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Lessons From Tragedy?

I am a sucker for a happy ending. I like when boy gets girl, when the world is saved, when a lesson is learned and everyone comes out the richer (emotionally and spiritually, not necessarily monetarily) for the experience. I believe that there is something deep in the souls of humankind that longs for the “happily ever after” offered by our fairy tales, even if we don’t think it actually happens in real life. This “something,” mirrors the end of the Bible, when God finally vanquishes evil and everything turns out all right.

Yet, most of my favourite films are tragedies. Braveheart, Gladiator, and my newest favourite, The Prestige (which has been out for ten years, but I finally got around to seeing just this past weekend) all see the downfall of their protagonists by the end of the story. The heroes come up against forces they cannot overcome, whether a foreign oppressor, an corrupt leader, or selfish ambition, and eventually succumb. Not the happy ending we hope for. So, what makes them so compelling?

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In the first two, we find heroes who seek revenge and justice (coincidentally, for the murder of their wives) against a powerful foe. Even though both could probably have turned from their path and avoided their fateful end, their passions keep them on course. We cheer because they are on the side of justice. The heroes have been wronged, people have been hurt, and we want to see the bad guys get their comeuppance. In the end, they succeed in their quest, but it costs them their lives.

On the other side, we also get to see the tragic fall of the antagonists.Claudius’ obsession with being loved (stemming from a lack of love from his father), drives him to horrendous acts of evil, and ultimately, his own downfall. He dies unloved and alone. Edward Longshanks’ pride and ambition leads him to the dissolution of his bloodline, with everything he has fought for at an end.

The Prestige, on the other hand, pits two “protagonists” against each other. We watch as their competition and rivalry (also started by the death of a wife…I’m seeing a trend) consumes the two of them. With several opportunities to walk away, neither chooses to stop the fight, and the battle reaches show-stopping heights and heart-wrenching lows.

In the end, these tragedies teach us something about life, and ultimately, God. Our first two, heroes fighting for justice, teach us that the cause of Good is not an easy, or cheap path to follow. We must be ready to sacrifice everything in our walk with God, or else we will not finish the journey. We must be ready to give our very lives if we want to see change.

They also serve as warnings against our pride. If not for ego, The Prestige would be a much shorter, albeit duller, story. We get to learn the lessons of those pushed too far by their thirst for glory or revenge without the horrific consequences.

I think I like tragedies because they show us people pushed to the very boundaries of the self. Some, when pushed, show the glory of God as sacrificial Lamb. Others, the pain and misery that accompany a fall from grace. From both, we learn the cost of living in a fallen world, the cost of being human.

But what do you think? Are you drawn to tragedies, or avoid them like the plague? Can we learn more from the “tales of woe,” or have I stretched beyond what the allegory can hold? Chime in!

Blessings

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5 Lessons From the First Year of Drama Ministry

The first year of the ministry was always meant to be a learning year. It was the dipping of our toes into the water that would allow us to see if the pool was warm enough before jumping in wholeheartedly. It allowed us to see if there was interest, if there was talent, and if there was congregational support. We quickly learned that we had all three and only needed to apply the organization and leadership to make it happen. And so we did.

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Yet, it was not without its bumps along the way. Here are five of the most important things I learned about starting a Drama Ministry this year:

1. Everything Takes Time . . . sometimes a lot of it

This is true of all endeavors, but seems to be doubly so when working with churches and volunteers. Coordinating actors, directors, filmmakers, pastors, and worship teams can be a hassle, but it needs to be done early. It always takes longer to get confirmation from everyone than you’d like, so start early. Especially when working with church leadership, having the script or video fully prepared with enough time to show everyone BEFORE the week of the event can help keep everyone on the same page. Always a plus.

Along the same line, if you are working with film, it will almost always take longer to shoot than you expect it to. I’ve learned to figure out how long I think it should take, and estimate longer when communicating with my crew. They are rarely upset that the shoot is short, but going longer is not okay.

2. Plan, Plan, and Plan Some More

When you are dealing with an established church, new ideas, and several volunteers, more forethought is always better than less. We found that the more effort we put into planning our film shoots resulted in smoother shoots, less wasted time for our volunteers, and more room to play artistically. I learned that I hate wasting people’s time and just a little forethought can make sure people don’t end up sitting around doing nothing for hours at a time.

3. Be Prepared For Curveballs

On the other hand, things are going to go wrong. People are going to be late, other groups may have taken over your rehearsal space, costumes might not fit. When these things happen, we can have a fit and try to force our first plan or we can compromise and find a new way to tackle the problem. When one of our shooting locations was being used by another group that had run their rehearsal several hours over their time, we ended up moving to a new space that suited our needs even better. Sometimes God puts blocks in our way to make us go in a better direction in the long run. Remember that.

4. Don’t Shut Out God’s Work

One of our mandates has involved aiming for great work in our ministry. We don’t want to be doing bad church drama. Everyone has seen that kind of work, and no one likes it (except maybe the performers’ moms). Yet, some of the most amazing performances we’ve had this year have come from people with little or no experience. God can work with anything that we give Him, and sometimes we need to be open to that. Give people a chance to shine and see how God works miracles.

5. Don’t Stop Learning

The purpose of my first year in Drama Ministry was to learn. I had to learn about how the church works, find out how many and what kind of volunteers we have available, and how the integration of drama would work in a multi-site church. Having this kind of mentality has made this year far less stressful than it otherwise might have been. Although we almost drove ourselves insane by having performances at all our sites for each weekend in December leading up to Christmas, we walk away realizing that we don’t have to do that again. When we understand¬†our audition process has been inadequate, we can learn what went wrong and restart with that information next time.

Looking back on this list, I realize that each of these tips can be useful in most of life’s ¬†crazy circumstances. I think it’s neat how God uses our everyday circumstances, like work, family, and school, to teach us really big life lessons. As long as we can continue to learn from them, we can grow and mature and continue on this journey. We become better artists, better disciples, and better people.

Let’s keep learning.

Blessings,

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