Pastor Takes on Unsavory Roles

MILWAUKEE, WI (May 16, 2011) – Mike DeLong can barely stand to play his multiple characters in a theatrical production that traces the life of Sojourner Truth—from the day she is sold away from her family as a young girl, through her struggle to free herself and her son, to her emergence as a popular and respected advocate of abolition and women’s rights.

The pastor of Milwaukee Evangelical Covenant Church is part of an ensemble cast performing the award-winning play “A Woman Called Truth” on the campus of Concordia University Wisconsin. The play runs Friday through May 22.

“I play a slave auctioneer who auctions off Sojourner Truth early in her life; a very cruel and physically abusive slave owner who beats a slave on stage; an old beggar man; a bigoted minister of the gospel; and a lawyer who helps Sojourner win back her son who was illegally sent South into slavery,” says DeLong. “All the roles I play, with the exception of the lawyer, are very prejudiced, mean-spirited, and vocal about their prejudices.”

DeLong, whose undergraduate degree was in theater, has performed a lot of roles, but he says these are among the most difficult. “I think it’s due to the fact that they were real people—who are also real in our day. I find it most difficult to play these roles because they are so sinful, so inhumane.”

The play delivers its message through multiple layers, including spirituals and slave songs that underscore the narrative, DeLong says. “Music is such an essential part of this production because it is such an essential part of life. The music and movement is so powerful, portraying deep emotion and revealing the psyche. I’m excited to be part of this production that goes beyond a drama, beyond a musical.”

This is the fourth Acacia Theatre Company production DeLong has acted in and, despite his disgust with the characters, he had a strong desire to perform the roles. “Our cities and our world are still so gripped by racism, sexism, and injustice of all kinds,” he says. I am praying that this show may have some effect on segregation in Milwaukee.”

His church already is working with Harvest Covenant Church, a new multicultural church plant in the city, to be a living example of crossing racial barriers.

DeLong had known Harvest’s pastor, Darnell and wife Donna, for two years prior to the church’s start. Milwaukee Covenant invited Harvest to use their facility after the city denied the new church a building use permit. Harvest has been meeting at the church since last fall, with services at 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. on Sundays.

The two churches are holding roundtable discussions about how they can do ministry together. They held a combined Good Friday service and hope to have a joint baptismal service this summer in addition to community outreaches.

The Acacia Theatre Company was founded in 1980 by several local artists who wanted to integrate art and faith. It is Wisconsin’s only professional Christian theatre company.

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