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Olympic Proportions

Wednesday, June 8th, 2011

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While writing the blog post about Bono and Spiderman on Broadway a couple months back, I was mindful that the Prodigal God team had over one year earlier gone public about a big ambitious plan that didn’t work out as expected.

Some of you may have heard (on national TV even) about the debut of Prodigal God at the Vancouver Olympics in 2010, followed by a Canadian tour of the show on the heels of Olympic glory. You may also have wondered, whatever happened with that.

Well, to confirm your suspicion: the Olympic thing didn’t happen. And here’s why: a few months leading up to the rehearsal period, which would have begun in January 2010, prices began to escalate. A theater which had offered to house the show at the price of $x per week, come to find out, expected $4x once they realized they were prime real estate for an international event. Funny that hadn’t come up in earlier negotiations. The entire cast and crew would have needed housing in the Vancouver area during the Olympics, and as you might expect, that was a lot harder to come by than anticipated.

And we also had a budget shortfall in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. While the remaining sponsorship might have fallen into place in the final couple of months, come October, there was too much red on the bottom line. So much, in fact, that Brian’s memory was jogged. The shortfall was exactly the same amount as the shortfall so many years earlier when the Father’s House project was facing a similar choice to launch in downtown Vancouver.

In 1996, Brian and his crew decided to go for it. He was younger then. And later, he and many others regretted that decision. Father’s House closed before the tour even started due to low returns at the box office, and incurred a significant debt which took years to pay off. (It has been paid down to the last penny, by the way. Thanks to those who helped!)

In fall 2009, an older and wiser Brian Doerksen said, let’s not try that again. The team fell behind him in lock step. The report that came back to us is that the Olympic-affiliated arts events were a dismal failure – not because they weren’t worthy but because nobody came to see them. There’s this thing called the Olympics that kind of stole focus and took over those two weeks. Good call, Brian!

Out of this seeming false start, some key principles have solidified which continue to guide the Prodigal God team as we keep planning big and renegotiating the plan when reality strikes.

First, a plan is not a promise. While we want to communicate our dreams to our growing audience, we don’t want to lead you to believe that we know everything about what it will take to deliver a finished Prodigal God to your computer screen or to a theater near you. This project is unlike any other members of this team have pulled off in its inception, its goals, and its execution. We are constantly navigating unfamiliar waters without a map. Which is part of the fun of it, if you call that fun! (Depending on which day you ask us, we do.)

Second, rather than blow our resources in one risky venture (such as an Olympic debut and tour), how about investing our limited funds in things that will last and travel at no extra cost? The recording grew out of this logic. We had these songs. We had access to the talent pool to do them up with passion and abundance. And we had the means to deliver them to you, our audience, via this website. Same with the upcoming story version. Every investment we have made in the past two years lives on in a form that remains and can travel anywhere.

Thirdly, can we say without apology that your response is an important part of what propels us forward? Yes, you; not the one we might reach in some future year or the one you might tell, but you, the one who is taking the time to read this right now. When you e-mail and inquire about producing the show locally, or when you tell your friends to check out the site, or when you return to the site to see what those crazy people are dreaming up now, or when you give the songs another listen to see what you’ll hear this time, or when you pay over and above what is asked in order to say, “I believe in this project”. These gestures speak powerfully to us. They don’t speak of product and commerce so much as they speak of belief and passion. And we all need more of that.

I’ll close with this: Spiderman is threatening to open again on Broadway this month. The Prodigal God team is still talking about making a film next year. Please check back and see what actually happens!

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