It was a Thursday afternoon and I had an hour to kill before my monthly appointment with spiritual director Rev. Chris. Papers and readings in seminary were endless, yet one hour seemed hardly enough time for me to get much studying done. Plus, I feared getting swept into a reading assignment then being late to my chat with Rev. Chris. I looked forward to our time together. I decided to do some light reading in the book of Revelations (yeah, I know). When I came across the passage that says, “I’ll give you a new name” (Rev. 2:17), I wondered aloud what was my new name. I shrugged my shoulders and kept reading until it was time to head out for my appointment. I arrived to the office and told Rev. Chris about what I’d read and my curiosity about my new name. He asked, “Well, what did God tell you?” Quizzically, I answered, “Nothing.” “Okay, then let’s sit with that for a minute and see if God gives us the answer.” Our sessions usually combine prayer, meditation and conversation, so this practice was typical. We sat in silence for three to four minutes. I opened my eyes when I heard him stirring. He asked me again, “What did God tell you?” I chuckled and answered again, “Nothing.” Then he said, “I think I’ve got something. Alexus Grace – you’re a committed conduit and grateful recipient.” YES! I am.
Since receiving my new name, I’ve worked overtime to live into it. I’ve met some interesting characters who’ve challenged me, and still others for whom it was a pleasure to extend grace to myself and to them. That’s how I felt after meeting Vance Webster.
In my desire to write content that makes my audience laugh and reflect, one would think it’d be difficult to find laughable moments about Vance’s tango with the justice system. But from the first time I heard his story (while touring Father Greg Boyle’s Homeboy Industries in LA) I was struck by his candor and humorous insights. Many days I spent hanging out with him, learning not just his language cadence but also his charming persona, which is not stereotypical of a former gang leader/ex-felon. He reminds me of why stereotypes are problematic. It’s not that they’re untrue, they’re just incomplete.
“29 Years For 13 Seconds” is a true labor of love, a bold and honest reflection of a man who was the victim of circumstance on one hand, yet fiercely determined to bounce back.
My original script was for a one-man show. However, after casting Billy “Issim Dark” Ramsey in the role of “Duke,” he suggested we add an additional actor to play all of the supporting parts. That was no small feat. Fortunately, we secured the brilliant thespian talent of Iris Huey. The dye was cast.
This show embodies the spirit of humor and thoughtful reflection of what happens when you’re poor, black and male in America wanting to believe in justice, but finding it prudent to ask God for mercy instead. In the end, we watch the mystery of how life, on life’s terms, unfolds.
My highest aspirations are that the audience, upon experiencing the magic of “29 Years For 13 Seconds,” will leave MATCH Theater committed to extending grace – first to themselves and then to others.
“29 Years For 13 Seconds: The Injustices of Justice”
7:30 pm, Thurs, March 8, and Sat., March 10
MATCH Theater, 3400 Main St., Houston
Tickets: $20-25 (for student discount, use code “UPSTUDENT) TICKETS – 29 Years For 13 Seconds
Show runtime: 75 minutes