BJT - Pirates of Penzance

Clifford, Alex and Sister

Apostolic Magazine Article

The Pirates of RiverCity

One of our Brisbane churchesí the RiverCity Family Church under their operation care ministry arm hosted a unique ministry event the week after Easter.

"The Pirates of Penzance", a Gilbert and Sullivan musical written in the 1880ís was rehearsed and produced in one intensive, fun-filled week from Monday morning through to Saturday night. OneĖHundred and Fifteen Children aged 5-16 were registered and involved in the production. Over 25 volunteers in the areas of production and administration worked to organise the event. Overall there were over 400 people on site for each of the three performances and close to 150 people on site consistently during the week in order to ensure a successful event.

Jack and Zack

The process of developing this event took over four months. Ps. Jack Bradford, RiverCity staff member (Childrenís and Creative Ministries) used the idea of directing a major theatrical production as a model for organising people and setting time schedules in place. An inestimable amount of time was taken just to edit and absorb the play itself, interpreting the production into ascertainable chunks of information so that the team members could take hold of the play and rehearse each piece successfully. Attracting and motivating personnel, and volunteers through phone calls, personal meetings and group production meetings as well as developing rehearsal schedules and production plans also required a lot of work.

It started when River Cityís Senior Pastor Peter Constantine believed in the idea as he was looking for a way to connect with the community. He met with Jack in December and together they organised the work to begin in January. Jack quickly developed a team of production assistants including a Music Director, Choreographer and Assistant Director/Stage Manager and Costume Coordination (Peterís wife Joy) as well as leaders in the area Administration, Hospitality and Computer Technology. Jack who also is a board member with Harvest Rain Theatre Company enjoined their services to give the "Pirates" a professional touch as they assisted in the areas of advertising, set construction, box office, light and sound design.

Ladies Chorus

Each day the children would rehearse in groups of Pirates, Police and Young Ladies as presented in the play. RiverCity had just finished building renovations which enabled the children to use four major rehearsal spaces throughout the RiverCity complex. This diversity allowed the production to take children in groups of up to 40 kids and rehearse them without infringement on the other groups. This project also had enough skilled volunteers to work with individuals or smaller groups who had special needs. One boy, a hemiplegic (Paralyzed on one side of his body) had special needs but most of the children, except for two or three 5-7yr olds were physically and emotionally capable of keeping up with the pace and rigor of the event.


Production Team

The production teams kept the rehearsals moving quickly which helped maintain interest and control without having to demand or exert a strong sense of authority. This as well as a clever "points" reward system gave the adult team members the opportunity to get along side the kids as mentors to encourage and speak into their lives as friends and co-workers in the event. This strategy was crucial to the success of the event. The administrative team also comprised of many volunteers who supported the production team by developing daily newsletters, cleaning, communication, welcoming, giving breaks for the production staff and roll calls etc.

Louise congratulating Richard

Follow up was very important and in order to further connect with these kids and their families, there was a two page form devised and given to each of the students asking for criticism and comments on the week long process and performance. These forms were filled out by over 90% of the students and are being collated. The results will show the team areas of service and coordination that need work. The forms also act as a way to communicate to the parents that we as a ministry and community organisation are open and able to receive advice and criticism. There are also plans to meet with all the workers as a follow-up mechanism to debrief and discuss with them how the next project-based program should proceed, as well as to discuss areas of success and areas that need work. This meeting will also help to confirm to the workers, (mostly volunteers), their value and sense of involvement.


Ladies, Jack and Zack

Overall there was a sense of achievement as one of the main goals of the "Pirates Project" was to produce a consistent environment of encouragement and support where these 115 children and their families were given focused instruction and attention in the Creative or Performing Arts. It was a clear intention of the team to nurture and impart a strong sense of significance and support to each individual and to the group as a whole in hopes that it would create an impacting experience.


Police Chorus

Another of the projectís goals was to leave the children and their families with a message that their hopes for creative fulfillment and expression could be fulfilled. In short it was the teamís desire that encouragement, nurture and hope as part of the strategic process of this production would give these children and their families a platform for further creative work as well as a memory that they would cherish for a lifetime.

In the aftermath, it seems through letters and phone calls from happy parents that the strategic efforts of this project to communicate a strong community ethos where family values and healthy socialization were experienced were greatly realised. The quality of the environment and the way in which goals to meet these peoples needs were based on a highly focused and planned event and the participation of staff and volunteers made the project a success.

Future events are in the planning stages now. Plans to produce another production -based project in the community in the September/October School holidays such as "HMS Pinafore" or "Youíre a Good Man Charlie Brown" are in the works. Costing is a factor and a final decision will be made when the team meets to discuss these ideas.

Sergeant Zack, Jacob, Richard and Joshua

Another idea of great interest is to develop a creative ministries seminar for adults and children during the summer school holidays in January as well as a follow-up Easter holiday school next year. RiverCity is also looking at the feasibility of developing a yearlong Arts Training Programme through Operation Care.

Leads Saturday Afternoon