This past weekend I had the pleasure of seeing one of my former students, Christina Dawkins', student-directed production of "Washington's Cross" at Clear Brook High School in Friendswood, TX. I had been looking forward to seeing it because I've never seen another version of it done. Not to mention, I originally wrote it as a play, and Kristina, Santry, and I initially discussed performing it as such. So, it was thrilling to see a live production for a variety of reasons.
First of all, while our film was clearly an influence in this new stage production, I found the play very refreshing and exciting because Christina and the actors had made their own unique choices. I particularly enjoyed watching as the actors had to cope and adapt to the demands of live theatre. The language of the piece is particularly difficult, which led to a substantial amount of lines requiring many takes during the making of the film. The actors would apologize to me. I wanted to apologize to them...many, many times. So, predictably, there were a couple of line flubs in the live version, and it was pretty interesting to see the actors cope with that, and they did a great job.
It was also a pleasure to watch new faces in the roles. Again, the film was obviously an influence in the casting (a tall Stone; a medium-height, medium build Phil; and a blue & wild eyed Ms. Human), but the performances were nonetheless different. The student-actor who played Stone utilized his unique characteristics and demeanor to effectively capture the eerie, deceptive decorum I've come to affiliate with "secular-progressive" sanctimoniousness. Our young Ms. Human took this to robotic extremes, short-circuits and all. This provided a nice counterpart to the sincerity and humanity of her true self, which emerges later in the play in order to beg Phil to recant. Phillip Washington's cadence, idiosyncrasies, and steadfastness over something so uncontroversial to the audience, seemed to appropriately make them wonder if he actually was criminally insane. It was fun to sit among them as the turning of the tables revealed that it was the lunatics running the asylum.
Christina's pacing of the show was also very commendable. As always happens, a significant number of lines from the script never made it into the film version. Christina left those lines in the play. Though I had, in the process of editing, developed a particular prejudice against those particular lines, under her direction they did not seem superfluous or cause the story to drag.
After the show with Christina (in Aletheia T-Shirt) and her cast of "Washington's Cross."
I was also grateful for the opportunity to see the script done in a new way with new performances, because it allowed me to watch it again for the first time. I found myself laughing at my own jokes. Only, they didn't seem like mine. I felt like I was watching and listening to someone else's script.
I also was blessed with exhilarating reminders of why I did write it. I was able to talk with some students at Clear Brook High School, who either being in it or having seen it, had insightful questions about the allegorical nature of the script. It was delightful to share the answers with them. Ironically, before going in to see the play, I overheard a passionate conversation going on outside the theatre between a female student and a male student, who apparently was a Christian. In a nutshell, she was asking him in a rather hostile, insulting tone how he could possibly believe that non-Christians would go to hell. He painfully answered, and I painfully heard: "I don't know." I've grown weary of such questions angrily asked, but I've grown even wearier of such non-answers helplessly offered. That's why I wrote "Washington's Cross." I feel it's a story that needs to be told to a culture that has come to believe that "answers are nothing" and that truth is not discovered but made; by preference, power, or popular opinion. My sincere congratulations and thanks to Christina Dawkins for having the courage to tell it at Clear Brook High School.