Flashback: Mary & Joseph The Musical
Many things get accomplished when you rearrange and cleanup your office. The workspace is refreshed, which for me sparks a new surge of creativity. Items that have accumulated finally get put in their rightful resting place, usually the trashcan. Items that have managed to survive such previous purging now have the opportunity to be revisited in hopes they survive the current round.
This is where we begin. I have accumulated a lot of paper. Now, most people garner their fair share of bills, tax returns, school papers from their thirty-year-old’s fourth grade math assignment as examples. In addition to all of the above — yes I’m guilty, I still have papers from my oldest’s (not thirty yet) elementary school days — I have manage to write a lot. Unfortunately, it has been left scattered to various binders and folders over the years, but this week, I consolidated.
What does that mean? It means I kept one copy of the fifteen copies of the same one page poem and eliminated the others. It dawned on me that I have more unpublished writings than I do published which I am sure is true of every author. My intent with this series is to explore some of these lost gems of yesteryear in hopes that I spur some fond memories in those individuals that I many of these items touched.
My first product that I want to reminisce is the largest theatrical endeavor I believe I’ve ever undertaken. Some of my prose readers may not realize that I began my writing career in the theatrical genre. Many of these flashbacks will cover some of the plays that I’ve written. Mary & Joseph, started out as a simple effort to craft a new play for Christmas. What I ended up with was a two act, nine scene musical with eight original songs. The story was just supposed to be a modern day retelling of the Biblical account of Mary and Joseph from Luke chapter 2. Simple, right?
Let me step back and give you some history. I had just closed down my computer business at the start of the year, and I had taken a new job in downtown Indianapolis working at the Indiana State Department of Health. More specifically, I sat in a basement office underneath the sidewalks of Meridian Street, where, when it rained hard, we had to throw plastic sheets over our monitors so as not to destroy our computers.
Another cool sign of the times were smartphones were becoming all the rage. I had procured a Samsung SPH-i500 flip phone.
This phone had the ability to recognize a certain handwriting style called graffiti. You could literally, write letters in the little gray square above the number pad and it would translate them into characters on the phone’s apps. Needless to say, this is how I wrote the vast majority of this musical’s dialog, while sitting in the Indianapolis Arts garden on my lunch breaks.
As the dialog began to flow, the idea for some songs came along with it. Before the end of spring 2000, I had written most of the scenes and all eight of the songs’ lyrics, but this is where things got real challenging.
I love music. I was in choir most of my life. I took piano lessons when I was younger, but I was not a composer. Time was limited, so I grabbed an old Casio keyboard that ran on double-A batteries and stashed it in my car. Now, instead of the peaceful, inspiring atmosphere of the Arts Garden, I spent my lunch breaks in my burning hot car, plucking notes out on that keyboard day after day. Even after weeks and weeks of cooking myself, I still barely had a melody line for four of them.
This is where Pastor Ben stepped in. Pastor Ben is a musician at heart, and he knew that I was trying to create something . . . above average. So, he put me in contact with one of his old friends named Greg. I believe Greg was affiliated with the Symphony. He invited me up to his home/studio and I sat down with him for a couple of hours. I explained to him what I was trying to accomplish, and I shared with him the notes I had jotted down.
What he did next blew me away. After studying each score, and asking a few more questions, he sat down at his keyboard and started playing precisely what I had heard in my head all those days I spent hunting and pecking on my Casio keyboard in that car.
Unfortunately, we were only able to do a handful of the total songs, because I had simply ran out of time. Pastor Ben and his daughter Ashley composed the music for my favorite song of the whole musical, “Anytime Now”, which announced the birth of Christ.
To this day during the Christmas music season, I will find myself recalling the lyrics to that particular song. I know there’s a recording of it somewhere. Maybe someday, I’ll stumble across it.
September 24th, 2020, marks the 20th anniversary of Mary & Joseph first rehearsal (at least by my records). 13 rehearsals later would be our first of two performances on December 15th and 16th of 2000.
Many people from my church came together to pull this production. So many helped out. In looking at the program, I was amazed that we were able to get it all together.