The cast of the Vineyard Theatre’s production of the Civilians’ This Beautiful City didn’t know it at the time, but during the March 10 performance of their non-fictional docudrama musical about the modern Evangelical Christian movement and its scandalized pastor Ted Haggard, they were performing for…Ted Haggard!
“My first reaction was just, ‘Wow,’” says cast member Brad Heberlee, who learned of Haggard’s presence after taking his final bow. “Then I immediately thought, ‘What exactly do we say about him in the show?’”
Quite a bit, actually. Heberlee plays a Haggard protégé, a fictionalized amalgam culled from the many interviews he and the cast conducted during two visits to the Colorado Springs, Colorado headquarters of New Life Church, the congregation Haggard founded. During the second act, the actor recites several emails Haggard wrote to churchgoers after publicly admitting he purchased crystal-meth and sex from a male prostitute, However, in its aim for well-rounded objectivity, the script presents the Haggard scandal from many perspectives, from compassionate to critical.
Accompanied by his wife Gayle and Alexandra Pelosi, director of The Trials of Ted Haggard, the documentary that premiered earlier this year on HBO, Haggard dropped into the Vineyard like a phantom, arriving just before curtain-up and slipping out before the house lights were up. According to Hederlee, those who watched the guest star said he was smiling throughout the show and when he left. “I heard that they genuinely laughed at themselves,” says Heberlee. “They laughed at the youth ministry scene and the scenes about New Life Church. I think he has a healthy sense of humor.”
Though Heberlee’s glad he wasn’t aware of Haggard’s presence, he does wish he could’ve met the guy. Not that he expected a backstage visit. “I think there’s something poetic about him being rushed in right at curtain and making a quick exit,” he says, adding with a laugh, “Never to be seen again!”