News and Updates

Thoughts from Sydney Uni

We asked some of the acting team from Sydney Uni to share their experiences with The Mark Drama:

Declan
Declan joined his non Christian friends for pool one Thursday night and casually told to them that he was in a play called the Mark Drama. They were interested and were very keen to watch him perform. So they came to watch… and were deeply moved by the crucifixion scene. Sitting near the back, they did not know what was the sound of the banging as Jesus was laid down on the ground. When they saw Jesus being raised up on the cross – they understood what the banging was – the nails being driven into the hands of an innocent man. It was scene that made them feel sick. They asked their mutual friend Caroline – “How could a good man be crucified?”. When Caroline offered a copy of the gospel of Luke – they were glad to accept it.

Alex
For me, acting in the Mark Drama was one of most the meaningful and worthwhile things I’ve done in a very long time. I was so amazed to see the reaction of the audience during the crucifixion scene. Even friends who don’t follow Jesus came to watch the show were moved by the whole experience. One wanted to read the Bible with me afterwards.
Adam
While initially skeptical (and regretting the busyness it added to his busy life), by the end all Adam could say was “just incredible”. Seeing what a powerful medium drama is to tell the gospel, he knew that he had to get his younger brother to come watch it. After much prayer, God answered. On the second night his brother and whole family came to watch. He could see that his brother was deeply moved seeing Jesus on the cross. “What did Jesus’s death mean for you?” asked Adam. His brother said he didn’t know. Adam continues to be prayerful for future opportunities to explain the gospel to his brother.
Toby
I found it very helpful to invite my Japanese FOCUS friends to come watch the Mark Drama. Cross cultural ministry is never easy because of language barriers, but I love sharing God’s Word with internationals. After the Mark Drama, I met my Japanese friends to study the account of Jesus healing a paralytic man in the Bible. It was so helpful that they’d seen this scene the night before in the Mark Drama!
Jack
Playing Jesus is not easy. So Jack was very apprehensive when he signed up for the role. ‘How can you learn all these lines in such a short amount of time? How can three rehearsals be enough for a 90 minute performance?’ But God works through weak people. Jack was personally edified by playing Jesus. Watching the story from where he stood gave him new insights into Jesus’ life and death. ‘Jesus’s words are always on my mind now. It’s so much easier to recall them when fighting against temptation and sin!’ In all his experience as an actor, he has never been so emotionally affected by any other role. From the shouts of “Hosanna!” to the cries of “Crucify him!”, holding back tears was a difficult task.

Directing The Director’s Drama

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We asked Rohan Smith about his experience of directing the Mark Drama for the first time for the Sydney University Evangelical Union:
The 15 cast members gather in the rehearsal space. Most of them are meeting each other for the first time. As names fling around the room, Warren and I match name to face and commit them to memory. Already there is a sense of camaraderie as we embark on this yet to be fully understood project together.
The compact rehearsal schedule meant we had very little time to “break the ice”. The cast had to trust each other and Warren and I as directors, to get straight into it. But the development of confidence in each other and in the material grew exponentially. By the end of the first rehearsal we had spent one quarter of our total time together as a cast, but we were one third through Mark’s gospel and one hundred percent friends.
The newly appointed Peter and his fellow disciples follow my lead as I teach them how to distribute and collect the food for the five thousand. They are cautiously humorous in their lines (“Oh, sorry I forgot you’re gluten free”)  and I encourage it. The Pharisees are also developing their own persona, standing tall with puffed chests, demanding to be heard.
Mark Drama directing is never about me. I helped people immerse themselves into Scripture and gently steered the ship, but the cast made it their own. It was encouraging to see them understand this style of story telling and how it points people to Jesus.
 
The cast walk together back to the station after the second rehearsal. Some catch the same late train (or track-work bus) as me. We discuss together our favourite scenes, our potential invitees, the challenges and encouragements of being immersed in Mark’s gospel for a week. We are tired, but we are on fire. We’re already seeing the drama’s impact on our own lives, and are excited to see how it impacts the audience. 
 
It was hard work convincing each cast member to join the team, but these conversations on the train made it worth it. Many thanked me for pushing them to join, because of how Mark Drama had strengthened their faith.
 
Jesus is hanging on the cross. The final performance is nearly over. Joseph of Arimathea must pause to gather himself before he continues the scene. It’s another one of the many beautiful moments where the actors authentically engage with the events in the drama. After the performance, all the actors gather in a group hug full of smiles and tears, congratulating each other and marvelling at God for the work he has achieved. 
 
In the end, and in the beginning, God is the ultimate director. We perform His words. We display His glory. We announce His salvation.
Jesus is God’s Son. Listen to Him.

See the Mark Drama this week!

We’ve just had our final performance at St Thomas’s North Sydney this evening. It was a wonderful show! Many noticed the authority of Jesus’ words to command death to flee and life to re-enter. The old, wooden-floored hall had brilliant acoustics. A number marked the weighty silence echoing after the ferocious storm at sea, commenting on how tangibly it conveyed Jesus’ power to calm our fearful hearts.

If you missed the performances at St Thoms, there are four others this week you can see!

Tickets are selling fast so act now!

The Mark Drama at the University of Sydney

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Wednesday, Sept 23rd
Thursday, Sept 24th
At Old Teachers’ College Assembly Hall
Doors open at 7pm, 90min performance from 7:30pm
Tickets ($10) and details can be found here.

The Mark Drama at Epping Presbyterian

Mark Drama EPC promo FRONT

Saturday, Sept 26th
Sunday, Sept 27th
Doors open at 7pm, 90min performance from 7:30pm
At Epping Presbyterian Church Hall, 9 Bridge Street, Epping
Free admission.
See website for details.

New Productions for 2015!

Mark Drama Australia are excited to announce that St Thomas’s North Sydney and Epping Presbyterian are organising their own productions of the Mark Drama for 2015. So if you missed out seeing the Mark Drama at Moore College or Gladesville, book these dates into your diary before something else comes up:

St Thomas’s North Sydney: September 19th and 20th

Epping Presbyterian: September 26th and 27th

Another five productions are being planned in various Churches and Christian groups across Sydney and the wider Sydney area. Stay tuned for more information by either liking us on Facebooksubscribing to this blog roll, or asking us to add your email to our regular newsletter.

Theological Dramas

Who is Jesus?The Paradox

Moore Theological College is a paradox. It sits at the head of King St, Newtown – the non-conventional capital of Sydney – and quietly boasts of its own head, the revolutionary Christ who overturned social norms and brought God’s Kingdom to the marginalised. Yet Moore College is not known as alternative. It isn’t swayed by public opinion, and holds firmly to the teachings of Scripture. In the cutting-edge inner-city where alternative is norm, ‘dry’ and ‘out-dated’ seem for some, quite apt descriptors of the school.

It’s a product of our post-Christian society, isn’t it. The question of Jesus appears to have lost its edge. Christians are up against 2000 years of diverse public opinion on the one hand and total apathy on the other. So how does an old, fundamentalist institution arrest people with the truth?

Every Moore College student knows the answer – preach the gospel.

The conviction is not new. But through The Mark Drama, we found a less conventional way to introduce Jesus to the crowds.

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A New Teaching? And with Authority?

Our team of fifteen actors had just returned from Moore College Mission – a week spent partnering with local Churches across Sydney and beyond. We’d had a great time telling people the good news of God’s Kingdom, but we were all exhausted. Dragging ourselves to rehearsals that first night, like the disciples returning from their mission (Mark 6:30-31), we just wanted a desolate place where we could rest. No one verbalised it, but you could see it on their faces – ‘What have I gotten myself into?’ ‘I’m stepping into an invisible, imaginary boat?’ ‘You want me to scream a demon-possessed scream?’ The energy was flat, the people sceptical, and only 50 tickets were sold for each night… perhaps the prophet wouldn’t be accepted in this hometown.

Performing The Mark Drama at a theological college was always going to be met with theological concerns and perceptive questions of doctrine. It made sense that Moore was the first seminary in the world to take it on. Matt Smith, student minister at St George’s North, said he had something of an existential crisis in thinking about his casting as Jesus. ‘I thought, Jesus is God – how can I, a sinful human, accurately represent him?’ Leah Gorring, another first year student, was also hesitant. ‘I was concerned about what it would be like to be a Pharisee – persistently critical to Jesus for a whole week!’ Others questioned the paraphrasing and ad-lib nature of the show. ‘Aren’t we adding words to the Bible?’

But despite the questions, by the next rehearsal, the vibe in the room was tangibly changed. Like the energy that erupts after Jesus restores health and ability to the sick, our team had got it. This is a faithful but fun impromptu articulation of Scripture. We read the passage, we allocate the parts, and then we act it out. Peter Bolt, who produced this world debut, simply calls it ‘another translation’. As the head of New Testament and Greek at Moore College, Bolty answered our questions. ‘It’s a return to the first century oral society. Before Mark’s gospel was written it was spoken, relayed from one living person to another. Quiet, personal reading of Scripture’, explained Bolt, ‘is a relatively modern, Western approach. What we’re doing is taking all the events of Mark’s gospel and re-embodying them into our colloquial language.’

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By the time Rehearsal Two rested for morning tea, the acting team was invigorated. They could see the potential they had to faithfully communicate Jesus to the crowd.

And we were thankful God was bringing a crowd. Tickets for the opening night had completely sold-out online – 198 people – and Thursday night was quickly filling up also! We weren’t even sure we’d fit them all in the room!!

But we did. We put out extra chairs, sold more tickets at the door, and assured those eager to come that there’d be space. I had last minute emails, Facebook messages, phone calls from strangers, asking, hoping, begging to hear Jesus’ teaching.

And they didn’t leave unimpressed:

  • ‘That was so much better than I expected! And funnier too!’
  • ‘I teared up really early in the play as I saw Jesus effortlessly cast out demons and heal the sick.’
  • ‘I felt again the seriousness of sin as Jesus pointed out all the evil that comes out from the depths of our hearts.’
  • ‘I was baptised last December and haven’t read much of the Bible yet. I didn’t realise how all the stories I’d heard in the gospels linked together into a longer narrative.’

Across the two nights, over 440 people witnessed The Mark Drama, and 60 copies of Mark’s gospel were taken. It was an easy invitation to extend, and was readily taken up by many non-Christian friends and family.

A visitor invited his agnostic brother along – ‘He has always sort to shut down and avoid conversation about Jesus, but he agreed to come to this… After the show and a few conversations with friends, he asked me to get him a Bible so he could investigate the claims of Jesus himself! I was overjoyed!’

The drama wasn’t just beneficial evangelistically, the cast also noted the ongoing effect of their involvement. ‘It reminded me of the blindness and ugliness of sin’, Leah said, after surviving her role as Pharisee. ‘Throughout The Mark Drama, you see Jesus doing all these wonderful things and yet instead of rejoicing, the Pharisees become more and more angry. But I was struck by how Jesus is in control. He allows himself to be arrested and crucified. And it was all for the sake of people like me who were yelling, ‘Crucify!’

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Despite Moore’s conventional nature, everyone is now hoping The Mark Drama will become an annual event, continuing to run in conjunction with Peter Bolt’s NT1 course that teaches Mark’s gospel.

The Mark Drama is a wonderful translation of Scripture. People can come and sit under the gospel and allow its power to work upon them. As a college we decided to do this because we believe the gospel actually is powerful. In bringing people to knowledge of who Jesus is, we relied not on impressive apologetics, not on fancy words, just the words given by God in Scripture and the promise that his words have Authority.

Written by Christine Bransdon and Jeanette Waddell

MDA Launch

In 2014, Andrew Page visited Australia for the first time, bringing with him the much-acclaimed Mark Drama. With performances in Annandale, Macquarie Uni, Melbourne, and Adelaide, Mark Drama Australia (MDA) was launched.

MDA are excited to see productions being organised for 2015 – at Moore Theological College, at Gladesville Anglican Church, the Blue Mountains, and again in Adelaide.

With half a dozen directors currently trained in both Sydney and Adelaide, MDA are itching to get out and flex their directing muscles. So if you are interested in hosting a production, please check out the information here or contact us for more information.