Remember The Days Of Old

  • Cast Number: 40
  • Run-time: 90 minutes
  • Bible Reference: Deuteronomy 32:7

The Muhlenberg dynasty is about the beginning of the Lutheran church in America. The early days of the American nation saw men of courage and influence step forward to take leading roles in government, the military and the church. But likely no family had greater impact in all three areas than the Muhlenberg family whose influence left a lasting legacy on the American scene.
St John’s Evangelical Lutheran church in Sinking Spring, Pennsylvania commissioned DramaShare to research and write a drama chronicling the 200th anniversary of the Lutheran church in America, and the role which the Muhlenberg family played. It is quite amazing to examine how one family were so instrumental in church history, as well as their very significant political and military involvement.
Although this drama relates specifically to Lutheran history it would be at home staged by any denomination, or even in secular theatre.
Teresa Kissling, Music Minister at St. John’s church tells of their success in staging this script:
 “What an inspiring drama written by DRAMASHARE to help celebrate the 200th anniversary of the congregation of St. John’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in Sinking Spring, Pa. My actors, support staff, congregation and community were blessed. A wonderful historical drama that mixes real history with human interest writing, this drama can be used as a historical drama about how the establishment of the Lutheran Church in America intersected so closely with the early years of our government.
The various scenes were played over the entire church. We used a choir area that is portable for the library and placed many old items, dust and spider webs to set the atmosphere. On the opposite side of the sanctuary we used the choir area there to house a real 1800’s choir and the pipe organ. Directly in front of the organ console we set up a small stage for various small scenes. The two church alcoves, the pulpit and the center aisle were used throughout.
We made and rented some costumes for each time period represented and used a small amount of props, special lighting and wireless lavalier mics.
The drama was started with lights out as the two actors made their way down the center aisle of the sanctuary with flashlights as they searched in the dark for the old closed library. The audience was incorporated into the singing of the hymns etc. which made them feel as if they were really participating in an 1800’s worship setting. The altar was dressed with paraments, flower arrangements made from native plants and period candle sticks to support the setting. Scene 30 was especially interesting. We taped the actor’s voice and added reverb to the recording as we played it. The actor stood in front of a stained glass window lit from outdoors and contemplated what was being said in his mind. He was also lit with a red flood light. The closing readers’ theatre was memorized and played all over the sanctuary in a fast paced manner. Two young people were planted within the congregation to ask the questions in Scene 36.
A truly amazing drama that is educational and interesting even for those who don’t take an interest in history!

 

Bible Reference:         Deuteronomy 32:7

 

Cast:              There are approximately 40+ roles in this drama
NOTE each actor, (with the exception of Donald and Donna), would likely play a number of roles. Keep that in mind and where possible do not have multi-role actors playing in back-to-back scenes, this to better facilitate costume and makeup time.
The choir may well be actors as well.
The various Henry Muhlenbergs might well be played by the same actor, using costume and makeup adjustments.

 

Set:                Since we don’t know the exact layout of your church we simply identified that the library and the various pastors throughout the drama would likely be on the main stage, other actors would likely act from a balcony, the pulpit, (or other) locations, (as locations are available/advantageous).

The following are general instructions from each scene:
Scene 1 actors Donna & David, is played from main stage, moving through a door into library. Donna and David would likely be late 20’s to middle age+, they are dressed in current day leisure-type clothing. Both of these actors are committed church workers but, (in order to create essential early conflict), Donna is somewhat put off by the messy and dusty old library in which they have to work. Gradually this is overcome and Donna takes on the leading role.
The Library set is just off the main stage area, with a partial wall and door. Has rather low lighting and is dusty and with cobwebs which the 2 actors walk through as they walk through the door. NOTE the library could also be a scrim set on the main stage.
Scenes 2, 5, 32 & 34 represent a church service, (of which the audience are a part), likely from approximately 1862, features a middle age Pastor. NOTE that there are responsive readings with the current day audience (who really are playing the roles of the 1862 congregation).
Scenes 7, 10, 13, 15, 17, 21, 23, 25, 27, 29, 31 & 37 are from Library set, actors are Donna & Donald, (see Scene 1).
Scenes 3, 4, 6, 9, 12, 33 & 35 are music using old hymns. Director is free to use the suggested music or to replace with music of choice. Try to choose music which reflects the themes of past generations and/or building a church.
Scene 8 (Jesus and Peter) is from Balcony, has Jesus and Peter talking. We recommend Jesus’ back to audience throughout the scene.
Scene 11, (Katharine Luther and son Hans), is from Balcony, has Katharina Luther (age 40+) & son Hans (age mid 20’s+), joined by a male singer from the stage.
Scene 16, (Heinrich Muhlenberg, his wife-to-be Anna and her father Conrad), is from Balcony, has Heinrich (age 30) Anna (late teen+), Conrad (age 40’s+).
Scenes 18 & 20, (Peter and Gotthilf Muhlenberg), is from Balcony, has (older) Peter & Gotthilf (both later years).
Scene 19, (Peter Muhlenberg), is from Pulpit, has (Younger) Peter (age 30’s?), extras in era costumes scattered near center aisle throughout the sanctuary.
Scene 22, (Henry Muhlenberg and President Adams), is from Balcony, has (young) Henry (late teens) and Adams (middle age+) in a tension-filled segment, very important conflict, play it high tempo.
Scene 24, (an unknown church official), is from Balcony, has Church Official (middle age+) at desk writing
Scene 26, (Henry and Rebecca Muhlenberg), is from center aisle or front of sanctuary, moving to pulpit, has Henry (age 30’s) and Rebecca (age late teen to 20’s).
Scene 28, (unknown person at desk), is from Balcony, Person (middle age+) sits at desk writing.
Scene 30, (Henry Muhlenberg), is from Balcony. Henry (age 50+) sitting at desk writing.
In Scene 36 actors are individually situated in spots throughout the sanctuary while Donna & Donald act from main stage.

 

Special Effects:          sound of drum roll in Scene 19

 

Lighting:       spotlights would be useful for balcony and “in-audience” acting

 

Sound:           wireless mics

 

Costumes:     period costumes should be used for all actors except for Donald and Donna and for the speakers in the final scene; those actors would be in current day leisure clothing

 

Props:            books for Library, giant spider webs for Scene 1, rocking chair for Scene 14, desk or table for Scenes 24, 28 & 30

 

Special Instructions:   Songs and some of the church speaking may have to be adjusted to fit your practices and unique theology. The intent in this piece is to create a feeling that the congregation is “sitting in” on the research into the church beginnings, and watching as the Muhlenberg family progress through time.
NOTE that in many cases we have created scenes and happenings which, (although historically not precisely factual), show the happenings in a form which can be better understood and opted into by the audience. So the results, (example in the meeting between Muhlenberg and his wife to be and her father), are not meant to be word for word what actually happened, but the flow of happenings shows the final and accurate results, and in a way that is much more easily followed by the audience.

 

Time:             Will depend on the songs used and other factors but will be in the 75-90 minute range.

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