A tribute to the unsung heroes of CHC’s Easter production, through the eyes of a Drama Ministry cast member.
A man staggered past me and collapses on the ground, weeping. The Roman soldiers drove the nails through Jesus’ bloodied palms on the cross and elevated Him to the scorn of those on the ground, as He bore not just the crushing physical pain but the weight of sin of all humanity. Jesus raised his voice and cried out, “It is finished!” One by one, the prostrated members of the crowd slowly got up and left, except for one man, Nicodemus, who was distraught at the injustice that took place.
This was City Harvest’s 2013 Easter drama, Crossroad, the story of one man’s choice to take the narrow path of truth, forgiveness and redemption or get swept up in the way of the world.
The weeks leading up to the Easter weekend on Mar. 29 to 31, as with every year, were marked with late night rehearsals, lots of fellowship during waiting time and endless Bible jokes (“Jesus, King of Juice (Jews)” or “Judas Is-Carrot” (Iscariot)”. Despite all the fun and the laughter, Easter is a very serious affair in City Harvest Church, involving the combined efforts of over 100 volunteers across various ministries each year.
The audience usually only gets to see the actors perform, but the pillars of the show are the ones who aren’t seen on stage. From the backstage crew to the sound ministry volunteers, the scriptwriters and the directors, these are the people who help us actors and dancers to perform their parts. They are also usually the people who arrive the earliest, leave the latest, and yet still smile the widest.
The backstage crew, together with the Costume Ministry, is largely responsible for the realistic ancient Jerusalem look and feel of the whole production. If our directors say we need fruit, there will be a cartful of apples the next day. The Costume Ministry members ensure that each cast member is properly draped with pin in place before they go on stage.
Then there’s the Make-up Ministry, whose members’ professionalism always ensures that actors are totally in character; they are also the ones responsible for creating Jesus’ stripes and wounds. Over the years, their skills have evolved to the point that even up close the sight of Jesus’ wounds can break your heart.
A first for a CHC drama production, this year’s Easter play featured breathtaking backdrops that were project on the LED wall, replacing bulky stage props and design. Behind it was the talented 25-year-old David Lee, a freelance animated graphics designer who stayed up all night editing the graphics till the morning of the very last show just to ensure that the Garden of Gethsemane looked real.
One of my friends who was watching the Easter service online sent me a text message to say that she was tremendously blessed by the Easter drama. This could have only been achieved thanks to the hard work of the members from the TV ministry, who managed to capture the nuances of the drama—not an easy feat considering it had to convey as much as possible the intimacy and closeness of a stage drama. Special mention also has to be given to backstage crew member frantically running after the cameras to gather up the cables, making sure that no one tripped over them—a very important job!
The Sound Ministry, on the other hand, did very well to ensure that every line uttered, while the actors are running about the stage and gesturing, was captured. The Visual Communications ministry volunteers were instrumental in ensuring that the non-English-speaking members of the audience could enjoy the drama too, with Mandarin subtitles.
Even the School of Theology student volunteers, despite only being involved in the Via Dolorosa scene as Jesus carried his cross to His crucifixion, gave their A-game. It’s difficult to cry on cue (yes, those are real tears!) and even more difficult to cry for four services in a row. I once saw a volunteer who was so moved by Jesus’ crucifixion that she couldn’t stop weeping even after the scene was over, and had to be comforted by her friends backstage.
Drama Ministry directors Sandy Yeo and Jaslynn Khoo once explained that the audience deserves our best for taking the trouble to attend service, some for the first time ever. Our role as the Drama Ministry is not just to put up a memorable drama but really to prepare the audience’s hearts for the word of God that is being shared from the pulpit.
As I looked around and saw my brothers and sisters giving their all for the Easter production that others may come to know Jesus, I began to understand how King David felt when he proclaimed “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” (Psalm 133:1)
This year, we have the tremendous privilege of sharing in the joy of the 2,441 decisions made for Christ during the altar call for salvation. Truly, when we work together in unity, there is power. Behold! This is the House of God, and it is glorious.
Annabelle Low is a Drama Ministry member who acted in Crossroad.