Pages: 12345678Next
Current Page: 1 of 8
Covenant Players Oxnard, CA Charles Tanner
Posted by: marjoe ()
Date: July 05, 2004 06:06AM

Has anyone had any experiences with, (or does anyone have reliable information about), the international Christian drama ministry called Covenant Players, based in Oxnard California, founded in the late 60s or early 70s, and led by Charles M. "Chuck" Tanner? I have plenty of information and experiences of my own, but I am interested in getting the input of others, perhaps current or former members, or friends and family of people who have been recruited by this group. Thanks.

Options: ReplyQuote
Covenant Players Oxnard, CA Charles Tanner
Posted by: kajern ()
Date: July 11, 2004 09:51PM

it seems i have heard of tanner. wonder why it is so important for us to find previous members of whatever group we were in., theyseem to be important for me to find to answer questions about the situation and how i still feel and am reacting to finding another church. it is hard to talk to other people about the experience. i do not mean to dishonor any true men of God for sure. i feel that somewhere something happened that got this group off course. there were so many good things about it. it just breaks my heart. and the worship was fantastic. never found anything like it.

Options: ReplyQuote
Covenant Players Oxnard, CA Charles Tanner
Posted by: robwill ()
Date: September 02, 2004 10:34AM

there is CP group at yahoo groups. There are quite a few current and formers cpers all with different views and reasons why they left etc.

What kind of info are you looking for?

Rob

Options: ReplyQuote
Re: Covenant Players Oxnard, CA Charles Tanner
Posted by: J. S. Fugate ()
Date: June 27, 2010 07:41AM

I am willing to talk to anyone about Covenant Players, and honestly share my own experiences. I was the one that started the CP group on Yahoo - because I had some issues I had to work through about the years I spent in this ministry and I figured others may have this need as well.

I worked with Covenant Players from '83 to '90 - and it was truly the best of the times and the worst of times . . . but I can say in full honesty that it is not a cult. It is a Christian ministry that uses drama to communicate. I went all over the world with this group - and I was usually in charge of my own team, and all the details that such a tour involved.

I have toured with many other theatre companies - mostly secular and educational . . . and I have had similar experiences with EVERY theatre company I've ever worked with. Touring theatre has it's own issues that many other ministries do not - so it needs to be compared to other touring theatre companies more than other ministries in order to understand why things were operated the way they were.

The archives from the CP e-group have seen many people share their thoughts and experiences - some are negative, but many are very positive as well . . . and many people just needed to vent about a few things, and when they realized that others felt the same way they were able to find closure. Quite frankly, the group drew a lot of creative and emotional people to the work - and thus, it had an innate volatility and group dynamic that was very unique and rich. But cultish? No.

I will admit that there are some cult-like ideas that floated around, and some of the people that served in CP over the years WERE in a cult - meaning that THEY turned Chuck Tanner into an almost omnipotent leader . . . but that was their doing, not his. He was a brilliant man, and many found him unapproachable . . . they ascribed him with Godlike qualities, and then resented him when he acted merely human.

I had a close relationship with him, and we argued about many things over the years -- I respected him, but I also disagreed openly with him. He was a genius, and one of the most prolific playwrights that ever lived . . . but he never put himself on the pedestal that others tried to lift him onto.

If anyone would like to contact me directly, I will give full and honest disclosure. In truth, most of it is positive. However, there is really no way that this group can be classified as a cult anymore than any theatre or arts organization I've ever worked with.

Options: ReplyQuote
Re: Covenant Players Oxnard, CA Charles Tanner
Posted by: rrmoderator ()
Date: June 27, 2010 08:42PM

J. S. Fugate:

Wasn't there a suicide tied to the group some years ago?

Options: ReplyQuote
Re: Covenant Players Oxnard, CA Charles Tanner
Posted by: J. S. Fugate ()
Date: June 27, 2010 10:56PM

I think that over the almost 50 year history of group there have been those that have committed suicide - I don't know of any particular incidences occurring while people were working with the ministry, but I've heard of at least one person that committed suicide after they left.

One of the issues I had with the group was that there was no "vetting" or audition process. The philosophy of the company was that anyone willing to serve and make a commitment was accepted, trained and put on a team to work as an actor. Even though I had issues with this philosophy I have actually continued in a similar vein with different community theatre groups I have managed, as well as a community radio station. I have seen a lot of people grow through being involved in the arts - and thus, I would rather take the risk and give someone a chance than judge and bar them at the outset.

The pitfall with this approach is that you get some unstable people, and I myself had to deal with a few people with some pretty severe mental illnesses over the years (not just in Covenant Players) . . . and such people can appear quite normal on the surface. The opportunity to travel around the world and work as an actor, without any audition, was a definite draw for such people.

Thus, in the one case I'm aware of as well as any others that might have occurred - I'm pretty sure that it was due to mental problems that were there prior to their involvement with the company, and remained after their departure.

I had an experience with one team member in England that I had to send home due to mental illness. It manifested on the road with threats of suicide - because she believed that demons were telling her to kill herself. The ministry had nothing to do with her problems, and her thoughts did not arise from any philosophy or theology in the group. I knew something was "off" about her when she joined, and I really tried to help her . . . but the problems were so severe she was sent home, and her parents committed her to an institution. Years later, I heard she was still there.

Covenant Players is merely a theatre company working with a Christian center. The mission is to communicate Gospel truths in an accessible, dynamic and contemporary manner - and get people to think . . . there is also a secondary "secular" mission to make education more exciting and accessible through live theatre, and to get young people to reflect on their moral choices.

Options: ReplyQuote
Re: Covenant Players Oxnard, CA Charles Tanner
Posted by: rrmoderator ()
Date: June 28, 2010 12:04AM

J. S. Fugate:

Thank you for acknowledging the suicide linked to the group.

I recall reading about it some years ago and Covenant Players was specifically noted in the news report.

How is Covenant Players led? Who leads the group?

How is it funded?

Options: ReplyQuote
Re: Covenant Players Oxnard, CA Charles Tanner
Posted by: J. S. Fugate ()
Date: June 28, 2010 01:48AM

Chuck Tanner founded the group in 1963 - basically starting out as a drama group in a Presbyterian church in Los Angeles. He was involved with films as a writer, producer and director - and decided to refocus his passion to serve God through drama. He started writing plays in response to specific requests by churches, and finding actors to perform them. Eventually he realized it was too difficult to do this work with freelance actors, and started asking for a commitment. The commitment was not to him or the organization - it was a "Covenant" with God to serve Him with one's creative gifts.

Teams were comprised of 2 to 6 people, and were sent out at first to cities to perform specific plays at specific churches - this grew to each team being assigned with an area (state or country) for up to 6 months at a time.

Chuck wrote the plays, and was the overall director of the company - but each unit was assigned its own director, given fairly autonomous control of their own tour, and sent out on the road to perform the plays for churches, schools, etc. However, Chuck was in charge, despite the fact that he was a little too much of a creative genius to deal with administrative oversight and the details of management.

At first there was very little in terms of administration - but the ministry grew to cover every state and some 83 countries at its height during the 1980's. So, administrative duties in a home office in Los Angeles were necessarily added as the year's progressed to coordinate the massive undertaking. However, the life of the ministry has always been which each individual team doing their individual tours.

This is where my primary difficulties with the group came into play - I felt very much on my own when I was on the road. We were responsible for making our own contacts, finding our own bookings, doing all our own PR and marketing, covering all our own administrative needs, doing our own vehicle maintenance, finding our own housing, etc. Quite frankly, I sucked at most of that. :-)

All I really wanted to do was direct the plays and perform them, and hold drama workshops - so, I had certain resentments that I had to be responsible for every aspect of each of my tours. So, unlike cults which control every aspect of people's lives - we were given TOO MUCH freedom and control to run our own teams, and most of the problems encountered were due to this freedom and responsibility.

This responsibility included every aspect of our own survival . . . if we didn't get bookings, which included meals and housing as part of our contract, then we didn't eat and had no where to sleep. I had some very rough times - but it was really no one's fault but my own. I was not particularly good at administration or PR . . . and thus, my teams suffered. Other individuals and teams thrived because they were extremely skilled at getting bookings - and thus, had very few problems.

I've discovered over the years that those who had the biggest complaints about their time in CP, it can be traced to the insecurity or inexperience of the person leading their particular team . . . or the weaknesses of individuals that caused the team to go through hard times. It would have actually been nice to have a strong overhead organization that took care of our needs . . . but, we were pretty much on our own. This brought about great growth in just about every area for those that stuck with it - but many left due to bad circumstances and their bitterness has caused disparagement on the organization . . . such as, rumors that it's a cult.

All the finances for each team were solely raised by performances booked, rehearsed, and performed by each individual team. Some people donate funds to CP which go to things like vehicle maintenance and summer training - but the majority of funds have always been raised through actual performances given by each individual team.

It is a "faith ministry" - meaning that every aspect of our lives was ruled by faith. There were no guarantees, or organizational support, for much of anything other than the opportunity to go on the road and serve God through drama. This can be faulted as poor administrative oversight - but Chuck believed strongly that God would take care of those that commit themselves to serve Him . . . and he was right. Even at the worst times, I knew God was in control and our needs were always met . . . although sometimes at the 11th hour.

Chuck suffered a stroke in 1998 and died in March of 2006 . . . and the ministry continues under the direction of his daughter. It is much smaller now than it was when I was there in the 80's - and policies are quite different as well. However, it's still just a touring theatre company that is motivated by the Gospel.

Options: ReplyQuote
Re: Covenant Players Oxnard, CA Charles Tanner
Posted by: rrmoderator ()
Date: June 28, 2010 02:22AM

J. S. Fugate:

Did the individual teams contribute to the central CP budget?

How did CP headquarters pay and maintain its staff?

Did Chuck receive a salary?

Is or was CP a nonprofit tax-exempted religious charity?

Options: ReplyQuote
Re: Covenant Players Oxnard, CA Charles Tanner
Posted by: J. S. Fugate ()
Date: June 28, 2010 02:40AM

Individual teams sent in a percentage of their income to the central office each week after expenses. To be honest, I can't recall the amount, but the funds went towards buying and maintaining vehicles, air travel for teams overseas, photocopies, phone calls, rent of office space, and support of the families that were serving in various offices as non-touring administration, etc.

I served one tour as part of the headquarters staff. There were about 18 of us working there - and my salary was $85 a week in '90. As part of the office staff, we all realized that the focus and ministry was on the road, and we were merely there to facilitate the world wide coordination of the teams - thus, we survived on the bare minimum.

Chuck never received any salary or took any of the funds raised by any unit. He lived on the royalties of outside groups performing his plays, and the sale of his play books. I was in charge of the coordination of the media resources when I worked in the office, so I can verify this first hand.

CP is a nonprofit tax-exempt organization . . . I'm not sure if it is registered as a "religious charity", or as a non-profit arts organization. All the records of the organization are open and available at the headquarters in Oxnard, CA.

Options: ReplyQuote
Pages: 12345678Next
Current Page: 1 of 8


Sorry, only registered users may post in this forum.
This forum powered by Phorum.