October 14, 2011

Redeeming Love adapted by Scott Hayes

“I want you to love me. I want you to trust me enough to let me love you, and I want you to stay here with me so we can build a life together. That's what I want”
― Francine Rivers, Redeeming Love
Scott Hayes, Associate Professor of Theatre and head of the MA Theatre program, is currently rehearsing a production of Redeeming Love, an adaptation of Francine Rivers’ novel of the same name. The book is extremely popular, having sold over a million copies, and Scott was thrilled to have the opportunity to adapt it for the stage. He states, “I was able to contact Francine Rivers through her writing agency. I expressed interest in adapting the novel, and send my resumé  to her. Up until that time, apart from a one man play I wrote for a college project and some short drama sketches for churches, I had very little playwriting experience… Francine granted me the rights to adapt the novel, and told me later that many requests had come before mine. I was amazed, and clearly saw this approval as a work of God. Francine only had a couple of stipulations. First, that I remain faithful to both her novel and the book of Hosea that the main female character was a prostitute. Second, that I faithfully dramatize Angel's conversion to Christianity. Because of my strong identification with the novel I had no problem with either of the stipulations.”

The play was produced in a workshop setting a few years later, and was a major success. Since that initial staging, the play hasn’t been produced again, until now. A local area church, New Life Providence, recently chose the novel Redeeming Love for a women’s reading group. The pastor, Tina Davis, heard of Scott’s adaptation and contacted him, asking him to present a couple of scenes for the reading group. Scott says, “The response was fairly overwhelming. Women were crying with identification, there was quite a bit of prayer, and repeatedly we were asked when we would produce the entire play. A few months later, I was working on other things, assuming that Redeeming Love was once more back on the shelf. Out of the blue, Tina Davis called me and asked if the church could commission a production of Redeeming Love."

Redeeming Love is based on the story of Hosea in Bible, who marries a prostitute named Gomer. Although she is repeatedly unfaithful to him, he continues to pursue her and call her back to being his wife. The story is a picture of God’s relationship to the Church, and how His unconditional love always calls us away from our sin and back to him. The novel is set in “California’s gold country, 1850. A time when men sold their souls for a bag of gold and women sold their bodies for a place to sleep.” The prostitute named Angel meets a man name Michael Hosea. “A man who seeks his Father’s heart in everything, Michael Hosea obeys God’s call to marry Angel and to love her unconditionally. Slowly, day by day, he defies Angel’s every bitter expectation until, despite her resistance her frozen heart begins to thaw. But with her unexpected softening come overwhelming feelings of unworthiness and fear. And so Angel runs. Back to the darkness, away from her husband’s pursuing love, terrified of the truth she can no longer deny: Her final healing must come from the One who loves her even more than Michael Hosea does…the One who will never let her go.” (Excerpts from Francine Rivers’ website: http://francinerivers.com/books/redeeming-love)

The story had a very personal connection for Scott. He says, “A couple of years before reading the novel I had been delivered from an addiction cycle, and that deliverance came when I finally accepted my identity as a Christian - adopted by the Father as an heir, because of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Angel, the prostitute, was struggling against her relationship with Michael Hosea because she couldn't accept she was good enough, she couldn't separate herself from her past sin. Redeeming Love wasn't just a romance novel, or a woman's novel, it was my story.”
The company for this production is made up of Christopher Graham, a graduate from Regent's MFA in acting program; Brittany Baird, Marilyn Schappacher, and John Scritchfield, all current M.A. theatre students; and Elizabeth Litwak, Alicia Bonham, and Justin Winters, current MFA students.

Elizabeth Litwak has enjoyed the challenge of working on another original script (she was previously cast in Disorientation of Butterflies, written by MFA alum Alaska Reese Vance, which premiered this summer at the New York International Fringe Festival). She says “Working with Scott has been so amazing, because he’s taken this story, primarily viewed as a woman’s novel, and interpreted it from a man’s point of view, which gives a lot of life and color to the story. It’s a great challenge because Scott can do whatever he needs to do to shape the story. His specific point of view brings cohesion and a definite through-line to the script.” Beth also identifies with the universality of the story. “It’s a true story of redemption – raw and real, not sanitized like many Christian stories tend to be. The message is pertinent to everyone today – that redemption that’s available to us all.”

MA student John Scritchfield agrees. "I think more people than we realize struggle with grace. This play tells the story of undeserved and unexplainable love...I have had to take a look at my personal relationship with Christ and admit that, like Angel, I've fled from the open arms of love. I have sold myself short. It's wonderful to know though that this love will always take you back. In the love of Christ, you always have a home."

MA Marilyn Schappacher enjoyed the experience of using theatre in a ministry capacity.  She states, "I intend on using my training and knowledge of theatre for Christ and to raise the spirit of excellence in the theatre ministry community and craft. Many souls can be led to the amazing God that we serve and that is where my heart is at the end of the day."

The production of Redeeming Love is to be the culminating event for New Life Providence's DNA Conference, an annual event for young women. The conference is on October 21. There will be one additional performance the next night as part of New Life's Arts Cafe series. For more information, contact Tina Davis at mailto:tina@newlifeprovidence.com.

1 comment:

  1. I am so thrilled that this wonderful book has been adapted for the stage. I am a current theatre major and I have noticed that there is a lack of Christian themed plays. It's inspiring to read about how God is working through people to spread the Word through theatre!