by, Ruth Brittain
Born in Holland in the 1920s, Brother Andrew is best known for his practice of providing Bibles to believers who had none by filling up his little blue VW beetle with them and traveling throughout eastern bloc nations of Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Romania, Bulgaria, and Russia starting in the 1950’s. His famous “Smuggler’s Prayer” goes as follows:
“Lord, in my luggage I have Scripture
I want to take to Your children.
When you were on earth, You made blind eyes see.
Now, I pray, make seeing eyes blind.
Do not let the guards see those things You do not want them to see.”
What sticks with me most is his example of living out the love of Jesus to all–whether they be coworkers, communist leaders, border guards, or underground pastors risking everything for the gospel. Because he has not given rights to Hollywood to produce this story, it is not so well known by our youth today. Unless you’ve ready his book or graphic novel (please do!), you probably aren’t so familiar with it. This is why I approached his organization back in September of 2019 and requested rights. I wanted to stage it. I knew our Drama program would do it justice. I kept asking for 6 months, but eventually they said yes and a script landed on my lap the week the world (and our school) shut down from Covid 19.
Once I got the rights, we quickly realized that this would not be a traditional production. On the other hand, these weren’t traditional times. A royalty-free production was perfect. It gave us the freedom to perform it as much as we wanted, to stream it (unheard of in the theatre world), and invest not only on the stage, but backstage. A minimalist show would permit us to lower production costs while keeping our backstage from being cramped and tight and easier to achieve the protocols our school has established for the safety of our school community–all confirmation that this was the right show for this year. There were things we had to give up, yes, but there was also so much possibility. And did our team ever show up!
Just like Andy’s story, our production was built by prayer. We needed an Andy who really understood the message of the play and wanted to communicate that, so Nate showed up. Our script didn’t supply what our actors needed, so Evelyn reformatted it. We needed accents that sounded foreign and brought an international feel and someone who could bring energy to the production so Darsie went for it. We needed an actor who could change between characters in 20 seconds and be a dependable presence, so Joanna delivered. We needed someone who could do everything from singing to sewing our curtain, to keeping track of a zillion little props, to filling in all the extra roles, to setting the lights, to choreography with our praise dancers so Tala showed up with her smile and said, “I can do that.” We needed someone with the dynamics and physicality to fill up 15 smaller roles so Caleb showed up. And if that weren’t enough, when one of our cast members transferred mid rehearsal out of state, the very day we sent her off with our blessing and prayed for another member to take her place, Kaylee showed up, auditioned, and has been a lovely addition to our Company.
But that’s just onstage. If you know anything about this production, you know that what matters most isn’t what’s seen onstage, but what happens off. YouTube didn’t provide directions to build the PVC structure we needed, so Josh found a way to construct it. How do you build a life size tree onstage, a car, and Iron Curtains that are also moveable set pieces? Naomi, Katy, Emilie & Mina found a way. How do you design a beautiful backlit image of a cross shining through the oppression of the iron curtain on a minimalist stage? The creative team found a way. How do you design a PowerPoint to support the show with the many scene changes? Christian and his team delivered in addition to their responsibility to mic everyone. And who is going to run lights? Wayne shows up and with his artistry makes magic despite the fact he’s never done it before. And when our resources were exhausted…who shows up but our siblings in middle school Daniel and Cole to support us both onstage and with our special effects. And then when we get close to tech week and realize we just need another crew member to take care of all the prop and set changes backstage, who shows up but Kelsey?
God’s Smuggler is the real life story of a man which took place in a particular time and place but it contains kingdom truth that transcends that. The same truths that Andy found comfort in are true for our students today. The icing on the cake was having students from outside our production support our opening and final scenes through their talents of song and dance. Thanks to Julianne, Jordan, Kiyah, Jordan, Aaralyn and Aniyah for supporting us well as well as our student volunteers Priscilla, Cierra, Lea & Immanuel not to mention the invaluable contributions of our staff including Mrs. Gerlach and Mr. Gioconda.
Truly the Lord graciously answered every obstacle with a provision and the process of bringing this production together was every bit as important as the final shows themselves. We zoomed through the quarantines, faced each difficult scene, and found a way to make it happen together. The finished product is something we’re incredibly proud of! We are so grateful for our in-person and virtual audiences and for the real life lessons the Lord taught us while working on this production. Ordinary people when transformed by the Lord’s work inside them can be used to do extraordinary things for Him. The production is over, but that is a truth our students will take with them for the rest of their lives. Go shine for Him!