Role-Plays

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It's that time of the month again, and I've got my own personal form of PMS, or Perplexed about My life Syndrome. This is the time when I wrestle with the role I am called to play in my family, my community and the world. My introspection is most helpful when fed by really great stories, which is what drew me to study theatre at the University of Washington. There I spent many hours considering the inner workings of story as I debated my objectives, my obstacles and the tactics I would employ to surmount those obstacles.

In the midst of my theatre education, at a time when I was particularly perplexed about my life, I spent two months in Northern Ireland teaching vacation Bible school to small, adoring children, where my role and rewards were very clear. I would be as much fun and as nice as possible, and they would bring me biscuits and sweets. It was a great deal. There was just one bad week when the children were replaced with a more complex group of sexually overt, foul-mouthed, street-involved boys whose T-shirts proclaimed loaded phrases like "Kill the Catholics."

I did not know how to relate to these boys, so I spent a lot of time trying to look cool while deflecting inappropriate behavior as they antagonized my teammates and me, trying to see how far we could be pushed. Each evening would begin with hanging out, and then they would turn into our audience as we sang songs, shared a message or performed a drama. By midweek, I eagerly volunteered to create an original piece. I thought for sure I could do better than the previous night's presentation, Jesus in the Boot, a canned skit about dying in a fiery crash with your mates because you'd locked the savior of the world in the trunk of your car.

As a response, I sought to do something more avant garde. In fact, there wouldn't be any dialogue! Or costumes! Just an elaborate set, a couple actors and a great song. And so was born my first piece of performance art, set to U2's I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For. Before the youth arrived that night, we trashed the stage with furniture, toilet paper, tape and other random items. When the house lights went down and The Edge began to play, my teammate and I fervently undid the mess. We wanted to say that God in his love helps us sort out our junk, no matter how complicated it may be. I quaked at Bono's passionate proclamation as he and his gospel choir erupted: "He will lift you higher and higher, he will pick you up when you fall, he'll be your shelter from the storm." As the music pumped through me, my objective was so clear and the frequent jeering from the boys was only an obstacle to overcome.

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Angie Lai a 2003 Krista Colleague, lives in Seattle, Washington, where she writes plays and plays outside with her husband, Sam, and their golden retriever, Aslan. She has been working with homeless youth as a volunteer with New Horizons Ministries since 2001. For more information on New Horizons, go to www.nhmin.org

 

 



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