The centerpiece of Ramah Presbyterian's 225th anniversary celebration began with an unused amphitheater.
“For a long time, I was hoping someone in the church would write a play to use in the amphitheater,” said church member Alen Baker. “That wasn't happening, so a few years ago I decided I could do that, although I had never done anything like that before.”
Baker began writing, using a book about Ramah's history as the basis for his play. But a few years into it, he still wasn't finished.
When talk began of the church's impending 225th anniversary, organizers found a use for the amphitheater – and Baker's play.
“They got after me to finish the play and use it in the celebration.”
Baker finished the three-hour play, which will be performed Sept. 28. The audience will watch the first half of the play, break for lunch, and then watch the second half.
Finding humor in history
Baker's play, “A Journey of Beliefs,” fictionalizes unusual and significant events in the church's history. It begins with a scene involving an Indian settlement before the church was founded, and it ends in the present day.
Each scene represents a real point in the church's history, but Baker added characters, humor and dialogue to bring it to life. For example, one scene is built around a tidbit Baker found about a report of “promiscuous dancing” in the 1800s. According to the church session notes, the punishment was tar and feathering.
While the scene is funny, it also points up a darker side of being Presbyterian in the 1800s, according to Baker's play notes.
Other scenes take on larger topics, such as slavery and the afterlife, intertwined with scenes from church life such as covered dish dinners and homecomings.
At the end of the eight scenes, the audience will have a better understanding of the historical times the church has been through.
Cast and crew
Twelve actors, including four children, will perform a variety of roles. A typical scene has three to five players.
Church member Mac McColl will play a different pastor in each scene, and guest pastor Alan Gray has a part in the final scene.
Jordana Gheraibeh makes her directorial debut with “A Journey of Beliefs.” She praised the actors and support crew, who have put together props and costumes.
“I think the congregation will absolutely love the play,” she wrote in an e-mail.