Lessons I Learned Writing and Directing a Play for Eleven Months
Whether you know this or not, some eleven months ago I was approached about writing a play for my church’s Christmas program. (That’s right, the one that just took place last Saturday night). We began bouncing around themes and ideas in February and decided on “Emmanuel: God With Us” in March. We wrote the script and I was asked to direct in July. Finally, we performed the play on Saturday night. This play has pretty much characterized my year, and many of the lessons I’ve learned this year have centered around its production.
Lesson #1: I learned not to over-commit. If I could go back and do it all over again, when approached about writing in January, I would say, “I’m sorry, that’s eleven months out still, and I just can’t commit that far in advance.” In eleven months’ time, a lot can come up, and it did for me.
- Lesson #2: I learned about long-term commitment. This is the other side of the over-commitment coin. While there were times I definitely had way too much on my plate, times when nothing was going the way I thought I should, times when it would have been much easier to walk away, I stuck with it. As many fun times as there were, as nice as the finished product was, there were many, many times in the course of the production where I genuinely wanted to save myself some grief and take myself out. I didn’t, but I wanted to.
- Lesson #3: I learned how to communicate with guys in a ministry context. Oh brother, guys just don’t communicate, do they? And it’s just so darn frustrating, especially when I need an answer, like, now. Towards the beginning of this process, I sent out long, detailed emails about what I was thinking and visualizing for the play, and the guy on the creative team wouldn’t read them or respond. I learned this wasn’t going to be effective if I wanted his input (and I did), so I learned to communicate succinctly via email for his benefit. I noticed measurably different responses from all of the guys I worked with, not just in the play.
- Lesson #4: I learned to let someone else lead. Confession: I’ve been facilitating Christmas programs and the like since I was thirteen years old, and I was involved in a small-time production group during middle school before that. I went to college and earned a Bachelor of Arts in Radio, Television, and Film, and have been producing and directing independently since that time. I have become attached to a certain way of doing things, namely, the way that is most effective for me. While I was the writer/director, I was NOT the coordinator/facilitator of this production, a role I am accustomed to filling, a role I have a LOT of experience in. You see, I like being to control all of the factors, but somebody else had that control in this production, and that was hard. Towards the beginning, I would express if I thought things were not going the way I thought they should to our coordinator, mainly because she was younger and less experienced than I am in these things, and I wanted to share the benefit of my expertise with her. (Haha). Then, one day as I spent time with God, I realized I was striving for what I wanted, and not giving our coordinator the opportunity to grow as a leader through her decisions and yes, even mistakes. I’m not going to lie, she still did things that made me cringe at times (and she usually heard about it in the form of “This is your decision, but…”), however, the power struggle was over on my end. It was no longer worth it to me to strive and be in constant turmoil fighting for control.
- Lesson #5: I learned to trust people to do things I wasn’t able to do myself. Last Saturday, I was scheduled to work until the program began. I work half an hour a way from my church, so that meant I was going to arrive late, but it also meant I would not be at our final rehearsal. I had to trust all of my kids to remember their roles and blocking, and I had to trust someone to direct in my stead. I also had to trust someone to do facilitate scene changes, because I had other work to do during the play itself. (Nobody disappointed me, by the way! They all did a tremendous job!)
- Lesson #6: I learned to communicate my needs and assert myself. It’s hard to put myself in a vulnerable position, but in the past month, that is exactly what I had to do with some people I was working with. They had communicated to me in such a manner that the end result was discouragement. (Like, crying for an hour discouragement, thinking about what was said and trying to honestly assess whether or not it was true,…). I could have let it go and never brought it to this person’s attention, but I chose to deal with it instead, and let them know honestly they had discouraged me. I didn’t want to because these things are generally not well-received and can go horribly wrong, but I chose vulnerability, and I was able to put it away from me once I had communicated my discouragement. I didn’t deal with any desire to walk away from the production after that point. (Which, granted, was only two weeks ago).
- Lesson #7: I learned to ask for support. This program has been prayed over by A LOT of people, but my role in it has been brought before God’s throne of grace by so many more. I am thankful for my faithful praying Facebook friends from every church I’ve ever been involved in covering me in prayer. I am thankful for my sweet friends who came out to the program Saturday night, not just to see the play, but to remind me to breathe before, and to say good job at the end. I am thankful for my little brother who came to two rehearsals to hold my hand and keep me from going crazy. I need a support system – not in a needy, clingy way, but sometimes I just need to clearly see and know those who are standing with me, and y’all have shown me that. (THANK YOU!!!)
- Lesson #8: I have learned that God is with me. The theme. I have spent more time meditating on this theme – Emmanuel: God With Us – than I have any other theme in my life. This passage sums it up: “I can never get away from your presence! If I go up to heaven, you are there; if I go down to the grave,you are there. If I ride the wings of the morning, if I dwell by the farthest oceans, even there your hand will guide me, and your strength will support me. I could ask the darkness to hide me and the light around me to become night—but even in darkness I cannot hide from you. To you the night shines as bright as day. Darkness and light are the same to you” (Psalm 139: 7b-12 NLT). This Christmas, and all year long, I’ve been thankful for the gift of God’s presence, which became available to as many as receive Him in the person of Jesus Christ.
“One of Jesus’ many names is Emmanuel, which means, ‘God with us.’ During His life and earthly ministry, Jesus walked with humans, changing their lives with His presence. He healed the sick, spent time with social rejects, and even made sure His own mother was taken care of as He was dying. More than that, Jesus took the punishment for our sin on the cross and defeated death by rising again. Although our sin had separated us from the Holy God, through Jesus, God set up a plan for humans to enjoy His presence forever. If you accept Jesus’ work for you, He can and will save you from your sins and change your life through a relationship with Him.” ~Emmanuel: God With Us, by Joselyn Varghese and Lydia Thomas
Other posts about the 2013 Christmas Play:
- Questions I’m Meditating on This Week: https://wildernessadventure.wordpress.com/2013/04/09/the-questions-im-meditating-on-this-week/
- Answers: https://wildernessadventure.wordpress.com/2013/04/16/answers/
- Lonely People: https://wildernessadventure.wordpress.com/2013/06/24/lonely-people/
- Binge-Writing: https://wildernessadventure.wordpress.com/2013/07/21/binge-writing/
- Eternal God: https://wildernessadventure.wordpress.com/2013/08/01/eternal-god/
- Enjoying Life: https://wildernessadventure.wordpress.com/2013/08/05/enjoying-life/
- Not My Show: https://wildernessadventure.wordpress.com/2013/08/06/not-my-show/
- Emmanuel: https://wildernessadventure.wordpress.com/2013/10/23/emmanuel/
- Nothing to Say: https://wildernessadventure.wordpress.com/2013/11/02/nothing-to-say/
- Here With Us: https://wildernessadventure.wordpress.com/2013/11/18/here-with-us/
- Too Much To Say: https://wildernessadventure.wordpress.com/2013/12/03/too-much-to-say/
- Out of My Own Way: https://wildernessadventure.wordpress.com/2013/12/05/651/
- God’s Word Does Not Return Fruitless: https://wildernessadventure.wordpress.com/2013/12/12/gods-word-does-not-return-fruitless/
- Cooking Up a Storm: https://wildernessadventure.wordpress.com/2013/12/13/cooking-up-a-storm/
- In Honor of Seven Days: https://wildernessadventure.wordpress.com/2013/12/14/in-honor-of-seven-days/