When asked by the music director of Tabernacle Baptist Church [www.tbcnn.org] to direct “The Living Last Supper” by Ruth Elaine Scram [ © 2007 Lorenz Publishing Co. ], I immediately said yes. I have had a lot of relevant experience and I knew I could do it. I surprised myself a bit because I already had my hands full with the church library and had decided not to add anything to my plate. But I knew I must say yes.
1. The miracle of my experience
Ever since I was a little girl, I have loved live theater. My parents, too, and they took the whole family to plays in Richmond VA, Washington DC and even Broadway NYC. When I went to college at UT, I attended every play offered there, sometimes twice. When I met my now-husband we discovered theater as one of our mutual interests. I have a life-list of plays I’ve seen and there are 270 listed.
For two years, my husband and I volunteered at “The Little Theater” in Greenville TN. This is where I got to see a very good director at work. Ron and I did the lights for the plays, including spotlight. We had no interest in acting, although Ron did appear in “1776” for which I served as dialog coach. But the relevant experience was the nightly rehearsals where the director crafted the actors and crew into a performance.
My next miracle was 20 years of playing in the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA). This historical recreation group provided me with years of training in making historical dress, taught by professional theater costume mavens. My own interest in historical dress led me to research, and ultimately, teach classes in historic garb. The clothing depicted in Leonardo’s painting was a Renaissance Italian man’s interpretation of Biblical clothing. Although I may be the only person in the audience that appreciates this irony, it added great fun to the project for me.
Another miracle is my new sewing machine. I had had my sewing machine for 40 years. It was a good one, but showing it’s age. I had been thinking of replacing it for some years, but since I didn’t use it that much, there was no hurry. But after we moved from CA to VA, I became a housewife and asked for a sewing machine for my birthday. Ron, a walking miracle IMO, researched machines, found the best one on sale for far less that I thought it would cost, bought it at a quilt show at a further discount, and got some very fine accessories. This machine is amazing and handled every kind of fabric, and has 40 computerized stitches available. This allowed me to embroider the huge table cloth with blue stitches, not matching the painting, but most definitely creating the effect.
One of God’s most amazing miracles for me was my last job at FIDM (Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising/ www.fidm.edu) I secured this dream job at age 50 when I wondered where I was heading. My nestlings were flying pretty well and I needed a good job. I had closed my daycare, worked 2 years as a temp, and was seriously searching for a new path. Ironically, I could not get a position relating to children, though I applied for many. By long custom I had continued checking any library jobs and applying. The FIDM job was a longer commute than I wanted, but I went on the interview anyway. And I got the job!!! I didn’t believe in miracles back then; why not? It was clearly one that I, with no MLS could get a job like this! I worked there for 8 years, learning more about library science, art, fabric, design, management; I believe I contributed to many students’ learning as well. And, it was on a trip sponsored by FIDM that I heard directly from God.
But that’s another story. http://carolbuckles.livejournal.com/7100.html
2. The Miracle of the Fabric
Before Christmas, I discovered a new Simplicity pattern by Andrea Schewe; I had the great pleasure of attending a class presented by Ms. Schewe. The small miracle is that I had used the very first pattern she had ever created to make a costume for my son in 1986. So I knew that it would be a good pattern to work with.
From my FIDM days I had a piece of white fabric which seemed a good candidate for the tablecloth shown in Leonardo’s painting. I took it to the church and placed 2 folding tables together. This would be all the room I would have on the “stage.” The fabric was of exactly the right dimensions.
All of the rest of the fabric needed for the costumes was on sale. All of the colors and textures I wanted were in JoAnne’s in Newport News. I didn’t have to travel around searching.
During my FIDM days, I was a trim junkie. The Scholarship Store gets donations from the fashion district and sells buttons, trim and fabric at bargain prices. From my stash, I was able to select all the right size and color. Some of the trim was exactly, I mean exactly, the right length.
3. The Miracle of the Broken Jewelry
My mother lives in a retirement home and had a dear friend, very recently deceased. Whenever I visited my mother I would fix jewelry for anyone who needed simple repairs. When this lady passed on, she left me a box of bits and pieces of no value, other than being useful parts. When I went to embellish costumes, I had a ready supply of interesting and glittery stones etc.
4. Thrift Store Miracles
I was alerted to the series of miracles by the first of many thrift store triumphs. All of the above might have been coincidence, until the 13 plates and 2 platters. I had studied the Leonardo painting and made notes as to what was shown on the table, among which was glassware, pewter plates and platters. I have long been a fan of thrift store shopping, so naturally I began looking. I was searching for small glass or wood plates that I might paint silver. I was finishing up a thrift store cruise idly wondering what might work, when, in the back of the store, I saw a stack of small pewter plates. There were 13. Not 12, not 14, but 13 real pewter plates at $2 each. Nearby were 2 silver colored wood chargers at $1 each. Not 3, but 2. The hair on my arms stood on end. From then on, I went to the thrifts deliberately searching for the items I required for the show. Not only was I rewarded by finding exactly what I was looking for, but treats for myself as well. I found a glass vase remarkably similar to the salt water container on Leonardo’s table; a footed dish for the bitter herbs. After talking with the Pastor about the play, I found an amber glass chalice for the wine.
The funniest of the miracles was the leather lamb roast. I was trying to figure what I could use for the roast, and thought I might sew something from leather and stuff it. The next shopping trip yielded a small leather pillow of a pale roast color. With some of the loose stuffing removed, it rendered a roast like the one in the painting [which admittedly looks revoltingly undelicious]. Several of the actors complained so much about the roast that I put a toy lamb legs-up on the platter and gave them the choice. [That lamb became our mascot, not a roast.]
Once I had decided to use actual candlelight, with low stage lighting, I went looking for candlesticks. At my usually thrift store, I found 7 low glass and brass candleholders for $1 or less. I needed more, but I didn’t want to spend more per unit, so I went on to another store. There I found 8 and, turning to go, I saw a wooden toy Ark such as I had been wanting for years.
On another similar trip, I was rewarded by a set of kid-sized canoe paddles for my grandboys to use on their upcoming visit. God is good!
5. The Miracle of the Baker’s Dozen by the deadline
First to be cast was my husband Ron as Judas; he knew that it would be very difficult for me to ask anyone else to do it. He ordered a black wig and beard immediately to match the painting. Several men volunteered to reprise their roles in previous plays, although it turned out that they had done a different script before. I cast as Jesus a gentleman of great integrity who read the whole play before he would sign on. But we remained stuck at 6 for a long time. I prayed that God inspire men to volunteer. I astounded myself by asking one man, “I’m looking for disciples….Will you follow me?”
“No’” he answered, as well he might!
With arm-twisting and encouragement, we reached the baker’s dozen by our make-or-‘brake’ deadline. This was a triumph in itself, but the true miracle of the actors is how each man rose to the occasion. Even dress rehearsal had many worried about the quality of our play, but after the presentation, we realized we had produced a glory to God. Many in the audience were truly touched by what they witnessed. My personal response has been to react to the disciples as friends; when I was reading about the death of James, son of Zebedee, I cried! “NOT James, that vibrant young man!!” was my heartfelt reaction.
6. The Miracle of the Melting Snow
On the day that Pastor Wes and I were to decide whether to go ahead with the play, it snowed most of the night before. Surely, this was a sign from Heaven, I thought. I had prayed daily that God send an insurmountable obstacle that we couldn’t overcome if the production was to be to His glory. Sure enough, the snow all melted by mid-morning, leaving the streets clear and DRY! If you look for miracles, you see them everywhere!
7. The Miracle of the Sense of Calm
I believe that I am autistic. Now that this disorder is more understood and seen as a bell curve of behaviors, I recognize my childhood. That understanding has been a blessing to me in coming to grips with my problems, chief among which is a social discomfort. Social terror, at times. I prayed everyday for God to guide me in dealing with the task of recruiting for the play. Every other time I have undertaken such a public role, I have gotten strep throat, broken out in herpes and psoriasis, and otherwise stressed out to the max. Never once did I feel stress over the play. I knew that God would allow it to succeed or put a stop to it. This is probably the least visible of the miracles, but to me the most miraculous!
8. The Miracle of the15 stools
I had set the stage with folding chairs and it was clear that the actors were sore challenged to get up from the table to say their piece. At worst, someone was going to trip and at best, the play would be overlong. Ron and I decided that stools were the answer. Ron went online and found several, but the cheapest were at IKEA near D.C. Ron and I enjoy going to IKEA, so we hopped into our van and were on the way. We knew from their website, they had 15 black stools and 50 yellow ones. So we drove for 2 hours wondering if anyone was going to buy the black ones before we could get there. Yellow would work, but….yellow?! The 15 black stools were still there. I told Ron that we had better look closely at them all, because at that point I was half-convinced that we would find 2 were broken and that the remaining 13 were for us. Happily, we came away with 13 black stools.
As we were leaving the store, I saw a child’s easels and thought of my grandboys upcoming Easter visit. Ron said no and, being a submissive wife, I didn’t argue. The NEXT day, as I was driving back from taking the stools to the church, there was a double, deluxe child’s easel in the trash heap in front of a home. Cleaned up, it proved the perfect Grammy/kid activity [parallel play].
9. The miracle of the fake apples
This one is so bizarre that I would have missed it in my old days. As I began to buy props way back in the Fall, I looked for fake apples in the thrift stores and discount places. I could only find green ones and the painting has red, so I figured I’d have plenty of time to find them. Apparently, red apples are as seasonal as the real things, so I had resolved to use real apples—even letting my actors eat them—when I chanced across a bag of 10 fake apples. I needed 7.
Thank you, Most High God, for guiding us through this endeavor, to your Glory. Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done. Amen.