Perry nurtures CenterStage, adult drama ministry

Sun News correspondentFebruary 12, 2014 

Diane Kinsley sits on the set, which is still being built, of “Black and White,” a Christian murder mystery spoofing crime dramas of the 1940s and ‘50s.

MICHAEL W. PANNELL — Special to The Sun News

PERRY -- There’s murder afoot at Perry United Methodist Church.

But it’s OK.

It’s part of CenterStage for Christ’s coming stage play, “Black and White,” billed as a Christian murder mystery spoofing Hollywood’s black and white, film noire, crime dramas of the 1940s and ‘50s.

And like other CenterStage productions over the past eight years, it’s humorous, edgy and, though there may be a point to be found, it’s not something that will hit you over the head.

And organizers said it will be a quality production. CenterStage for Christ founders Diane and Michael Kinsley say that’s paramount.

“Michael and I are drama people and have done community theater all around Middle Georgia for years, especially with the Perry Players,” said Diane Kinsley, who also has a degree in drama and taught drama at Houston County High School in the late-1990s and early-2000s.

Kinsley said she acts in many and directs most of CenterStage’s productions, which are all original works written by her husband, Michael, who acts and directs as well.

“We’re an adult drama ministry,” Kinsley said. “I kept trying to figure out what my contribution to our church should be and how I could best serve. CenterStage is the result.”

Kinsley said as she looked around at church drama, she found most of it geared toward youth and much of it silly, sappy and, frankly, not very good fare for non-youth audiences.

Her determination to put together dramas with entertaining stories, good acting and solid production values led her to persuade her husband to try writing scripts.

She said their efforts have yielded about 20 productions since 2006, mostly the two dramas done annually by CenterStage plus added holiday dramas.

“We gave it a start and tried doing something for adults that wasn’t just skits,” Kinsley said. “Our productions are usually comedies, though this one has a lot more drama and real mystery involved. There’s humor, it’s a satire of those old films, but it still approaches situations with some realism. I think anyone who comes will find it an engaging piece. We’d have to say our plays are on the edge but not just to be edgy. It’s because we steer clear of being sappy and sugar-coated. Though people have learned to expect to laugh a lot, our shows are relatable and sometimes maybe a little uncomfortable for some.”

Kinsley said CenterStage productions are typically in rehearsal for eight weeks, rehearsing three nights a week. She said the schedule is slightly less demanding than most community theater but more so than most church dramas. She said it’s necessary because good stage drama is based on repetition.

A sampling of past plays includes titles like “Alley Cats,” which was set in a bowling alley; “Split Endz,” in a beauty shop; and “Sigma Nuts,” which centered on four middle-age men still living in their old fraternity house.

Kinsley said “Alley Cats” and “Split Endz” were comedies dealing with misconceptions, prejudices and stereotypes seen in the world and in the church. It featured some of her favorite characters, and she called the dramas “southern-white-trash-talking-comedies.”

She said “Sigma Nuts” dealt with issues suggested by area pastors including the need for men to grow up, the plague of pornography and the importance of family relationships. But Kinsley said it was done with humor.

“We want to present something that’s good for Christians but also something people not in church would enjoy coming to, something not churchy or in a regular church setting,” she said.

Kinsley said some day she hopes CenterStage for Christ will have its own venue, though it will stay connected to Perry UMC. She said despite the connection, the ministry has a cross-denominational/non-denominational approach.

“We’re glad people have started coming to our church and other churches because of what we do -- that’s a real blessing to know,” Kinsley said. “But we’re happy to know we present an opportunity for people to laugh a little, see how we all can go about things the wrong way, but, thankfully, through a loving God and the grace of Christ, it can all work out.”

Kinsley said production costs for the ministry are privately funded, and all proceeds are handled by Perry UMC’s missions ministry and benefit a wide variety of ministries and charities in the community such as Relay for Life, Operation Christmas Child and Brian Bowen Snax Sax. “Black and White” will benefit the Rehoboth Life Care Dental Clinic.

“Black and White” will be performed March 4, 6, 7 and 8 at 7:30 p.m. at Perry UMC. Desserts are served following each production, and tickets are $7 in advance and $10 at the door. Call Perry UMC at 478-987-1852 for information.

Contact Michael W. Pannell at mwpannell@gmail.com.

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