CELEBRATION A TV series on the Staging of a Gospel Show
CELEBRATION is a TV series with possibly 5-7 seasons. The PREMISE of the show is ‘how a modern small-town in the south of the USA stages Biblical stories from both the Old and the New Testaments’.
The staging is being done interior and exterior in and around town; it will take the town a long time, a few years at least, to work through all the Biblical stories that they want to portray. They are in no rush. At regular intervals the town puts on the next ‘show’ and as soon as that is over, the people start working on their next presentation (of Biblical stories).
The town folks will start at the beginning: the creation, Adam & Eve, the fall, Cain & Abel etc.
The idea is to present certain themes and to include those stories that touch on those themes.
Part of the town’s presentation is ‘Biblical Storytelling’ where the members of the cast walk into the audience, and, as each player gathers a group of people around them, they TELL the next part of the story.
It will be crucial to figure the right balance between the 2 realities,‘what goes on in town’ with ‘what happens in the Biblical story’. That balance will change depending on the Biblical story and how the town handles the story. Obviously, all of this is written by the writers of the show.
It could be that, at some point an entire episode is about the towns folk working through their differences, or facing serious obstacles in how to interpret and stage the next Biblical story. There may also be episodes that focus largely on the Biblical story. We should have and keep the liberty to make these swings; an important part of this concept
For me, the strength of the concept is that the towns folk will (have to) find simple ways of portraying the Biblical story, and that their inherited preconceptions about all the Bible stories will constantly be challenged, hopefully in light-hearted ways for much of the time.
(1) With this concept we are free from the ‘natural, traditional approach’ (Biblical costumes, Biblical sets etc.). Per definition this Biblical drama will be a modern presentation of the Biblical story which should liberate the essential story from the shackles of history & tradition. The town folks will soon give up on using bed-sheets for costumes. They’ll get creative.
(2) In their work toward performance, the town folks will constantly ask themselves ‘what the meaning is’ of a certain passage. We might see a scene in which the Folks are rehearsing, and we see their struggle with the text.
(3) The ‘back-stage’ scenes in this series will involve another group of town folks who are involved in the production process, but not as actors.
There is a group of writers who are working on the Biblical script, and digging through their questions and differences.
There is a group responsible for set-building; a part of their task is to figure out where certain scenes can be staged. Where is Herod’s Palace; how can they make that visible with the simple means that they have? What will Pilate’s Bastion look like, and where best to put it?
There is a Production Team constantly organizing the next ‘show’.
Ultimately the TV series is there to present Biblical stories from Genesis to Revelation, with an emphasis on the New Testament.
Parts of the Old Testament are portrayed in relation to certain themes that run through the overall story of scripture, themes to do with God calling Abraham, and walking with Abraham, and making promises, and themes that run through stories in Genesis and Exodus, and through stories in Judges and the books of Samuel, Kings & Chronicles. Scripture shows how,
eventually, the Hebrew people begin to understand that their God will send a Messiah.
The aim of this TV series is to tell the whole story of expecting and receiving ‘the man from heaven’ (some reject him) and how this heavenly man sets the scene for the Spirit-of-Heaven to arrive and cause a love-revolution around the world.
So stories from the Old Testament are there to set the scene, as it were; to introduce all the important themes, and to prepare the audience (in the same way the Hebrews were being prepared) for the coming of the Messiah and for what follows.
To make a success of the storytelling regarding the Gospel and Acts, a content foundation must be built, introducing the CONTEXT in layers. This is done through (a selection of) Old Testament stories and themes.
When the Messiah finally comes he is loved by the people, but rejected out of hand by the religious leaders, even while this wonderman performs endless miracles for three years in a row. The crowds are thrilled to have him in their lives.
There is the question of the 4 gospels and how they present different versions of the story. The town folks will have to find a respectful way of working this through. And of course different people have different views of Jesus, who he was (and is) and what kind of mission he was on. Some see him as a philosopher, some as a prophet of social change, some as a sage, others as a revolutionary. May the real Jesus stand up?!
An important concern has always been to initiate a project that is CAPABLE, a long way into production, of ACCOMMODATING the (many & varied) stories of Acts: the early church, the spread of the Way to other cities in Judea, the spread to other countries, the travels of Peter, the happenings around Paul, his travels, and his lengthy stay in Rome etc.
Even at this point in the series (now into season 5) it will be crucial to be able to raise the level of the storytelling and plug into the higher meaning of the martyrdom of Stephen, Paul and Peter (and the many Christians who lose their lives in Rome and other places). In the year 74 AD the temple is Jerusalem is destroyed by the Romans; the fight between the Jews and the Romans reflects on the New Way movement. Roman emperor Nero starts slaughtering the new believers, and yet,
under these very hard circumstances Christendom just keeps growing, almost exploding.
Through the involvement of the town folks (in our TV series), including their struggles and their creativity, but also their particular way of staging the Biblical Drama, the series makes constant connections between the early days (of the Gospel & Acts) and the present age.
Imagine if you really approached a modern small town somewhere in the south (of the USA), perhaps near the border to Mexico, and asked the locals to stage (a selection) of Old Testament stories as well as the entire Gospel story and Acts; what would happen? Imagine they said ‘yes’, and went to work. How would they go about this mammoth task, and what would that (eventually) look like?
To get some idea of this we could travel to places in the world where people stage Mystery Plays, and see what happens there. (Oberammergau in Germany/ several places in the UK)
As mention earlier we will study the THEMES that are in the Biblical stories and that still reverberate in this day & age. How does our world look upon those Biblical stories? What kind of experience were those ‘stories’ for the people that experienced those true stories first hand?
In this back & forth between ‘now’& ‘then’ we will learn to time-travel. At times it will feel like we are walking around the Biblical characters, witnessing first hand what they experienced. At other times, it will feel like the Biblical characters are visiting us in the here & now!
There should be plenty of humor coming through the activities of the town folks, but, having said that, this series is not SOAP. It wants to focus on the Biblical story, but do it through a MODERN LENS.
Someone might say that in the south (where it is warm like in the Middle East) there are no small towns that are also modern. That may be so, but we are not going to be looking for some particular town (that most likely doesn’t exist). We will BUILD our own modern small town.
Can we afford to do this? Isn’t that going to cost an absolute fortune? And where would we build such a thing?
The intention is to seriously STAGE Biblical Stories & Themes, starting with (parts of) stories from the Old Testament. We will eventually stage the multi-faceted story of Jesus including His years of ministry all the way through to Pentecost.
After that we will stage the events described in the book of Acts, as well as stage a ‘view’ into the future of the ancient church (now the long-gone past) through moments in history including the present time period and the age to come.
This is a mammoth undertaking, and will require a major investment. With thorough script development and the right budget, this production has the potential of becoming a major TV series that can speak to mainstream audiences, in the USA and around the Globe.