Drama on a mission

Liberty’s theater group will perform at Brussels NATO  base during spring break

IMPROVE — Students practiced their drama performance for the trip to Brussels. PHOTO PROVIDED

IMPROVE — Students practiced their drama performance for the trip to Brussels.

Liberty University theater performance students will perform a children’s theater production on the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s (NATO) Brussel’s base this spring break while on a trip through an LU Send trip to France and Belgium.

The play, with original aspects composed by Liberty students and titled “American Tall Tales,” will be presented for NATO dignitaries and their children in a 600-seat auditorium at the conclusion of the trip, according to Barry Gawinski, an assistant professor of theater arts.

Leading up to the play, students will be partnering with both the International Missions Board, local churches and Impact Youth Worldwide to perform silent
street dramas.

This trip is the realization of a vision Gawinski said he has for missional drama.

He said he was drawn to Liberty in the first place because he believed it was a place missional drama could take place.

He hopes to use what he believes are the four main things that draw people to interact with mission’s trip groups — the Holy Spirit, food, soccer balls and drama.

However, during his first few years, no missional drama outlets developed.

It was not until Gawinski had a meeting with the Rawlings family, who operates Impact Youth Worldwide, that they said they would like to bring drama to some of their sports camps.

“Suddenly it partnered two of those things I had mentioned,” Gawinski said.

“The soccer ball and the street drama were coming together in a way that, as a human being, I wasn’t able to make happen. It wasn’t coming together and all of the sudden God said, ‘Here’s my plan.’”

Matthew Brandon, a senior theater performance student, said the play itself is the story of a group of kids coming together for play time which tells of the origins and legends that make up America.

Though not explicitly Christian, Brandon said these stories are sprinkled with faith.

“We’re not necessarily saying Jesus through it, but we are revealing the truths that he has put into our hearts, his word and this story,” Andrea Prevatt, a senior theater performance student said.

For example, Brandon said the play will tell the story of Johnny Appleseed, who not only planted apple trees, but was also known for his faith as he founded nurseries and orphanages.

After the play Gawinski said they will be having a pizza party where the stories on stage can translate into conversations.

“The play is being used as a way to bring the community in, and from there we get to spend time with them,” Gawinski said.

“It’s afterward we get to make the change from Johnny Appleseed to Jesus.”

No performance occurs without practice though, and Prevatt said her and the team have prepared for the trip with rehearsals of at least three hours during the three weeks leading up to it.

Several students have also been composing various aspects of the play on their own time as well.

Sarah Jirgal, a junior theater performance student, said the trip members also had research projects on France, Belgium and NATO that they presented for each other.

All this preparation, in addition to fundraising for the trip, has been a matter of trusting the Lord for Prevatt, but she said not a moment of it has been wasted as she has been growing, friendships has been strengthened and she has had to rely on God for it all.

Brandon said he was emailed by Gawinski over the summer to start praying about going on a largely undefined trip.

Without knowing any details Brandon said yes at the start of the school year. He was then told it would be a missions trip to Mexico, which Brandon said he did not want to do, but that he would still participate in regardless.

TRAIN — Liberty theater performance students were coached through their performance. PHOTO PROVIDED

TRAIN — Liberty theater performance students were coached through their performance.

Eventually the trip developed into the drama-inclusive trip it has become today, which was much more aligned with Brandon’s skills and interests.

Brandon said he was originally taught theater should reflect and affect culture, but now he disagrees with that.

“I think we should reflect Jesus and that affects culture,” Brandon said.

Jirgal echoed this idea, as she said reflecting God is an innate part of theater.

“Theater is important because God is creative,” Jirgal said.

“He has given us this creativity, medium and platform to share truth, and we get to portray characters in situations others can relate to and see how it can be dealt with rightly or wrongly.”

Considering the trip is slightly longer than a week, Jirgal and Prevatt said they do not expect dramatic results, but they still want to do their best to notice others and share
the gospel whenever possible.

“It’s hard not to want quantitative goals,” Prevatt said.

“Obviously we want people to be saved but that’s not our job. That’s the Holy Spirit who will work in their heart to draw them to himself.”

After the final curtain call and all of the pizza is gone, Brandon said when he is flying back to America he wants be able to say that he said “yes” to God in every moment.

“That there wasn’t one moment I was too scared to do something,” Brandon said.

“Even if I never see the fruit of it, by the world’s standards it blows up in my face and everyone rejected us, if we always said ‘yes’ to God that will be the greatest victory.”

The team of 20 students and four leaders will leave Thursday, March 9 and return
Sunday, March 19.

Price is a news reporter.

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