ing up to The Promise’s opening night. One day, I went to see David Humphrey in his downtown office, which is decorated with Promise posters, a map of Israel, and a collection of stuffed-animal camels. He is a remarkable looking man. At 63, he is suntanned and square-shouldered, with a trim grey beard; long, narrow eyes beneath long, arched brows; a broad forehead; and a silvery sweep of hair that finishes in a single curl shooting straight out from his neck. He favcrs dark clothes and drives a silver Jaguar. He has spent his career working in the fields of Christian drama and music; it’s Humphrey who is largely responsible for the show’s having been patterned after a Broadway musical. “When I was growing up in the forties and fifties in Tyler, we didn’t have musicals. We would do church plays out of a book: Baker Religious Plays,” he says. In the 1960s, Humphrey says, people began writing church musicals for youth, a fact he attributes to the open and exp6rimental spirit of the times. “The Vietnam War and the psychedelia, the hippies… things were happening. People felt they could do almost anything to reach out.” In 1968, Humphrey moved from Texas to Florida to become director of the Music and Fine Arts department at Palm Beach Atlantic College, a new Christian school, at the invitation of the founder, Jess Moody. It was an opportune place to learn about musical theater. “We realized we had a lot of Jewish producers living in Palm Beach who had retired from New York Broadway, who had a lot of money, big homes, and nothing to do, and their wives wanted them out of the house,” Humphrey recalls. “So Dr. Moody said let’s go find these guys. We went to the Sail Fish Club, which is where a lot of them were, and met some of them. They said, ‘Well, great.’We did The Music Man with the guy who first produced The Music Man.We did Oklahoma with the guy who first produced Oklahoma. We did Carousel with the guy who first produced Carousel.” “That’s how I learned,” continues Humphrey. “I learned how to put songs together, how to put musicals and dramas together from the first concept to the end product.” Kingdom Development boardmembers had originally thought they might underwrite a more traditional drama, but Humphrey wanted a musical, and prevailed. The original script was written by a former speechwriter for Oral Roberts, while Humphrey \(who emphasized to me that he was not in with the collaboration of music producer Gary Rhodes. One thing Humphrey learned from his mentors in Palm Beach was that hit songs sell a show, and because The Promise is a Christian show, that meant using Christian hitssuch as “In The Name of the Lord,” a contemporary hymn originally sung by one of the most popular Christian artists of the 1980s, Sandi Patti Helvering. In 1993 and 1994, The Promise traveled to Russia, performing at the Kremlin State Palace. And in 1995, original director Michael Meese moved to Branson, Missouri, to start a smaller, year-round production of The Promise in that city, taking the original Jesus with him. In Branson, something of an entertainment mecca for the RV set, The Promise is performed twice a day, sometimes seven days a week. According to Kirk Corley, who spent two years with the Branson show before returning to Texas, entertainers there are a tight group. In Branson, he appeared in 840 performances, playing the Apostle Matthew, and joined The Promise softball team. “We got whipped soundly by the Osmonds,” he says. “The Osmonds had a really good team.” After the Texas Amphitheater was first built, the Fort Worth chapter of the ACLU challenged the county on the grounds that it had used public funds to build a theater for a religious play, violating the First Amendment. “The ACLU wanted to shut down the theater, so we started a backup little theater. I went to the library and found a little play called Somervell Saga,” recalled Priscilla Locke. “That became a hotel,” she told me, pointing to the Sanhedrin set. “And that became the inside of a house. Pilate’s set was a courthouse. We were able to use everything differently, and the ACLU dropped their suit.” \(Don Jackson, an ACLU board attorney involved in the suit, remembers it differently. Originally, Jackson says, The Promise was going to lease the county-built amphitheater for its exclusive use. The parties negotiated until the county and The Promise agreed that the amphitheater would be used for $04 s ome of the props listed in a database on Locke’s portable computer: five camel packs, three Roman horse dressings, dozens of pottery jars, twenty-five eggplants, thirty-two baskets, one hundred eighty-one fishes, seven shepherd’s crooks, three bunches of onions, the dung, twentytwo tambourines, twelve crucifix nails, nine scrolls, ten urns, six swords, four long knives. Locke, a youthful grandmother, is a diligent researcher and a detail fiend. She admits that she is the type of person who gets very irritated if, while watching a period movie, she spots a pillow that is obviously stuffed with foam rather than feathers. She says she can accomplish more or less anything with hot glue, duct tape, safety pins, bailing wire and deck screws; or if worse comes to worse, just plain hot glue. The most famous person in Glen Rose is artist Robert Summers, whose works include a nine-foot statue of John Wayne in the Orange County Airport and a sculpture of a trail drive in Dallas, once called “the largest bronze cow sculpture in the world,” by The New York Times. If you run for elected office in Somervell County it helps to have Summers’ endorsement. Many people in Glen Rose’ mentioned to me that Summers lives there. I found it a little strange that no one mentioned the writer John Graves, who is well known in Texas for his writings about, among 716101 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 11
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