The Grant Street Players, as many of you know, started as a way for “alums and chums” who had been through Keith Coppage’s drama and music classes at Mt. Diablo, performing at the school, but now (having graduated) had few opportunities to enjoy performances with their friends. So in 2009/2010 Keith put together a group of alums who did comedy, improv, and music for periodic performances at Mt. Diablo High School itself. Within a short time, they decided to perform first "Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat" and later “Godspell” and for various reasons – moved the performances to St. Michael’s. It was after all, nearby, and it was Keith’s home parish.
The Vestry reached out to the young adult group and encouraged them to plan more performances (and rehearsals) at St. Michael’s as did the Rev. Pam Redding, the rector at the time. So, as the arts programs at Mt. Diablo were reduced, the connection with St. Michael’s increased, And the performances included not only the alums but the current high school students who wanted to continue with music and theater. The support of St. Michael’s and the welcome that the young people enjoyed created a vibrant music and drama program which was flourishing when The Reverend Amanda May became the Vicar in the spring of 2013.
As one of her gifts when she arrived, she was given a poster of “Pentecost Junction” – at the time she wasn’t sure exactly what this meant – and for whatever reason – she never asked ☺ Not long after this, the programs began – and she remember coming to the first one at St. Michael’s – “What the World Needs Now” thinking that it would be a few parents and some of our parishioners. Imagine her surprise when she drove into the parking lot and it was full! Parishioners brought snacks for the intermission and the entire performance was terrific! She also remember talking to the young people about their “costumes” and outfits (which were terrific!) and discovering that they had been acquired at Goodwill and other thrift shops – a fabulous pair of shoes from dumpster diving – and “performance outfits” courtesy of Keith. Fit was hard to believe – the professional performance – the good training which they had obviously had – and their energetic and warm spirit which permeated the parish hall that night – it was a great success with many others following!
Over these last four years – the students from Mt. Diablo, alums and chums – have put on innumerable shows – all wonderful – and all different. But through these years, the Grant Street Players have changed somewhat. It began with our “Growing Hope” project – focusing on hunger in our own community, signing people up for Cal Fresh, and growing vegetables. Many helped build our planter boxes at St. Alban’s, St. John’s and St. Michael’s – and we wouldn’t have finished them without Alex Wolfe, and Ben and Clancy Darcy. Katie Iler helped me out working in the office, and all of them turning out bulletins – again with Keith’s help! And so it went on – help around St. Michael’s and St. John’s turned into our regular “go-to” guys for moving furniture, putting up Christmas decorations, draining water off the roof (at St. Michael’s), cleaning and setting up the Grant Street Players room in the parish hall, and most recently helping us put up and take down the Icon exhibit.
But more than this – the Grant Street Players have become part of us……volunteering as acolytes, readers, choirs and actors for our services. Baking cakes and other extravaganzas for the Easter bake sale – setting up for our Pentecost picnic (last year) – and cooking, cleaning and setting up on a regular basis. And of course – putting on wonderful performances including a fabulous rendition of “Working,” various Christmas extravaganzas, and a few years ago “Standing on Broadway” – a fundraiser for justice and the end to human trafficking.
But beyond this they have become part of these wonderful communities at St. Michael’s and St. John’s. They gather together at the churches to talk, to practice, but also to pray and to reflect in silence. They often come after school, not only to work on homework but also to find a quiet place to relax and be in the presence of God. This year a group took on the Vigil between Maundy Thursday and Good Friday – keeping watch in the chapel when it was empty – so there would not be a time our little chapel was not filled with prayers.
Some of our young people have been baptized and confirmed here at St. Michael’s. Older members of the Grant Street Players have been married here – and have brought their children to be baptized. Others attend other churches as well – and who can criticize young people who want to be in church? Their lives light up our lives and we are grateful to God for their presence.
The Grant Street Players came to us at St. Michael’s originally – because we had good space and were welcoming. They came because it was Keith’s church and because it was nearby. But they stayed because they felt loved and accepted here….and because they had formed a community within the community of St. Michael’s. Now this is also true at St. John’s…. and in both cases, the young people come and worship in the “between times” – between school and work, between Sundays, between their anxieties and their hopes, between their fear and their faith, between their despair and their love. They come seeking God and seeking peace – seeking acceptance and seeking community – seeking answers to their deepest questions and seeking friendship from strangers. They have been drawn here by the Holy Spirit as an answer to our prayers. And as a result, we have become witnesses of Christ to them – and they have become witnesses of Christ to us. Together, we have found and formed the beloved community – a place where you will always be welcome!