When I sat down with two of the creative team members of The Road to Zamboria musical, there was something in their demeanors that stood out to me. Co-director, Darling Heldt, and co-writer, Michael Murray, were understandably excited about the new musical and its return to the Fringe Festival. But what made an impression on me was how truly thoughtful and intentional they both were.
Both had played similar roles in the production and presentation of The Prodigal Musical at the Fringe Festival last spring. The Fringe is an arts festival that showcases performing arts in an uncensored and unjuried environment. This year, Heldt and Murray are excited to be able to build upon their experiences from last year.
“We knew we wanted to go back before the festival even ended last year," Michael started.
Darling agreed, saying that, for example, even the storyline of the musical was chosen with intentionality for the event.
“We wanted to use a parable again (The Prodigal Musical was based on Jesus’ parable of the Prodigal Son) because it allowed us to follow and kind of embrace the storytelling that Jesus participated in,” Darling explained. “He used parables to tell stories while He was out in the community, inviting discussion and interpretation among listeners.”
These were some of the same goals that they had for telling a story about God’s nature to our community. So, this year’s The Road to Zamboria is based on the parable of the Good Samaritan found in the book of Luke.
“We want to bring meaning back to that phrase.” Michael says, recognizing how the phrase, “Good Samaritan” has been used so often and in so many different contexts over the years that many people miss out on the way Jesus revealed His heart when He originally told the story.
In addition to reviving the understanding of the story, the team is hoping that everyone involved will be able to really internalize what Jesus was trying to say. Darling was a little hesitant, yet determined, to emphasize that they do mean everyone, and this is where their intentionality and thoughtfulness really shines. Much like the two people groups in the musical, the Woodshires and the Zamborians, the team recognizes that we can all be prone to separate ourselves from those who seem different.
“I want to use this opportunity to explore how we can be different in community," Darling articulates carefully, “to quote the musical a little, ‘we are so much more than sides’. I feel like spending time at the Fringe is as much for us, as Christians, as it is for anyone we meet who may not be.”
So what is the Church doing at The Fringe? They are, as Darling put it, “asking kind and curious questions and really listening to the answers." They are loving and getting to know people regardless of the differences that we may see as glaring, but that Jesus looks right past. They are examining what it means to live in our communities in ways that mirror the way Jesus lived while He walked among us.
But let’s look at it a little more clearly; we are the Church, and this is our community.
Each one of us has a place and function in our community and therefore, we each have a place and function at The Fringe Festival. So, go, meet people, make friends, ask questions. Go and see the musical, but, more importantly, go and see people; see them the way that Jesus does. We are the Church and we are going to The Fringe Festival!