Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Summer I fell in love with Jesus

I know, I know, you're thinking the title of this post is my release from the bonds of Judaism after Brit tried to join the tribe yesterday. But no, rest assured, I still love matzo ball soup. This post is brought to you courtesy of 20 Something Bloggers BLOG SWAP. It was a perfect match, as we both heart theater and poop jokes! Be sure to check out my "Summer Memories" post over at i fall down alot

Please give a big [lots of comments] welcome to IRIS!

I consider myself to be agnostic, yet I love, love, love Godspell. I don't know quite why. Maybe it's the hand-clapping. Maybe it's the juice given out at intermission. Maybe it's the goofy golly-gee-ness of it all. Or maybe it's because one summer I fell in love with Jesus.

No, this is not a story about how I became a Christian. While I have nothing against Jesus--I think he's a pretty wonderful guy--this is actually a story about how I fell in love with a boy playing Jesus in a summer stock production of Godspell.

I'd been working as an usher at Timberlake Playhouse that summer, which meant I passed out programs, led people to their seats, and then watched the show for free. This was my perfect job, except for the whole no paycheck thing.

Godspell was the opening show of the season, and I was allowed to watch the final dress rehearsal since before the season began I'd spent an entire afternoon sweeping away leaves and shoveling dead raccoons out of the actors' cabins. Allowing me to watch a dress rehearsal was the least they could do. Well, they could have offered to pay for a rabies shot, but I was fourteen and in love with theater and I was unaware of the dangers of dead raccoons, so I didn't press the issue.

And after they discovered I was a trumpet player, they asked if they could borrow mine for the part of the production when John the Baptist blows the shofar to get everyone to shut up and come to order. Or at least that's what the director told me. I had no idea what he was talking about, other than the fact that something I owned was going to be used on stage, which I found incredibly exciting (dork alert).

So that's how I came to be watching the dress rehearsal of a show I knew nothing about except for the fact that some dude was going to spit into my trumpet. As you may or may not know, show begins with the Prologue, or, the tower of Babel song. I was incredibly fascinated by the slow layering of melodies and the intricate shapes the actors formed as they sang, much like the movement of a marching band spelling out the name of the football team. I was a huge klutz (still am) so watching people sing and move at the same time blew my mind.

Then my big moment--my trumpet was played, and shortly thereafter, Jesus made his big entrance with his first song, "Save the People."

I was filled with a decidedly unholy, yet innocent, longing for Jesus as soon as he appeared, and that longing increased the longer he sang. Jesus was played by a boy around eighteen, with curly blond hair and a cherubic face, replete with a sweet persimmon of a mouth. His costume emphasized the light and brightness of his character: a pair of overalls that started orange near the bottom of the legs and faded up to yellow at the top of the bib. I believe his shoes were yellow chuck taylors. When he sang those words, "Flowers of thy heart, O God, are they," I wanted to be the flower of his heart, this beautiful boy with the clear, pure voice and big eyes.

Immediately in love, I was intensely jealous of the actress who sang "Day by Day", with her innocent flirtation with Jesus; I wanted to be her, singing to him. During "Turn Back, O' Man," when the girl who sang that song flirted with Jesus in a decidedly un-innocent way, I was equally horrified and envious. During "By My Side," as she, this stand-in for me, this girl I wanted to be so I could be close to the object of my affection, sang: "Oh please, take me with you/ Let me skip the road with you/ I can dare myself/ I'll put a pebble in my shoe/ And watch me walk/ I can walk", I had a new understanding of love-- of the pain that you will gladly suffer at times to be with the one you love. In my young life, I'd had an idea of love that I'd culled from movies and television shows, none of which had explored the painful, darker side of love--the shadows you sometimes must walk through to get to the light.

The second act began with Jesus being wheeled in inside a wheelbarrow, and he sang the song "Beautiful City", an undisputed ballad. When he sang that we could build a beautiful city, I imagined that he was singing to me, and the beautiful city would be a perfect place where he and I would live together in perfect, blissful happiness (remember, I was fourteen, a completely besotted schoolgirl).

The rest of the summer I was thrilled any time I saw the actor--Michael--who'd played Jesus. I watched the other shows he was in, but none of the roles he played impressed me as much as his Jesus. I never acted on my love for him...I was only fourteen, with terribly low self-esteem, so I just loved him unrequitedly from afar, as I'd done so many times before and since. Even though we never even talked, I still would like to thank him for teaching the young girl that I was quite a bit about love, loss, and yes, how to dance and sing at the same time.

Thank you, nice Jesus. For everything.

1 comment:

You can call me, 'Sir' said...

A lovely story.

And now I'll sort of ruin it by mentioning what a spectacular euphemism some dude was going to spit into my trumpet is.

My apologies. Sorry, Jesus.