This past weekend, six months’ worth of hard work and long nights for the Mater Ecclesiae Dinner Theatre cast and crew culminated with three successful performances of the screwball comedy “You Can’t Beat The House” in Berlin.
For last year’s production of “Here Come the Brides,” I was the sound technician, responsible for every doorbell and telephone ring.
Back in August, though, the play director asked if I wanted to be on, instead of behind, the stage this year. The only acting experience I had was playing a dead soldier (“Les Miserables”) and El Gallo (“The Fantasticks”) during a Happy 100 Years of Broadway variety show at Cherry Hill East over 20 years ago.
Still, I relished the challenge, and since late September have soaked up as much information as I could from the accomplished actors who have been entertaining on Mater Ecclesiae’s stage since the dinner theatre’s inception eight years ago. Tips on line memorization, blocking and even how to apply your own bronzer will not soon be forgotten.
One lesson that took longer to sink in, however, was what I will call the “gaps,” the “spaces” between my lines of dialogue. It was one thing to learn lines, and say them at the proper time, but quite another to listen, react and, in some cases, do something completely different when someone else is talking. When you’re supposed to be silently interacting with a character on one side of the stage, while an actor on the other side is saying their line during a different conversation with someone else, it can be a bit of a learning curve.
While attempting to master this particular skill onstage, my head and heart began to be filled with reflections on my own spiritual life.
As my Catholic faith is my compass, my guide, the most important thing in my life, I try to live out my call to be a “missionary disciple” everyday, to whomever I encounter. Through my words, my actions, my clothing (my cross around my neck, my Saint Augustine T-shirt), and even my social media posts, I attempt to bring to life the joy of the Gospel. I am onstage, speaking my dialogue, with the crowd focused on me.
But what if those periods of “gaps” and “silences,” the times when we’re not the main focus, are just as important, if not more so? A good friend once told me, “The best work is done in the shadows,” and I’m tempted to agree with her.
With Lent beginning this week, maybe it’s time for me to retreat into “the shadows” these next 40 days. Spend more time in silence with Jesus in the adoration chapel. Take time for morning and night prayer in my quiet bedroom. Fast at least once a week, relying on God’s strength instead of my own. Maybe it’s time to get “offstage,” away from Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for a bit. Maybe it’s time to believe that the only applause, praise and “likes” I should desire should come from God.
Maybe it’s time to put on the performance of my life for him, for his glory, in fasting, prayer and almsgiving. And whether or not I am front and center or off to the side, offstage or “in the shadows,” have faith that he is my biggest fan.
Peter G. Sánchez is the social media coordinator and staff writer for the Catholic Star Herald. He also co-hosts the Talking Catholic podcast.