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Dean
December 8th, 2011, 01:19 AM
A Part in the Play


There was a hell of a fuss in the five churches! For over twenty years the Deanery had been twinned with an area in Africa where Desmond Tutu had first started. Now, at Easter, the man was at last going to actually visit - Desmond Tutu was visiting!


There were meals and services arranged, but they wanted something a bit extra, different. Eventually it was decided to do a passion play. This was to be put on by members of all five churches and all groups, including the Youth groups. A drama teacher from the secondary school had agreed to direct it, even though he was not a member of any of the churches. He had done loads of school plays, some at a theatre in the nearby city of Portsmouth. The problem was the auditions, who would play what part.


Mr O”Connor was surprised that Christians could be so jealous of what parts they played. He didn’t know much about the adults, except for a few that he had taught, but the youth club kids he knew well and he knew there were a few really god actors, and one in particular, 16 year old Joseph. He had stared in three of his plays and had rave reviews in the local press for his part in Blood Brothers at The Kings Theatre in Portsmouth. The smaller parts were filled fairly easily, it was the main roles that caused the problems. The script had been especially written and certain characters called for strong acting. Herod, Caiphas, Pilate, Peter, Judas; and of course Jesus himself, were all powerful parts needing confident and positive acting for the piece to work. There were a few fights over certain parts. Mr O’Connor chose a local man of Caribbean ethnicity to play Peter. He had the presence and skills to fill the role. Mr O’Connor had expected some resistance as he had chosen a none white to play the role, but there was none. Eventually only Jesus was left, and Mr O’Connor, relying on his own personal knowledge, chose Joseph. It was this choice that caused the resentment.


Joseph, or Joe to his mates, had a following amongst the youth club members as they knew his from school, where he was popular. It was the adults that were not in favour. They seemed to think he was too young for the role, which was strange because most of the alternatives were far too old and it would be easier to age Joe than to make a fifty year old look thirty! Others just said things like; “He is just not right for the role” or “I don’t think the choice is right” and even “That would not be a popular choice”. Mr O’Connor could not understand why as Joe sang solos in his church choir, and was by far the best actor he had at his disposal. The resentment seemed an over re-action, but it was very strong. He even heard, through a rumor, that the writer was not happy with the choice and might withdraw his script. He was not told that directly it was just a whisper he picked up from the kids at school. Eventually Joe’s vicar and the Rural Dean asked if they could have a word with him.


“It is your choice of Jesus Mr O’Connor, it seems inappropriate, if you know what I mean” the Rural Dean said.


“No actually I don’t see what you mean Dead. Joe is by far the best actor we have to choose from. He is popular with the other Youth Club members and he can carry the part easily” was Mr O’Connor’s response.


“Oh we don’t doubt that at all, it is just, well you know, his lifestyle” said Joe’s vicar.


“His lifestyle: he lives with his mum in the village and is about to leave school and go to college. What is wrong with that?”


“You obviously do not know Mr O’Connor so we can understand why you made the choice you have. The rumor is that Joe is, well, gay; not appropriate for Jesus. We did not realise you did not know. I am sure you now understand” was the Dean’s comment.


“Oh that, of course I know. Joe does not shout about it, he keeps it rather quiet really, but he told me as his tutor in year ten, when he had problems with his sexuality. Surely that is not why you do not want him playing the part?”


“Well ArchBishop Tutu is from Africa and they have a very strong view against homosexuality. We would not wish to upset him, and there are those who have heard the rumor locally who are not happy either. Could you please re-think you choice?


“I am very sorry Dean but no I cannot”, retorted Mr O’Connor. “Joe is the right person for that part. He will carry the role, and the entire action, and make the play really impactive and have meaning for the audience.”


The Rural Dean sighed. “I am very sorry you feel that way Mr O’Connor and it is with a great deal of regret that I have to insist that you do choose somebody else. We are sorry but it is the impression it might create. I am sure you understand”.


Mr O’Connor took a deep breath and there was a silence that seemed to last ages.


“Well if you put it that way”


“Thank you Mr O’Connor, I knew you would understand when you had the full picture”


“If you would allow me to finish please: if you put it that way then I have to withdraw my offer to direct, and I think you may find that all your young people may also withdraw; so you will loose most of your minor characters together with all your stage hands etc. Like me they do not understand homophobia, especially if it is only a rumor on which most of you are basing this decision”


“But you have started the rehearsals and we could never get another director with your experience in time. Please do re-consider”


“I am sorry but you have made your decision, and I have made mine”.


“Would you please give us time to consider the situation. Could you continue for another week, without doing scenes with Jesus, and I promise we will let you have our decision within seven days”, said the Rural Dean.


“I can agree to that, but after that it will be very difficult to use anybody else as the rehearsal time will be very short and Joe is the only one who could take on the role and make it work in that time. There is nobody else that could do it”, was Mr O’Connor’s departing remark.


There was much closed conversation with Vicars, The Rural Dean and the Churchwardens. There situation seemed to be unresolvable. The Bishop was not able to help, he agreed with the feelings but would not commit himself one way or the other. Then one of the Wardens, a retired naval Commander, came up with a devastating idea!


“Why don’t we use an independent arbitrator. Let us ask ArchBishop Tutu himself!. He is from Africa and we know how they feel there; so that will solve our problem and at the same time we will be in the clear because we will not have made the decision. Everybody latched onto this idea as the perfect solution. A means to get their own way and at the same time be absolved of all blame. They could keep the youth club members on side. Also it had the advantage that Mr O’Connor could not refuse as the play was to be in Desmond Tutu’s honour. They were right, Mr O’Connor could not refuse, but he did read the e-mail that was being sent very carefully. It laid out the problem of a suspected gay lad playing the role of Jesus, and so causing affront to those watching the play, and fellow actors.


The rely from Desmond Tutu was almost immediate. It simply read: -


“Acts 4 vv 11”


The Rural Dean reached for a bible, as he could not remember the verse off hand, he read: -


“This is the stone which was set at nought by you builders, which is become the head of the corner”


The Rural Dean informed the other vicars and churchwardens, who were somewhat puzzled at the reply. What did it mean?


The following day a second e-mail was received from Africa.


“You did me the honour of asking for my opinion, and I offer it to you with humility. Personally I cannot think of anybody else in all of your congregations who could play the part of Jesus with more empathy. This is not for his skills at acting, as I do not know what they are. However, who else will know the feelings of being rejected by all, abused, insulted and cast aside? Who else will be able to draw on his own sense of utter desolation? The final choice has to be yours of course, I can only offer you my personal opinion”


This was also circulated throughout all those concerned with the final decision.


The play was a huge success, so much so it was repeated again the following week for those who could not get a seat first time round. It also went to the Cathedral for two performances as the Bishop was so pleased. Some members of the congregation were seen to be crying when the words “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me” was screamed from the cross.


One was heard to remark;- “It is almost as though he can really feel that rejection!”

Charon
December 10th, 2011, 05:03 PM
Full-length fiction in WF! I love it. Please understand that I’m not the least bit religious, but your story held me all the way through. If I’d have found this story in ‘Best American Short Stories 2012,’ I wouldn’t have felt it to be out of place. Well, maybe I would have because I don’t think you’re American, but you take my meaning.

I don’t see how I can improve the message or the content of the story, but perhaps I can help with a few technical pointers.


There was a hell of a fuss in the five churches! For over twenty years the Deanery had been twinned with an area in Africa where Desmond Tutu had first started. Now, at Easter, the man was at last going to actually visit - Desmond Tutu was visiting!

“Hell of a fuss” is a cliché. Clichés are phrases that are used so often that they’ve lost all impact. You probably don’t want a cliché in your first line. Think of an original way to say the same thing. Off the top of my head:

In the Five Churches, it was as though The Second Coming had been announced.

You use ‘visit’ twice in one sentence and “an area in Africa where Desmond Tutu had first started” seems wordy and weak.

Your story feels a bit ungrounded. Where does it take place? What’s the name of “the Deanery”? Is it ‘Five Churches’? If so, shouldn’t it be capitalized? When I’m reading, I like to quickly get an idea what the setting is. I got confused about your story because I don’t know where it’s taking place. At first I thought it’s taking place in South Africa. But then there’s a reference to “Portsmouth.” There’s a Portsmouth in Virginia and one in England. Toward the end, you come right out and say that there was an e-mail from Africa. But my confusion (obtuseness?) pulled me out of the story early on. I’d really like a few some concrete details about the unnamed Deanery and/or Five Churches. Wikipedia reveals that Bishop Tutu got his start in Johannesburg, so maybe something along these lines:

For over twenty years, the Deanery had been twinned with a church in Johannesburg where Desmond Tutu had first started. Now, at Easter, the man was at last going to actually visit - Desmond Tutu was coming to Southampton! (or wherever the Five Churches are)


There were meals and services arranged, but they wanted something a bit extra, different. Are the words ‘extra’ and ‘different’ really necessary? Maybe one or the other, or just ‘unique’?


Eventually it was decided to do a passion play. I’m pretty sure Passion Play should be capitalized.


A drama teacher from the secondary school had agreed to direct it, even though he was not a member of any of the churches. He had done loads of school plays, some at a theatre in the nearby city of Portsmouth. The problem was the auditions, who would play what part.

Mr O”Connor was surprised that Christians could be so jealous of what parts they played.

I like to quickly get an idea who the protagonist(s) are. This is not a protagonist-driven story, but I think Mr. O’Connor needs a stronger introduction.

By the way, ‘Mr’ should be ‘Mr.’ and ‘O”Connor’ should be ‘O’Connor’. If Mr. O’Conner had a first name, you might be able to avoid this tangle of pronouns:


He didn’t know much about the adults, except for a few that he had taught, but the youth club kids he knew well and he knew there were a few really god actors, and one in particular, 16 year old Joseph. He had stared in three of his plays and had rave reviews in the local press for his part in Blood Brothers at The Kings Theatre in Portsmouth.

“None white” should be non-white.

Do not heap up empty phrases. (Matthew 6:7) :wink2: Take a look at these:



“Joseph, or Joe to his mates” (yawn)
“there was a silence that seemed to last ages.” (cliché)
“Well[,] if you put it that way” (dead phrase)
“and Mr O’Connor, relying on his own personal knowledge, chose Joseph.” (What else would he rely on? And ‘Personal’ as opposed to public knowledge?)
“had a following amongst the youth club members as they knew his from school, where he was popular.” (“Had a following” and was popular? Redundant?)
“asked if they could have a word with him.” (dead phrase)



“No actually[,] I don’t see what you mean[,] Dea[n]. Joe is by far the best actor we have to choose from. He is popular with the other Youth Club members and he can carry the part easily” was Mr[.] O’Connor’s response.

“was Mr[.] O’Connor’s response.” Is a mouthful. How about:

“No, I actually don’t see what you mean, Dean. Joe is by far the best actor we have to choose from. He’s popular with the other Youth Club members and he can carry the part easily,” Mr. O’Connor said.


you will loose most of your minor charactersShould be ‘lose’.


There situation seemed to be unresolvableShould be ‘The’.

I think your story would read better if you used as many contractions as possible. You think and speak in contractions, why not write in them too?

Anyway, I loved your story—tighten it up as much as you can and it'll shine even more.

Great job!

garza
December 10th, 2011, 05:24 PM
Dean - Good show. It happens I have a friend who knows Bishop Tutu quite well. I'm tempted to send him a link to your story and get his reaction, and possibly that of Bishop Tutu as well.

Punnikin
December 11th, 2011, 08:47 PM
Charon brought up many good points, and fairly detailed ones as well. I'm in full agreement with his critique, and would simply like to add that the punctuation throughout made it hard to focus on the story itself. I have this terrible habit of proofreading and editing as I read and have to correct things in my head before I can go on.
Perhaps you wrote this quickly and planned to proofread it later, but you might be better off doing so before you post, as most critique is going to focus on the very fixable areas and seem overwhelming at first. Punctuation, I find, is more important than grammar in most cases. Bad grammar could be dismissed as the way a person simply speaks, but bad punctuation just confuses the situation and you lose sight of the story when you have to define the matters at hand.

Dean
December 13th, 2011, 01:41 PM
I am sorry the story was such rubbish with both the writing and the punctuation. I guess at 16 I shouldn't have been so big headed to think I could write anything decent.

I actually chose to use "Hell of a fuss" as I thought it was a good contrast to the fact it was a religious group of people that we panicking.

Five churches formed the Deanery, at least that is the number in the deanery where I live.

I see what you mean about 'visit'

I did mention Portsmouth, and the name of the place is not Five Churches, it is just that there are five churches forming the Deanery. I did mention nearby Portsmouth so it put it in a certain part of Hampshire in England.

I again chose to use the two words, extra and different. They do not mean the same and are just what they say when they want to organise stuff in the church I go to. They want something more that they have all ready, and they want it to stand out as unusually, in other words, different.

I don't think passion play should be in capitals. If it was THE Passion Play then i would have put it in capitals but not A passion Play.

I based Mr. O'Connor on a drama teacher I actually know and that is how he spells his name. In ENgland I have never seen any form of O'something spelt the way you wrote it. O'Brien is also spelt like that. Maybe I should have made him more important.

I guess I did use HE too much

Yes I did get non-white wrong.

Joseph, or Joe to his mates, is the way we are at 16?

'last for ages' ok it might be a cliche but if you want to help why not suggest some other way I could have described the long silence please

'Well, if you put it that way is what Mr O'Connor says all the time in class.

I used 'relying on his own personal experience' to contrast with the fact that the others were using rumour and innuendo to form their opinions.

If the phrase 'asked if they could have a word witht him', which is how vicars talk, was left out there would be no link to get from the description to the actual meeting and conversation?

I can see how your next sentence is better

The last two points were just bad writing and checking by me.

Sorry about the punctuation too.


Maybe I best keep my stuff for me and my teachers for now and forget about posting it, sorry i messed up

Punnikin
December 13th, 2011, 11:29 PM
Maybe, Dean, you should simply stop being so melodramatic about a critique. That is, after all, what this forum is for, and if yo can't handle honest critique then perhaps you should just ask someone for their praise and adulation instead.
And please, don't use your age as an excuse. Use it, and the replies to your story, to understand and to learn. Or just start writing drama if you're going to use it in reply.

Charon
April 8th, 2012, 06:22 PM
I liked Dean's story a great deal when I first read it: I wish that was clearer in my original post.

I recently heard a radio interview with Bishop Tutu on American public radio (http://being.publicradio.org/programs/2012/tutu-god-of-surprises/), and it made me think again of Dean's story. To my surprise, the issue of homophobia and acceptance was prominent in the conversation. (It's an wonderful interview; it's definitely worth a listen).

So anyway, I like Dean's story even more now.

Clearly Dean isn't looking for criticism--even well-intentioned criticism--so I'm going to offer any more. But I would like to withdraw a few of my criticisms.


“Hell of a fuss” is a cliché. Clichés are phrases that are used so often that they’ve lost all impact. You probably don’t want a cliché in your first line. Think of an original way to say the same thing . . . .


Do not heap up empty phrases. (Matthew 6:7) :wink2: Take a look at these:



“Joseph, or Joe to his mates” (yawn)
“there was a silence that seemed to last ages.” (cliché)
“Well[,] if you put it that way” (dead phrase)
“and Mr O’Connor, relying on his own personal knowledge, chose Joseph.” (What else would he rely on? And ‘Personal’ as opposed to public knowledge?)
“had a following amongst the youth club members as they knew his from school, where he was popular.” (“Had a following” and was popular? Redundant?)
“asked if they could have a word with him.” (dead phrase)


After reflection, it occurs to me that if Dean were to take my advice here, it would change the story's tone. Dean's story has--and I mean this without any hint of sarcasm--a certain folksy charm. If Dean followed my advice, that charm would be diminished.

It doesn't seem that Dean has visited the forum since his last post. I hope he's still writing.