Love'n Stuff has scheduled a free promotional performance at 10:30 a.m. Saturday at the Silver Spring United Presbyterian Church on University Boulevard East, Silver Spring. Free coffee and baked goods will be served for half an hour prior to the performance. Call 439-6661 today or Friday, 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., for information .
Chris Mays, wearing a full-length fur coat, frosted wig, false black beard and a pair of gray-tinted aviator glasses, perched on the shoulders of Doug Dillon. Mays' head was perilously close to the ceiling, but that was fine; he and Dillon were practicing to be Goliath.
"Show me how to fall," Mays said to Cathy Graham.
"You go down on your knees," she told him, prodding Dillon's side, "twist... and turn over like that," she finished, as she and Mark Sullivan, gently pushing and pulling, assisted the 9 1/2-foot giant to the ground.
Goliath got up -- both of him -- and Graham turned to the others standing in the recreation room of the Mays' home in Silver Spring.
"All right, we need Philistines and we need Israelites. You're a Philistine, and you're a Philistine and you're a Philistine," she said, pointing to three members of Love'n Stuff. The rest of the parts were assigned and the rehearsal of the skit resumed.
The 11 members of Love'n Stuff, ranging in age from 11 to 24, finished "David and Goliath" and went on to other things. Dance numbers, skits, songs -- all of them based on Bible stories -- were worked through, over and over, until they were just right.
"I don't know whether you understand what holds this group together," Shelly Marks, the publicity manager, told a visitor. "If we all didn't have a common bond in Christ this group wouldn't be able to function."
During the past 18 months, Love'n Stuff has performed at churches, reformatories, schools, nursing homes, hospitals and centers for the handicapped throughout the metropolitan area, trying to bring the message of God to the people.
The profits go to the people, too, through a day care center for the elderly that the group founded in the District and for which they continue to provide funding for supplies. Last March the troupe toured Minnesota and became part of the Christian Theater Arts Guild.
It all started in 1976 after a sermon at St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Silver Spring. "Father (Gene) Brake was talking in church about how the people he worked with didn't have homes and were being abandoned... how people were dying in their homes and not being found for four days," Graham said.
"Afterwards I went back to him and asked him if there was any way I could help, and he said 'Use your talents.' My talents are in theater, so..."
Graham, a drama graduate of Catholic University, got together with Brake and started CHARIS (Christian Agape Realized in Service). Charis is a Greek word meaning "gift" and "grace."
Graham wrote several plays, organized a theater group to perform them, and Love'n Stuff, a subsidiary of CHARIS, was on its feet. A production in November 1977 netted $1,000 in profits, which was used to start the Martin Luther King Day Care Center for the Elderly at Florida Avenue and 13th Street NW.
The center, which opened that spring and now operates five days a week, offers hot lunches and a place for older adults to gather to play cards, make crafts, watch TV and enjoy the company of others.
About 30 people are served each day at the center, which has a full-time staff member whose salary is paid by the District government because, Graham said, "The (city) council was impressed that a bunch of teen-agers in the suburbs went out and raised money for the elderly in the city."
In 1978, CHARIS raised $2,000. CHARIS has not yet decided how to use the money. "We're thinking of starting another senior citizen center," said Graham, but she added the group must consider several things, including how much money the Martin Luther King Center needs.
The youths in the group usually rehearse eight hours a week, in addition to time for performances. The motivation, according to group members, is their faith.
"Wherever you feel that your top talents lie, you should give back to the Lord," said Sherri Simmons, a new member of the group. "I came to a rehearsal and realized that this is where God put me."
Mays, one of the original members of the troupe, had similar sentiments. "I felt that I had talents in the theater and drama and I had time to do it....The challenge of raising money for senior citizens -- I felt that was a really good challenge. I feel that it's the Lord's will that I'm in it."
"I feel very grateful to God because it was a risk I took," said Graham, who quit her full-time job as an actress with the Street 70 Theatre Company last August so she could devote more time to writing, producing, directing and choreographing productions for Love'n Stuff. "It's been a really rewarding thing."