Please welcome Jill Richardson!
For ten years, my family has been involved in the local community theater. We started in a manner only our family could—my daughters were kicked out of acting class. On the condition that their (very talented) father fill a needed role, we were all invited to join the cast of Oklahoma that summer. Since that was the only musical I had ever performed before–bonus!–I already knew the music! Before we could say, “Break a leg,” my husband and I began running the theater company, and I learned to be very, very creative.
Think low budget, small talent pool, and “theater” as an extremely generous word for a gym with a stage. You learn to be creative to survive. For instance, did you know you can costume an entire Continental Congress in bathrobes from Goodwill? Or that you can create a crown for the White Witch of Narnia completely out of hot glue? Upholstery foam makes fantastic Wonderland oyster shells, as well as barrels for dwarves and hobbits to float down a river inside. Just add spray paint. Spray paint is one part of a theater director’s holy trinity of necessity, along with duck tape and hot glue.
I think my favorite creativity challenge came when I had to cast Snow White’s dwarves, and not a single boy showed up to auditions for the parts. (Lack of males is not an uncommon problem in community theater.) But what I did have were a dozen talented girls who would do just fine with a little costume tweaking.
What to do? Instead of trying to dress them up as rough miners, I decided this was a golden opportunity to make my Snow White a little different. I gave them all bright pink Tshirts with their dwarf initial emblazoned in glitter on the front. They wore denim skirts, pink hard hats, and bedazzled sneakers and carried pink glittery lunchbags to their work in the mines. After all, when you think about it, who better to hunt for diamonds and rubies that a well-motivated girl? Add a magic mirror with a disco ball, lots of sparkles, and an attitude, and we were ready to take our adapted Snow White on the road.
So what does that mean for creativity? For me, theater is an opportunity to think about possibilities. To take the limitations before me and not be bound by them but to see things as they could be.
OK, we have no costume budget, but what can be done with a thrift store frequent shopper card, some spray paint, duct tape, and a little creativity? Sure John the Baptist can barely walk let alone dance, but what can he do that makes this show different than others? Maybe your ugly trolls happen to all be pretty teenage girls, but can you use that creatively rather than work against it? (We put our lead troll in a goth black dress and some kickin’ boots instead, and she rocked it!)
I try to use what I’ve learned in ten years of theater in my writing and in my ministry, as well. Do I have to be bound by what looks like a limitation? Are there ways to work outside expectations and create something truly different and beautiful? Can I take whatever material I’m handed and not only make it work but make it shine?
The sparkly purple leggings? Necessary look for a sorta-good-but-very-forgetful witch of the North in The Wiz. Addaperle—who gets a great song and a great costume–sported a look so not me. (Which made going around town before or after a show when I still had flaming pink hair rather amusing.) And that’s another great thing about theater’s creativity. I can stretch who I am. I can try out personalities I would never imagine being. And I can connect with people I never imagined understanding, because I was like them, if only for a couple weekends. It’s great for creating characters. But it’s also great for learning compassion and creative service for people unlike myself.
Theater is a creative outlet fr me not simply because it’s an art. It’s creative because it’s taught me to get outside myself and my own vision to see other ideas, other thoughts, and other possibilities. A writer (and a Christian) can’t go wrong with that!
Jill’s Book information:
Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas, November 29, 2013
Hobbits, elves, and dragons have become common fantasy characters but do they have more relevance to your life than you think? Are they as real as, or the same as, people you meet every day? Maybe not literally, but J.R.R. Tolkien’s famous characters bring to life real character qualities we all can learn from, whether good or bad. What can the bravery of a hobbit, the faith of a elf, or the greed of a dragon teach teens about themselves? How can their stories lead us to the real Kingdom where God is working out way more than a fantasy for his people? Dig in to these familiar characters and relevant Bible passages to find out. Come out understanding how to live your own epic story!
Also by Jill:
Don’t Forget to Pack the Kids: Short Term Missions for Your Whole Family
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