While Rolling Hills Covenant Church’s 31st annual “Pageant of Our Lord” kicks off Friday, church members also are working to help launch a similar Easter pageant in Lebanon.
This weekend, members of Rolling Hills Covenant Church will air freight 200 pounds of multicolored theatrical make-up to missionary partner Nabil Melki in Beirut, Lebanon for his community’s first-ever living art pageant.
When Melki, a former music director for the Church of God in Torrance, moved back to his homeland in 2002 to become a relief organizer, he took a powerful vision of the popular “Pageant of Our Lord” presentation with him.
Still, Melki said gathering interest in Lebanon for an Easter pageant was a nine-year endeavor because Beirut churches are small and don’t have the financial ability or space to produce something of RHCC’s magnitude.
“Finally, last year, my friend Jose Jerado from L.A. and his wife Baly decided to help me financially,” Melki said in an e-mail from Beirut. “I think it was God’s timing because during that same year, my cousin Camille Melki who is the CEO of Heart for Lebanon — the relief organization I work for — jumped in, adopted this project and shared his facilities for this work.”
RHCC Art Director Brad Hicks said he met with Melki numerous times in 2007 while Melki was visiting from Beirut to explain behind-the-scenes “Pageant of Our Lord” production techniques.
Two artwork frames no longer used for the annual pageant at the Rolling Hills Estates church already were sent by ship container three years ago, plus three pieces previously reproduced by Melki and Jerado at the Torrance church.
Hicks and music director David Halverson communicate by e-mail almost daily with Melki checking on his progress building other sets, sharing expertise and giving encouragement.
“I’ve been working with Nabil trying to save money,” said Halverson who recently “hitch-hiked” a ride to Walnut Creek, California in a church member’s private plane to pick up the discounted theatrical paint. “We’ve already found ways to ship the make-up for one-third of the cost.”
Happily for the Beirut team, more help is on the way.
On April 15 — after 17 performances of the RHCC’s Easter production — Halverson, Hicks and a team of seven other volunteers will travel to Beirut to help Melki fine tune his first-ever production.
The “Glory of Easter,” featuring the life and times of Christ, will premier during the Orthodox Easter holidays on April 22. The production will offer four performances and present 12 works of art, interwoven with music and historical narration.
The RHCC team will teach make-up mixing and application on live models, help stage costume and artwork lighting, and do any touch-up or artwork repairs as needed.
“I’m really humbled to see how willing Brad and Dave were to help while consumed with their own production,” said Melki who is also directing the whole project. “Without them, my anxiety level would have taken me straight to the hospital.”
Currently, Halverson and Hicks are geared up for the Rolling Hills Covenant Church “Pageant of Our Lord” that kicks off Friday.
The performances will offer a new script, new musical selections, two new art pieces and makeovers, like with the 29-year-old “Well of Moses,” which will more realistically reflect the faded tints and colors of the ancient sculpture located in Dijon, France, Hicks said.
Halverson, who pioneered the Rolling Hills Covenant Church “Pageant of Our Lord” 31 years ago, said launching the Lebanese pageant was not without challenges. Getting cosmetics and stage sets through customs might not be difficult in the U.S. but is politically tricky and expensive in the Middle East.
“When Nabil went back to Beirut, he was so determined to start his own pageant,” Halverson said. “It just shows, nothing is impossible with God.”
For tickets and information, visit pageantofourlord.com.