"Jordan, wait for the lights to dim!"
Our play Jonah!
, was heading into the third and final act. Jordan was playing the role of Jonah, a reluctant prophet, a part that fit him surprisingly well. An enthusiastic and personable high school student, our Jordan had begun to jig from the back of the auditorium behind viewers who were straining to see who had opened the door and let light into the darkened room. Jordan was about to perform a quick-step dance down the center aisle in time to a contemporary Christian song, "Dive" by Stephen Curtis Chapman, his jig toward Nineveh a testimony of relief to escaping the fish that swallowed him three days before and had now vomited him on land.
"Sorry." Jordan ducked out the door to wait beside me as the lights went fully down and the music cued up.Jonah!
was inspired by a friend of our family's who knows I enjoy writing. He casually mentioned, "You ought to write a play about Jonah."
"I don't think there's much to say," I responded. "Jonah is cut and dried."
"It would be interesting—his disobedience, the storm—even Nineveh was definitely a scary place."
I'd never thought about it that way before. As it turned out, neither had our audience. As had I, they needed someone to bring the Bible to life to help them appreciate God's Word in new and meaningful ways.
The draft was ready within a month; a few weeks later, I gave the play to our pastor, Rob Seymour, for approval. We planned performances for the following spring.
"Let me know how I can help," he said eagerly.
When the time came, he and his son, Youth Pastor Paul Seymour, set up a tiered stage. Church members handy with building tools created a Middle Eastern-style set. Then we had to design a giant fish. Andy Miller crafted a 5-foot-tall fish-shaped wooden structure with dark netting wrapped over a see-through belly. Jonah sat behind the netting to be visible to the audience (under bluish lights) to create a sense of being inside a huge fish.
Our church did not have many costumes. Member Joyce Kennedy had directed a drama program at another church and was able to borrow some belonging to it. Additional Middle Eastern robes were sewn from old bed sheets, and matching headdresses were assembled.
From a hardware store, we bought blue plastic tarps to spread across the stage to resemble the sea during Act II—the storm scene. We twined ropes through the tarps and pulled them back and forth from behind both sides of the stage curtains to create an illusion of moving water. It was uplifting to see how people wanted to be involved in various ways. Without their help we couldn't have staged the play. Everyone was talking about Jonah!
, which means everyone was discussing the Bible!
We started and ended rehearsals with a devotional. Actors were asked to read the Book of Jonah to better understand the story they were going to depict. We checked concordances and other Bible resources for information, learning more about Jonah and the redemption of Nineveh, while comparing it to our world today as we await Jesus' return.