It started in a Vestry meeting during a discussion about an upcoming Stewardship pledge drive in 2016 and the wish to “do something different.” And the blame (or credit) can all be laid at the feet of Elizabeth Brubaker who said, “I know, we should do a musical.”
When I heard about it, I thought, “A musical? About Stewardship? Mmmm. Stewardship. Wait… how about a musical about the Episcopalian ship. It could be called the ship Steward – the Steward ship!” And with that Steward Ship – The Musical was born.
The challenge was to make it as serious as stewardship is and yet entertaining enough so the audience will stay awake (unlike some stewardship presentations – present parish excluded, of course). While I had done some writing, I don’t write music, so I contacted Brad Richmond. We agreed I would write the lyrics and he would write the music. Unfortunately, two things went wrong: we didn’t decide which came first so I waited for him to write the music, while he waited for me to write the lyrics, and, Stewardship Sunday fell on the same day as his choir concerts. Sadly, the team of Richmond and Bylsma was not destined to become immortalized like the team of Rogers and Hammerstein.
I moved to using existing popular songs and re-writing the words to fit the three themes of stewardship: time, talent, and treasure. The theme of a ship led me to a voyage with passengers to play out the themes. A bumbling First Mate who wouldn’t give of his TIME to assist the ship’s captain in the stormy sea (and who better to bumble then John Shea), a damsel rescued from a deserted island (and who could be more TALENTed than Kim Shea to play my favorite damsel and her soccer ball friend “Wilson”), to be followed by a fearsome pirate who would board the ship to hijack its TREASURE, and who could be more fearsome than a chemistry professor?
So, the makings of a story line existed, but now came the task of making it entertaining. I decided to combine several forms of humor and set up the stewardship message with parodies of well-known songs. For the first mate, I borrowed the ship scene from and film classic, Princess Bride, where the cast made all their lines end in a rhyme. It came out like this:
Ship Captain: Wake up mate
and help me or we’ll be late.
First Mate: I’m not experienced as a first mate.
You’ll have to demonstrate.
SC: We’ve no time to wait,
get busy or we’ll become fish bait.
FM: Your attitude is hard to tolerate.
I’m sorry I signed on to sail this crate
This was followed up by revising the words to “Time after Time” by Sammy Cahn and Jule Styne, i.e. “Time after time, I tell myself that I’m, so lucky to be serving Grace….” (Instead of “…lucky to be loving you”).
The damsel in distress, a.k.a. soccer-loving Jennifer Adams, was rescued by the good ship Steward from a deserted island with her sidekick “Wilson”- the soccer ball from the movie “Castaway.”
Here the humor was to portray the castaway as out of touch (or worse) because of being on the deserted island for so long as portrayed in the following dialogue as she talks about the sermons she and Wilson preached in her one-person church. (Hint; hermeneutics is the study of methods of interpreting the Bible and exegesis is the study of Biblical test to discover their original meaning).
Damsel in Distress: As you might expect, the sermons were outstanding when I preached (wink wink), but Wilson’s were full of a lot of hot air. And he bounced around the lectionary too much. And psst, (holds the ball out of hearing) he doesn’t know the different between hermeneutics and exegesis.
Ship Captain: Do you know the difference between hermeneutics and exegesis?
DD: (Indignantly) Of course I do. Herman Neutics was one of my professors in seminary. Exegesis is nothing but a fancy word for the ascension.
SC: A fancy word for Jesus’s ascension is “exegesis”?
DD: You know…. “Exit Jesus”.
The lyrics for “There’s No Business Like Show Business” were modified to “There’s no talent like Grace talent…” belted out Ethel Merman style by Kim.
For the TREASURE theme, a looting pirate was called upon to hijack the Steward’s treasure only to be disappointed that the treasure at Grace is in the form of pledges to the stewardship campaign. Because the pirate (Brent Krueger) admittedly can’t sing, a rhyming patter was used, like this:
Pirate: As a pirate, I’m confused…
Chorus: This pirate is confused…
Pirate: It’s been my pleasure – to take treasure – without measure – at my leisure
I like to plunder – as I wonder – how to rip a ship asunder – and I never make a blunder.
Pirate: But here I must peruse…
Chorus: Here he must peruse.
Pirate: I need to cogitate – as I estimate – and also celebrate – what I can confiscate
From a ship – that I predict – is not equipped – with any loot that can be nicked.
Pirate: Now I’m not amused…
Chorus: This pirate’s not amused…
Pirate: This Captain now kvetches – and stubbornly alleges – that all he has on board are pledges.
Pledges for a budget – and if I’ve not misjudged it – unless he gets to nudge it – he’s going to have to fudge it.
After the lighthearted stuff, the announcer (Gary Bogle) got down to the business of reminding us that this was the kick-off of the annual stewardship pledge drive, and that the continued success of Grace and its ministry required the time, talent, and treasure of its parishioners.
Some light-hearted stuff, some serious stuff… but no doubt “something different, Elizabeth.” Its acceptance prompted a sequel which looked in on our heroes of the first musical some years later in time. “Not enough,” the vestry cried. So a third musical portraying our heroes as they might have been in their youth will soon premier. Come see the Off the 9th Street Players in Steward Ship – the Musical – the Prequel at the Oktoberfest dinner on October 21.
Submitted by: Jay Bylsma