2 February 2023

How theatrics has helped a Ringwood church aid people in need

St Paul’s Players during an end-of-year performance. Picture: supplied.

Jenan Taylor

20 January 2023

Mullum Mullum parish’s theatre group has drawn audiences to twice-yearly productions since 1996, but the performances have helped the church raise money, and more.

Vicar the Reverend Maria Brand said the group, St Paul’s Players, started when a few parishioners decided to brainstorm ways to raise money for the church’s various mission focuses.

Reverend Brand said parishioner and ballroom dance teacher Naomi Short had hit on the idea of a one-off musical theatre performance.

“But everybody loved it so much, that they kept going, and created a ministry group from it. From then onwards, they’ve raised money for whatever mission the church decided to focus on each year,” Ms Brand said.

Those included a drive to purchase an ambulance for the Zambian community of Chibobo for which the group helped raised $20,000 in 2019, and a food parcel effort that St Paul’s Players raised more than $2000 for last August.

This year, the production team is aiming to help the church raise money for a community affected by the recent Victorian floods.

An ambulance for Chibobo community in Zambia. Picture: supplied.

Ms Brand said the group also managed to find a way to persevere despite the challenges of COVID.

It adopted cabaret show formats so that members could work on their songs and numbers without being in a group, and turned the Christmas concerts into outdoor events.

But she said St Paul’s Players was not just about raising funds.

Its fellowship tended to attract parishioners of all ages,  and was a point of contact for less active members who sought a group that celebrated God’s love, Ms Brand said.

She also said it helped Mullum Mullum Anglican reach people in the wider community, who were interested in participating in drama and music.

Now group producer, Ms Short said St Paul’s Players comprised up to 30 people, including performers and those who helped with sound and costumes.

She said that although preparations were extensive and ran from January to November each year, it operated on a budget of $100, sometimes raising money through a cake stall to cover extras such as lighting.

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But to keep costs down, and ensure all profits went towards the mission focus, the group only performed original works, Ms Short said.

These included “Lost and Found,” a drama based on Matthew 7:7, and which was about an op-shop where patrons and staff learn that nothing important is ever lost.

She also said that although all of St Paul’s Players productions had a religious goal, the group had captured the interest of unchurched participants, some of whom have gone on to become further involved with Mullum Mullum.

“Those who aren’t religious have never complained about it. They’re all happy to be involved. So, I suppose it’s just like a little open door,” Ms Short said.

But she said the group did strive to make joining as easy as possible.

“We welcome anybody. We have a philosophy of no auditioning, just because we find there’s a lot of people who are capable of a lot, and auditions are very scary,” Ms Short said. “Basically, your first show is your audition, which lets us know what your capabilities are.”

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