Brilliant on every level. Brilliant in planning, in development and in presentation.
PINEVILLE – Brilliant on every level. Brilliant in planning, in development and in presentation.
That was the Thursday – repeated Friday – production of “Follow the Star” on the Louisiana College campus.
Thousands upon thousands – 10 cases, with eight sets per case – of twinkling white lights crawled up trees, slinked across massive oak boughs, and dotted shrubbery around the campus circle. It was the first time ever that the campus was lighted, said Tim Johnson, LC vice president for institutional advancement.
The brilliance of the lights – which started on the boulevard at the front entrance to the campus – provided a glittering first impression to the evocative evening, which itself was the opening of a multi-event weekend featuring former First Lady Barbara Bush.
See the center spread of the Dec. 20 issue of the Louisiana Baptist Message for the full story of Louisiana College’s gift to its community.
Children’s choirs from three area churches Thursday – and adult choirs and soloists Friday – provided seasonal entertainment at “Follow the Star,” which about 700 people, mostly from the Alexandria/Pineville community, listened to Thursday under starry skies.
The crowd – which grew to 800 or more for the Friday production – sipped hot chocolate provided at no cost by Aramark, the campus food-service contractor. The beverage was unexpectedly tasty – unlike the watery substance too often served at mass events.
“We worked at it until we got it right,” an Aramark chef said.
While the mini-concerts were taking place, small groups of about 20 people each, set off to see the dramatized Christmas story. Tours followed guides robed in New Testament garb to hear and see the story of the birth of Jesus as depicted in seven separate scenes scattered around the campus circle, in a script written by Theatre Professor Debrah Richardson.
The familiar story gathered fresh life as costumed characters poured their hearts into their lines, including Charles Quarles Ph.D., LC’s vice president for the integration of faith and learning, preaching in the first vignette as the Hebrew-speaking prophet Isaiah.
In the “No room in the inn” scene, it was the innkeeper’s wife to the rescue. She came to the second story window to see who her husband was shouting at, and saw the painfully pregnant Mary with Joseph and their donkey companion.
“A baby? Find them a place,” Student Jamie Ries barked to her innkeeper husband, Wade Poole, also an LC student. He protested, “I don’t have any room.”
“Find them a place,” she insisted. The audience chuckled appreciatively at the real-life tone of the exchange that closed with the wife’s disgust that her husband was sending the couple to the stable.
The scene of the angel appearing to the shepherds brought goosebumps each of the four times I watched that vignette. It was perfect casting for Rob Barker to suddenly appear atop a rock. In the dark he looked to be standing in mid-air. The long and lanky LC senior made his pronouncement to the struck-dumb shepherds – well, what would you do if an angel appeared before you? – and as the angel stretched out his arms, Narrator Chasity Bell explained, “Suddenly, there was with the angel a heavenly host.”
At that moment, a bright-white light shined on the angel clad in white robes, and through his long fingers, and from all directions came the sound of angels singing: “Glory to God, Glory to God, Glory to God in heaven.” It was a moment so absolutely thrilling that I could almost see thousands of angels surrounding us.
More goosebumps at the final scene, with all the usual characters at the manger, including the wise men. It was a simple three-sided shed, with willow branches providing some protection overhead, and a canvas-and-green branch feeding trough. Inside it an (inanimate) baby was “sleeping,” and we were invited to sing a verse of “Joy to the World.” The simplicity of the scene, the quiet wonder of the night as we got the picture that this child came into the world as humbly as anyone ever did, and our voices rising acappella …
Yes, great joy has come to the world. We were blessed to be reminded of that. Thank you, Louisiana College.