Have you ever thought about the Palm Sunday story of Jesus’ entry to Jerusalem from the perspective of the donkey?
Mark Burrows has.
And this year, he let his imagination off the leash to create a 16-minute puppet mini-opera to tell the story from the unique vantage point of Jack, a young donkey who lives in Bethpage with his grandmother, Nana. (For the sake of continuity, Nana just so happened to be the donkey who carried Mary to Bethlehem). The voice of Nana is Mary Grim, featuring puppeteering by Rev. Nancy Froman)
Since 2006 Mark and his team have prepared a new puppet story each year for the Family Christmas Eve services. When that streak came to an end in 2020, Mark says he felt like there was unfinished business. “I wanted to do something for our children who have had to give up so much,” he adds. “And Palm Sunday is a worship service that often highlights children, so it seemed like a natural fit.”
So to kick off our Holy Week worship services this year, “To Carry a King,” a 16- minute puppet mini-opera will open our 9:30 and 11:00 am on Palm Sunday, March 28.
This original work, written and composed by Mister Mark, is performed with love from members of our very own church who spent hours in a recording studio giving their time and talents to put this together to offer an entertaining and thought-provoking opening to Holy Week that also promises a moment of lightness and delight that will appeal all ages.
As the story goes (no spoilers here!), following a conversation with his best friend, a goose named Obie (short for Obadiah, played by none other than Ed Landwehr, who also does his own puppeteering), Jack (Played by Shannon McGrann, puppeteering by Trevor Shive) longs to be a part of all the excitement happening in nearby Jerusalem. Then two men arrive unexpectedly at Jack’s home and he learns that he has been chosen for something very special.
The Children’s Choir directed by Julie Dean and Ashley Tillerson provides musical support to the story. It includes Clara Dean, Caroline Hughey, Claire Hughey, Ava Long, Elle Sanders, Lilly Shive, and Sarah Strawser. Accompanying this clever and engaging take on the familiar Palm Sunday story is Peggy Graff on the piano, Dianne Campbell on Violin, and Mister Mark on Percussion.
“We prerecorded all the audio at Fort Worth Sound as we normally do for the Christmas Eve puppet shows,” Mark relates. “But the main reason we recorded the audio this year is for safety – we could put each singer in their own booth. And this year we included a small children’s choir — each individual also not only had their own booth for COVID safety, but somehow we were able to keep the whole thing MinistrySafe as well.”
Already looking ahead to a COVID-restriction-free Holy Week next year, Mark adds that his big dream for this work is that next year we can do the whole thing LIVE with live singing from the puppeteers, with, he says, “a children’s choir that COVERS the front of our sanctuary!”