When I sat down with the creative team behind The Prodigal Musical, it was obvious to me that these four are brimming with absolute excitement. It’s feasible that 17 percent of that excitement was because Marco Randazzo, who co-wrote the musical, brought a ton of candy to share. But that other 83 percent is because this group is all a tizzy to take The Prodigal Musical to the Orlando Fringe Festival. As they should be! After a successful run at the Herndon campus last summer, the team (Darling Heldt, co-director; Michael Murray, co-writer; Lauren Lanker, co-director; Marco Randazzo, co-writer) fantasized about taking the show to Fringe with the same level of imagination they use when dreaming of winning the lottery.
As Darling describes though, the original vision was to take a Christian story outside of the walls of Summit. So it was worth a shot. Once they got the green-light from Summit’s leadership team, they applied to the Fringe lottery system. Despite initially not getting selected for a medium-sized theater, the team was given an opportunity to apply for a larger venue and ended up being chosen.
“We made it by the skin of our teeth!” Darling laughs. “But that’s how God rolls, right? The team was so excited. I think it just showed us how God’s vision for this was bigger than our own. If He wanted us in the 300-person theatre, OK! Let’s do it!”
Attending the Fringe Festival is a very natural extension of something Summit is already doing through events like niceSERVE and our presence in the 33rd Street Jail—we see value in bringing the truth of the gospel out into the community. Teaching Minister Zach Van Dyke summed this up well in his last sermon of the How Love Looks series—we want people to be surprised by the grace of God in a surprising place. Their own turf.
“I think sometimes we can get a little insulated in our church building,” Lauren explains. “This is a great opportunity for us to get out of our comfort zone and into a new environment. To get to know people and love people and hopefully expose them to new ideas. And vice versa, too—for us to be exposed to new ideas.”
Michael nods in agreement, adding, “We don’t want to just go there and pack up and go home. We want to be present while we’re there and see other shows. We’re all in for the Fringe experience.”
So what’s that mean? “The Fringe experience”? It means a lot of things, because as the tagline for the festival says—anyone can Fringe. This is a completely uncensored, unjuried, and anything-goes theatre environment. There will be more than 100 shows at the festival, ranging anywhere from a G-rating to a not-so-G-rating.
But it also means Fringe-goers have an open-mindedness toward seeing something new and going outside of their comfort zone. That’s what a story based on a biblical parable will be to some Fringe-goers. Uncomfortable.
Maybe going to a theatre festival without censors sounds incredibly uncomfortable to you. But we have an opportunity to leave the walls of Summit and reach people. It’ll be uncomfortable for some Fringe veterans, and it will be uncomfortable for some first-timers. But Jesus didn’t come so we could live safe and comfortable lives. He came for the younger brothers who wander far and the older brothers who stay behind and everyone in between.
So let’s absolutely share that truth at the Fringe Festival! Let’s tell the prodigal story and show the grace of God to Fringe-goers of all types. The cast and crew will handle the lighting effects, singing, and dancing. How about the rest of us commit to just showing up?
For tickets, cast bios, and more, visit theprodigalmusical.com!