At first glance, shopping malls and spirituality don’t have much in common.
But Shayla Day of Joliet, who portrays a feisty, straightforward executive in the “The Mall Messiah,” said the concept intrigued her, and she feels this is one holiday show Joliet-area residents should see.
“It’s just a very heartwarming production,” Day said. “Plus, it has a spiritual message.”
“The Mall Messiah” was written by WL Weston, a writer with GSW Network.
GSW Network is “an American, award-winning, faith-based network owned and operated by Weston Global,” according to its Facebook page. The year-old network is not affiliated with any one denomination, Weston said.
Show times for “The Mall Messiah” are 7:30 p.m. Dec. 16, 3 and 8 p.m. Dec. 17, and 4 to 6 and 8 to 10 p.m. Dec. 18. All shows will be performed at the St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church of Joliet at 1414 S. Briggs St. in Joliet.
Tickets to this all-age show are free, whether attendees claim them online or in person, Weston said.
“We really want it to be a community affair,” Weston said.
‘A contemporary story of an old message’
When writing “The Mall Messiah,” Weston said he took the theme of holiday commercialism and “interjected that spirituality into the mix of it.”
The setting is the fictional West Town Mall, a 50-year-old shopping space that’s “on the decline” and “facing elimination,” just like other malls across the U.S., Weston said.
But then a miracle happens at the mall – and then another and another. Business booms once again and attracts media attention.
Yet, at its heart, “The Mall Messiah” has nothing to do with commercialism.
Instead, “The Mall Messiah” presents “a contemporary story of an old message, with the love of God at the heart of it all,” according to the GSW Network.
Angela Page, a 20-year member of St. Paul, said she portrays a news reporter who is “always looking for the next big story.”
Page said Weston invited her to be part of “The Mall Messiah” after he saw her skills on a live broadcast from the church.
“I’d heard so many awesome things about his prior productions – on how heartfelt they were and how professional they were and just the amount of people who came out to see them,” Page said. “And, to be honest, I felt like it was a great opportunity to be a part of something bigger than myself. So I was really excited.”
Page said she feels “The Mall Messiah” is a great way to start the holiday season, especially after enduring a pandemic and “with everything going on in the world.”
“I think this will be something that will warm their hearts,” Page said.
Kendria Yarbough, another longtime member of St. Paul and a member of the church’s media team, portrays the reporter covering the mall’s anniversary. Yarbough is thrilled for the opportunity to act and see the “back end” of a play, especially one with an amazing storyline and characters, she said.
But hosting “The Mall Messiah” is good for St. Paul, too, she said.
“St. Paul has done some virtual plays before, so to actually do a live play is something different for us,” Yarbough said.
The performance will include live actors onstage “just like a traditional play,” as well as multimedia, Weston said. So, part of the storyline appears on a screen, he said.
“The Mall Messiah” is not related to the popular Hendel’s “Messiah,” except for its Messianic references, Weston said.
“It stands on its own merit,” he said.
‘A reminder and a hope’
Day said people look for hope when “things don’t go right.” So, she said she feels “The Mall Messiah” brings that hope and a reminder that hope is sometimes found in unexpected places.
“We need to be open for other opportunities that might come our way, especially during the Christmas time,” Day said. “Sometimes we can get down, but there’s something about the holidays that lifts us up. When you think things are going wrong, you think everything will keep going wrong. Always be open to new possibilities and new chances.”
“The Mall Messiah” is about 90 minutes long, with an additional 15 minutes for intermission, Weston said.
Weston’s wife, Sybil Weston, and his son, Elijah Weston, also known as Eli West, helped with music production, Weston said.
For tickets and more information, visit gsw.network.