Calvary Assembly of God is expected to fill the 1,000-plus capacity church during all of its six performances. “He Lives,” this year’s production, will debut at 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 31.
Angela Coon, Creative Arts Ministry director at the Calvary Assembly of God, remembers when church plays were kids acting out the Easter story in costumes that consisted of their parents’ oversized bathrobes.
Those days are long gone at Calvary Assembly of God, where this year’s 25th annual Easter production is expected to fill the 1,000-plus capacity church during all of its six performances. “He Lives,” this year’s production, will debut at 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 31.
“He Lives” combines the modern with the Biblical. It features a family whose father is skeptical about religion, and clashes with his devout mother-in-law. Both face modern-day tragedies that make them question their faith, such as having a friend with cancer or seeing a loved one in a devastating car accident. The play intersperses the contemporary characters with the traditional Easter story to show the significance of faith to today’s family.
“We still include the Bible, but we don’t stay there,” explained Terence Savagel, theater arts director.
He said people, especially the younger demographic, need to understand how the Easter story relates to them today.
To do that the Creative Arts Ministry thought it important to evolve with the times and include contemporary characters in the production. It’s actually gotten more modern since even last year, Savagel said, when the show’s Biblical portions outweighed its modern ones. This is the second consecutive year Calvary will produce “He Lives,” and tweaks to this year’s production have made it more balanced between the traditional Easter story and today’s characters.
Angela said the church’s productions are a major departure from the small-scale Easter shows older generations grew up with. “He Lives,” for example, boasts a cast of approximately 75 and besides large-scale musical numbers and more quiet dramatic moments, has touches of dance and extensive lighting and projection involved. Actors and singers play the Easter show to packed houses, and the spring musical usually draws a bigger audience than the church’s Christmas production.
“Drama and music have a way of opening people’s hearts like nothing else,” she said.
Many times audience members will approach Angela and her husband, Lead Pastor Roland G. Coon, and tell them the show made the Easter story real to them for the first time. That’s part of the reason the Creative Arts Ministry continues to produce an annual show, this being its 25th.
“It’s to make the gospel real and alive,” she said.
Angela said unlike in years past, many people don’t have a strong connection to church and the Bible. The Easter musical, then, acts as an educator for people who might only go to church once or twice a year.
Roland said taking that message to audiences is what has kept him engaged in the productions all these years. Because he doesn’t just attend the shows or watch over them from afar — he has acted in all of them but one. This year he plays a disciple, and is happy to share the stage with his parishioners. It gives him time to get connect with them, as well as audiences.
Roland gets excited when he talks about the shows, and about the positive feedback from the community. He’s excited from an arts standpoint, not just a religious one. People have asked him where the church gets its actors and singers, and he’s happy to point out they’re all from the congregation.
Angela said the Creative Arts Ministry is a way for people whom as students might have studied voice or drama, and then graduated to find a lack of easily accessible opportunities to perform. Being on stage is beneficial, too, for their younger members.
“What it does is train children and teenagers to give them confidence,” she said.
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