May 1, 2002
People frequently approach me after our performances and ask: “How do you remember all those words?” While I might wish for a deeper response to the material, I know most of the time the person speaking is trying to compliment me on what they imagine is a rare and special gift.
Sometimes I’m tempted to answer: “Actually, anyone can do it. Just repeat the words over and over and over again—at least one hour for every minute of performance—then make an audio tape with the lines and play it in your car whenever you drive somewhere, then rehearse with your fellow actors for six weeks, and finally run the lines on the plane, in the van, and in the space where you’ll be performing before each show. Oh yes, it helps if you do the show once a week for a couple of years too.” In other words, you just have to be crazy enough to put in an outrageous amount of time and work.
Theater is a labor intensive business. That fact was hammered home in February and March as we mounted our production of C.S. Lewis’s The Magician’s Nephew in Pittsburgh and Cincinnati. Instead of our simple “two-boxes-and-a-ladder” style, we opted for more elaborate sets and costumes—and ended up with a show that filled a 24 foot U-Haul truck. I’m still nursing a tennis elbow from all the lifting. A friend from a Christian rock band once summed up the glamour of the performing life succinctly: “Most of the time, it’s like working for a moving company,” he said, “with an hour of fun on stage every day.”
Of course, there’s another side to the job. Something else people often say to me after a show: “I think it’s marvelous that you’re using your gifts for God, when you could be making money in the real world.” That laughter you hear is from all of my unemployed theater friends who know the six most important words any actor should learn are: Would you like fries with that? “You have a job!?” they ask in amazement. “A full time job!?”
It’s true—I’ve been extravagantly blessed. I get to do work that speaks to the deepest part of me, and at the same time is more fun than I’ll ever deserve.
But then that’s the nature of any life with Christ: Pure gift. Undeserved. Demanding a surrender of body, mind, spirit, and heart—but in the end, an easy yoke and a light burden. And Oh, Dear Lord, such infinite fun. Thank you.