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The Life-Light Players of First Baptist Church, Odessa

What others have said about the Life-Light Players

Saturday, April 24, 2004  (Odessa American)

Life-Light Players let community and church share stage

Ellie, played by Kayla Pinkhan, talks with her father, Max, played by Derrick Bush, about her mother during a scene from the play ‘Step On A Crack’ in the Fellowship Hall of First Baptist Church. The Life-Light Players are a new addition to the church’s music and fine-arts ministry.



By Sharon Denning
Photo by Paul Zoeller
Odessa American

Tony Prather dreams of blending two communities so each can enrich the other.
The reality, however, is that one community is secular, the other sacred, and much of the time the two are worlds apart.
Prather is the director of First Baptist Church’s Life-Light Players, a new addition to the church’s music and fine-arts ministry. Through the Life-Light Players, he hopes to bring community theater into church and create a theatrical community for Christians.
“Many of my most meaningful relationships have been built working in theater,” said Prather, who participated in on-campus productions at Howard Payne University in Brownwood and has since been active with the Permian Playhouse. “I’d like to develop a place where Christian artists can function within their faith to produce quality work and effectively spread God’s love through theater.”
But there’s more to it than just dramatizing Bible stories or overtly “Christianizing” popular tales.
Following in the steps of evangelical drama groups like the Covenant Players of Oxnard, Calif., and the Houston-based A.D. Players, the Life-Light Players can look to a considerable body of material Christian drama groups have produced in the last five years, Prather said.
The Life-Light Players’ February debut was “The World According to Shel Silverstein,” a dramatization of the poetry and prose of Shel Silverstein, best known for his collection of poems “Where the Sidewalk Ends” and the parable “The Giving Tree.”
While some might dismiss a work like “The Giving Tree” as kids’ stuff, on a higher level this deceptively simple story illustrates God’s boundless grace and Man’s willingness to take and take and take some more until he ultimately realizes the material things he craved didn’t make him happy after all, Prather said.
Six cast members are currently rehearsing for a second production, Susan Zeder’s “Step on a Crack,” which will open in mid-May. Like “The World According to Shel Silverstein,” this drama is a family show with a subtle moral message.
And there’s always the option of writing new material. Brandon Garcia, assistant director of the Life-Light Players, is writing a musical set for summer performance.
Titled “Trashline,” Garcia’s work will be his take on “Stomp,” the popular tribute to urban life and the everyday objects that produce rhythm and percussive sound.
“I’ve been a percussionist a long time,” said Garcia, a sound consultant who is putting together a Christian recording studio in Odessa.
“I figured since I could write music, I might as well give it a try,” he said. “What I’m working on will be more like a marching drumline, with performers playing (metal) trashcans. Since people can come in to audition, I think there will be a lot of kids from the high schools who try out.”
Open auditions set the Life-Light Players apart from other church drama groups in the Permian Basin.
“We want people involved in community theater and the arts to feel welcome to come in and join us,” Prather said.
“They can step into a church setting — which may be an unfamiliar environment — and do something they are familiar with. We can show the audience that well-done theater doesn’t have to be painted with the world.”
The plan is to produce five shows with full sets and costumes this season (from January through December), charging nominal admission fees to recoup production costs.
Prather said the shows will target audiences of older teenagers and adults but nothing in any program will be inappropriate for younger viewers.
“Every show will have a moral element — something to make people stop and think,” Garcia said, “but there won’t be any hellfire and brimstone preaching. We’ll let the plays do the talking.”
Prather said his ultimate dream is for the Life-Light Players to have a year-round season and a short time for touring, proving that the church can draw on the larger community’s talents and together they can present top-quality dramas.
It’s one more role the church can play within the community, he said, and another way for the church to open doors to people who might not otherwise step inside.

Life-Light Players
c/o Tony Prather
#26 Cristobal Ct
Odessa, Texas 79765