Is anyone else thinking how in the world did Friday get here this fast?!
If you haven’t been following along, Pilgrim is a compelling story about staying on the straight path to get to the Celestial City. If you missed earlier posts about the musical, go ahead and be as nosey as you like and poke around on The Bridge. Catch up by checking out blogs that went live the last few weeks.
This production has left us feeling inspired, recharged, and just . . . well . . . happy to be on this journey together.
The big night is in one day!
The final touches are underway and the excitement is rising. You know on Saturday morning we’re all gonna fly out of bed.
This last week is the most exciting time as the cast gets to wear costumes, see all the sets up (all the things they’ve been “pretending” are there), and go through final runs.
We invited you behind the scenes to see what goes on around here during rehearsals, so stick around.
Let me tell you about this group of kids, teens, and young adults. I mean, first of all, this cast has been a pleasure to work with.
They show up with a great attitude, a heart open to God, excitement to learn, and desire to work together. They’ve been allowed to have a bad day or hide for a while when they needed to take a deep breath. They’re still learning, and how we speak to them will have a lot of influence. We’re here to cheer for them when they do something wonderful. And when they don’t? We’re here to help them grow.
At different times, they each took the leap to wholeheartedly embrace the characters and bring this story alive from deep inside their own souls . . . with all they’ve got.
Sometimes it can be the tiniest little thing they do, but they make our day by being witty, hilarious, kind, or gentle—their love is the real deal.
TALKIN’ BOUT THESE LAST FEW DAYS
The cast has learned lines, songs, vocals, movement, and character. Now it comes down to a compressed schedule and applying what they’ve learned.
Here was our final week’s focus.
- Continue character development.
- Smooth out transitions and cues, cues, cues.
- Polish delivery techniques.
- Reinforce stage presence.
- Explore opportunities to engage beyond personal parts.
- Make others shine.
- Challenge yourself to be better.
- Interact with other performers to help each other break through any lingering obstacles.
- Integrate artistic abilities into a spiritual focus (i.e., God gave you a talent—use it for Him).
Throw some fellowship, laughter, occasional silliness from being tired, and good food into the schedule and you have the makings for a week of lasting achievements, good times, and some very happy faces! 🙂
OUR FINAL CELEBRATION NIGHT
Ahhh! I can hardly tell you how excited we are this night. The Friday night before the live performance is our special tradition night.
We always have Chick-Fil-A. I order a couple large cookies from the cookie store decorated with “Congratulations to the Cast!”. If you were to walk in, you would feel the excitement in the air as the kids, actors, and crew are enjoying chicken nuggets and our last night gathering as the cast and crew. After the meal, we cut the cookies–and everyone is left with blue, red, and yellow lips and tongues from the frosting.
We’re buzzing around talking about last minute details and the cast is chatting and encouraging each other. If you could just see their faces. I remember them in the future when I need a smile.
On this night, we give the cast their program books and they go around signing each other’s autograph pages reminiscing and jotting down something that meant the most or was the funniest.
PILGRIM IS EXTRA SPECIAL
Excuse me. If you’ve never read an allegory, you’re going to really like this play.
Pilgrim is an energetic and welcome escape from the stale adage that has been associated with walking on the straight path. These young people are enthusiastic because they personally travel on this path and can tell you it’s a happy, rewarding life.
The author of Pilgrim’s Progress, John Bunyan, and the creators and writers of the musical adaptation, Christian Theater Publication (Dave Mays, Cathy Mays, Janice Landry and music by Bob Kauflin, Mark Altogge, Janice Landry, Zach Jones, and others), give insight into the choices we make every day while we are on this symbolic journey to heaven. Like the Bible, the music and analogies from Pilgrim are refreshingly concrete.
It’s a story full of wise advice, belly laughs, and inspiration that shows us how to use this symbolism to full impact. No story is better told than through an allegory, and it’s super easy to follow. Every character and place is exactly what its name implies!
- Christian = Us, Christians
- The King = Our Savior
- Faithful = Loyal, someone we can count on
- Hopeful = Brings hope
- The City of Destruction = A place of destruction
- The Prince of Evil = He’s up to no good
- Vanity Fair = Upscale department store where material possessions and worldly desires consume.
- The Shepherd’s Mountain = Top of the mountain. A high place in the journey where shepherds and pilgrims gather as they get closer to the Celestial City. It’s a place of jubilation, rejoicing, and celebration! (This scene is worth the price of admission.)
You get the idea 😉
IT’S REHEARSAL TIME—COME ON INSIDE!
Here’s our routine.
FIRST THINGS FIRST: JOHN SHEPARD
John is our Audio Engineer and Prayer Leader. He gathers everyone around and reminds us why we are doing this performance, how much we need the Lord’s blessing, remember to pray for everyone who comes that God will touch them and let them feel this message, and he takes prayer requests. He leaves the cast with lots of encouragement and lets them know they have the Lord and all of us to lean on.
In a circle, we hold hands and pray.
The next meeting place is the microphone table where everyone gets headsets on.
John settles in at the sound board, does microphone checks with each performer, and works miracles on those sliding bars of the sound console.
VOCAL WARM UPS: KATHY CANBY
Kathy is our Vocal Director who leads the performers in singing a scale and does other singing exercises and articulation.
Practicing breath control, she has them do the “ha/ho” exercise, the helicopter landing, and the big sound blast. These are quick exercise games that involve projecting voices using breath from the diaphragm where they find air for volume. Of course a contest follows to see who can shoot a (usually very funny) blast of clear sound that hits the back wall—no guttural, breathy, or throaty sounds please.
On Tuesday nights, she meets with vocal leads and has one-on-one practice helping them analyze their strengths and weaknesses and gives them solutions. She also helps them focus on the emotion of a song. Can I talk about her artistic talents for a moment? I love bouncing ideas off her—her feedback always adds flair. Creative endeavors? She’s got the fireworks.
MUSICAL DIRECTOR: DARRELL KINSEY
Darrell also coaches singers, and among many talents, is good at rearranging parts to better accommodate and suit each vocalist. He works with singers one-on-one at rehearsals, in groups, and even has them over at his home to practice songs. He’s good at finding “work-arounds” to simplify the challenging musical roles.
LIGHTING DESIGNER: CHRISTOPHER MEINHARDT
Christopher begins turning on a few lights—that he is positioning from every angle possible—and starts scribbling designs on paper and programming the console so that each scene portrays the right lighting for what is happening. His biggest concern? He says hands down to have the right spirit and bring the best for the Lord, our students, our Church, and all who come to see us that night. He says his inspiration comes from watching all the others like John Shepard and from how hard the students are working. Devin assists with setting up–before, during, and after hours–and runs lights with him. (Christopher wants to steal him from managing the stage set. Yes, this is a feud that will happen in our future—stay tuned.) Leah is also Christopher’s side-kick lighting tech. Blake, our newest to the team, is learning to operate the spotlight.
STAGE MANAGER: DEVIN BLACK
Rex and Devin built some new props for the Pilgrim set (thank you!!) Devin, our Stage Manager, sets the first scene and is around making sure the props are in convenient places. He prepares all props making sure everything is on course backstage for performance night. During rehearsal, he helps us get all the props in place and works throughout rehearsal changing things out and overseeing scenes to make sure props end up where they should.
SOUNDTRACK AND SOUND EFFECTS: TRECINDA KINSEY
Trecinda Kinsey is multi-talented, creative, and always assists in every area, but for this performance she is our Soundtrack Operator. She helps with vocal numbers and you can find her at the piano many times helping a singer practice hitting a note with which they might be having difficulty. She sets up to run the soundtrack and sound effects, which is no small feat. This operation takes laser-sharp focus and precision timing. The only thing sitting on her shoulders is that the entire cast and show depend on her cues—which start coming pretty fast from the opening note. So, no speaking to her that night. Just kidding–sort of 🙂
DIRECTOR: LISA MEINHARDT
I provide instruction and creative focus to start our practice and the Team contributes as we go through rehearsal. My first responsibility is to make sure the students and actors know that we have their back and that we care about them. Above all else, I let them know they can do ALL things through Christ.
I chat with them.
We talk strategy. What is your plan when you walk on stage? Have you mapped out your lines highlighting parts to slow down, where to emphasize, when you need to look squarely into the eyes of people in the pews, or a perfect time to make a sweeping, grand gesture?
And what about those facial expressions?! Your body language and face send the loudest, greatest, most electrically-charged, touching, and moving message–than your words will ever be capable.
Is your character flat? People don’t care what happens to a flat character. Are you bringing contrast that the audience can see and feel? Have a goal to grow every time you walk on stage. Focus on a specific skill set to improve. Which one of these techniques are you working on developing tonight? What will you do different tomorrow?
I tell them the “bag of wind” story. Don’t get lazy and fall asleep on the ship thinking you’ve got it all under control now because you can see the campfires of home burning on the shore. Just as sure as you do, somebody’s gonna open the bag of wind, and we’ll all be blown back out to sea.
We talk about emotion. It’s all about storytelling and revealing a character. The place in your body where emotion and life activity take place is your chest and stomach. You’re making a human being. You’re creating a character that should be recognizable as that character. You have to stay honest. The moment you drop the ball and are dishonest, the audience knows.
It’s not about the pretty pictures; it’s about the real ones. Tell me about your character. What is their purpose? What makes them tick?
During rehearsals, take risks. If you walk out and play it safe, your performance will be “just okay”. Take risks while you have a chance to get it right. Your work will be more dynamic, inspiring, and memorable.
And I harp on this next one.
It’s your job to pull the audience into this story, and you all know every effective technique that will grab and hold them. It’s your job to tell this story with clarity so they understand you and what’s going on. Everything you say and do is for the people who are sitting out there who came to support you and to be entertained.
Oh, and one last thing, I tell them.
Cast, bring your message to the audience and make them want to go with you. I tell them during happy scenes, they better make you smile–and you have to show teeth or it doesn’t count 🙂
THE EVERYTHING MANAGER: KENDRA GAVIN
She is the assistant principal of our school and keeps this whole process running smoothly.
Kendra deals with the daily responsibilities of the show and is the point of contact for parents, cast, and crew. No one who knows her doubts that she loves them. Everyone also knows that her desire to do what’s right for the Lord, the Ministry, and God’s people will keep errbody in check.
Some have even called her the Enforcer . . . but sshhh!
She moves around in stealth mode—literally appearing out of the woodwork when groups have gone missing off stage. She rounds up performers to ensure they are where they should be and doing what they are supposed to be doing. Kendra keeps everyone on task so that our schedule, crew, and cast stay on track.
SINGING NARRATOR AND VOCAL BACK UP: HANNAH JAMES
Hannah is on stage warming up to sing the musical part of the Narrator and also lends vocal back up and support to other musical numbers. She stepped right in to help fill this position and has done an outstanding job. Her creativity and talent have inspired other cast members to work harder and sing out. Her songs are moving because she really feels the words she is singing.
Before and after her performances, she is around making sure we have the right character props and costumes. She has special radar for the ending of every song and reminds the singers to “hold out those last notes!”. Vocal leads . . . we know you see this!
(**cough** Everett Gavin also helps watch for any note dropping.)
MOVING PARTS: RACHEL SHEPARD
Rachel is artistic with stage gestures and has rhythm needed to help with choreography. She assists with moving parts to help avoid disastrous collisions among the actors. Her roles extend to helping actors, costume changes, hair, and props. She always has a script in hand and watches the actors closely. When someone gets that puzzled-forgot-my-line look, she throws the line, or sometimes just a word is enough to jar their memory.
She has positive energy that brings fun to the set.
OUR LITTLE BEST FRIENDS: SHERRY WHALEY AND JENNY BYRD
With the young performers, there is never a dull moment. Ever.
Sherry practices with younger students who have parts in the production preparing them to enter the performance area when it’s their time to participate. She leads their group rehearsals.
While committed to working with them, she makes sure they know their lines, songs, and places, and watches for when they need breaks and rest. Oh my gosh. When children hear live music, especially that they are a part of, something special happens. They might not get every little cue to a T, but they want to please–and those smiles!
You’ll want to squeeze them 🙂
No pep talks necessary when they come through the doors. They walk in with energy through the roof ready to go!
Sherry leads them through their parts as they sing, move around, and participate. She is marking cues (and still manages to be nice when we come back with changes) and organizing our littlest support team in rows where they’ll sit as she prepares them for the moment they walk up. Jenny assists her with the needs that come with managing little actors, and she is ready to be wherever you need her onstage or off stage. And if you know this duo, you know they make sure things are done right and still find time for some fun and laughter along the way.
#1 SUPPORT TEAM: MEL JAMES & BOBBY WADLEIGH
This team is why we are all still sane. Without this kind of strong support holding us, we would have crashed weeks ago.
Mel is always assisting with anything and anywhere someone needs extra hands or eyes. He helps in every area: setting up, packing up, and technical support. He has also been known to rescue a few scene dilemmas and add some dramatic and humorous touches all along. He’s even performed a couple stunts. Pssst . . . see me later if you want the details 😉
Bobby is always one text away from whatever we need. He assists with everything and anything that is lacking. Whatever you ask, his attitude and response is, “already on it”. Among other things, he has assisted with rehearsals, given a pep talk, had banners and signs made, put them out, and is assisting the camera crew.
Time to get to work. Performers, take your places.
If you’re waiting, focus and be prepared to assist back stage if needed.
And the work begins. Taking scenes apart. Cue practicing. Do that again. Say that slower. Repeat that line with better articulation. Where’s your emotion?
Hello, the audience is out here–connect! Eye-contact.
By mid-way, the students are sweating and need water. Lots of water.
Most important? Know that confidence comes after hard work and achievement. Don’t mistake it for its counterpart, arrogance, which comes from thinking you are great because you draw breath and take up space. Let me say right here that this cast is one very HARD-WORKING team.
It’s okay to go through phases you are being challenged. That’s where you decide to grow, or not. Through everything, treat each other respectfully and encourage constantly.
In case you’re wondering . . . of course we all get along. If we’re being honest, we never know when we’ll need back up. Seriously, that’s not the only reason—we love each other!
Regardless of our roles, all of us at some point meet the challenges of being a Strategic Commander, Personal Counselor, Small Claims Judge, and Dramatic Artist. (On the bright side, we can update our resumes!)
So, that is us and a look behind the scenes at what we do at rehearsals!
COUNTING OUR BLESSINGS
The Cast and Crew of Pilgrim are Grateful.
Onslow Christian Academy, Alumni, Cast, and Crew dedicates this performance to Elder LaFleur and Sister Jean. On their behalf and the entire production team, we welcome everyone who is coming to be a part of Pilgrim with us.
They have instilled a love for God and His Word in our students and have been models of compassion and provided an exceptional learning environment for our children with a focus on walking and living righteously. They live by the Bible and have planted in God’s truth. Their positive, can-do attitudes perpetuate a solid foundation of faith, truth, and love.
Elder and Sister Jean, thank you for making this performance possible, showing us how much good comes to our lives from serving God, and teaching us to not take for granted all the Lord has given us, including the small things we easily forget. You’ve both done so much to help every individual involved in this production, our young people, and this endeavor. You have been there time and time again for all of us and we could never repay your years of service and dedication to God’s people. The love they have for our kids and young people is not something you see everywhere and every day. Our youth are blessed to be surrounded by this strong support system reflected by your leadership and by the patience, wisdom, and love in this fellowship. Elder and Sister Jean, we all appreciate and love you very much!
WE APPRECIATE YOUR KINDNESS
We are grateful to everyone who contributed and supported the whole production from inception to opening night with your time, labor, ideas, material items, and encouragement. We’re humbled and appreciative for all the many ways you’ve helped us on this journey and shared our burden to bring this vision to life.
We will be praying this week and Saturday night for God to help us do our very best. As we’ve been taught, our biggest prayer we will be to keep our minds open to His will and our hearts thankful for all the blessings He’s already given us. We have Him, love, and each other—and with those, as my dad says, we have everything.
FEEDING THE CAST AND CREW
To all those who donated food, snacks, and beverages for our final week of rehearsals, bless you and thanks from the bottoms of our hearts, and stomachs 🙂
TICKET SALES: LEATTE BLACK
Leatte has been handling ticket sales for weeks and weeks. She is that person you can count on. She embraces whatever assignment and follows it through to completion–and it is right. She is organized and makes spreadsheets, lists, and charts for us.
VIDEOGRAPHY AND THE PREVIEW TRAILER: RON CANBY AND GREG CANBY
Deeply talented individuals, this father and son team created our fantastic preview trailer. They are professional videographers and we appreciate benefiting from the fruits of their spirits to help us. We’re all still struck by the incredibly quick turn around on this trailer and how it captured the essence of everything going on that night. The whole cast was thrilled!
PROJECTOR: MIKE MALONE
I have Mike on speed dial. When I get myself into technical situations, which are frequent, he remains calm on the other end of the phone and magically fixes them. He helped us with the projector–including being kind when changes were made even though he put in work. Mike is also making sure Giant Despair arrives on time . . . and you know how giants can be!
MARKETING: LISA MEINHARDT, SHERRY WHALEY, MARI SMITH, KAITLYN SMITH, AND NATALIE SMITH
Sherry Whaley and these three lovely sisters drove all over Jacksonville and surrounding areas putting out flyers for Pilgrim. And I have to mention, on one particular scorching humid day, Sherry’s air-conditioner went kaput. These ladies still worked until the last flyer was up.
PHOTOGRAPHY: HANNAH JAMES, EMMALINE BENNETT, & RICK LAFLEUR
This team of photographers has us covered! After all the lines have been memorized, the scenes practiced over and over, the lectures, the exercises to project, the songs—ALL of it—when every rehearsal is over and the big night is gone, this cast and crew will have tangible memories of all the hard work, the times we laughed so hard we doubled over, a few embarrassing moments, scenes that moved us to tears, and all the good times together. Special thanks to this team <3
PROGRAM BOOK: DEBORAH WADLEIGH
Just, whew!! This may not seem like much when it’s handed to you at the door–just a paper book telling you about the production, but a lot of late nights formatting and designing the layout are just a few details in this project description.
I know, I know. Deborah’s organizational strong suit makes her the perfect match, but that doesn’t minimize the amount of work it takes to put the layout together and help print it. Oh, and the research, finding what she needs, and pulling in the right sources. But she was willing to do all this for our young people and this production.
The program book is a souvenir the cast will always cherish.
A special thank you to the entire audio/visual team at The Church at Onslow.
Months ago, Jack Kinsey got busy making sure we had everything we needed for electrical and sound.
Our camera crew, Daniel James, Greg Canby, Ron Canby, Bobby Wadleigh, and Gary Denson are discussing plans for cameras to be at best possible locations during the performance. We greatly appreciate them recording Pilgrim.
Thank you, Morris Shepard, who will be making our DVDs after the production.
EXTRA PROPS: KAREN KARL AND JACKSONVILLE HIGH SCHOOL
Thank you SO MUCH for loaning us some really cool stage props that we didn’t have. Thank you to Karen Karl and the very kind gentleman (and his family) who met us there that day to help us. We have an excellent stage crew, Rex and Devin Black, who build a lot of props for us, but we would not have had these extra pieces, especially the benches, stairs, and table that helped bring some scenes to life and made things easier for the actors (we love the bridge!). Your props boosted this production. Thank you!!!
STAGE SET DESIGN
Rex Black, Kathy Canby, Hannah James, Trecinda Kinsey, Rachel Shepard, and Kelsey Pate–this group is awesome!
COSTUME DESIGN AND FITTINGS
Trecinda Kinsey, Hannah James, Lisa Meinhardt, and Sherry Whaley consult and arrange costumes.
MUDDY’S COFFEE HOUSE AND PATRIOT BLINDS & MORE
Thank you for opening your businesses and providing us an outlet to sell tickets. We pray God richly blesses your businesses and everyone in your companies.
PRINTING TEAM: RANDY SMITH AND DEBORAH WADLEIGH
Thank you oodles for getting the program books printed and stapled!
Everett Gavin, Lauren LaFleur, JaQuel Gavin, and Taurean Gavin–Thank you for assisting with musical arrangements and vocal support.
Everett Smith—The cast and crew have an extra special appreciation for Everett, for whom no burden is too small to carry.
For all those drop-offs and pick-ups, thank you parents for getting your kids to “one more” rehearsal!
Thank you, cast, for working tirelessly and always being willing to throw yourself into the moment and make it real.
We’re grateful for all of you. xo
Megan: Boyyyyyys. Boyyyys. Boysssss. (When you see the performance, you’ll get it!)
And all of us who have been to practices, wouldn’t you agree that if the performers forget the words to their songs or lines that we all know them by now…in our sleep…under heavy sedation…and backwards?
But no worries. It’s not like some of this cast aren’t professionals at inserting impromptu, ad lib, unscripted material—that fits right in—as it comes to them off the tops of their heads if they have forgotten a line or twenty. Can I hear an amen?
Hannah James was the first teacher to catch this phenomenon. Hey, don’t look at the rest of us—that impromptu material was pretty good.
EVERYTHING ISN’T ALWAYS RAINBOWS AND SUNSHINE—AND WE’RE COMPLETELY ON BOARD WITH THAT.
In the process of preparing for this musical, we’ve had a couple of those days. I would let out a huge sigh, shove the split ends off my forehead, lean forward, and promise myself and the cast that we really could do this. All the coaches and crew got frustrated at some point with something. Sometimes the students looked at me and with a big sigh as they let their head flop to one side—as if to say the word “really?!” And sometimes they irritate each other—yep, it happens. Why mention that and shake up our positive image?
To say this…
Pilgrim is full of adventure and promise, but it has also brought a somber realization into each of our lives. We, too, will see the river one day and know the end of our journey is near. We have no guarantees if that day will be 30 years from now or tomorrow—death has no respecter of age, race, or class. What will be important to you at the end? If you could go back, what would you do different?
For us, knowing we will come to the river, and when we cross, we’ll really meet our King. It makes it worth staying on the path.
We move forward, not because that’s a trendy phrase with a positive ring to it, but because it’s our desire to follow God. We’re heading in His direction and are confident about our journey because even though we might fail, the King never lets us down. Walking on this path is our greatest source of peace during the struggles and it’s why we choose to persevere in everything we do, including working together on this performance.
Every once in a while at practice—a line, a song, or place—will hit us as we realize that the King is really here. The pull is reeeeal. I can’t tell you how many times the crew have shared a look or wiped an eye because we got goosebumps.
We really love and want the very best for each other. That’s what keeps us going when we get frustrated and tired.
Did I just botch that? I hope not.