out why! The audience enjoyed the skit so much that we went ahead and the did the English version as well. By the time we finished with "The Treasurer's" beautiful little monologue about the nature of true beauty, we were at our best.

I play the role of the Candaian cowboy in "Remotely Entertaining"

Looks like they're having fun: Our audience engaged during our show at PMA.

For our church shows, the strong finish began with "One Minute" a short sketch on the importance of making each moment count, and gained power through "The Way We Pray", a sketch on the different ways we talk to God (and often fail to listen to Him). By the time we reached the musical conclusion of the sketch, with "J" playing guitar and singing in "Amazing Love" in her pure and gentle voice, and then the rest of us joining her on stage singing with her, and inviting the audience to do the same we could all sense of the power of God's presence in the room. From there we went into a simple recitation of scripture in readers theater format entitled "For God So Loved" to end the show. As simple and as unadorned as this presentation was, I found it often to be the most powerful element of our show. My favorite part was the last where Bev recited the beautiful promise in the eighth chapter of Romans that "nothing can sepreate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus." Something about the way she spoke those promises, something real and heartfelt in her voice always moved me, and our audiences as well.

Sabbath afternoon, May 10, we were invited to perform at Palau's prison. The audience was very small, but deeply appreciative. It was a really special show. Here, I'm introducing the program to the inmates.

This photo and the next four are scenes from our sketch, "The Way We Pray." Here's Bev trying to impress God with a fancy, King James style-prayer. She eventually gets lost in all her thees and thous and gives up. After she (and the other actors that follow) leaves the stage, God (who was voiced offstage throughout the sketch by me) says sadly, "there is so much more I wanted to tell you."

"J2" prays the slacker prayer. She ends up showing God a list of wants she's written down before finishing her prayer. Sample lines: "Right now my car is a Chevette--can you make it like NOT a Chevette? Any other car will do" and "I'd like to lift my mom up to you and ask you to. . .get her off my back!"

"Little Sister" does the whiney, weepy are-You--even-listening prayer of complaint. God tries to comfort her but she leaves rather than staying around to listen.

Judy struggles to stay awake while praying. This one was all too familiar to me!

Finally, our last actor, "J" gets it right as she talks honestly and plainly to God and most important of all, takes the time to be still and listen to His gentle, still small voice. She ends with a simple song of praise.

It wasn't just our shows that finished strong. It was our tour as a whole. We capped our weekend of performances with "CK Girl's" play, A Song from the Heart, Saturday night, May 10. It was easily the best performance of that play we've done yet. Before the play even began we sensed God was with us in a special way. Obstacles would pop up--the karoke mic wasn't working, the music CD wouldn't play--and just as quickly were resolved. We were praying hard and seeing answers left and right. The play itself, was remarkable. "J" like "Harry" last year in Bridge to Terabithia took her performance to a whole new level--shedding real tears on stage during one of the most dramatic moments of the play. I was so proud of her as I know that it wasn't easy for her to access that kind of emotion. And at the end "The Treasurer" who plays the "villain" Lina, who is ultimately won over by the forgiving love of Amy (played by "J") cried as well, during the final scene. They were tears of joy, I think, because she'd come along way to reach this point in her tiem with REAL. I was so proud of "J" and "the Treasurer" and all of the girls on our team. Without question they finished the season strong!

On this trip to Palau I learned that it's not how you start, but how you finish that matters most of all. The audience won't remember the rocky take-off; they will remember the smooth landing. By the grace of God we finished well in Palau. I pray we do so in life too.

Here I am with "CK Girl" after our final show of the tour, a fantastic performance of her play A Song From the Heart, Saturday night, May 10. I'm so proud of her! Unfortunately we didn't have any pictures of the play as everyone on the team was in it and Barbara was taking video for me.

A few random pictures from our weekend in Palau.

I preached the sermon at the Airai church in Palau Sabbath morning, May 10. The man on my left is the pastor of the church who translated for me.

A cool picture of Mai and Jessica jumping into the channel between Airai and Koror islands on Sunday night, May 11. They enjoyed their nighttime swim right before we left for Saipan and Babs and I had fun watching them.


Mai said...

It was a good trip and a good year. I'm really glad I helped out with REAL this year!

Beverly Mae said...

I really believed that being in Real Christian Theater strengthened my walk with God . . . what an amazing time I had! I will never forget the laughter you brought to every kid's face (including mine) as you performing that cowboy in Remotely Entertaining! You are such a great performer Sean!