Lots of “Morbid” Stuff

It’s been over two weeks since I’ve posted, and there’s a good reason. Morbidman Meets His Maker was on Sunday in Jeffersonville, Indiana, and I’m relieved to say it went very well. This was my first show in six years, and the cast was an eclectic mix from my past, including former Dramamaniacs (my first drama group at Northside Christian Church, 1993-1998), Christian Academy of Indiana (where I led after school drama from, 2007-2011), and even the New Albany High School Marching Band.

This was also my first return to ministry-oriented theater. In other words, it’s the first time in almost 12 years that I was directing my own Christian-themed play instead of destroying a prized part of the theater history.

I’ve always encouraged collaboration and improv when directing, and the cast made their own contributions to the play, many of which are now in the “official” script available for purchase right here. So when you purchase the Morbidman plays package, you’re getting the latest and greatest edition with all the funny bits that made the play even better.

What’s more, I created a new group on Facebook just for Morbidman enthusiasts, a place to share photos, stories, and ideas for producing the Morbidman series. Ours was just one of three productions (that I know of) taking place this spring, and it seems after 16 years, Morbidman and the gang are starting to develop a (forgive the use of the term, fundies) “cult” following! You can join Morbidman’s “Secret Lair” by clicking here.

I’m also planning to spend a lot more time on this blog and any place else I can contribute to helping Christian drama folks do what they do. We had a youth group drive up from Atlanta this weekend, a group about to perform Morbidman Returns, and seeing their enthusiasm has reawakened my own passion for drama ministry. I’ll be honest, after 23 years, it’s hard to keep that enthusiasm alive, especially when I have so many other irons in the fire. But this particular fire has been stoked, and I hope to once again be more proactive in helping people draw others to Jesus through drama.

Free Script: How to Sit in Church

This script was originally conceived as a short film. The film stalled in post-production a long while back, but I thought I would release the script here for those who can use it. Feel free to film your own version or adapt it for the stage.

Just a reminder that little things matter. You don’t know who’s coming to your church for the first time, or what kind of day they’re having, or how your actions may affect them. We can all make church a little more welcoming by accommodating others with where and how we pick out seats in church.

How to Sit in Church

By John Cosper

www.righteousinsanity.com

A married couple, Guy and Marsha, get out of their car and race up to the doors of the church.

MARSHA: Come on, we’re late.

Interior church. They walk in the back doors, and stop, a look of fear in their eyes.

MARSHA: Honey, where are we supposed to sit?
GUY: I don’t know. Why does this have to be so hard?

Fancy wipe transition to a classroom. Coach stands by a chalk board.

COACH: Finding a seat on Sunday morning can be more intimidating than solving the West Coast Offense. But it doesn’t have to be. Hi, I’m Coach Honeycutt, long time football coach and Christian. And I’m here to help you learn the rules of the game:

TITLES:
Coach Honeycutt’s Rules of the Game:
How to Sit in Church.

COACH: Churches are like football teams. There are hundreds of churches, but every one of them runs one of a few formations when it comes to seating patterns. If you want to get a good seat in church, all you have to do is figure out what formation the church runs.

Coach has drawn a set of pews on the board.

COACH: One of the most common seating patterns is the I Formation. This is the kind of seating arrangement you’ll find in older, more traditional churches. With the I Formation, people sit in the same seat every week.

Coach marks X’s on the board.

COACH: Some sit on the ends. Some in the middle. Some in the front, and some in the back. And woe be unto you if you sit in someone else’s seat.

Cut to sanctuary. Guy and Marsha are sitting in an empty pew in an empty room. An older man stands next to them.

OLDER MAN: I’m sorry, but this is my seat.
GUY: But there are dozens of empty seats in here!
OLDER MAN: So find one and get out of MY seat!

Cut back to Coach.

COACH: The I Formation can be intimidating, but once you learn the patterns, you’ll not only avoid taking someone else’s seat, you’ll establish your own. Choose carefully, because you’ll likely be sitting in that seat a long time.

Cut to an old lady sitting in a pew seat in close up

OLD LADY: No, I will not sit in another seat. This was my momma’s seat, and it was my grandma’s before her. I don’t care what you say, I’m not moving!
VOICE OFF CAMERA: But this seat’s not even in the sanctuary any more.

There’s a sound of a toilet flushing. Sound effect of a stall door opening. A young woman walks past. Sound effect of running water.

OLD LADY: I can hear it all over the intercom.

Cut to Coach. He has drawn a set of pews where the end seats are filled with X’s and the middle of the pews is empty.

COACH: Another common strategy found in older churches is the Wishbone formation. In the Wishbone, people take the aisle seats here, and here, leaving the middle wide open. If you have a tendency to run late, this can be a tricky formation to deal with. And if you show up with a large family, you better hope to find a friendly face on the end.

Cut to the church. Guy and Marsha walk up to a grumpy old man on the end of the aisle.

GUY: Excuse me, sir, can we—

The old man growls like a dog. Guy and Marsha back away.

Cut back to Coach.

COACH: The Wishbone is also known as the field goal formation.

Cut to wide shot of a pew. There’s a person on either end. A football flies between them over the pew. They stand up and lift their arms in the air signaling a good field goal.

COACH: Or, the spread offense. (pronounce as in taking offense) Heh heh, sorry, I mean the spread offense. (said like the football term) The best way to beat the spread is to arrive early – and sit in the middle.

Cut to church. Marsha and Guy sit in the middle of a pew. A football hits Marsha in the face.

MARSHA: Oh, my nose!

Cut to Coach with another drawing on the board. There are a few X’s spread across a pew.

COACH: If you want something simple and easy, look for a church that runs the Option formation. The Option is much easier for the new attendee to navigate. Here’s how it works.

He draws lines on the board to indicate patterns – lots of arrows, circles, etc.

COACH: The guests enter the back room, walk down to the pew. The people sitting in the pew go in motion. Young couple slides down, causing the lonely guy mid pew to slide over, where he meets nice young college grad girl sitting with her folks. The result of the play, the new folks get a seat, and mom and dad here get a break on lunch when lonely guy asks their girl to go to the buffet.

Cut to church. In speeded up motion, we see Guy and Marsha walk down the aisle. The people seated jump up, shuffle seats, and end up bunched in the middle, with the college girl sitting beside or on the lonely guy’s lap. Once everyone’s seated, zoom fast on lonely guy, who gives the camera a thumbs up.

Cut back to Coach.

COACH: Some churches run a variation on the option package designed for families with small children. In this pattern, the back pews of the church are bypassed by the majority of attendees, leaving them open for people with young children or crying babies who are prone to disruptions or may need a quick trip to the potty. This pattern is known as backfield in motion.

Cut to the church. Guy and Marsha sit. A man sits on the other side of Guy. Marsha holds a baby. The baby cries. The man on the end hops out as if blocking for Guy. Guy races around the pew. Marsha hands off the baby. Guy runs out the door.

Guy runs into the lobby, lifting his arms and the baby in the air. He goes to spike the baby like a football.

COACH: Stop!!!!

Cut to Coach at the board. He has a stick figure drawn on the board holding a baby stick figure in the air. He draws a circle around the drawing and a line through it.

COACH: Remember, never spike the baby.

Cut back to Guy in the lobby. He tucks the baby in his arm and walks on.

Cut to Coach sitting in a church pew.

COACH: So there you have it. Every church has a different way of doing things, but the better you learn to identify the seating strategy in your own church, the less intimidating Sunday morning will be. I’m Coach Honeycutt—

ANGRY GUY: Hey! Get outta my pew, ya jerk!!

Coach looks off camera at the Angry Guy and then runs away.

Three Reasons Your Church Drama Group Needs to Do Improv

3. Improv developed acting muscles. Improv, like real life, is spontaneous. Rather than being tethered to a script (which often leads to wooden line delivery), actors are free to act and react to one another. It’s a great way to tap into playing emotions and getting the shy folks to come out of their shell. Warning: once they’re out, they rarely (if ever) go back.

2. Save the performance, save the world! Okay, maybe you won’t save the world, but if one of your actors drops or forgets a line, improv is usually your only hope. I once found myself on stage in a skit where the key character went completely blank. The entire skit turned on her dialogue, and she froze. Thankfully, the group rallied around her, filled in the gaps, and we all got out alive. When you’re used to filling in the gaps and telling a story without a script, you’re not intimidated by the line drops that happen on stage. Your actors will have the confidence to cover one another, fill in the blanks, and finish the story. And the best part is, no one will ever know the difference.

1. Trust. Actors who improv together and do it well learn to trust one another. Just as the group I worked relied on one another to get out of a disaster, your actors will have the trust to get through the scene together, no matter how bad it gets.

But here’s the best part: that trust doesn’t end when you get off stage. Actors who trust on stage become trusting off stage. People open up to one another. They share their lives. They share their faith. They become community, and they can strengthen one another as brothers and sisters in Christ.

When you consider that benefit, why wouldn’t you do improv with your drama team?

Here I Go Again

It’s been six years since I directed anything on stage. When I left Christian Academy of Indiana after five years, I knew I would have to return one day. It wasn’t because I missed it; I haven’t. I’ve enjoyed watching my kids grow up and do their things. It wasn’t because I still believe theater is my destiny. Not sure I ever believed that. No, I knew I had to come back because so help me, I could not go to the grave with Annie being the last play I ever directed.

So here I am. Six years later, as I start this new blog, I am directing one of my own, Morbidman Meets His Maker. I’ve never directed this play, but I’ve always wanted to. I’ve got a solid cast that’s been in rehearsals for two months now. We’re just waiting for the powers that be to tell us where and when the play will happen.

(The play is going to be a dinner theater fundraiser for my friends at Power Ministries. One night only, but we also plan to do the show for the good folks at Eastside Christian Church as a “thank you” for letting us use their space to rehearse.)

I am having fun with old friends and new. The cast includes three former Dramamaniacs, two of my students from Christian Academy, four former New Albany High School Marching Band members, and two (soon to be three) professional wrestlers.

There are people at all levels of experience in the group, but there are no egos or attitudes. Everyone’s getting along, and everyone is having a good time. I’ve always fostered an atmosphere of collaboration on plays as it is, and everyone has taken full advantage of the opportunity to pitch ideas, try new things, and be ridiculously silly.

I’m sure there will be more on the play here as it comes along. For now, just wanted to say hello, tell you what’s going on, and officially begin a new Righteous Insanity blog.

So help me… here I go again.