The Lottery and Rosa Parks

The tables were adorned with centerpiece bowls of corn cobs surrounded by smooth baseball sized river rocks. Little freestanding cards stood with the message, “Lottery in June, corn will grow soon.” The 80 people on opening night enjoyed their dinner we had prepared and served them, but mostly they were unprepared for the storyline encountered.

I directed Jackson’s one-act play, The Lottery, during my time in North Carolina, so I was expectant of the audiences’ reaction. Despite the chilling ending, I wanted this production with CHS to be different. We designed the evening to be a dinner readers theatre with a small table discussion at the end. It was a good thing we did.

The first time the 18 students sat in a circle to read the script, they were shocked at the ending. “Mr. Fish! Are we really going to do this play at our school?” one of the younger students asked me. I assured her all was well, and this would be a hallmark moment to engage the audience with deep questions and concerns as it relates to our current cultural climate.

Everything went off without a hitch. Amy and I, along with a few dedicated helpers, cooked dinner for 160 people over a two night production. The students in their character, were the matradees and waitresses who delivered a delicious southern style meal to each of the tables.

The meal ended and the short story began. The non-descript setting was the stage for the CHS students to bring their character to life. Someone after the performance said, “I was just taken back at how well the student’s characters were so believable.”

My goal for choosing this play wasn’t to showcase the students theatrics, though Audrey’s performance as the school teacher was stellar. The message I tried to surface was what I referred to as the “Rosa Parks Moment.” (Spoiler Alert! Just keep reading though.) Audrey’s character in a defining moment of solidarity for truth, stood up against the antiquated tradition of the village. Yearly the village, held a lottery in which the “winner” was stoned to death by all the villagers, including the children.

Audrey’s character challenged the status-quo in what I described to cast as a “Rosa Parks Moment.” However, the difference between the Lottery’s school teacher and Rosa Parks, was the cowardice of the school teacher. When finally faced with societal pressures to comply, rather than value life and stand for truth, she gave in and one of her village friends died.

The play ends abruptly. The resolution is narrated quickly, so rather than sending the audience members home upset, which happened one other time I directed this play, we sat at our tables enjoying homemade cupcakes and discussed important elements of the play and its relationship to our modern culture. I heard later, this time of debrief was a highlight of the entire production experience.

I don’t know about you but in my life I’ve had my own “Rosa Parks Moments” cross my path. Unfortunately, I didn’t respond and stand for truth the way I wished I would have. I hate that too. It’s in hindsight and reflection I had my “ah ha” and realized what I should have done. My prayer is for courage — to be bold for what’s good and true. I want to learn more how to love beyond differences yet not cower under pressure to comply.

I hope you will be bold for truth too.

This Thanksgiving, we plan to enjoy our traditional meal with friends from the community where we live. Around the table will be Brazilians, Peruvians, and one precious friend from Madagascar. We have much to be thankful for in this season! May you enjoy time around your table as well with dear ones. You are loved! We are grateful for each one of you.

“Praise the Lord. Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.” (Psalm 106:1)

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