In the northwest corner of Champlin tucked away on the corner of Dean
Avenue and Independence Avenue, nearly 20 actors have been hard at work rehearsing for their upcoming production of “Pilgrim’s Progress” at Divine Love Fellowship Church. The group, operating as the En Morphe Theatre Company, has staged the show for numerous performances in the spring and fall for the last two years. According to director Margaret Baird, this may be the final curtain call for “Pilgrim’s Progress,” at least for a while.
Margaret and her husband, Pastor Paul Baird, have been operating the non-denominational church in Champlin since 1975.
“The theatre has been a part of it almost since the beginning,” said Margaret who was bitten by the theater bug at age 6.
She was involved in drama throughout high school, studied theater courses at the University of Minnesota and performed in summer stock plays as well as at Theater in the Round in Minneapolis.
“I was headed to Valencia College in California, a school for the dramatic arts, when the Lord Jesus got a hold of my life,” states Margaret about the merging of her interests. However, she initially thought she would have to leave behind her talents and love of theater to marry Paul and serve in the ministry they were building.
She spent more than a decade working as a drama and speech teacher in an A.C.E. Christian School in Minneapolis, meanwhile exploring the concept of “drama as ministry.” She has written and directed a number of productions since.
“Pilgrim’s Progress,” written by John Bunyan in the 1600’s piqued Margaret’s curiosity as the first allegory ever written using such qualities as Hypocrisy and Faithful as actual characters within the storyline.
Additionally, the storyline is one of the most popular, following the main character as they travel in search of the celestial city, guided and tempted by others along the path, called “The Way.” Sound familiar yet? If not, it should since many classic tales take a page directly out of “Pilgrim’s Progress” – tales such as “Wizard of Oz” and “Lord of the Rings.”
Margaret adapted the book to the script that took shape in the form of John Bunyan becoming a character who narrates the show. All the actors have participated in the show since its first staging. Chuck Rudie, of Maple Grove portrays Bunyan while Andy Vansloun portrays Christian, who is the main character journeying on “The Way” seeking the celestial city to unload his burden.
The audience meets the other actors along the way portraying sometimes up to four or five different parts. To keep it fresh, the actors often appear in masks, which is part of the inspiration for the theater company name — En Morphe — which means “to change masks, like and actor that plays many parts.”
Christian encounters ghouls, an 8-foot giant and a winged beast. Margaret says her son, Billy Baird, “does all the athletic stuff with the giant and things.”
The overall effect is a spectacle created around Christian’s pilgrimage from the City of Destruction to the Gates of the Celestial City. He and his companions, Faithful and Hopeful encounter Evangelist (portrayed by Pastor Paul), Interpreter, Giant Despair and many of the characters Bunyan saw in his “dream.” In this Christian fantasy they meet with “temptations, toils and snares guided by the Voices of Scripture to show them “The Way.”
“It’s pretty entertaining,” said Margaret. “People have come and been blown away by the quality of it.”
Margaret says the production is entertaining for all ages. Ron Powell, a member of the church who assists in publicity for the show believes the show appeals to individuals of all religious backgrounds as all people can identify with the storyline.
If you go…
Pilgrim’s Progress will perform Friday, Nov. 9 and Friday, Nov. 16 at 7 p.m. as well as Saturday, Nov. 10 and Saturday, Nov. 17 at 3 p.m. Located at Divine Love Fellowship Church, 564 Independence Avenue, Champlin. Info: 763-576-0866 or www.enmorphe.org