If you happen to be a church with a large, professional-quality theater and aren’t sure what to do with it — look out, because the shepherd, who wastes nothing, has always known. And in due season He draws just the right people with just the right set of talents and skills together to initiate exciting new ways of feeding His sheep.
Such is the case at the First United Methodist (FUM) Church of Homosassa, which recently started a new Drama Ministry because the people who were gifted with the abilities to bring such a venture to fruition had arrived. Two of those people are Jim and Donna Tripp.
“My husband, Jim, and I have been in the community theater circuit for many years in Pinellas and Charlotte counties — Jim as an actor, I as a music director,” said Donna Tripp, who has 20 years of experience. “We wanted to bring our talents to bear more meaningful fruit by reinventing a unique way to present the stories of the Bible,” she said.
“We are so fortunate to have discovered First United Methodist of Homosassa,” Tripp said. Not only was Pastor Chris Kirk open to the Tripps’ offer to establish a professional-type drama ministry, but the church has a huge, three-curtain stage that’s ideal for theatrical productions,” she said.
The Tripps moved to Crystal River two years ago from the Arcadia-Punta Gorda area and have partnered with another theatrical talent, community theater Director Brady Lay. He resides in Homosassa with his wife and said they have been attending and working for FUM for about nine years. Lay also brings two decades of experience to the ministry, lately as director at Stage West in Spring Hill.
“I hope that this new ministry will reach and touch people who either have not been able to connect with the traditional mediums or need that entertainment aspect to allow them to experience God’s word and message,” Lay said.
Indeed, drama queens and kings of every ilk seem to be heeding the call to this new outlet for talent. While the main FUM building has been around for many years, Donna said, the theater was added as part of its fellowship hall 10 years ago. Though the stage has seen occasional use throughout the years, the Lord apparently had “even greater things than these” in mind “for such a time as this.”
“We have over 25 people on our drama team,” said Tripp, adding that cast members have come from the Art Center Theatre of Citrus County, Stage West and the church congregation. The team is now hard at work in preparation for its first production — a musical called “The Rooster,” which opens for two shows later this month.
Both script and music were written by Donna, who has two decades of community theater experience. Her actor-husband, Jim, is playing three different roles in the play, she said, adding, “He’s amazing.”
“Donna is an asset to this ministry and the church,” Lay said, “as is anyone who embraces the talents that God has given them to make a footprint in this world that he has given to us.”
“There are about 16 characters in the production and the costumes we’ve made are eye-popping.” Tripp said.
“Wayne Pohlman, of our church, has constructed some amazing scenery,” she said, noting the hour-long musical has 11 scenes and five scene sets.
“‘The Rooster’ is not your typical Easter production,” Tripp said. It’s a family-friendly play about Simon Peter looking back over his life with Christ before he goes to his own execution. “It is not a morbid re-enactment of such an event, but it is amusing, and also moving and educational.”
“It asks the question ‘What would you do if your husband quit his job to go and fish for men?’” she said.
Simon Peter apparently told his wife just that, Tripp said, and “The Rooster” tells the story of those who were impacted by that decision.
Ron Hesketh plays the elderly Peter, imprisoned in Rome near the end of his life, as he reflects through flashbacks on his earlier years, including his denial of Christ and the convicting crowing of the rooster. The younger Peter is played by Chris Patti, an actor from the Art Center Theatre.
“Come and see how the Apostle Peter looks back on his life experiences and the way the women in his life shaped history,” bids the flyer publicizing the show. “See how the lowly rooster constantly reminds him that ‘God’s strength is made perfect in weakness.’”
The curtain will rise twice for the team’s first production, first for an evening performance at 7 p.m. Friday, March 29, then for a matinee at 3 p.m. Saturday, March 30. The First United Methodist Church and theater are located at 8831 W. Bradshaw St. in Homosassa. Admission is $10 for adults; $5 for children ages 12 and younger.
For tickets and more information, call the church at 352-628-4083.