Shrek and Jesus have more in common than you think. Our middle school theatre teacher Jennifer Pedraza shares how CCA’s upcoming production of Shrek The Musical JR. points to Jesus and the acceptance we can experience in His Kingdom as His followers.
If you’re familiar with the acclaimed feature film Shrek, you probably expect the colorful characters that you’ve grown to love in a new story that pokes fun at fairytale stereotypes. In the musical adaptation by CCA’s middle school students, we find a Shrek with colorful yet lovable characters in a musical that theatrically pokes fun at musical theatre.
Besides looking for a great musical score, I always seek out scripts that have a message that will resonate with our young performers and audiences alike. I consider how a particular show points to Jesus and His Kingdom.
I consider how a particular show points to Jesus and His Kingdom.
Though it may be unconventional, I do believe that the heart of Shrek The Musical JR. contains a message that touches the essence of what it is to be human and points us to the One who accepts us and loves us unconditionally.
At the start of the show, we discover that Shrek, an ogre, has been cast off by society and even his own parents, so he isolates himself in the swamp and convinces himself he’s better off that way.
When he is forced to journey out, he discovers that the other people and creatures put in his path bring out his other “layers,” one of which is a reluctant desire for community and companionship. He gets in his own way because he’s made up his mind that his identity is that of an unlovable monster.
Ultimately, Shrek comes to terms with unexpected love, unlikely friendship, acceptance of himself, and integration into the fairytale community.
We need each other.
The other characters, like Fiona and the fairytale creatures, also go through their own journey of rejection, acceptance, and strengthening bonds in their relationships. It’s significant that Shrek and Fiona start out in isolation and end up finding a community and a place to belong. We need each other.
This struggle with identity and longing for acceptance is very much like the plight of the middle schooler. Let’s face it—it’s also the plight of many adults (just with fewer pimples)!
I have firsthand experience as a former middle schooler who didn’t seem to “fit in” and went through cycles of rejection and acceptance. It was a dark time in my life, especially spiritually. My biggest problem was that I didn’t yet know who I was and Whose I was. As a teacher-minister, I desire to help my students understand what I couldn’t grasp in that season of my life.
Like Shrek, our identities are multi-faceted; we all have “layers” or the different ways we perceive ourselves. As Christians, we have believed and received Jesus, but we can be at different stages of walking out our new, true identities of who God says we are. Sometimes it takes dealing with past wounds in order to fully embrace the plans and purpose the Lord has for us. We hold ourselves back, we get in our own way, we are ashamed of the monster inside.
However, there is the wonderful news that Jesus came to give us “abundant life.” The conclusion of Shrek the Musical JR. provides a glimpse of what that could look like once we surrender to Jesus. We see the cast of characters enjoying fellowship, unashamedly being who they were designed to be, and finally celebrating and reveling in the notion that “what makes us special makes us strong.”
And sure, you’re going to hear and see some less-than-eloquent displays from this band of “freaks” like “bathroom humor” (You’ve been warned!). And yet, every time I listen to the lyrics of “Freak Flag” and the “Finale,” I marvel at humanity’s capacity for love and acceptance and what a game-changer that can be for us all.
Like Shrek, our identities are multi-faceted; we all have “layers” or the different ways we perceive ourselves.
Why? If it were not for God’s loving pursuit of us, we would not be able to enjoy the beauty around us and the love planted within us. “This is our Story.”
We invite you to see this story unfold on stage for yourself at the Calvary Chapel Theatre February 14-15, 2020. Click here
to purchase your tickets!
Jennifer Pedraza has served as a middle school theatre teacher at CCA for the last six years. She is married and has a daughter named Noemi who attends CCA. Jennifer enjoys coffee, singing, and photography.