RICHFIELD - A rich-kid slacker, a monotone guy and an academic overachiever prone to narcolepsy will bring the message of Christianity to Juniata County.
Those characters, among others, are featured in a musical co-written by two local men, Andy Meiser and Skip Kline. "A Work in Progress" is set for 7 p.m. May 9 and 10 at Niemond's Independent Church in Richfield.
Meiser said the performance is fit for an audience of all ages and backgrounds and does not present an overt spiritual message. In fact, he said the purpose of the characters' experiences may not be evident until about two-thirds of the way through the drama.
"A Work in Progress" is one of five original musicals written by the duo. The story follows protagonist Phil Sullivan, a young man Meiser described as a rich-kid slacker. Sullivan has been kicked out of many colleges and is on the brink of expulsion from Wendell Tech, a last-resort university of low academic reputation. The academic dean forces Sullivan to juggle a full semester load to include a one-credit art elective. This theatre class is where Sullivan finds himself face-to-face with a motley student cast, performing a cheesy spaghetti western.
"Prior to my involvement at JMS, I had written a lot of plays for churches," Meiser said.
When he was later employed at the school, the kindergarten through fifth grade students did "a dynamite job" putting on children's programs each year, he said. When the school expanded to high school, administration wanted to have drama opportunities available for older students, too. However, finding content with a solid Christian message that wasn't "too preachy" was a challenge.
It was in Meiser's last year as principal at the school that he and Kline wrote their first production, "Opposite." Since then, the duo also has produced "Remedy," "Rising," "Restoration" and now, "A Work in Progress." Each of the original dramas has a solid Christian message but can be presented to people who are not Christians.
"We pray that God will help us reveal a part of his character or a part of his plan through this musical that is not so evident at times," Meiser said. "One year it was humility ... what does humility look like, played out in real life?"
Past productions have lasted about 45 minutes to 2 1/2 hours each. Meiser said he and Kline always plan to start writing before the start of each school year.
"But that never happens," he said. "Subjectively, we fly by the seat of our pants every year."
For the most part, Meiser prepares the script and Kline organizes the music, but both have a hand in the other's responsibilities.
"I have input on the music, and he has input on the script," said Meiser. "We have a relationship where we can criticize and critique. I have really needed that editorial presence in my life."
Meiser said Kline has written 45-50 original songs throughout their work together.
"This is really a product of the Lord," he said. "God is just so faithful."
Meiser admitted neither he nor Kline are terribly organized, but said that God works through, above and beyond them to deliver his message.
"Christians come from all sorts of backgrounds, but we're all a work in progress that will never be complete until we're across the Jordan," Meiser said.