Wednesday, July 25, 2012
Life on the Road: Some Background
All right, for those of you who don't know, here's the rather cool thing I did for a year, from August 2007 to August 2008.
I worked with a Christian ministry called New Life Drama Company. It was based out of Tennessee, but I wasn't there very often because I was usually traveling instead. The ministry wrote short sketches, some comedic, some dramatic, and then put us all into teams of 5-6 people and sent us out in a van to do those sketches at various places across the country. We'd travel for ten weeks at a time, then come back for a week, switch up teams, learn and write new skits, get new places to go, and start all over again.
At most of our services, we'd do 5-7 sketches with someone talking in between, to tie them all together. Since we were specifically Christian, we mostly did church services, but we also went to Christian schools, camps, prisons, rehab centers, and even did drama on the streets. Every once in awhile we'd be invited to do something at a public school or someplace else where we couldn't be too overtly Christian, and we had a couple skits that were just funny or that we'd tweak a little bit to be more acceptable to that crowd.
(Let me quickly add - I have *never* been more impressed with Christian drama than I have with these people. That was a major reason I decided to join in the first place. I co-directed my youth group drama team, and I HATED the scripts we found. They were cheesy. The funny ones weren't funny and the serious ones were horribly written. Most of NLDC's skits were very decent quality. Of course there were some duds, but 80% of the time I was happy with the skits we went out with.)
Wherever we went, the place that had booked us was responsible for providing us with food and a place to stay while we were there. Once in awhile this meant a hotel, but usually we were staying in people's homes. Sometimes the whole team would stay in one house; more often the guys and girls got split up.
A major emphasis of the ministry was that it wasn't just about the drama we did on stage - it was about ministering to the people in the homes we stayed at. We spent most of our free time hanging out with our hosts and getting to know them. I was always amazed by how uplifting it was for people to just have someone to talk to. Sometimes we'd come home from a long day of church service projects and drama workshops and drama performances, and we'd be exhausted, but we'd walk into our host home and our host would be eagerly awaiting us, ready to chat, and we'd make sure at least a couple of us stayed up and talked with them until they were ready for bed. Even when this left us pretty tired from day to day, it was wonderful when we found out that our time spent with the host had made a difference.
What else did we do on the road? We did lots of service projects - if we came into a house and someone needed help with a home project, we helped. We painted churches. We cleaned kitches. We babysat for Bible studies. We did door-to-door evangelism (ha, but that's a whole story in and of itself - how I dealt with that when that's not something I believe in doing - I'll definitely share that some day). We did worship and devotionals together as a team. We made sure to do the occasional *just for fun* thing as a team. We practiced the skits we knew and wrote new ones to bring into homebase, to be tweaked and sent back out on the road one of the next tours.
It was the busiest year of my life, but it was also the most rewarding. I made many of my closest friends. I traveled to new states. I ate grits and bear for the first time (not together). I gained confidence. I grew as an actress, as a Christian, and as a skit writer. I met some crazy people and some sane people and some people who I liked but liked better when we weren't smushed in a van together. And over the next couple... hadonno, whenever, months, years, I want to share some of the most entertaining and memorable stories about the adventures and places and personalities I encountered on the road.
Now, whenever I say, "When I was traveling," or "When I was on the road," you'll know what I'm talking about! Because I say that a lot to people who I've forgotten to tell about my time traveling, and then they just think I'm a gypsy. Which I kind of was, for a year. But a structured gypsy.