The Compass: Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay
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October 13, 2000 Issue
Local News

Play accents parts of Eucharistic liturgy

After successful shows in parish, musical will be featured at Congress

By Jeff Kurowski
Compass Assistant Editor

Agape, a production by Resurrection Parish of Green Bay, takes the stage at 7:10 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 14 in the Walter Theatre, at St. Norbert College, De Pere. The musical presentation is part of the 2000 Eucharistic Congress.

Agape, written by Marty Haugen, is a performance work inspired by the "agape feasts" of the early Christian church. Scholars believe these agape--love feasts or community meals--were tied into the celebration of the Eucharist in the early church. The musical chronicles the lives and work of four modern day followers of Jesus--Chief Seattle, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Abp. Oscar Romero and Dorothy Day--who worked for justice for all people.

"It's based on the structure of the Mass, but it takes these little side trips inside their lives and how they served God because of their faith," explained Lyle Becker, director of Agape.

The musical includes soloists, instrumentalists and audience participation. It represents the work of approximately 120 parish members in various roles. More than 1,000 people saw the musical during its Sept. 7-10 run at the church.

"It's amazing how well Agape fits in with the Eucharistic Congress and with the themes of Renew," said Michele Becker, Lyle's wife and musical director of Agape. "The Holy Spirit was really guiding us in tying things together."

The production appeals to a broad audience.

Lyle invited a co-worker of a different faith to a performance and expressed concerns that it contained such strong Catholic elements that his guest would not experience its full meaning.

When Lyle asked the co-worker for feedback, he replied, "All I saw was God."

Resurrection Parish has presented drama ministry for the past three years. Before Agape, the parish performed The Song of Mark.

"When we first started this, we said that this isn't going to be just another cutesy little church musical," said Lyle. "We wanted to do a show of the quality you would expect if you went to a theatre production."

The entire cast and crew rehearsed together only nine times before opening night. All performers had rehearsal tapes to use for practicing on their own.

"You accept a lot of imperfections because of the lack of time," said Michele. "There were several times where I thought if we only had one or two more rehearsals we could add something."

"They all make up for it in spirit and enthusiasm," said Lyle.

Agape also features slides to accompany songs. The audience has the opportunity to sing along.

"You join the choir when you walk through the door," said Lyle.

"I describe it as full, conscious and active participation," said Michele.

The musical production also served as an educational tool especially for the younger cast and crew members. At each rehearsal the cast was taught about the life of one of the faith leaders showcased in Agape.

Requests to bring Agape to other parishes were common after performances. Lyle encourages other parishes to explore drama ministry.

"You too can do it," he said. "We brought all our talents together, did the best we can, and this is the result."

"The performing arts have a way of touching you deeply," said Michele. "It is such a joy to see someone go from A to Z in their development. They work so hard and conquer their nerves to do a wonderful job."

Agape has had a lasting effect on the cast and crew and hopefully will have a lasting effect on the audience, said the Beckers.

"It has brought us together as a community," said Lyle. "It creates a big family."

"If you ever found Mass boring, you never will again after seeing this production," said Michele. "You will see liturgy differently."

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