This weekend I went with our youth pastor, Daniel Ziegenmier, to Conclave 2013, “a training conference to equip and rejuvenate your youth ministry team.” The great thing was that it was here in our home town, not across the country.
While strolling through the exhibit hall where various ministries had booths and displays, I came across this neat fake camp fire. The flame in the middle was made of a fabric that fluttered above a silent fan and colored light. From only a few feet away it looked real.
It would have been nice to have one of these back in 1984. There would be less emotional scars.
High School Play 1984
In my junior year of high school the junior/senior speech class wrote and performed a Christmas play. I had a part in everything, from acting to writing and prop design. It was the prop design that had serious flaws.
The play was held in the auditorium of Hamill Road Baptist Church in Hixson, TN. The set took up the entire stage where the pulpit usually sat, along with most of the choir loft. It was a big production in a very nice, carpeted church.
Hamill Road had light blue carpet…really nice, comfortable, flammable carpet.
In one of the scenes the cast went Christmas caroling, so there was a set complete with houses and front doors.
Following the caroling, all the cast went to a house to sit around and talk about the Christmas story. There they drank hot chocolate as they sat around a fire place…
…a fire place in church.
It essentially came down to 2 or 3 other guys and myself. We had to figure out how to build a fireplace that looked real enough, but didn’t actually burn wood or gas. Unfortunately, we had no prior special effects experience.
I don’t know if it was Jeff DeHart, Brian Gibson, or myself who decided it was a good idea to take a candle, lay it on its side, notch it out, and expose 3 to 4 pieces of wick. I don’t know who it was, but one of us thought that we could light a candle in front of tin foil, surround it with dry wood, and make it would look like a burning fire place.
Did you know that when you notch out a candle, pull out the wick, light it, and let it burn during a 10-minute scene that the flame would eventually burn through? Nobody told us!
I was proud of all of us. Like true professionals, when the fire hit the carpet…that beautiful, baby-blue carpet…we were able to smack the floor with our hands to the beat of another Christmas carol. Nearly in a panic, knowing our semester grades were on the line, not to mention our eternal souls, we put the fire out with our bare hands. Our parents didn’t have a clue.
Providentially, the next to the last scene involved the death of a character and a real casket. Without going into much detail, the layer of smoke created by the fire became a special effect worthy of an Oscar! It was beautiful!
For some reason the air conditioning system didn’t come on, and the smoke spread out like a sea over the congregation. When the rented spotlight in the back came on, the exposed smoke made the congregation look like an eerie cemetery full of dressed-up headstones. I got chills.
Well, we got a standing ovation and an “A” for the project. Unfortunately, because the play was so well-received, we were asked to do an encore.
That’s when the church burned down…