So… it’s nearly three hours before our preview/final tech of Vyrosla, and I’m unable to do anything else other than write. I think it’s because it’s been so long since I’ve written anything, that all my words feel rusty and tired in my head. Vyrosla is a musical that my dear friends Morgan & Jordan wrote this year. They wrote it for Moody Bible Institute’s (MBI) annual Missions Conference. This is exciting on three levels: 1) Moody has never had a required, general, evening session of the conference be a musical. 2) The show is completely original, and 3) I have had the privilege of being a part of the cast and choreographing the show. The musical is about a prostitute in Russia, who upon meeting a missionary couple, struggles to find freedom and hope. But the story doesn’t stop there: intwined into her life are the lives of these missionaries, other abused women, and a young med student on an internship. The story is incredibly beautiful and real, and the stage breathes life and meaning into it.
This show is also really challenging. It comes with a lot of trigger warnings. And it should. As I told Morgan the other day: there should be nothing palatable about what we’re portraying. Personally, I’ve felt as a choreographer, the pressure of portraying something real and honest and awful, but also not abusing my audience, specifically the audience of students who have histories and stories, of which I know nothing. How does one portray prostitution tastefully? I don’t think it’s possible… But, I have come to a few conclusions: Stories matter. People matter. And art matters. I have realized that although I may not know your story, I can portray this one truthfully. And I may not be able to feel your pain, but I refuse to trivialize it by sugar-coating the pain here. I will not make prostitution, abuse, and woundings G-rated so that some may feel comfortable. You should feel pained when watching this. You should experience the story with the characters, and allow yourself to be moved by it. People matter. Stories matter. And those feelings are healthy– embrace them. This story should move you.
Some will not understand why we chose to portray this. And that’s ok. Some will not see the point of this at an MBI conference. Some will take issue with the subject matter, the costumes, the choreography, the lines, the lyrics… the list could go on. But that is ok. This story is art. It is vulnerable and young and new, so it will receive criticism. The good news is, that is all ok, because this is the story God has called us tell. And this art matters. The Lord is the great Healer, Comforter, and Redeemer. He is redeeming your story, your very person, as we speak. He has redeemed, healed, and comforted you, and he will continue to do so. As believers, we can allow ourselves to be touched, wounded and affected, so that we might grieve with those who hurt and trust the Lord for healing.
Trust is scary. There is much in my life in which I have yet to feel the Lord’s healing. Some days I don’t feel his comfort at all. But I know that the Lord is before all things and in him all things hold together (Col. 1). And when I cannot feel his love, I can grieve that comfort, but I cannot doubt his faithfulness. I believe that God will come through and rescue the children he so desperately loves. I believe that he binds up the brokenhearted. I believe that he will heal all wounds, if not now, then on the other side of eternity. And these beliefs keep me going, despite the overwhelming brokenness and pain I feel. Because of this– this show must go on. Vyrosla is a story that must be told for all it’s beauty and pain, for God is near to us.
I would like to share with you something I wrote several years ago for another project/performance… that has been ever-present on my mind since the show started. I know that brokenness is a scary thing and sometimes grief feels so pointless, but as one who firmly believes in the power of God to heal: I can ache, and I can hope.
I want to say this to my fellow cast mates: Thank you. I love you guys. Thank you for bearing with me drilling through your choreography and correcting you in front of your peers. Thank you for letting my choreographer’s vision become a reality. Thank you for being here, present in this cast. Thank you for giving yourself. Thank you for being vulnerable, and honestly portraying this story with me. Thank you for laughing backstage and asking me how my day was. Thank you for being here for each other. Thank you for being here for me. Thank you for being a community that encourages one another. Thank you loving each other… and me. Thank you for giving me this beautiful memory before I go overseas. Thank you for being you, here, in this moment. I am so thankful that I get to work with you. I praise the Lord for this cast and this show. As we approach our performance, I remember you all in prayer and ask that you remember that God is near to us and that in him all of this holds together. Let us be diligent in prayer, as we have been doing, for this show and for our audience over the next few days. I love you guys. I honestly feel like you guys are my brothers & sisters, especially all of you who I’ve choreographed… we’ve had a lot of time together and I will always remember these moments with you.
To my audience: Know that you are prayed for and loved. We have considered you deeply and hope that the Lord will minister to you in this show–that he will heal and comfort you through this story. If you are not coming to the performance on campus, you can see it here live, beginning at 7:30 PM CT: http://www.moody.edu/missions-conference/video/
Thank you for reading.