This will be the first of what now seems like a never-ending sea of “lasts” over the next couple weeks and months. I probably won’t write about all of them because first, that might emotionally end me, and second, not all of these “lasts” are worth writing about. However, Big Picture is without a doubt the single greatest activity I’ve participated in my entire life. So naturally, that means it is worth writing about.
I’ve thought fairly long and hard about this blog since it’s the first of the “lasts” and therefore I had time and energy to prepare myself for it. The conclusion that I came to about Big Picture was affirmed tonight after the show when I had someone come up to me and say how great the show was. Specifically they said it made them laugh, it made them think, and it made them get emotional. The conclusion that I came to is this- that while it’s never been clearly stated, every Big Picture show’s subtle goal is to give everyone a “Jimmy V” day in the process of 30-40 minutes. If you are unfamiliar with a “Jimmy V” day the term came from the 1993 ESPY awards when North Carolina State’s inspirational coach, Jim Valvano gave a speech in the midst of his fight with bone, cancer where he said this:
“To me, there are three things we all should do every day. We should do this every day of our lives. Number one is laugh. You should laugh every day. Number two is think. You should spend some time in thought. And number three is, you should have your emotions moved to tears, could be happiness or joy. But think about it. If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that’s a full day. That’s a heck of a day. You do that seven days a week, you’re going to have something special.”
I believe this statement to be completely true and am proud to say that Big Picture unintentionally uses his model to present our show. Our goal is to make people laugh, make people think, and move people to tears.
Make People Laugh- I’m not shy to admit that making people laugh is just something that comes so naturally to those in Big Picture that it’s often difficult because we have too much material. In many of our strictly comedy skits we have to start dialing back jokes because we would get to the point where the skit would be 15 minutes long and nothing but one-liners. while it would still be hilarious, it wouldn’t be something we would want to present on stage. Over my four years in Big Picture I have done some pretty crazy things. From my first show delivering the line as a dramatic doctor “He’s got the joy, joy, joy, joy, down in his heart.” Where? “Down. In his heart.” to the last show where we literally spoofed Weekend at Bernie’s. Here comes a quick but lengthy list of some of the best: The Curious Case of Benji-George Bailey (yes you read that right), turning a pre-written skit about abstinence into a skit with dead possums, Gingerella, every Oscar’s opener, building a barricade on stage, making fun of Jason in every manner possible, Spelling Bee, 60 second Bible stories, anytime I got to sing, throwing things into the audience, violencing people, watching Caitlin Scroggins violencing people, pigeons, marriage, good idea/bad ideas, 24 hour plays, and so many other things I can’t remember from my (at least) 25 shows with Big Picture. While these moments often had no point other than to make people laugh, Dave always made one of them into a legitimate point that we would never see coming. For example, he turned a skit about drinking your own urine into a substantial message. It’s ridiculous what that man can turn into a lesson. As silly as it seems, without some good hard laughter at the beginning we would never be able to connect with a crowd in later skits where have a point we want to make.
Make People Cry- I joked about it during the recruiting bit and how it’s how you know your acting is really good, but that’s really not true. The sketches that bring people to tears are not because of how good our acting or writing is, it’s because the message hits close to home with the actors, so it’s not really acting but just telling a part of their life, or because the message hits too close to home for the audience members. Now that doesn’t mean we don’t prepare and that we just walk up and improv the serious stuff. They are often the most difficult things to write because there is always a perfect line to express our emotions and thoughts and it’s a beating to find every perfect line for a 5-7 minute sketch. There are four sketches that stick out in my mind as ones that best exemplify this idea and they have one main similarity- God showed up and the Holy Spirit moved in us while we were on stage. No matter how hard we try, no amount of prep can be more powerful than a spontaneous, spirit filled moment. I can’t really go into detail about the four sketches on here but I’ll say them and you can ask me about them some other time if you so desire. They are: the Radiate retreat final sketch with Dillon and Jamie, my sophomore year closer “You don’t have to choose Jesus,” my junior year closer “Berricades,” (inside spelling joke) and finally this years closer with Spencer and I. Each of these were so special to the cast and audiences because it was real. We were expressing our doubts, fears, and mistakes and that’s an emotional thing to do regardless of how straight forward its done. The sign of these sketches being done properly are when, after countless run-throughs, we still get emotional during the actual performance because it means so much to us. These sketches may very well all be at the top of my favorite all time.
Make People Think- Making people think is what Big Picture wants above all. We write things and perform them not just for entertainment but so that people will take a minute and think about how what’s on stage relates to their lives and the lives of those around them. One of the most satisfying feelings is knowing that we nailed a skitch that made people think, and the way we know that is not the massive applause or vocal affirmation during the skit. It’s when we have people so captivated that not a sound is made in the audience during the entire skitch to the point where they don’t know if they should break the silence with applause when it’s over. Over my time in Big Picture we’ve made people think in a wide variety of ways: handing them the point, creating stage pictures, creating “pin drop” moments, and (my personal favorite) leaving the skitch unresolved. I love giving no resolution because it is so true to life most of the time. Our struggles don’t often get wrapped up neatly with a closing statement like a bow on top. Our lives are messy. We need Jesus to clean it up. Above all the things we present, I sincerely hope that the message we preach most is that we are broken and desperately need a loving savior who we should surrender our lives because He is the way.
I don’t really know when it’s going to fully fit me that I have done my last Big Picture show. I really hope no ones around when it happens because tears will be in full supply. The thing that I appreciate most about Big Picture and will miss most is not the acting or the praise we get afterwards from those who watch our show and are so supportive of what we do. It’s the relationships that I’ve made/grown through the years of being in the cast. It allows and really calls for deep meaningful relationships between cast members and a director that come from an array of backgrounds and are all in different places in their faith journey. Most of my closest and truest friends have at one time or another been a part of the cast with me.
To all previous casts- thank you for being my friends and mentors. You have all taught me so much about acting, life, and being a Christian with your words and actions. I would not be half of the person I am today if it wasn’t for your examples.
To those leaving with me this year- it’s been fun. I could not have had a better group of people to go through this journey this year with. I have been so blessed by all of you and I’m excited to see and hear about what each of you does with your life in college. Don’t quit acting. Use it for God’s glory. He’s given each of you a gift that is evident to anyone who has seen you act.
To those who have time left in the cast- You are all so amazing. It has been my privilege to have worked with each of you for even such a short amount of time it feels like this year has been. You are all so talented and I know that Big Picture is in perfectly capable hands with you in the years to come. I’m so proud to have seen the immense growth you have all made this year. I hope that I’ve been an example of what experienced cast members are supposed to look like and how they are supposed to lead but also listen. I’ll be back to watch shows next year, so don’t be terrible.
To Jason- Big Picture could not have a better leader. Words can’t describe how important you are to every one who has ever been in the cast. You are a man with ridiculously large doses of knowledge, sarcasm, and kindness expressed through throwing things. You specifically have helped make me a better man. Keep it up.
Thank you to all who have supported me in my four years and please continue to support Big Picture in the future. This group is only limited to what God can do with them, so anything is possible.