A Few Words About Costuming

The cast of "Prisoner of Joy"Prisoner of Joy:

By and large, the cast wore their own black street clothes (ladies all in skirts and tops, men in pants and shirts–some button-down and some pullover. Kayla made all the final decisions about who wore what piece of fabric for accent. She also decided that each man who played a character role (e.g., Dennis Nichols, who played Luke; Adam Bodnar who played an official; Ron Stauss who played Silas; et al.)  in the flashbacks would simply pull his fabric shawl up to cover his head. It was quick, simple, and noticeably different.

"I command you, in the name of Jesus Christ, to come out of her!"Kayla also designed the piece that the slave girl wore, which was easily converted into the head covering she wore after joining the church at Philippi. Because jewelry was worn particularly by pagans at that time and place, none of the women in the church are wearing any jewelry. The slave girl removes all of hers after Paul casts the demon out of her.

 

Three church women do interpretative movement to the hymn found in Philippians 2.

Three church women do interpretative movement to the hymn found in Philippians 2.

 

Rachel Wilhelm Photography  (54)A Mighty Fortress:

When this play was done on tour, the actor playing Luther wore a simple black tunic which suggested both a generic medieval garment and a monk’s robe. However, we were looking for something more for this fully-staged version. Since Luther was hiding in a castle, wearing borrowed clothes, we went hunting for period portraits of German knights. Here are some we found:

German Lord and Lady, 16th C.

German Lord and Lady, 16th C.

German "Land Knights" (foot soldiers)--known for their colorful and avant garde clothing

German “Land Knights” (foot soldiers)–known for their colorful and avant garde clothing

A German merchant in 1531. Note that the middle class is now able to afford rich dress

A German merchant in 1531. Note that the middle class is now able to afford rich dress

We wanted Luther to wear some color, and found the perfect fabric in afO’s collection. A collarless linen shirt under a sleeveless tunic was easy and gave the general impression of medieval middle class status, when worn with tights and soft shoes. A hooded black cape was added shortly after the start of the play when Luther becomes a monk. Since most men wore dark long coats over their tunics, this cape did double duty, suggesting both a coat and a monk’s robe. During one nighttime scene toward the play’s end, Jeff did put the hood up onto his head.

Special thanks to Kayla Reed for sewing Luther’s tunic, and to Jeanne Pendleton at IPFW’s Costume Shop, for providing the tall boots Luther wears at the top of the show. She also donated the fabric we used to make Luther’s bed cover.

Jeff Salisbury as Martin Luther, in the opening moments of the play.

Jeff Salisbury as Martin Luther, in the opening moments of the play.

 

Rachel Wilhelm Photography  (86)

Behind the Scenes: Prisoner of Joy

Just a quick peek at some of the preparation of the Prisoner of Joy cast and crew for this weekend!

Jeff Salisbury, lighting designer, and Kayla Reed, director working on blocking and lighting issues.

Jeff Salisbury, lighting designer, and Kayla Reed, director working on blocking and lighting issues.

Kayla & Lauren working on costumes.

Kayla & Lauren working on costumes.

Kayla and Scott Kump (the apostle Paul) working on lines and blocking.

Kayla and Scott Kump (the apostle Paul) working on lines and blocking.

Kayla getting Matt Simon (Timothy) prepared to go on stage for dress rehearsal.

Kayla getting Matt Simon (Timothy) prepared to go on stage for dress rehearsal.

What Will You Hear??

One of the most critical technical aspects of any production, to me, is the sound design. If the sound is just right, it enhances the action and helps the audience to fully understand both what is going on and how the characters are feeling. If done badly, it can be jarring, confusing, comical or embarrassing.

Neither of the one acts which opens this week requires very many sound effects, but those that do occur need to be quite precise:

  • an earthquake in which doors fly open and chains fall off;
  • a rumble of thunder which becomes torrential rain, with a vicious crack of thunder at just the right moment;
  • horses’ hooves which approach quickly, surround the speaker, and slow to a halt.

Our behind-the-scenes genius of sound effects mastering, for the past two seasons, has been J. Scott Kump.  We are blessed to have his meticulous artistry and the equipment at WFCV (where Scott works) at our disposal. Watching the visualization of sound waves, and the ways Scott can manipulate them, is amazing. If I say, “I wish the bells were a bit slower at first, but then become more intense, both louder and faster…”  he says, “We can do that.”  “But we didn’t record them that way,” I protest. “Doesn’t matter,” he says. And proceeds to prove it.

Music for Prisoner of Joy

Ancient EchoesLast season we were granted permission to use selected tracks from a CD entitled Ancient Echoes during our production of the comedy-drama A Peculiar People, which takes place in the first century AD. As the audience enters the auditorium on Friday night, they will hear that same music being played, as a way to begin their transport back in time to around 61 AD.

In chapter two of Paul’s letter to the church at Philippi, there is a passage (2:6-11) which is typically set in most translations to look like poetry. This section is believed by most scholars to have been a pre-Pauline hymn which Paul inserted at this point in his epistle. But New Testament scholar Gordon Fee thinks otherwise. You can read a brief and quite understandable summary of his view on the blog, Near Emmaus.

Although I think that Mr. Fee has made some valid points, I also liked the idea of this text being turned into a lyric for worship, and so I composed a simple melody which uses the exact text of the translation we’re using. It was challenging to create something which modern ears would accept, since there neither rhythm nor rhyme in the lyric. Inspired by what I had heard on the Ancient Echoes CD, I attempted to create a very spare texture with little harmony. Since we have tried to impart a slightly contemporary–or at any rate, timeless–flavor to our production, the rhythms of the song include quite a bit of synchopation, which gives a more modern feel.

I’d originally liked the idea of using live musicians through the piece, playing the instrumental interludes, accompanying the singing, and perhaps even doing the sound effects. But the musicians I wanted were unavailable, and it proved more efficient to record everything in advance. Ultimately I found I preferred the song to be unaccompanied. The voices you hear are cast members Ron Stauss and Scott Kump.

All the other instrumental music in the play is my own, recorded on a Roland keyboard at First Missionary Church.

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Music in A Mighty Fortress

Renaissance-manuscriptI’ve been looking forward to redesigning the sound for this play for many years. After we had paid for a professional sound tape to be made, back in 1990, I heard Luther’s own version of “A Mighty Fortress” sung in a Lutheran church. It had the lively rhythm of a Renaissance dance to my ear, and I wished I could have used it in that form for our play.

As I was looking through a Lutheran hymnal to find this version, in preparation for recording, I discovered to my delighted surprise that Luther had composed several more hymns which were found in that hymnal. I was in need of two other quiet instrumentals in the script: a renaissance lute piece while Luther is walking to Augsberg, and another quiet piece to underscore a letter he writes to a dear friend. I was able to use two melodies written by Luther himself. You’ll also hear longer and fuller versions of these hymns, and two others, during the intermission between Prisoner of Joy and A Mighty Fortress.

There are two pieces of authentic Gregorian chant played early in the play: Veni Creator Spiritus is heard when Luther first takes his novice vows, and a communion chant plays under Luther celebrating his first Mass.  Two loud fanfares are heard later. One is a renaissance fanfare by Claude Gervaise, arranged by Peter Reeve for the Philip Jones Brass Ensemble. You can hear the whole thing here.  The other is a snippet of a sacred piece by Thomas Tallis which seemed appropriate when Luther appears at the Diet of Worms.

We hope you enjoy getting “the scoop” about what we’re doing behind the scenes. Please consider sharing your post-performance observations in the comments section below!

Understanding Philippians

As a piece of theater, Prisoner of Joy is unusual because its script is taken, word-for-word, from the Bible.  Using the book of Philippians with flashbacks to Acts chapter 16, the production brings to life the Word of God.  But one might ask, why Philippians?  What is so special about the church at Philippi?  The answer can be found in the tone of Paul’s letter.

Map of Greece showing Philippi, courtesy of Wikipedia

Throughout Paul’s letter to the Philippians, one can see the love he had for the church at Philippi.  Written near the end of Paul’s two year Roman imprisonment (ca. A.D. 61), the letter has an overall joyful tone, and joy is a recurring theme.  Paul was pleased with the work of this church, as it was actively engaged in supporting his work as a missionary.  He encouraged them to grow in Christlikeness and to  beware of false teachers.  The Church today can use this same encouragement, can’t it?

In reading this letter, it is helpful to understand the history and culture of the city of Philippi.  According to Acts 16:2, Philippi was a Roman colony, settled mainly by Roman army veterans after a major battle there which ended the Roman Republic and brought in the Empire.  Because of this, the people there held strongly to their Roman citizenship and Roman pride.  Paul refers to this civic pride when he describes Christians as citizens of Heaven (3:20).

Founded on Paul’s second missionary journey, the Philippian church was the first to take root in Europe.  Generally, Paul’s first stop when he visited a city was the synagogue.  However, it appears that the city had a very small Jewish population, as evidenced by the women meeting outside the city by a river to pray.  At the time, ten Jewish men were required to form a synagogue.  Paul preached to these God-fearing women, and Lydia was baptized.  It is likely that the Philippian church met in her home after her conversion.

Remains of the prison at Philippi

Remains of the prison at Philippi

Because of the civic pride of the people, Roman customs were widely practiced – including that of fortune telling.  Paul encountered this in the form of the demon-possessed slave girl. When the apostle cast the demon out, the people were enraged at the threat to their Roman customs.  Paul and Silas were beaten and thrown in prison as a result, where an earthquake allowed the opportunity for Paul to share the gospel with the jailer and his family.  The next day, the magistrates learned that Paul and Silas were Roman citizens, and as such had been illegally beaten and imprisoned.  This time, the Roman law played in Paul’s favor, and he was released and asked to leave Philippi.

Paul would later revisit Philippi on his third missionary journey and the church continued to support him in his work with generous gifts.  The church also sent large gifts for the needy in Jerusalem.  While he was imprisoned in Rome, the Philippians sent another contribution, as well as a man named Ephaphroditus, who was to help Paul in his need.  However, Ephaphroditus became very ill, to the point of death, and Paul decided to send him home carrying the letter.

Introducing afO’s first directorial apprentice

Kayla Reed

Kayla Reed

We could not be more thrilled to announce that we have, for the first time, an apprentice director working alongside our Artistic Director, Lauren Nichols, for the entire season.  Miss Kayla Reed is no stranger to all for One:  She toured for two seasons with our Character Counts program, she submitted plays to the Young Playwrights Festival, performed winning plays onstage, and for the past two years has been serving an administrative internship with our office. She currently serves as the Administrative Assistant for the Annual Young Playwright’s Festival. Kayla is studying at St. Francis University, Fort Wayne, pursuing a major in Law and a minor in Theater.

Kayla is directing Prisoner of Joy, with some support from Lauren. Meanwhile, Lauren directs A Mighty Fortress, with assistance from Kayla.  This division of labor has already proven very beneficial for both casts, used valuable rehearsal time efficiently, and has given Kayla hands-on experience with research, blocking and leading rehearsals. You will be reading more from her as she helps prepare the dramaturgy this season.

an introduction to the short one-act “PRISONER OF JOY”

A Mighty Fortress poster      You haven’t heard much yet about the short one-act which opens our season. Prisoner of Joy is a creative dramatic staging of Paul’s letter to the Church at Philippi, in which we see both Paul writing the letter (dictating it to Timothy, who acts as his amanuensis) and the members of the church meeting in Lydia’s home, who have engaged with the text to the point of memorization. Some parts are spoken to one another as reminders, admonitions, exhortation, encouragement. The famous ‘hymn’ section in Philippians 2 is set to original music and accompanied by choreographed worship movement.

In addition, flashback segments tell the story of Paul’s time in Philippi, as recorded in Luke 16. Luke narrates, and various members of the church act out:

  • Paul’s preaching to Lydia and other women by the river;
  • Paul casting a demon out of a slave girl who has the gift of prophecy;
  • Paul and Silas imprisoned;
  • An earthquake which shakes the jail to its foundations, after which the jailer becomes a Christ-follower;
  • Paul’s departure from Philippi.

Prisoner of Joy, with a running time of about 25 minutes, will open the evening. There will be a 15-minute intermission–necessary for setting the stage for the second act!–and then A Mighty Fortress will conclude the evening. That one-man show stars Jeff Salisbury, and is about one hour long.

CAST for Prisoner of Joy   (in alphabetical order):

Adam Bodnar   (Epaphroditus, official)

Nate Chen   (Roman guard, slave owner)

Rebekah Fodrey   (slave girl, church member)

Evan Fritz  (slave owner, jailer, church member)

J. Scott Kump   (Apostle Paul)

Stacey Kuster   (Syntyche)

Rachael Kuster   (Syntyche’s daughter)

Dennis Nichols   (Luke, church member)

Zachary Nolan   (church member, official)

Jenessah Schlatter (Euodia)

Matthew Simon  (Timothy)

Ron Stauss  (Silas, church leader)

Cindy Stehlik  (Lydia)