This year, I determined that we would base our play on “The Other Wise Man,” a short story written by Henry Van Dyke, an author and clergyman who is well known for composing the lyrics for “Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee.” We used one original song, but mostly adapted lyrics to traditional hymns or used carols and religious melodies (including “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring,” the tune Van Dyke selected for his words to “Joyful, Joyful”) as our music. It was particularly effective for this production, which we called The Fourth Wise Man, the story of Artaban, a magi seeking the king whose birth is foretold by the star.
Artaban tells his fellow scholars that he has sold all his earthly goods to buy a sapphire, ruby, and pearl to take as gifts to the king. He intends to join the magi, Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar, and invites the other scholars to go with him.
They either scoff at his folly or have excuses for why they cannot accompany him. So, he starts his journey, but is halted when he comes across a dying man in the desert. He sells his sapphire to provide care for the man and to buy supplies to help him catch up with the magi.
Finally, after a life of searching, he arrives in Jerusalem thirty three years later, on the day Jesus has been sentenced to crucifixion. As he heads toward Golgotha, hoping to purchase Jesus’ freedom, he is confronted by a young woman who has been seized as a slave to pay her father’s debts. Artaban gives his pearl to ransom the woman’s life.
Then, he is imprisoned beneath a column of the temple in an earthquake. As he lies dying, he mourns that his life has been meaningless. God’s voice from Heaven tells him, “What you have done for others, you have done for me.”
If you would be interested, please click on this link to read Van Dyke’s story. It has been adapted into many versions, including a one act play and an opera by M. Ryan Taylor.
We were privileged to receive a generous gift from a couple who had been in some of our productions, Matthew and Tracy Davis Davenport, which enabled us to purchase body microphones for each of our actors. It truly made a marvelous difference in the sound quality. Several people commented that they were so pleased to be able to sit anywhere in our auditorium, without having to worry that they might not be able to hear.
Have you been involved in a theatrical production? What are your favorite memories?