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They're coming in, thankfully, because the show's about to start. It's a scramble out there, between the car parks and the umbrellas, the tickets shoved somewhere in the depths of pockets and the clock ticking.
I watch them hustle through the theatre doors, some anxious, some excited, all relieved to be in from the cold. The light's gentle light in here. There's warmth. Beauty.
I greet them one by one, take their coats, store the bulky items, and usher them inside.
There's a place allocated for each of them, and I want to make them feel welcome, to help them adjust to the surroundings. For some, it's their first visit. They want to know the layout of the place, what to expect. Others settle in confidently. They've been here before, perhaps.
It's quiet in there, considering the number of people, but the enthusiasm is palpable. I watch them, whispering their random thoughts, as if offloading the details of the day. One by one they're switching off their phones and turning their faces to the stage.
And then, the lights dim.
The curtain parts.
And across the audience, there are gasps of breath, an audible exclamation here and there, and someone it seems couldn't help themselves and gave an outright hoot!
Talk about glorious. Talk about grand! Talk about the whole thing messing with their expectations! I'm blown away myself, though I've seen it a thousand times!
For it's not a set made of wood and props. It seems to be real! Strain as I might, I can't see a backdrop! It's a vista alright! And the actors - they're dressed in such an array I can hardly tell what the story is going to be about. There's movement and life, and colours blending together, and the music fills the skies, and . . . does this place have a roof, even? Oh my! No one seems to know where to rest their eyes.
There's one old man up there on his knees, hands raised, and never have I beheld such a look of gratitude. A company of women, young and free, are trekking over mountains. They're stopping along the way, lifting the faces of little girls, painting their nails and calling them lovely. There's a construction team building a house, determination and satisfaction all working at once, and there's children bending low to share their secrets, and dancers twirling . . .
I can see larger then life figures - angels, it appears - and they're going here and there, one holding a lamp, another opening a door, one, it seems, setting a great table for a feast.
And then, the moment that still to this day, brings tears to my eyes and a thrill to my soul. For into the darkened audience steps the Director, quiet, unseen, until there he is, tapping one person after another on the shoulder, tugging them to their feet, leading them up and onto the stage, and into the scene, and . . .
I can't keep track of them all! They're all transformed! The lot of them! One by one they're taking their places, stepping into the character they were, it appears, absolutely made for! They make it look so easy! So natural. They're taking their cues from the director, but there's a freedom about their movements that amazes me! They're confident, vibrant, and yes, they did come from somewhere out there, but they're more alive than ever in here!
I begin to suspect the curtain will never close. So this is the Director's magic! This was his plan to get the world talking!
But no - there are some heading back towards the street. They haven't bothered with collecting their stuff. And they're still in character! They're taking the show to the road, by the look of it, and there's whole communities gathering around, looking on and getting intrigued. These people seem to have come from another world! They're still climbing their mountains and building their homes, and there's song and dance out here, and even the angels seem to be still in the mix!
I tiptoe. I don't want to be seen, but I so want to be there, with them all. I feel self-conscious. Am I allowed on stage? I'd like to be up there, yet I'm not sure.
The curtain feels heavy, but it's firmly pulled aside, right here beside me, and I'm holding onto it's folds. And then, I look down, and now it's me who's gasping! What's this I'm wearing?! Who is this person I've become? It's the real me! I've been asking "Who am I?" for years, and now? Now I'm more myself than I ever imagined possible! I feel like I'm taking my first breath of air! And before I know it, well, there I am too, among the beautiful, lost in the great expanse of it all, but somehow found. I'm taking in the sights, and finding that I too, have been made for another world.