It’s a silly little play, really. The original version was created in eight hours during a competition at Winnipeg’s 2015 Femfest. The assignment was to write a script about anything, but you had to incorporate three random things: a red line, a yellow submarine, and hysteria. The five competing scripts were then read by professional actors before a live audience, who voted for their favorite.
Mine did not win.
It’s still my favorite.
When the Prairie Players asked me to write a short play to present at this year’s ACT Festival (2019 is our group’s fiftieth anniversary and we’re hosting the festival—its fortieth year!), I decided to resurrect the Femfest script and tweak it a little to suit its new purpose. The red line, yellow submarine, and hysteria were all left in. This time, the actors are not professionals, but they did a far better job. They all contributed to the further tweaking of the script—one of the perks of creating your own is the power to change it.
Haley L’Heureux portrayed sixteen-year old Morgan, whose worst nightmare is coming true: a road trip with her mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother—and a dead cell phone. It’s the longest four hours of her life.
Her mom, Kelly (played by Rita Carignan), isn’t sure how she allowed her mother to talk her into taking this four-hour drive—each way—to watch her overachieving sister perform a one-hour excerpt of Mary Poppins for the ACT Festival. All she wants is a little respect and maybe some rest. She’s getting neither.
Kelly’s mother, Doris (portrayed by Vicki Hooke) dreams of a happy family where everybody gets along and enjoys one another’s company. Surely they can have fun together for one day. Can’t they?
Nita Wiebe (songbird extraordinaire) played Ruth, Doris’s ninety-year-old mother. Ruth wants to join the church choir and drink orange Crush with two straws. While deafness and dementia have robbed Ruth of independence, memory, and respect, she clings to some pretty powerful truth in the form of an old hymn. Too bad no one else is listening.
|Rita Carignan, Vicki Hooke, Nita Wiebe, Haley L'Heureux|
What a Friend We Have in Jesus is the life story of Joseph Scriven, born in Ireland in 1819. When his fiancé drowned the day before their scheduled wedding, the heart-broken twenty-five-year-old left for Canada. Later, he met and became engaged to Eliza Rice. But just weeks before their wedding, she grew sick and died. Joseph swore a vow of poverty and devoted his life to helping the poor. Ten years later when his mother lay ill and he was too poor to assist, a heart-felt poem emerged from Joseph’s soul. Within two years, Charles Converse set the poem to music. However, it was not until after Joseph’s death that the hymn was carried to every corner of the globe. Ironically, Joseph Scriven drowned in a Canadian lake in 1886.
The uplifting words of this old hymn become more significant when you understand the grief of the hymn-writer’s tragic life. Though our little play is far more comedy than tragedy, the age-old truth rings loud and clear: what peace we often forfeit, what needless pain we bear, all because we do not carry everything—EVERYTHING— to God, in prayer.