Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Understudies Needed; Be Prepared to Go On

Saw a great show last night called "At This Performance," where standbys and understudies for Broadway roles are given a chance to star. They get to sing personal favorites, classics from their shows and tell anecdotes about life on the stage.

Understudies and standbys learn the role someone else is playing and only perform it if the lead is sick or unable to go on for some reason. They may have an opportunity to play a role many times, or never. They just have to wait nearby (literally -- if they don't play another role in the show they are required to be within short walking distance of the theater from call time until curtain each night) and be ready to perform.

When these folks do get the call, sometimes it's in the middle of a show, with just a few minutes for costumes and makeup. Some times they're called before they've even had chance to rehearse on stage with the rest of the cast. Talk about a step of faith!

That got me to thinking how in many ways, we're all in either lead or standby roles when it comes to sharing our faith. Some of us have "starring" roles. We're up in the pulpit preaching on Sunday morning, or leading worship or speaking to groups in ministry. Many of us are standbys, however, who may be called upon at a moment's notice, at our workplace, in the doctor's office, at school, at the family gathering this Thanksgiving, etc., when we weren't thinking we'd have to "go on."

Suddenly in the middle of a conversation, a door opens for being able to share our faith and we get "the call." Personally, I've had this happen in one-on-one conversations as well as with whole rooms full of people, and it can feel like a cue has been given and the spotlight has swung over to illuminate you. Hopefully we know the "lines" and can share with someone how we came to know Jesus. A standby isn't much help, if when called, he or she can't perform.

There's a joke a friend once told me about an actor getting his big break: a role on Broadway, with just one line. The only problem was that he had to go on immediately. There was no time for rehearsal, for the play had already started and he'd have to go on mid-performance. The stage manager would cue him to go on stage at the appropriate time and he was to say, "Lo! The cannons roar!"

All the way to the theater the actor repeated the line, delighted that he had to memorize only one and reveling in the excitement of being able to say it from the boards of a Broadway stage. This was his big chance. He'd been waiting for this moment all of his life.

"Lo! The cannons roar!" he practiced. "Lo! The cannons roar! Lo! The cannons roar!"

He got to the theater where he was whisked into costume and led to the stage manager who said, "You're on" and the actor walked on stage. Just then a tremendous explosion ripped through the theater and as the actor hit his mark he said, "What the heck was that?"

Make no mistake about it. If you're an understudy, you'd better be prepared to go on and have some idea of what to say. It will happen when you least expect it, probably in a way you've never fully rehearsed, but also never while the lead performer is on stage.

Just as being prepared to go on when needed is important, so is knowing when not to say the lines. It wouldn't work for the standby to run on to the stage, push the lead out of the way and say the lines instead. That would interrupt the flow of the play and cause some terrible moments of awkwardness and embarrassment (not to mention the firing of the understudy).

Have you ever been around someone who seems to manipulate the conversation to be able to bring God into it (more often so they feel like a star than because they care about the person with whom they're sharing) or a person who feels they're "called" to be some sort of voice of God to people they've just barely met?

It's uncomfortable, not only for the people targeted, but for other Christians who might have been developing a relationship that would have given them the right cue for knowing when it would be appropriate to discuss God. Be prepared to go on when you're called by the Master. There's no question that he wants you to share Him with others, but make sure the cue to speak is coming from Him and not your ego. And don't upstage anyone.

But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect. (1Peter 3:15 NIV)

1 comment:

Retta Blaney said...

Lovely comments, Lauren. Thank you!

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The Blind Side

Read about the real life mom from "The Blind Side."

Lifeway: http://www.lifeway.com/article/?id=169816

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Read Matt Mungle's review of the movie at http://www.buddyhollywood.com/.

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Lauren Yarger, Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the 2000 Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists.

Yarger trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Three-Day Training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run.

In 2008 she was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She writes reviews of Broadway and off-Broadway theater with a Christian perspective for Reflections in the Light (http://reflectionsinthelight.blogspot.com/) and is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection. She also is a contributing editor for BroadwayWorld.com

She also reviews books for Publisher's Weekly and is a member of the National Book Critics Circle. She formerly was Connecticut theater editor for CurtainUp, a national theater web site bsed in New York and a reviewer for American Theater Web.

She also served as Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. and worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts in Hartford and the Hartford Symphony Orchestra.

She is a freelance writer and member of the Drama Desk, The Outer Critics Circle, The American Theater Critics Association, The League of Professional Theatre Women and The CT Critics Circle.

A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger lives with her husband in West Granby, CT and has two adult children.

Copyright Notice

All contents copyright © Lauren Yarger 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013. All rights reserved. For reprint permission, contact masterworkproductions@yahoo.com.

Scripture from THE MESSAGE Copyright 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

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