Over the years, I directed many plays at our church. I am forever grateful for the total support that was offered so lovingly by everyone, and for the talents that were brought together on our altar. My heart is full when I look at all those faces in old pictures, and think of the people who worked together so tirelessly and enthusiastically to create moments of exhilaration and joy that disappeared as the laughter and applause faded, and yet endured.
When my kids, Amy and Tom, were small, I directed annual pageants at Epiphany. They varied from year to year, always with an element of Twelfth Night, when the Magi visited and the animals were said to talk. I will tell you two short stories from that time, both with barnyard elements.
The younger boys played the parts of shepherds in the pageant, and some brought their dogs with them. I supplied the others with hens to tuck under their arms as they approached the little baby Jesus, and it occupied them and created a warm bucolic scene. At one rehearsal, I brought seven hens in a box, and asked a woman helper to take them out of the box and into the waiting arms of the shepherds, and to retrieve them afterwards and replace them in the box. The box was in the first room of the west wing, which was also the nursery. The rehearsal proceeded with the usual organized joyful chaos. When everyone had gone home, I went into the nursery and discovered seven hens perched on the railings of the cribs, and their calling cards splattered on the bed sheets and floor.
One year, we added a sheep (named Lisa) to the mix. She was chosen because she was small and docile, and we had spread a tarp over the altar in case of accident. The youngest church baby (as is now the case) had the role of Baby Jesus, and was carried up the aisle by his mother, as Mary. The father (our seminarian at the time, Gary Young) played Joseph. A shepherd led Lisa the sheep ahead of the holy family, and I instructed the seminarian to help Lisa onto the elevated altar if she balked. He should lean over Lisa from behind and lift her two front legs up, and gently nudge her forward. Joseph nodded to me, and Lisa followed the shepherd nicely up onto the altar. Afterward, Joseph told me that he was sweating blood the whole time he walked up the aisle, hoping to avoid the image that I had (unconsciously) laid out for him.
Just another example of the total support and sacrifice that people have made for our dramas.