When I was a kid, I was involved in the youth fellowship group at my church. I was one of those lucky kids whose parents were actually group leaders, which meant that even though I was technically too young for the group (which was meant for high school students in grades 9 through 12), I was allowed to be a part of it from grade 7 on.
I say lucky, because that was an amazing group of people. Every now and again, a group will come together and will just have the right combination of people: people who have energy, spirit, and creativity. It just so happened that this was one of those groups, and it came at a very important time in my life. Those middle school years are just plain rough on a human being!
Possibly one of the best things about being part of the group was going on retreats. There was one in the fall, one in the winter, and one right before summer began. The church would rent a bus, and we’d take off from Friday to Sunday. The weekend would be full of team-building games, local trips, Bible studies, and my favorite: Skit Night!
Skit Night was on Saturday night, and during dinner on Friday night the show announcement would be made. The sign-up sheet was placed in a prominent area, and by 3:00 the next day there would be upwards of 20 acts on the sheet. Those who had been involved in the fellowship group for a while would plan ahead and come up with scripts, bring along specialty props, and sneak off to rehearse a musical number or two. It was 30% theatre, 30% improvisation, 40% talent show, and always 100% fun!
Some of my favorite skits were the Saturday Night Live “Weekend Update”-type acts. There would be two news anchors who’d read very funny “news articles” that were about things that had happened within that group since the last retreat. To this day I can still remember one of the lines about our counselor Skip and his girlfriend Chris Mayo (I think that was her first name, but I can’t really remember after 22 years -- so if I’m mistaken, forgive me!). It went something like this...
Announcer 1: Well Jane, did you hear the happy news?
Announcer 2: No Jeff, I haven’t, please fill me in!
Announcer 1: Well, our dear friend Skip and Chris have just had a baby.
Announcer 2: Oh, that’s wonderful Jeff. Is it a boy or girl?
Announcer 1: It’s a boy. And wanting to carry on the family lineage, they’ve named the boy after his father.
Announcer 2: I know that Chris is quite a feminist... Didn’t she keep her last name?
Announcer 1: Yes she did. In fact, given that point, they decided to give the child the middle name of “The”... meaning the child’s name is...
Both at the same time: Skip The Mayo!
Seriously... I still remember that scene vividly!
The other skit I remember with an amazing clarity was the shadow play they did one Halloween. It was awesome!
Some of the kids strung up a sheet, put lighting behind it, darkened the room and put on a shadow play. It was one of the coolest, cleverest things I’ve ever seen. The entire play was built around the premise of what you saw in the shadows on the sheet -- not what was in actuality. The scene was a doctor’s office with an operating table. It was just a table with a sheet over it, but in shadow it looked like the real thing. (Later I would learn that it was imperative to have that table to hide all the props!) The doctor escorted a patient in, had him lie down on the table, and proceeded to “knock him out” -- with a hammer! The shadow made it look so realistic; the way the patient jerked their body was perfect. I can’t remember exactly everything that happened, but I remember the doctor opening up the patient with a hand saw and pulling out lots of crazy stuff: for example, an alarm clock (which he declared to be a “bum ticker”), and the contents of an entire meal (including a whole chicken, a head of celery, the plates, silverware, and a lit candelabra). They also pulled out lengths of “intestine” (which was really rope) that had funny things tied to it like a clothesline - a few triangular pennant flags, socks, baby-sized onesies, and finally a giant pair of granny panties. It all ended with a “gusher” in which the doctor said he hit a vein, and someone squeezed a bottle of water straight into the air behind the sheet. At the same time, two “nurses” appeared in the back of the room brandishing squirt bottles filled with warm water, which they then sprayed over the audience. It was a hoot!
Those years were really magical ones, and I know they helped me get through a particularly hard part of my childhood. I think that whenever it’s possible to find a group of individuals that can come together week after week and have fun it’s a blessing. That’s why things like scouting troops, church organizations, and clubs are so important. I just hope in this age of Internet and isolationism that people have this type of outlet available to them. There’s nothing better than connecting with other people through laughter and fun. At the risk of sounding like my grandpop, those skit nights were powerful good times!