The area encompassing Granbury and Glen Rose boasts of many unique and exciting tourist attractions, but few have the ability to renew one’s faith while providing spectacular entertainment quite like The Promise.
The Promise has been a staple of the Texas
Amphitheater in Glen Rose every September to October since 1989, spanning an almost three decade history of spreading the message of Jesus Christ through a lavish musical with a cast and crew of 150, not including the live animals they also employ. In fact, the amphitheater itself, the only outdoor venue with its own moat, was built initially with the design of The Promise in mind, with the intention to become home to other entertainment events as well.
Since its inception, The Promise has told the story of the life and message of Christ as recounted by a contemporary grandfather to his two young grandchildren. The story weaves back and forth between present day and the Biblical era of Jerusalem. However, with the introduction of director Chuck King, the production of The Promise has undergone a new and exciting renovation.
“I believe there was a consensus among our board of directors that the possibility [of changing The Promise] at least needed to be explored,” King said. “Not just change for change’s sake, but change that would initiate enthusiasm, revive interest, and reach a new generation of audience members. We want to give people a reason to come and experience The Promise again and again, and that means always exploring new and creative ways to keep it fresh and exciting without diluting our message.”
The story of The Promise now takes place entirely within Jerusalem during the life of Christ to help the audience remain more engaged with the plot itself rather than breaking the magic with a return to the present day. Some new music has been composed or selected, some of which was written by King himself, to freshen the score and keep it in tune with current music trends. New choreographers Jeff and Natalie Lewis of Arrows International OKC have been brought in to increase the dance and movement component of the production.
Chuck King is no stranger to the world of theatre, especially as it pertains to using the medium as a means of spreading the message of the Gospel.
“I had a sense of calling from a very early age,” said King. “We know that as believers we have the mandate to ‘spread the good news.’ I’ve just been fortunate enough to be able to do that by doing the things I love!”
King began his studies in music and theatre at Oklahoma Baptist University. In 1997, he moved with his family to Jerusalem, where they lived for thirteen years. During that time, he produced the epic musical The Covenant about Israel’s Biblical heritage and restoration. This production was so successful that it toured the world for six years and was performed in English, Hebrew, and Spanish.
It was his years spent in the Holy Land that impacted The Promise’s board of directors’ decision to hire him. An oft-forgotten element in Western Christianity is the focus on the Jewish influence on the basis of the traditional Christian text.
“Jews wrote almost the entire New Testament,” King said. “Jesus’s identity was entirely Jewish, and his message was to the Jew first. These facts are clear in Scripture, but often missed, or not emphasized in Western expressions of Christianity. I think understanding the Jewish roots of our own faith brings us closer to the One we call Messiah.”
King brings his knowledge of the Jewish tradition from his experiences in Jerusalem to enhance this aspect of the story. He has incorporated traditional Hebrew prayer and language influences, authentic costuming, and Jewish influence in music and dance to augment the production with a more realistic sense of the era.
King seeks to enhance the overall experience of The Promise as well, aside from what is viewed on stage.
“My outlook is that I want our audience to experience something beyond entertainment,” King said. “My long term goal is to create an environment in which the audience is completely immersed in the story, not as spectators, but as participants.”
This is being accomplished in a number of ways to increase the interaction between audience and cast. Audience members now have the option to actively participate in the Lord’s Supper during the Passover scene, and actors will leave the stage to join the audience at key moments to encourage spectators to sing and worship along with the show. Plans are in the works for future productions to incorporate an interactive First Century Jerusalem marketplace experience in the upper plaza areas of the amphitheater.
The Promise lives up to its name, not just in providing an entertaining spectacle in the heart of a rural Texas town, but also in fulfilling the promise of a better life for those who have experienced or otherwise been touched by it. Not satisfied with simply retelling the message of Jesus Christ, they actively seek ways in which they can physically spread his love.
“Every weekend, dozens of our guests turn in prayer request forms or visit our prayer tent, where our volunteers are blessed to minister to people with all kinds of needs,” said King.
Volunteers of The Promise regularly serve Hope House, a recovery center for men with addictions. This year, The Promise has partnered with Open Door Church in Burleson, specifically with their Answer International ministry, a program that rescues children from trafficking.
“We are honored to help them bring awareness to our audience and challenge them to help meet the needs of these kids,” King said. “The Promise for me is more than just entertainment; we are here to share the message of the love of Jesus.”
The town of Glen Rose itself also feels the love from The Promise. Change can be frightening, especially in what has become a thirty-year tradition. However, the consensus seems to be that this new version of The Promise is “the best ever,” and business owners regularly express their appreciation to Chuck King for the boost in visitors that arrive in town each season. Glen Rose has opened their hearts not just to King’s new vision, but to him and his wife personally, fully embodying the love that The Promise seeks to convey.
“[This] has been a total faith walk for my wife and me! We came to Texas in a sort of ‘starting from scratch’ kind of way, leaving behind a secure, tenured position just because we felt a passion and calling for The Promise,” King said. “I have to stop daily and remind myself that the job is bigger than me and that there are wonderful people all around me who have the same heart that I do. They want to see The Promise go on for another 30 years.”
Chuck King’s leap of faith, paired with his passion for telling a meaningful story through captivating theatre, ensures that The Promise will continue to have its staying power. Its ability to transform itself while staying true to its roots is sure to delight new fans and seasoned show-goers for many years to come.