TULSA, OK (FR) – For the first time in history, a professional theatre company from the U.S. composed entirely of Christian artists performed in the Soviet Union. Members of the traveling company, known as Impact Productions, performed 18 times before a combined audience of 75,000. Tom Newman, director of the company’s musical production, “The Toymaker’s Dream,” said the response was overwhelming.
Before the tour, Newman said he gave a presentation to leaders of the Young Communist Party, the Moscow Music Society, and the Peace Committee. “The guys went crazy and started signing up for dates. I stopped them … and said I wanted to make sure they knew what I was coming for,” said Newman. He explained to them in clear terms that the message of Jesus Christ was the theme of the musical. “‘The toymaker represents God,’ I told them, ‘and the toys represent the different people of the world. It’s important that Americans and Soviets get together, because the same God, Jesus Christ, loves us all.’”
The Peace Committee official reacted to Newman’s remarks at that point. He responded, “I understand what the story is about, and the people will understand. But don’t ever say that in this country again. I will not let you do this presentation in its full entirety if you mention that.” Newman explained that the official was simply reacting against hearing the name, “Jesus.”
But the group still had an open door to perform at the annual International Peace Day in the Young Communist Peace Palace in Moscow. “It was an extreme sacrifice for people to come since tickets were sold for a full-day’s wage – six rubles. Tickets for the Bolshoi Ballet are only two rubles,” Newman said. “We sold out our first night and the next day we came to rehearse at 3:30 and people were standing in lines.” Pravda, the official state-run newspaper, published a front page story on the performances.
The Soviet government covered all hotel and transportation costs for the Impact team. “We were treated like royalty,” said Newman. In Leningrad they performed in the same 10,000 seat arena where rock star Billy Joel had been in concert. At their last performance, Newman said he decided to “stick his neck out” and share the gospel: “I told them, ‘I would like to have more freedom to share. So many people misunderstand our mission. We come in the name of peace and love, but 2,000 years ago a man came to tell us how much He loved us. And He was crucified for our sins. We love you, but more importantly, God loves you.’”
“The people went crazy,” related Newman. “They stomped their feet and shouted, ‘Yes!’” Newman said that the audience showed unexpected eagerness to hear about the Christian message. In addition to this encouraging incident, 25 Afghan generals came backstage in tears and asked the Impact team to come to Afghanistan. The group was also invited back into the Soviet Union for a three-month tour, as well as Cuba, Bulgaria, and other Eastern-bloc countries. “We can’t wait to go back,” he said.
Besides performing, the group also met with other Christian believers. “The Christians would hide behind a building and run up to us with tears running down their cheeks, pointing to their hearts signifying that we had reached them.” Politburo officials had mixed reactions to the performances, however. Newman said that the policy of glasnost, or openness, is partly responsible for their open door to perform.
Impact Productions is an outreach ministry of Victory Christian Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma.