In 1999 our then-fifteen-year-old daughter Mary Evelyn started the the Homeschool Dramatic Society. A few weeks earlier she had asked, “Mom, could I write a play and invite homeschoolers to be in it?” I had replied, “Sure.”
The play that year was Hosanna! It was performed in a church gym. The subject was children in Capernaum during the life of Jesus. Here’s the cast:
Mary Evelyn is the tallest cast member. She is in pink on the back row. One of the girls is now an accomplished actress who has played many roles in various theaters. She is about to graduate from a Christian college where she is studying theater. One of boys has graduated from Annapolis. Another boy is an auditor for the state of Tennessee. In a quick survey, I counted up at least a dozen children who have been born to these cast members.
Since that first play, the Homeschool Dramatic Society has:
- Struggled on the home front during World War II (2000).
- Sung the story of the Bible from Genesis to Acts (2001). 2001 was the year we began to use a small local theater.
- Sailed the Atlantic as immigrants to start a new life in America in 1908 (2002, 2007).
- Found hope in the midst of America’s Great Depression in the 1930s (2003).
- Lived as orphans in England under the care of George Muller in the mid-1800s (2004).
- Lived as orphans in China under the care of Gladys Aylward in the 1930s (2005, 2011).
- Watched Thomas Gallaudet found the American School for the Deaf in the early 1800s (2006). 2006 was the year we moved to a performing arts center.
- Hidden Jewish children in a Nazi-occupied French village during World War II (2008).
- Been persecuted for their faith in the Communist Soviet Union in 1964 (2009).
- Experienced the polio epidemic in 1951 (2010).
- Lived in Appalachia while medical missionaries built a ministry there in 1911 (2012).
- Experienced urban poverty in the lower East Side of New York City in 1913 (2013).
- Been slaves, slave owners, and participants in the Underground Railroad in 1851 (2014).
This year the Homeschool Dramatic Society returns to Capernaum where the children will rejoice and wonder at the amazing things that Jesus is doing there in a new play, Touched by the King. In 1999, the cast had twenty-two actors and actresses. This year the number is 115.
Over the weekend, I thought back to the conversation Mary Evelyn and I had in the fall of 1999 when she asked her question about writing a play. What if I had said, “No, Mary Evelyn, we don’t have time to do that because you are in high school and you can’t get behind in x, y, and z.”
We write all of our full-year courses with just 30 weeks’ worth of curriculum. We do that on purpose because we want children to be able to do things like be in plays and go to Mount Rushmore and help when Grandma is sick and go on a mission trip to Timbuktu and take ballet and be on the volleyball team and learn how to sew and sit in a tree and read a book — start a Homeschool Dramatic Society — or whatever opportunity God is placing in the heart of the student or the parent.
When I said, “Sure” in 1999, I had no idea that Mary Evelyn would ever want to write another play. I certainly had no idea that seventeen years later I would be serving as her assistant director for the seventeenth time and that she would have written not one play, but fifteen. I did not know that dozens and dozens of children would have lived through so many time periods and that they would have songs and stories of faith hidden in their hearts.
I know it is scary to break out of the mold of traditional schooling, but what scares me is this — what if I hadn’t?
The mind of man plans his way,
But the Lord directs his steps.