In today’s guest post, Carrie Mast writes about developing a dramatic adaptation of the stories of Jacques d’Auchy from the Martyrs Mirror with her husband, Gerald, and their children. You can find their script, I Have Not Forsaken the Word of God: Jacques D’Auchy’s Confessional Struggle, at the conclusion of the post.
Earlier this year, my husband, one of the few people I know who has read the Martyrs Mirror in its entirety more than once, approached me with an opportunity to dramatize the story of a young Anabaptist martyr by the name of Jacques d’Auchy. Excitedly, Gerald recounted the story of a recently discovered copper plate created by Jan van Luyken featuring Jacques and his wife and accompanying the account of Jacques’ witness narrated in the Martyrs Mirror.
The plate was part of a collection thought long ago to be lost in the spoils of war. Somehow, in 2012, a collector recognized it and connected it to the Kauffman Museum and the Mirror of the Martyrs traveling exhibit—which had acquired twenty-three of the plates in 1988 when a box containing part of the missing collection had become available.
We were being asked to consider writing a reader’s theater which could be performed by people in different communities as the newly discovered plate traveled around North America. The same drama bug that bit me when I was 12 and spurred me to co-write my 6th grade Vacation Bible School class skit for the parent’s program and then propelled me to be a member of a regularly-performing readers theatre group at our church in my adult years made me eagerly agree to the project.
Combining Gerald’s extensive knowledge of the Martyrs Mirror, Anabaptist theology and Mennonite history with my amateur but sincere enjoyment of theatrical performance seemed to be a guaranteed success. It was harder than it looked!
The primary driving force behind our decision to embrace the Jacques d’Auchy story was our work in making the Martyrs Mirror accessible to children and youth as a vehicle for teaching peace in the context of what could be characterized as grim and gruesome tales of the early Anabaptists.
Together, Gerald and I have taught children and youth in our own church a new perspective in considering the stories of the martyrs through role-playing, studying the pictures, watching dramatizations, reframing circumstances in present day situations, among other techniques.
We created a booklet entitled “Teaching Peace to Children with the Martyrs Mirror” and presented our work during a workshop at one of the Mennonite Church USA conventions.
The interest and response to our fledgling work was significant enough for us to plan to continue to expand ways of making the Martyrs Mirror accessible to all. Retelling Jacques’ story fit our mission.
We worked independently, one putting a draft together, then the other adding, reviewing and revising until we came to a place where we were ready to estimate the length of time for a performance.
Gerald and I read the script through together in order to time it and see how it sounded; however, since our cast includes roles for at least four people, we needed two more voices to get a good feel for how the script worked in actual performance. We recruited our oldest two children, Anna (14) and Jacob (12), to assist in measuring the time length of the performance and the functionality of the script.
I was surprised by Jacob’s disappointment one Sunday evening when we realized that we could not complete the reader’s theater before bedtime and so would need to postpone our first trial run.
I became aware somewhere in the middle of the second trial performance amidst the distractions provided by their 3-year-old little brother and the fidgeting of adolescence, that Anna and Jacob believed they were part of something important; there was something powerful from this story drawing them from our ritual Sunday night popcorn and television show with no complaints.
They were willing participants. No convincing was needed for them to sit down and engage with their parents in this 40-minute drama describing the plight of one man in the 16th century!
We plan to revisit this script as a family. We want to recall our dramatic encounters with faithful words and deeds from the past to see what specifically resonated with Anna and Jacob. We hope that, with their input, we will be able to further engage in our work of making the Martyrs Mirror more accessible to people of all ages.