Monday night was the final Remedy, and final day of being a committee member of CMaD (otherwise known as Christian Music & Drama). I have been involved since my first year of university in 2007, and continued in some capacity, all the way till now when I am a working graduate wife. Quite a lot has changed in CMaD, and quite a lot has changed in me. Here’s a few tales about it all:
One day I am sitting down after a club meeting and a guy stands up asking if anyone would like to be stage manager for a play his society were putting on. No experience was needed but some was preferable. All you need do was to come see him or email him. So I do and within the month I am making detailed drawings of the stage, lists of costumes and props needed for each character, discussing lighting and sound effects with my newly appointed assistant Stage Manager. By April 2008 I had a room that looked like it was an antique shop and costume cupboard all in one, with multiple swastika banners and arm bands, fake barbed-wire, and a long noose just hanging out in my room. Needless to say the cleaners that came around my student residence must have been a little disturbed. The play was Bonhoeffer, a true story about the pastor and theologian in WWII who was captured, and eventually killed in a concentration camp, under Hitler and the Nazis. I remember clearly the scenes which depicted Dietrich Bonhoeffer‘s conversations with his friends and family, I remember his execution, I remember the poem he wrote shortly beforehand – just a few days before the war ended, and I remember the noose hanging in a red light as his poem was read to the audience. I remember too, the tears the audience, cast and crew all shed at the end of each performance, I remember the words of thanks and encouragement from a couple who had grown up in the war and had come to see the performance, and I remember the exhaustion and exhilaration from having been a part of it all.
Shortly after the President of CMaD, and the co-director of Bonhoeffer, asked whether I would be interested in being Treasurer of CMaD. Well actually the conversation went a little more like this:
P: So do you like CMaD?
E: Erm, I guess.
P: Would you like to be more involved?
E: Well, what other than plays do you do?
P: We have prayer&tea and stuff. You seem quite organised, what about being Treasurer?
E: Erm, yeah OK.
About a fortnight later I was elected onto the committee with a host of people I didn’t really know and set about working out how to be treasurer with no account details, no books, and no idea of how to be treasurer on a society committee. Good start right?
Spring of 2009 came around and CMaD had planned another play, a very different play. This one was called Everyman, and was based on the Catholic morality play of the middle ages. I say based on because someone chose it and then we realised we didn’t want to really suggest to anyone that repentance meant whipping yourself as penance or that good deeds got you to heaven. I also say based on because I helped rewrite the entire script. Andrew, a friend of mine and amazing English student, and I sat up until the early hours of the morning night after night typing up scenes which would be rehearsed the next day. One of the slightly strange things that happened in relation to the rewriting is that I was called a heretic in the middle of Tesco – for adding bible verses into the production – go figure!
I was also Stage Manager for this play and helped design how we would portray each allegory of a character. Death was possibly my favourite as we made Death a woman, not evil, just doing a job and possibly a little amused by Everyman. She was a beautiful, red-haired woman in a short black dress and had tattoo-like black lines all over her back and shoulders. She was a woman you didn’t mess with. The play also had a few beautiful pieces of music and was performed in a church hall which you got to through a gorgeous courtyard garden. If you needed atmosphere we had it!
It was after this production my role changed and I took over as Publicity from Clement Chen, a good friend of mine. I had been an awful Treasurer and although nothing had gone too badly wrong I was happy to help out elsewhere. CMaD began to do a host of new events including Rabbit: a meeting of those who simply wanted some silly fun and named because of the ridiculous nature of it all. I also planned True Story: a eclectic mixture of drama, music, and poetry that could encourage and show-off our members’ talents whilst portraying Christianity in a new and diverse way. Possibly my favourite was Rob Caudwell’s poem which looked through the eyes of Joseph, father of Jesus, as he fumbled with the news of Mary’s pregnancy and the Christ’s coming. Other pieces included the St Andrews University Gospel Choir, extracts from The Velveteen Rabbit, and a short play written by Simon Lamb.
It was this season of CMaD that we received a lot of criticism from those around us. There were comments that women were not meant to be in leadership positions and in having a committee that was mostly (all but one) female we were being unbiblical. The fact that we were not a church did not seem to matter and the remarks and rumours were hurtful to me particularly who did not realise such things were still such an issue in our student body, even at the Christian end of the range. We were also seen as being a smaller part, and hence not so important part, of the Christian Union, and were treated as such. Our meetings were ignored and our communication with those running the CU became so bad that we got more and more annoyed at some of the arrogance being shown to us. Of course this doesn’t relate to all who were involved, but a few members made our work very hard to do.
As the new year began we started thinking about another play and I worked hard to organise a production of What’s So Amazing About Grace, based on the book Philip Yancey. However, this did not work out and I left the committee feeling beaten and frustrated. My involvement was hardly more than advisory for a the next season but CMaD still held a strong place in my heart.
A year went by until the opportunity arose again to get more involved, and yet again it was in a very different role. I had decided, less than 24 hours before the AGM, that I would run for Prayer Secretary. This was a role I had helped introduce and I believed to be hugely important to CMaD. With it I planned a year of diverse prayer meetings (Remedy) where I tried to bring them back to CMaD‘s main focus of music and drama. This year we have had Taize, involvement with SPEAK, talks on dance worship, art worship, fun times where we made fun of Valentine’s Day for Speed Praying, and supported an amazing musical theatre production of Children of Eden performed at the Byre, St Andrews.
Leaving CMaD behind me is going to be difficult but after 5 years it makes sense. I have gained so many great friends, so many memories, and funny stories, I couldn’t ever regret my time spent in this small society of the University. We’ve had some amazing times and I’ve learnt a lot about myself and what I feel God has given people in terms of talents in music and drama. There have been some tough lessons though, here are just a few:
- When you and another person need to work together but don’t seem to communicate well, the best thing is sometimes to split the work and know your own role. I found this particularly hard, when someone didn’t seem to get what I was saying I wanted to explain some more – and that wouldn’t necessarily help anything.
- If you have a talent, offer it up to be used. You can learn so much and improve so much, and if others can benefit from your skill and gifts all the better!
- If people don’t know you they have no right to judge you – they may well try anyway but you shouldn’t let it bother you. You can’t please anyone so attempt to do your best for those you care about and I’m sure it’ll be OK in the end.
- Dream big – some of the best things I remember about CMaD were the things that at the start seemed ridiculously huge. Instead they were amazing. If you don’t dream big, the likelihood is nothing big will happen.
- Pray. It is the foundation of so much, and takes so little. If you pray, things happen. They might not be what you expect, but things will happen and God is faithful.
To the new committee – I will be praying for you. I hope you have as much fun, and create as many memories, as I did over my time in St Andrews serving CMaD.
- “Who Am I?” (a poem by Dietrich Bonhoeffer) (marccortez.com)
- notes and snapshots from Taize (michelleannashley.wordpress.com)
- A Holy Week Taize Service – Looking Ahead (lifeinliturgy.wordpress.com)