Church Produces Peace Play/Dinner Theatre


Floradale Mennonite Church (Ontario) will present "Those Peace Shoes" a play/dinner theatre production about a sister and brother who act for peace in different ways, from April 9 - 11.

The congregation will used the event as a fundraiser to help settle a Palestinian refugee family in the Kitchener-Waterloo area.

A Sunday noon meal with a Palestinian menu will raise additional funds which will be given to an Islamic organization in the Waterloo region who is sponsoring a refugee family of their own.

The play's author, Barb Draper, says this is one of her congreagtions contributions to Mennonite Church Canada's Peace in the Public Square project.

Why Do I Write?

I don’t think it will come as a surprise to anyone that part of my incentive when I write skits or plays is to teach. I also want to entertain, but a bigger motivation is to have us think about who we are and where we have come from. There are not many draft dodgers among us, but many of us have fathers, grandfathers or uncles who served in alternative service and gave half their wages to the Red Cross during World War II. It’s important that we know their stories. (Incidentally, getting this type of story out in a play can be a director’s nightmare!)
I’m not exactly sure where my enthusiasm for Mennonite roots comes from, but I can trace it back to my days as a student at Conrad Grebel College.

In my very first class with J. Winfield Fretz, he suggested that we work on a chart of our family trees, identifying our grandparents and other ancestors. This has been an on-going passion of mine. In my second year at university I took a course on Anabaptist and Mennonite history with Frank Epp. It was then that I caught a vision of what this tradition is all about, and I gained a real appreciation for Mennonite beliefs. I don’t know where the passion comes from—maybe it’s a gift from God.

To write a play, I need to wait for inspiration—the rest is just hard work in front of a computer. I knew I wanted to write a play about peace, and tried to start it the previous summer, but something just wasn’t quite ready. When I heard that Mennonite Church Canada was calling each congregation do something as a public witness for peace, I had fresh inspiration. Many thanks to the congregation for working together to make my dream into a reality.

Reactions to the play

On Saturday evening, a former CPTer came to me after the performance and with tears streaming down her face asked if I had experience with CPT because that scene with Kevin and Uncle Trevor was exactly what she experienced when she returned from a CPT assignment in Palestine. When I said that I was sorry if I caused her grief in remembering those emotions, she said it was helpful to watch that scene because she felt that someone else understood what she had gone through. Those words of hers made all the work well worthwhile.

There was a moment of high drama on Sunday afternoon when in the middle of the altercation between Kevin and Uncle Trevor applause broke out in the section where the Muslim/Palestinian people were sitting. I thought, “Oh no! Now what are we in for?” But when the play was over, one of the Palestinian ladies said that she was touched that someone from outside their community was able to articulate their concerns so accurately. That also was a high compliment.

Barb Draper
Playwright, Floradale Mennonite Church

 

Only through God's help can we offer real peace

Being part of the play was an awesome experience. Getting to know some “newcomers” as well as others from the congregation whom I haven’t spent a lot of time with was wonderful. Having a chance to connect with people beyond Sunday morning really helps build a sense of community. I feel more connected with those around me and we accomplished something together that none of us could have done alone. At times it seemed like a lot of effort and work, but preparing a message for others (and for ourselves!) forced us to wrestle with what it means to be peacemakers in our world today.

In terms of the content of the play, it really covered a lot of ground! I think it expanded my definition of peace. I now see peace as working at creating shalom, or wholeness, in all aspects of our lives—with families and neighbours, even the environment, as well as beyond our communities. Now I see that things I’ve been doing, such as taking time to talk to a neighbour or friend about a problem is really building peace! But I am also aware of the complexities of creating peace within relationships, whether personal or international! As Grandma said (in the play), “nobody ever said making peace was easy.”

I think it is only through God’s help that we can offer those around us real peace, and that is precisely what God has called us to do!
 

Vicky Roeder Martin
Cast Member, Floradale Mennonite Church

Everybody knows that peace is impossible!

In the play my character of Aunt Betsy made the blithe statement, "Everybody knows that peace is impossible!"

That has stuck with me in that this type of negative thinking can be so easy to come by. We see all the wars and conflicts in the world and it is easy to say well, it will never change. It takes work to actually change that way of thinking and living and to see potential for peace in our everyday lives and then in the world as we follow Jesus.

Mary Frey-Martin
Cast Member, Floradale Mennonite Church

 

Patience with Drama Queens

The play "Those shoes of Peace" was an interesting journey for me.

I played the part of Maureen, better known as the “drama queen,” and I got quite a complex because every time I would enter the stage someone would want to leave! What I learned about my character and peace was that to get along with others is not very easy when you have a neighbor like Maureen. You need a lot of patience and good listening skills. I would most likely try to leave too if I had a neighbor like Maureen!

We had some very good responses from those who came; many commented that there was a lot to think about and appreciated Barb’s talented insights on the many ways we can live out Peace around the world and right here at home.
 

Rita Bauman
Cast Member, Floradale Mennonite Church

Performing Peace

"Performing Peace" That title is what I was acting out. Some of the lines in my part of the play spoke to me personally such as: "We must try to conquer our fear”, “You should never be afraid to give to others.”, “If you reach out to other people, they will meet you half way” and, “Hey
what's peace all about if we have conflict in our own families and in our neighbourhoods?”

Although I was acting as a character in the play, it was also a very meaningful experience to me. If we apply some of these lines to our personal life the world would be a better place.
 

Joan Martin
Cast Member, Floradale Mennonite Church

 

Peace, from the children's perspective

I took a few moments to talk to Owen and Carmen Read after the finale of “Those Shoes of Peace.” I wanted to know if their participation in this drama had changed their views on peace. Owen, a man of few words, said ”no” but Carmen explained a little further and told me that “really, I think the same as before.”

Hmmm….this was obviously going to be a brief article unless I asked some pointed questions! Well, would either of you consider joining CPT? How about being part of a peace demonstration? Does that sound like something you might do? Both agreed that there was a possibility that they would take part in a peace demonstration and no, going far away to be part of CPT really didn’t sound like something they would like to do .Who can blame them; they are only young children and how would we as adults answer the same question? But interestingly enough, as we talked about the topic of peace in our lives and how we can show it, the conversation turned to hockey and the fighting that takes a part in many games, both at the minor level as well as the NHL.

I also found an opportunity to speak with Alina Kehl a few days later, asking her the same questions. Her attitude about peace had changed. She felt after listening to the words of the drama that she knew more about peace than before. I asked her what she thought of CPT and would she consider joining such an organization. I must admit she surprised me when she answered that it was funny I would ask her these questions as just the night before she had been thinking a lot about CPT and what they do. Alina stated that CPT has the right idea when it comes to demonstrating peace. She likes how they help people that need help and that they do this in a non-violent way.

At our public schools, there have been many new books purchased on the topic of peace. One such book had just arrived a few days after I saw this play. Written and Illustrated by Janet Wilson, it’s entitled One Peace; True Stories of Young Activists. As I read through her acknowledgements, I came across her inspiration for the book. “…someone asked, ‘We teach children about wars. Why don’t we teach children about peace?’ Good Question! This was the beginning of a passionate pacifist’s journey of a thousand steps.”
One page, in particular, stood out from the others as I read through this book. It was a timely message as I was to write this article from the children’s point of view. This book is full of experiences from children in war-torn countries as well as their thoughts and ideas of how to achieve peace. From page 10 and 11: “Can children start peace? ‘We can’t change the world alone, but if I can teach people that if you put your hand in mine and little by little we join more hands, maybe we can construct a new world.’ –Farlis Calle, 15, Colombia”
 

Sharon Cressman
Member, Floradale Mennonite Church

Peace Is Generosity

I just want to extend my thanks to Eleanor Buehler for giving me the opportunity to be in the play. It was a nice experience and I enjoyed it.
I always wondered, “Why is there so much violence in the Middle East?”, “Who are the Palestinians?”, “What are the occupied territories?” or “What does Israel want?” Then the play “Those shoes of peace” provided a comprehensive understanding of the longstanding Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

I also remembered when I was still in the Congo, during the war I always I refused to participate in anti-war demonstrations but as soon as we had a pro-peace rally, I was there. Exactly what we did in the play!

Between 1998 and April 2004 (when the bulk of the fighting occurred) 3.8 million people died in the Congo. Most of these deaths were due to starvation or disease that resulted from the war, not from actual fighting. Millions more have become internally displaced or have sought asylum in neighboring countries and that's why I am in Canada as a refugee claimant.

I again thank the Floradale community for showing care and compassion by sponsoring a family from Palestine and the support that you have been to me since I came to Canada. That's a message of peace and there is no price for that! May God bless your generosity.

Noah Ishaka
Cast Member, Floradale Mennonite Church

Do We Let Politics Affect Our Beliefs?

Being a part of the drama production has been an interesting experience for me. I have made new friends and enjoyed time with “old” friends.

My character in the play, Uncle Trevor, was very strong in his views and used his interpretation of the Bible to back them up. As the cast worked through the practice process, I began to realize how often scriptures, be it the Bible or the Koran, or whatever else, can be interpreted in such a way as to support your political views. My character quoted specific verses to support his position.

I always felt that “Uncle Trevor” could offend some people with religious views, and was a little unsure what to expect on the Sunday matinee with a contingent of Palestinians present. As “Uncle Trevor” and “Kevin” engaged in their rather heated exchange as to who should have legal title to the land, the crowd suddenly erupted into applause as “Kevin” argued in favour of the Palestinians. I realized that this is what they lived every day.

After the final performance on Sunday, the cast had a small celebration and discussed what the play meant to them. As different opinions were shared, I wondered what message did we portray? Do we let politics affect our beliefs? Are we pro-Palestinian? What would a Jewish person have thought of the play? Most of all I realized that the line between politics and religion is very thin and how easy it is to be caught in the middle.

James Martin
Cast Member, Floradale Mennonite Church
 

Pacificts Work for Justice, Not Victory

When I saw an early draft of the play, I sent an email to Barb thanking her for listening to her calling and writing this play. I thought this play could be a very powerful and moving witness to our community. I also thought that our Muslim partners would have an interest in this and there might be an opportunity to work together. Thanks to some hard work from a number of people in the church and from their community that partnership became a reality on Sunday afternoon.

Although excited, I and I suspect a number of other people, including the cast, were nervous on Sunday afternoon. How would the play be received by Palestinians and likewise how would we respond to all these Muslims in our midst? We had never done anything like this before and this performance was different than the evening performances, because suddenly a work of fiction talking about events across the world was very real to a good percentage of the audience. The spontaneous applause by the Palestinians after the one line by Robb, I think caught everyone by surprise. They are constantly exposed to negative stereotypes in the media and news so seeing a balanced perspective in such a setting left them very grateful. One student afterward commented that she thought we were very brave for doing this.

One fear that I think holds us back from doing more is a fear of taking sides in a conflict. I've reflected on that fear and realized that Jesus always was with the oppressed and downtrodden. He would still walk with those people even if some chose a path of violence or saw him as someone to liberate them through force. He rebuked Peter at the Garden of Gethsemane after he cut off the servant’s ear, but did not disown him.

As the play illustrates, as pacifists we are never on one side or the other in conflict since our goal is peace and justice, not victory of one side over the other. I read the 1987 resolution of the Mennonite Church on apartheid and saw many similarities between what that said and what Barb wrote in her play about the current situation in Palestine. I recently read an article talking about this issue saying both the oppressed and oppressor are trapped, and by seeking justice we are freeing both of them.

I also think the play helped others, whether Christian or Muslim, who don't come from a strong pacifist tradition to see other ways of handling conflict. A Muslim lady that I've known for several years has told me that she now feels that use of violence will never be successful, no matter how just the cause. I wonder how much that view has been influenced by her contact with people who hold dearly to a peace tradition over the years.

I'll conclude with one line from a peace sign used during the play “All Humanity is Downwind.” I wonder what will be downwind from this play?

Leon Kehl
Member, Floradale Mennonite Church
 

The Elusiveness of Peace

As I watched the play, "Those Shoes of Peace", three times, I say again that peace is difficult to attain, and at times difficult to define. Although Barb Draper, the author of the play, took a stand throughout the play about peace, she also allowed us to think of what peace might mean in all aspects of life.

As I watched it I thought a lot of our experience in Thailand over 25 years ago and how impossible it was to attain a semblance of peace. When the play talked about conscientious objectors I thought of my grandfather and father who both refused to pick up a gun. Then the second act where the issue of Christian Peacemaker Teams was the focus, I thought of Hannah when she served for two weeks in Colombia in 2008.

I believe peace to be at the centre of the gospel, but I know we also have to find a new kind of peace in every situation. If we arrive at a peaceful resolution in one aspect of life, we may have to start all over again in another life experience to move toward peace. Just when I think I have arrived, another experience of violence or sin will have to be dealt with in my life. All ways to inhibit peace are related to selfishness. For example, if some people in this world do not have enough food, it is because I am selfish and have not shared enough. I know that is simplistic, but the sin of selfishness is the way to non-peace.

We, as a congregation, have begun a new way of peace with our bringing the Palestinian family to Kitchener. Allow yourselves to continue this journey of peacemaking, and look for other ways to bring a little bit of Christ's peace to our piece of the world.

Fred Redekop
Pastor, Floradale Mennonite Church
 

Update from Floradale

Update from Floradale Mennonite Church, Ontario

It takes a lot of work to put together a dinner and theatre event. Barb began writing the play last fall and auditions were held at the end of November. We had a cast of 23 which is very large, but allowed many people to get involved. Rehearsals began in February and the cast (or most of it) gathered twice a week to learn the lines and the proper movements. By March we needed the help of the stage crew and final plans were beginning to take shape.

Susan Martin and Shirley Shoemaker we able to put together a delicious dinner on a shoestring. Their expenses were kept to a minimum because they began planning last summer and picked extra beans and corn that maximized the profits. Because we didn’t need to pay for rights to perform the play and because we have such great facilities, the play costs were minimal. When everyone works together, we can put on quite a dinner and show!!

Not as many people came to see the play as last time so our proceeds are not as high. The beef dinners on Friday and Saturday raised almost $4,400 in profits while the play raised about $4,900. The Sunday lunch raised $545 which will go to the Islamic Centre to help support their refugee family. The $9,300 raised by Floradale Mennonite Church will be divided with half going to support our refugee family and half going to Christian Peacemaker Teams.