The Bread of the Servant

From Volume 1, Issue 3, 2017

Do you enjoy theater? Ever attended a local play or performance at your church? Have you ever thought about putting on a play or are you in one now? If the answer is yes to any of these questions, you will love the interview we had with Elizabeth Honaker as she takes us through her journey as a playwright and director.

EOF: Thank you so much for taking the time to stop and talk with us today. How are you? HONAKER: I am fantastic. Thank you for asking and thank you for having me. Tell us about yourself and The Wesley Grove Disciples.

I am a grandmother of four, mother of two, wife of one. Forty-six years later we are very, very happy, of course. When I became a Christian, which was in 1973, I thought that God didn’t want drama but I found out really quickly that was not the case. He actually incorporated drama into the Old Testament. The prophets did dramatic presentations of what would happen to Israel when they were disobedient. I also came to realize that Jesus Christ, himself, is a visual representation of the Father in a very dramatic and filling way and I put two and two together and started writing skits again. When we were overseas in England for twelve years with Alan’s job with the government, we started a Christian bookshop and for six years I gave talks and I started to write skits for family services and it blossomed from there in my mind when we came back to the United States in 1988. My husband’s job took us to a church near Hanover, Maryland and we joined that church. We loved it; they had a Living Last Supper presentation. It was all males, of course, and as a female I kind of thought, “There’s another part to this story; have you forgotten Mary Magdalene?” Pretty soon I became the mother of the troupe. They started to ask me, “Where is a beard, where’s my costume,” blah, blah, blah. And I said, “You need a Director. The pastor of our church, John, said, “Yes, you’re right, we need a Director.” We graduated from the Living Last Supper and I started writing full-length plays that focused on a specific character. I would say that my seminal play was about Nicodemus. We called it “Nick at Night” but of course that wasn’t a formal title. I don’t even remember the formal title because I cannot find my copies. That was in 1995. In 1998, I put forth The Bread of the Servant which was my delight and joy, and everybody else’s too. We had four or five performances of that and the Wesley Grove Disciples were christened by one of our members of the time, Tom, who has since passed away. Ever since then we’ve had an unbroken legacy from The Living Last Supper which was started in 1977 and this year they actually performed another play I had written specifically for them. You do the math. I’m not a math teacher, but we’ve done a lot of plays! Mostly now we have one performance.

Why do you feel it is important to incorporate theater into worship?

We are made of five senses and sight and sound are beautiful things that God has provided us with and I believe that the Gospel can be presented both visually and audibly together, as long as you are not trying to incorporate dogma or other political aspects of the bible story. If you are really just trying to expose the audience to the truth, the reality of Jesus Christ, then I’ve never found a problem. Now sometimes I have to pick and choose. For instance, one year we were focusing on Thomas and I mentioned Judas in the drama but we didn’t depict him. Someone said, “Where’s Judas?” I said, “You know, he’s still there.” We talked about him but there wasn’t an actor that played him. The person said, “Well, next year I want a Judas.” I said, “Ok, ok, I will put a Judas in.” And I did put Judas in. That kind of crafting is, I think, appropriate when you are focusing on “a” truth. You cannot present all 200 or 2,000 or 20,000 truths in the Gospel in one setting. The audience cannot take it in. You have to craft, but that kind of crafting is what I feel preachers do. Every Sunday they take a text and they say, “Listen to what I am saying about this text.” Similarly, I say, “Listen to what I’m saying about this text AND here’s a visual presentation of it.” I might add this; I’ve done a lot of studying on the topic of Christian drama throughout the centuries. The church very appropriately, when it reached Rome, began to think that drama which was bawdy and rude and rowdy and of course we know it was deadly because of the gladiator games, the church condemned that kind of performance and so it should. But around the 3rd for 4th century, a time when Christian worship became ritualized, the priests would be performers as they reenacted the rituals, and especially at Easter, would give a formal presentation of what Mary Magdalene and the other two women encountered when they saw the angels in the tomb. That began Medieval drama. Of course it was taken out of the church later on and put into pageant wagons and local performances like OberAmada in Germany, and so on. But the church ratified or realized that drama adds another dimension to the proclamation of the Gospel. And I like it.

It brings people in.

 

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