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Chapter 19: Never Hang Your Hat on a Rolling Set


Rebecca snacking on set
Birdie snacking on set

“Oh, no! He’ll never darken the door of a church.”
That’s what the young woman said when I asked if her husband was coming to see her at one of our church performances. Her answer echoed in my heart.
The building isn’t the Church! God’s people are! And if the building, where the Church meets, is a hindrance to that lost man, maybe we ought to go outside the building.

We were about to do just that!
When we told the choir and youth team that we were going to Jenny Wiley Amphitheater to present a large-scale, life-of-Christ production, the crowd went wild! The church couldn’t have been more supportive.

We started organizing committees and making plans; all-the-while writing a script that would thrive on a professional stage.

And the music!

Now, here we were in an outdoor arena, trying to learn a different kind of theater.

Anyone who knows where God was taking us next knows this was no coincidence.


God writes in invisible ink - ink that can only be read in the light of eternity.

If life were a college, this project was NarroWay 101.
I learned how to mic a cast and mix audio for outdoor performance. And I recorded a large choir.

I learned creative set design.

Birdie in tech booth
Rebecca working on set

Marketing- beyond the church bulletin! (There was no internet!!)

Quick scene transitions. Observing sight lines.

Budgeting for a large-scale outdoor musical.

Why, I even got certified to shoot pyrotechnics.

Rebecca carrying pyro boxes
show ticket

But some lessons transcended practical knowledge.

Like... when we were rehearsing the ascension scene with the “Jesus” character on the mountain.

Lumber framing mountain
Rebecca carrying lumber
Birdie painting mountain

We built a LARGE mountain! At the top was a platform for the crucifixion and ascension.
The pyro Rebecca ordered came in and she worked to strategically place it so we could see it in rehearsal.

I purchased a special pyro shot for the ascension scene that would, on cue, burst into a 12’-high fountain of stunning white sparks.

Per regulations, it was positioned at a safe distance from “Jesus” but, because of the size of the effect, it appeared to go off right where he was standing. I couldn’t wait to see it.

Rehearsal went along very well. Then darkness set in.

Jesus ready to ascend

The lights came upon ‘Jesus’ towering high above the cast as he stood proudly upon our mountain. Stretching forth his hands, he declared: “Go ye into all the world ... (great commission continues) ... And, lo, I am with you always, even until ... (music climaxes) ... the end of the age!!!


The beauty of the effect and the sound of the explosion were overshadowed only by the scream of one lone man on a mountain!

That’s when I realized. I forgot to tell ‘Jesus’ that the pyro came in.

The next lesson-learned occurred in a show.

rolling setREBECCA –
We created a rolling set piece which served as the cave where the nativity took place in Act 1. Then it became the tomb in Act 2. So, at certain times, that set piece rolled ON and OFF the stage.

After the nativity, there was a scene with the Pharisees and Child Jesus. While the Pharisees performed this scene, the cast made a quick costume change.

At that time I performed with the cast. When I exited after the nativity, I rushed backstage left, where I knew my costume change was hanging. But there was NO costume!

Cut to Birdie’s perspective...

So I’m sitting on the front row of the audience – directing. We had just finished a rousing rendition of whatever we sang for the nativity and I’m preparing for the next piece.

Lights up on the Pharisees.

I glanced up at the typically beautiful scene...
with regal Pharisees
and little Jesus boy when –


One of the Pharisees was dressed in Rebecca’s pumpkin-colored poor-village-person costume with a lampshade on his head!!

pumpkin costumeREBECCA –
That explains what happened to my costume!

Later we find out that the Pharisee hung his costume and hat on the rolling set piece. But he lingered too long at the snack table. When he went to get dressed, the set piece was rolled onto the stage.

He could see his costume but he couldn’t get to it without running across the stage half-naked! So he did what any good cast member does – he took mine! And the props maker had been experimenting with old lampshades!

We had a blast! We had success! We performed to a full house every Easter week for two years. Souls were saved and we learned a lot!

But the best lesson we ever learned was: Never hang your hat on a rolling set!

cast members laughing
photo of crowd
Jesus character
Child Jesus at the Temple
cast singing among audience
ascension scene
Butch working on set
Ladies singing
tech crew in booth
men rehearsing
couple in biblical costumes
man and wife in biblical costume
biblical woman eating grapes
end of dance number
little girls backstage
Birdie directing
teenagers snacking
fixing hair backstage
guys rehearsing
working on set
women resing in seats
child Jesus and child Barabbas
guys resting in seats
jewish dancers
wisemen scene
angels backstage
actors rehearsing
rehearsing at Jenny Wiley
wisemen still seek him


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Chapter 20: And the Lord Said, "Renovate!"
Chapter 18: The Crossroads

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