Underground Church by Lee Thibodeau
There’s a group of 15 people, or ten people, you have to pick one priest and two guards. The guards will outnumber the priests in a one to two ratio. So basically, the priest is chosen and the two guards are chosen and everybody in the group will know who is guards and who is the priests and they’re selected randomly. Everyone starts in a set location. You need a big field. You could actually play in an area with a lot of objects like trees or cars or somewhere where there’s actually like structures. The priest and the guards will leave and the priests will be able to choose what their jail will be, the object or the area will be the Underground Church. And the two guards will leave and they’ll pick their own area that will be the jail. And then the rest of the people who are not chosen will be some civilians, or townsfolk and they have to wait in the area where the game started, which is preferably in the middle of the field or area where the game is taking place.
After about a minute, when the priest and the guards have picked their Underground Church, the game will start. How the game works is – the priest wins if he gets, or the priest and townsfolk because they are kind of on the same team, the priest wins if he gets all of the civilians into the Underground Church. The guards win if they capture the priest. So the guards will constantly be on patrol trying to capture the townsfolk and if they can tag them fast enough, they are dragged off to the jail and they are stuck into the jail until another townsfolk sneaks in or the priest comes and everyone gets out of jail at the same time. So- if you’re in the Underground Church, you’re safe. The guards cannot capture you there and that also includes the priest. If the priest is in the Underground Church, the guards cannot take you out. So it’s this kind of battle between people getting stuck in jail and you having to send townsfolk out to the point where the priest has to go out himself, because there is too many people. So- the game can go on for quite a while and if it takes too long, to where the priest or a lot of townsfolk is in the jail, eventually the guards will win. So, basically the priest does not want to get caught.
A lot of times when I would play the game, we’d play at this park and there would be a forest. Typically someone would choose a tree and when you’re near the tree, that would be the church or you are touching the tree. And then the jail would be like this. There’s like this gravel structure and it was kind of like a square, on the park and that would be the jail. We often change things around because we don’t want to let the guards to actually know where the Underground Church is ‘cause some of them may hide out and try to catch people trying to get to the church. To save someone basically, someone has to run into the jail, grab someone else who’s in the jail already and then they get 10 seconds of immunity. Just basically run away. As soon as the priest gets caught, the guards win. As soon as all the citizens go into the Underground Church, the priest wins.
1. What is being performed?
A field game: Underground Church
2. Can you give us some background information about the performance? Why do you know or like this piece? Where or who did you learn it from?
This is a game we would play with groups of friends back in Washington. I learned it first from a friend who lives in my neighborhood.
3. What country and what region of that country are you from?
Informant: Washington State, the United States.
4. Do you belong to a specific religious or social sub group that tells this story?
It is of Christian relations, relating back to Roman times, when Christianity was not an accepted religion. I belong to Christianity.
5. Where did you first hear the story?
From a friend.
6. What do you think the origins of this story might be?
7. What does it mean to you?
It relates back to those Roman times. To me, it reminds me of the ties I have with the friends who taught me.
Context of the performance- Late night in the dorm, from a friend
Thoughts about the piece- You have to be there in the moment to play this complicated game and understand the strategy. It sounds like a mix between tag, hide and seek and a religious story, a way to collaborate and compete.
Other indoor versions, vocabulary (“centurians” for guards) and team building at