I’ve had the pleasure of attending two student theatrical performances in the past two weeks: “Alice in Wonderland” at the Broadway Theatre, and “Mamma Mia!” at Mount Pleasant High School. For both shows I was there on opening night, in a nearly-full auditorium, (it’s still weird, three years after the pandemic started, to be in a crowded in-person space and most of us aren’t even wearing masks), and both of these experiences gave me a sense of community and joy.
As with any theatrical undertaking, I’m amazed by the dedication and commitment to a common goal that it takes to stage these shows. “Mamma Mia!” featured musical numbers with 30 high schoolers on stage at once, singing and dancing; “Alice” was staged with a cast of youngsters from 2nd grade to high school. Costumes, sets, live music, singing, dancing, lighting—these shows are a labor of love for the cast, crew, directors…and for the parents.
Both audiences were full of families: parents with flowers for the performers; grandparents; younger siblings. After each show I was able to talk with parents who were full of pride for their kids. Many of the kids in these shows find a sense of belonging and purpose and success in the theatre that they do not find elsewhere. I got a sense of that from these shows and these parents; and that’s the way it was when I was in student productions in high school as well.
The sense of joy and community that I had at both of these performances is summed up in one moment from “Alice in Wonderland.” Earlier, the show had been interrupted briefly by a fire alarm going off in the middle of one of the scenes. The young actors took it in stride and resumed after a brief delay, starting from the beginning of the scene. After the show, young actors, their families and much of the audience gathered on the sidewalk in front of the theater. The crowd was alive with flowers and hugs; the kids still had their make up and costumes on; proud parents were beaming and taking photos. The hugs and laughter, the love and relief and pride and joy spilled from the sidewalk into the street and brightened the cold March air. The sidewalk and street were momentarily transformed into a surging oasis of joy.
Long live the theatre. Long live the joy of people coming together for art and community.
May the actors and singers and musicians be blessed. May the parents with the endless rides to rehearsals and moral support be blessed. May the directors and choreographers be blessed.
May every human community be blessed with art—theatre, dance, and song—may art and artists thrive in this place and throughout the world.
Rev. Andrew Frantz
March 1, 2023
Lord, the air smells good today, straight from the mysteries
within the inner courts of God.
A grace like new clothes thrown
across the garden, free medicine for everybody.
The trees in their prayer, the birds in praise,
the first blue violets kneeling.
Whatever came from Being is caught up in being, drunkenly
forgetting the way back.
This poem, with its birds and flowers and fresh air, evokes a springtime scene. A bit too early for that here on March 1st in Michigan, one of a few calm days this week in between snow storms. But in another way the poem is timeless: it is about joy and recklessness and abundance. The recklessness is throwing the new clothes across the garden; the abundance is free medicine for everybody; and the joy is found in celebrating a moment of being alive and of connecting to the Infinite / the Ultimate / the Divine through prayer and praise.
Rumi’s poem challenges me with its exuberant recklessness. It is over the top. And it speaks to me because today I am seeking grace and prayer and praise. In a snow-covered neighborhood as the world turns from winter to spring, from Imbolc to Ostara, from February to March. Like all of us, I’m trying to be my best self and there is only one day to that: today.
I am seeking grace and prayer and praise in a nation struggling with gun violence, oppression of women and trans people, and rampant economic inequality. This makes me cling to the free medicine for everybody line of the poem even more: abundance is possible. Human love is abundant; the grace of nature—birds and flowers or snow and lengthening days—is with us whenever we connect with it.
Today I can choose to connect prayerfully to the mystery of Nature, of Life Unfolding – not in a way that seeks escape from the world’s problems or my own, but in a way that puts everything into perspective and sees everything through the lens of infinite love.
Blessed be the words of the poet Rumi, translated and preserved across centuries. May we all be inspired today to connect with the birds and with the air, to praise life and this moment of suspended time.
Through love may we bring forth the best in ourselves and in our world.
May it be so.
Rev. Andrew Frantz
Rev. Andrew Frantz
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