“To Whom it May Inspire.” Thoughts from Creativity, Inc.

I am really jealous of my oldest daughter in one specific way. She seems to be able to make time to read…like really read maybe for an hour or hours a week. I’m not sure how she does it, but thinking back….there was a period of time in my life when I did the same thing. I’m desperately trying to regain that desire/ability, but still struggling a little.

A couple of year’s ago my daughter, Becca author of the Blog, Daily Joy, read the book Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull. She told me that I really NEEDED to read the book. To be honest, I kinda blew it off. Why did I want to read a book about the President of Pixar?? My mindset was that Pixar wasn’t Disney and I was too old for cartoons. So, when my daughter, Ashley, gave me the book for Christmas, I put it away.

Enter Covid. (Is it strange that every one of my blog posts lately say…Enter Covid? Life changing for sure….)

With Covid my world stopped and I tried to recreate good habits and get rid of old bad ones. I had previously made a New Year’s Resolution to read at least one book a month during this year. After a few light reads I decided to pull this book off the shelf.

Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration by Ed Catmull, co-founder (with Steve Jobs and John Lasseter) of Pixar Animation Studios, the Academy Award–winning studio behind Inside Out and Toy Story.

I cannot believe I waited this long to read this book. It was inspirational, motivational, entertaining and educational. This book tells the story of a man who had a dream and worked hard to build a company that set a new standard for a creative culture–believing at all times–that it is important to do the best work possible. I started reading it thinking that it was a great book to tell the story of Pixar, but quickly began telling my friends and anyone who would listen about the lessons I learned each day.Lessons that applied to me as a writer, director, story-teller, leader, President of a non-profit and maybe even just a person. I started taking notes realizing that this book is for me. Ed would tell stories about how they would write their scripts and I would find myself realizing that his struggles were things I needed to learn from.

My lessons didn’t stop there because Creativity, Inc. is also a book for managers who want to lead their employees to new heights, and create a working environment that is successful, safe and causes each employee to also strive to be better.

Here are a few of my favorite quotes:

“If you give a good idea to a mediocre team, they will screw it up. If you give a mediocre idea to a brilliant team, they will either fix it or throw it away and come up with something better.” 

“You are not your idea, and if you identify too closely with your ideas, you will take offense when they are challenged.” 

“Failure isn’t a necessary evil. In fact, it isn’t evil at all. It is a necessary consequence of doing something new.” 

“If you aren’t experiencing failure, then you are making a far worse mistake: You are being driven by the desire to avoid it.” 

“Getting the right people and the right chemistry is more important than getting the right idea.” 

“When it comes to creative inspiration, job titles and hierarchy are meaningless.” 

“When faced with a challenge, get smarter.” 

“Fear can be created quickly; trust can’t.” 

“Craft is what we are expected to know; art is the unexpected use of our craft.” 

“Making the process better, easier, and cheaper is an important aspiration, something we continually work on—but it is not the goal. Making something great is the goal.” 

“What is the point of hiring smart people, we asked, if you don’t empower them to fix what’s broken?” 

“Always take a chance on better, even if it seems threatening.” 

“You’ll never stumble upon the unexpected if you stick only to the familiar.” 

“Be patient. Be authentic. And be consistent. The trust will come.” 

“The future is not a destination – it is a direction.” 

“We must remember that failure gives us chances to grow, and we ignore those chances at our own peril.” 

“We want people to feel like they can take steps to solve problems without asking permission.” 

“THERE IS NOTHING quite like ignorance combined with a driving need to succeed to force rapid learning.” 

“Quality is the best business plan.” 

“it is not the manager’s job to prevent risks. It is the manager’s job to make it safe to take them.”

The title, “To Whom it May Inspire.” is taken from a section of the book where Ed is talking about something he created called, “Notes Day.” He warns that things change and that they should and we shouldn’t be afraid of that change but instead approach it with fresh thinking. Ed received a letter from one of his animators, Austin Madison, which started, “To Whom it May Inspire,” He stated that like most artists he constantly shifts between two states. The first is white-hot, “in the zone.” A place where everything flows creatively. He says it only happened 3% of the time. The other happens the other 97% of the time and is when we are frustrated, struggling and throwing ideas out the window constantly. His advice?

PERSIST

PERSIST on telling your story.

PERSIST on reaching your audience.

PESIST on staying true to your vision.

That’s what we do. Keep on keeping on. Stay focused. Don’t give in.

I think there is comfort in the fact that we will always have problems: some we see right away and some that come out of nowhere….like COVID.

It isn’t the goal to avoid the problems or even to make things easier. The goal is to rise above the problem with excellence.

Who is this book for? EVERYONE. Honestly, do yourself a favor and read it. It isn’t a quick read because there is sooooo much to think about. You might be surprised. You might even shed a tear. It’s that good.

Link to the book on Amazon – https://www.amazon.com/Creativity-Inc-Overcoming-Unseen-Inspiration/dp/0812993012/

I’d love to hear your thoughts! Thank you in advance for commenting and for sharing this post!

Until next time,

It Is Written All Over Your Face (But I Can’t See It Because You Have A Mask On)

Few realize how loud their expressions really are. Be kind with what you wordlessly say.”

― Richelle E. Goodrich, Making Wishes

An actor uses a variety of tools to convince an audience that he truly has become the character he is playing. As a director, I am constantly encouraging the actor to build his character from the outside in or inside out. I don’t care which way he chooses, but it is a must to combine your body and face for the full character development.

In fact, most of us study the face for clues to what a person is really saying to us. Non-verbal communication becomes essential in acting. Did you know that according to a study by Dr. ‘s Paul Ekman and Wallace Frieseney, they found that, the 42 muscles in the face responsible for expression, can make over 10,000 configurations! 3,000 of these relate to emotions. Amazingly enough, expressing yourself by the use of your face doesn’t come natural to everyone! But it is so important.

I remember vividly being scolded as a youngster for the “tone of my voice.” The words I said and my facial expression might have been communicating one message, but the message that was coming from the tone of my voice made my parents believe I was being disrespectful. (which I probably was. Sadly.) Maybe if I had a twinkle in my eye and a smile on my face I would have gotten away with it….again….probably not.


Often words do not match emotions, but the face can betray what the person is actually feeling. Thus, important in communication, but also in acting.

People’s emotions are rarely put into words , far more often they are expressed through other cues. the key to intuiting another’s feelings is in the ability to read nonverbal channels , tone of voice , gesture , facial expression and the like.

Daniel Goleman

Why do I bring this up now?

You got it. The masks.

Now don’t misunderstand me. I am not saying don’t wear them. I am not saying I don’t believe in them. In fact, when I am around groups of people I will be sporting this beautiful Cubs mask made by SERJ Handiworks (serjhandiworks.com if you want one) But I do think we need to understand that there are risks that go beyond health risks. If we focus on those maybe we can prevent problems that might occur after this year of mask wearing.

If we cover half of our face, we only have half to communicate with. Let’s be aware that we still need to be expressive when we are engaging with others.

In a recent study about Facial paralysis a group was shown videos of people with disorders that affect facial movement, They were then asked for their first impressions based on the videos.

People with severe facial movement impairment were rated as less happy and sociable compared to people with mild facial movement impairment. Participants also had less desire to form friendships with them.

In other words, it is very difficult to conquer the human tendency to form impressions based on facial expressions or lack of them.

In 2001 there was a study done on children to test their face-reading skills. This study showed that children with stronger face-reading skills were more popular, and performed better academically. They also discovered that students who had trouble with face-reading had more trouble making friends and had learning difficulties.

I do not wish to alarm and I’m not even sure I totally agree with the results of the study on face-reading. However, I do believe that we need to be aware that with the masks we need to try harder.

Don’t hide behind your mask. The eyes are the window to your soul. Make an effort to connect with the people you see. Honestly, we are all in need of a human connection. It might be the smile in your eyes that makes a difference in someones’ day.

Who knows? Maybe when we can take those masks off for good we will find that the work we put into our facial expression will offer communication and connections that we would never have made before this whole thing started.

And that would be a very good thing indeed.


2 Corinthians 3:18

‘And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.’

I’d really love to hear from you! Please leave me your comments. But I’d love it if you would share this blog as well!

Until next time!

Reba

The Long Intermission

I was in sixth grade when I saw my first stage production. It was a high school production, but that didn’t make it any less remarkable for me. I loved the story, actors, music and dancing. In fact, I loved the whole evening. I think I’m a little unusual in that I seriously enjoy EVERYTHING. I love the energy of the audience as they anticipate the show and seeing their friends or family on stage. I love combing over the playbill and reading the bios and even the advertisements! Then, the orchestra begins to tune their instruments! For most people that isn’t remarkable, but I love listening as they play a note, adjust the string or reed, and play again and again until the whole orchestra can play a note with a unified sound. The curtain goes up and the magic continues. Until intermission….

Intermission:

a short interval between the acts of a play or parts of a public performance, usually a period of approximately 10 or 15 minutes, allowing the performers and audience a rest.

a period during which action temporarily ceases; an interval between periods of action or activity:

Legend has it that in the late Middle Ages early renaissance (in theatrical terms at least think 16th 17th centuries ), theatre began to move from performances outdoors to indoor facilities. Theaters used candles to light the house and the stage. Intermissions began because the candles needed to be changed. While the candles were being changed, vendors would come and sell to the audience members to keep them from leaving the theatre.

Most productions that are longer than 90 minutes will have an intermission (even though the need for changing candles has long gone.) And indeed, it does provide a wonderful time for the audience to stretch their legs, go to the restrooms and browse the gift area or buy concessions. I’m used to the way that process works around this area, but imagine my surprise when I attended New York theaters years ago and they ushered us outdoors and to the restaurant close by to use the restroom because there simply was not time for the whole audience to use the facilities that were located inside that theater! It was a new world!

Does the intermission still have value in today’s world? Here are a few reasons I think it is necessary.

  1. An intermission builds anticipation for what is to come. It gives the audience a chance to stretch, move around, get a drink. And socialize. Which I believe is a very real part of the theater experience.
  2. An intermission allows the actors time to rest or change costumes or grab a much needed drink of water.
  3. An intermission allows the crew time to change the set for the next act.
  4. I try to not have a bottom line that is all about money, but let’s be real…concession sales are a part of a theater’s budget so in that regard, an intermission is very necessary.
  5. In productions that have employed musicians, union rules need to be followed, so that in most cases breaks need to be provided for the orchestra members.

That’s intermission in a world that ceased to exist weeks ago. And we don’t know when or if it will ever return. Thus, we have entered an intermission of sorts. I was listening to a short message from Bob Bixby (friend and Pastor in California. You can reach him at bobbixby.wordpress.com) when this first started and he mentioned that the Lord had given us a Sabbath. I have been fascinated by that thought since then. Did you know that one definition of the word Sabbath is intermission?? An interlude, a pause before we move into our next phase of work.

I didn’t.

What do we know about the Sabbath?

God included it in the Ten Commandments. It wasn’t a suggestion. It was a commandment.

God wants us to receive something from this time of rest each week.

  1. It should be a time of resting from our work. It is a day that gives us a chance to renew ourselves physically, emotionally and spiritually.
  2. This is a time that we can spend quality time with God, but also have fellowship with your church family and others that we love. If we set this day apart we can create close relationships with others that can be spiritually rewarding as we encourage each other and grow together.
  3. This is a time we can stop and think about the blessings that God has given us. Sad to say that sometimes we get so busy with our day to day lives that the act of thankfulness is a trite thought in our prayers, but with a day set aside to reflect on the mercies of God, we can cultivate a attitude that should carry us through the week.
  4. This is a time set apart to rejoice and worship.

The day. The command. It is a gift.

I’m not going to lie. This time of shelter in place has been difficult for me. The theater being shut down has been painful for me. But could it be that in some ways it is a gift from God? A Sabbath? A pause. A time to reflect and regroup and thank God for His mercies which are new each morning.

Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”
Matthew 11:28-30

Dear God,

I didn’t want to slow down, but I have loved what you have taught me during this time. Help me to be thankful for each day. Help me to learn from this time of intermission. Bring the rest for my soul. Thank you for the blessings that you have brought during this time and the mercy you have shown. Thank you, for understanding my burden. Thank you for the gift of Sabbath.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this subject! And as always, I’d love it if you would take the time to share this blog!

Until next time!

Reba

It Isn’t Business As Usual

I had an entirely different blog post prepared to post for this week.

I couldn’t continue to work on it though, because my social media was blowing up with stories of George Floyd and the details of his tragic death. Almost immediately after the organized riots began and then the looting followed by days of riots, looting and destruction. Next, people began to post that enough was enough….and indeed it is.

We know better. But things aren’t getting better.

I’ll never forget hearing the story of the Good Samaritan. In Luke 10, Jesus is asked, What is the most important commandment?” He responds, “To love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind” and the second one is to “love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus is then asked who counts as a neighbor and then tells the story of the Good Samaritan.

Listen as my friend, Jeremiah Dew, tells the story in light of the current world.

I have heard that if you aren’t part of the solution you are part of the problem. I’m not sure if those words are entirely correct, but I do know that racism is a problem that hasn’t gone away. If we are a people that live by the words of Jesus and are instructed to LOVE OUR NEIGHBOR AS OURSELVES ….then why? Why does it still exist? Several reasons I think.

  1. We are sinners. We act wrongly. We speak unwisely and don’t speak up when we should. And we don’t listen enough.
  2. We don’t love the Lord with our whole hearts, souls and minds. And when we forget the first commandment then we don’t even look at the second.
  3. Not everyone is a Christian so how can we even begin to get them to understand the love of God and therefore how could they understand how to love their neighbors?
  4. We need to look past the recent events. This is not just about George Floyd. This is much deeper than that. This is about our constant refusal to view people as equals if their skin color is too dark.

So now. after months of living sheltered in place, months after many people have lost loved ones and/or their jobs, we now have moved on to a new danger. We now have a new unrest–a danger, fear as all across the country squad cars are going up in flames, buildings are being looted and anger roams the streets. What started as a justified response to the murder of George Floyd has turned into a criminal activity that is stealing the attention from a problem that demands to be solved.

We might not be able to solve this problem in our life time, but it doesn’t mean we can’t try.

Jesus, help us to see each person as You do. Help us to love each person as You do. Help us to start the change.

Until next time I’m hoping to be Overshadowed by His love,

Reba

Jeremiah Dew, “JDew,” has always had a passion for performance. Whether it be on stage or on the screen, JDew thrives on audience engagement. Since getting a degree in Mass Communication in 2007, JDew has entertained over three million people at live events. After contemplating a “Black History” stage performance for about 18 months, “One Voice: A Black History Narrative” was born, and debuted at the Warehouse Theatre in Greenville, SC, in 2011. You can contact Jeremiah at https://onevoiceshow.com/meet-jdew/

Meet Guest Blogger-Jarmila V. Del Boccio,


CAN YOU HEAR THE PEOPLE SING?

I DREAMED A DREAM THAT THEY WON ALL!

AM I ON MY OWN IN THIS?

https://www.amazon.com/Miserables-Hugh-Jackman/dp/B00KKNMGRC

LES MIS SHOULD HAVE WON MORE OSCAR AWARDS!


At first, I was discontented. Well, okay, miserable. Only three awards out of eight possible? C’mon! Couldn’t the judges see the talent, energy, and pathos that went into the production?

Although I don’t usually watch the Oscars, I was curious to see how my favorite film of the year fared against the others.

Best supporting actress? Of course!

Best sound mixing? I agreed.

Best Makeup and Hairstyling? I saw that, too.


But, I wanted them to win all the awards. Then I settled down and realized there are other deserving actors/actresses, especially from other cultures who need a win as well.


Then, I got to thinking about our performance as Christians on the stage of life. Are we winning heavenly awards that will bring glory to God and not ourselves?



For instance (and I’m questioning myself) . . .


Best Leading Actor: Are men taking their roles as leaders seriously? How about church leaders? Or anyone for that matter, in a leading role?

Best Supporting Actress: Are you as a wife taking your God-given role seriously and supporting your man? Or, if you are a young person at home, are you supporting your parents? How about singles? Are you being a good friend, and honoring your boss (no matter what gender you are)? How about pitching in with the gifts God has given you in your local church? Congregations, are you bringing joy and not pain to your church leaders?

Directing: Let’s turn the tables — are you allowing God to direct your life, or are you taking charge?

Best Costume Design: Are you “putting off” the dirty garment of anger, lies, and filthy talk? And “putting on” the fresh, clean garment of kindness, humility and patience? (Colossians 3:3-14) Or, possibly, are you pretending to be someone you are not?

Best musical score: Is your life a symphony of comforting notes and scores that brings joy to those around you?

Visual effects — Does your countenance reflect your heart? Do your deeds reflect your relationship with the Creator?

Writing: Those of us who are authors, are we writing for the glory of God, or for a spot in the limelight?

Sound Editing: How is your tongue? Are you silencing those harsh or untrue words before they hurt others?

Cinematography: if you were to play your life back on the screen in a two-hour movie, how would the audience react at the end? Give it 5-stars? Cry at the tragedies that led to more tragedies without meaning? Laugh uproariously because its so true in your own life, a mirror that reflects your need to change?

I’d love to hear your ideas below in the comments!

So, I leave you with the musical performance of Les Misérables cast at the 2013 Oscars…now that deserved an award of its own! You can find the performance at 1:18

Of course, only God deserves our ultimate praise and worship, but, as we do our best in our work and life, we reflect God’s excellence:

“Praise him (God) for his mighty acts: praise him according to his excellent greatness.” Psalms 150: 2

Jarmila’s historical fiction The Heart Changer 💗 released April 26th.
Find it here: https://amzn.to/2SCcPnx

Author’s website ✍🏻: https://www.jarmdelboccio.com/





Meet Guest Blogger–Kady Debalak

This quarantine has provided me with some rare opportunities as I’m sure it has to you. (Positive thinking, people!) Maybe you found time to finally deep clean the garage or that closet? Or…just to sleep! I’ve found time for two of my favorite things: cooking and reading (make that 3 – eating – let’s be real). In addition to my favorite genres, history and fiction, I’ve been reading more plays (and eating more…and…riding my bike more – gotta combat the COVID 20!…Pounds that is).

I´ve been thinking about how I would stage and develop these plays (I have a few shelf fulls I´ve been working my way through). In thinking (and eating, of course) during all of this, I discovered the topic for this blog!


Cooking up Characters with Kady!
(did you like that alliteration?)
Seriously though, there are so many parallels between cooking and directing that once I started, I just couldn’t stop seeing the similarities. So, here are some ´tasty´ thoughts about how to ´cook´ up and serve characters and actually, the whole show, as a director.

First, and absolutely the most essential, is the visualization. I have always been fascinated with the process of taking raw ingredients and reshaping them into a new cohesive whole, which is why I love cooking. (plus I love eating, gotta be real folks). Taking ´raw´ ideas and reshaping them into living breathing characters in a ´real´ world is why I love directing. Both cooking and directing spring from visualizing the final product.


Michael Kum leads the students in an acting exercise during the creative process for “The Hobbit.”

An important caveat: I make no claims to be a professional or even a remotely good cook! (and definitely not baking – I have not conquered the opera cake yet – plus I haven’t deboned a duck…let alone a chicken) And I am most definitely not a Broadway director. I direct summer camps for Overshadowed and direct my school´s drama program/plays. Broadway someday? I can dream. But in the meantime, I absolutely L-O-V-E what I do. So back to it.

I almost (not completely because I l-o-v-e to eat) enjoy imagining the combination of flavors, texture, and plating more than creating the actual dish. Why? It’s the wonder of possibilities! It’s the magic of ´before´ reality hits and all the obstacles jump up to bonk you in the nose. As I read a script, the same thing happens. Oh the possibilities! I imagine the world with the movie or I should say, the ´stage of the mind´. And while the show plays, I ask questions: What do I think the forest of Oberon and Titania actually looks like? Should the 39 Steps be staged as a radio drama or can it be ´live action´? And Jane Eyre..modern or historical? How should Don John hide his perfidy from the characters but not the audience in Much Ado About Nothing? How would an audience react to a production of Raisin in the Sun? How actually should I create the creatures of The Hobbit? (that one was answered brilliantly by my creative team!)


Sometimes the visualization doesn’t start with a script. It sometimes happens like my grocery shopping (especially when I´m hungry). Sometimes, I will see a unique ingredient (like a kumquat) and think, ´I´ve never cooked with that before. I wonder how it can be used and what other ingredients will go with it?´ Then, I pull out my phone right there and look up ideas, nutritional facts, and common or unique ways to cook it. And then into the cart it goes and the adventure begins! Sometimes I´m introduced to a new idea I´ve never used before, or a story I´ve never heard of, or a design element or tool I’d absolutely love to use. The research begins and ´Oh the possibilities´!

And once the mind, and sometimes the heart, are full of all the possibilities, I have found I need a lot of help to make that dream a reality.

Which of course leads to the next step: the collaboration.

With the ´recipe´ of the visualization in hand, I turn to my team. As a director or the visionary of any creative endeavor, this is the most essential task – getting your vision, ideas, tastes, textures, mood, hopes, fears, wish lists, and the world across to your creative team.

Not just so they understand what is being created, but so that they catch your hunger; so that they take ownership of the vision as well. Any chef knows the explanation of a recipe must be absolutely clear or what will be presented to the diner will be a muddied catastrophe. The director must be absolutely clear in establishing the framework and details the world his/her team is to work within. They become your sous chefs in their respective areas of expertise. Lighting, costuming, makeup/hair, sound, house, set, props, stage crew, marketing – you name it. This utterly essential team must hunger for exactly what you´re hungering for. If you pick well, as I have thankfully often experienced, they will love your vision as much as you do. And as such, will willingly share in the burden of creation.

The creative team is not just there to share in the burden, they´re there to add to the dish. Having other’s input adds flavor, shape, and foresight or resolution to problems you couldn’t see (I tend to dream big, my team helps keep my feet on the ground). Plus, someone else’s creativity and skill can make all the difference. That doesn’t mean the recipe loses its intrinsic value, its central identity, or that the director loses ownership. It simply means a new perspective of costuming, some expertise on how to actually make those puppets work, a composition of the mood you wanted to convey through music, or a unique way of enhancing audience interaction will all help create an authentic performance. That is simply invaluable. This team will become your fellow visionaries, and in some cases, dear friends with whom you can share and bolster the creative process through all the possibilities.

The third step (which I adore) is the preparation, or the creation of the characters. This is the step of pulling the characters from the page into the world that has been envisioned and is being created. This step requires reliance on the sous chefs/line cooks.

I think actors generally fall in the range of both. (I speak as an actor as well). What I mean is this:
My niece is 14, precocious, opinionated, very chatty, beautiful, creative, and did I mention opinionated? My nephew is 16, tall, handsome, a sweetheart, intelligent (single) and follows instructions well. (I love them…clearly) When my sister and I cook or bake (Which we love to do! She could open her own restaurant), we do enjoy making it a family affair, which means pulling my niece or nephew into the adventure. Both enjoy cooking in my sisters kitchen, but one is a sous chef and one is more of a line cook. My nephew takes the instructions and performs with minimal questions. Need something diced? Grilled? He’s on it. If he doesn’t know how, a demonstration or explanation is given and he’s good. My niece, on the other hand, needs to know why. Always. ´Why not julienned instead of diced? It will look prettier, Aunt Kady!´ Oy vey! I have learned that after explanation, and after she has defended her point of view (vociferously), I have a choice. I can modify per her suggestion, or if that modification takes us outside the parameters of the recipe, I can choose not to. But I had better clearly explain why not to her before she is willing to move on. And she does, and dices with absolute precision. She does so because she owns her understanding of why. It’s now her mission, her task, her recipe too. Now I know sous chefs are second in command in the kitchen. I´m not saying actors are assistant directors. But, when it comes to character creation, the directorial vision has to be handed over to the ´assistant´ creators of those characters – which is the actors.


I have found that despite training (Meisner, Method, College degree, or complete amateur), actors generally land somewhere between my neice or my nephew. I enjoy both the line cooks and the sous chefs. Those like my nephew take the instruction and go with it. If they need direction they ask or accept it, then take it and go. They have already signed up to your vision because they trust it’s gonna ´taste´ good (especially if it’s pasta). They really thrive when the director is ´hands on´ in the early stages of laying out the elements of the character that he/she want to see brought to life and then stepping back and allowing the actor to take on the responsibility progressively throughout the entire process until of course they present the character on stage before an audience. Others…well…are my niece. They may question your vision from the very start. It doesn’t matter if they are highly trained or complete newbies. These are more sous chefs than line chefs and need to own the ´recipe´ of their characters as their own. This means you have to explain the vision and it needs to make sense to them. They need to understand the world their character lives in. And if it doesn’t make sense and they just can’t claim ownership of it, well… there have been times I’ve kicked my niece out of the kitchen. But when they do own the vision, when they are allowed to add their flavor to it… the performance that results from such an intensive shaping can be so enriched and authentic. In the world that’s been created by a team fully committed to the vision, adding a performance that has been relentlessly picked apart, lovelingly shaped together, and executed with absolute belief is utterly glorious! I guarantee that your audience won’t soon forget it. It is a beautiful preparation.

From visualization to collaboration to preparation, we’ve arrived at the final flourish, the lifting of the silver dome – the presentation! What a wonder it is when that curtain finally rises! A chef can indeed cook alone and create an adventure on a plate that the diner won’t soon forget.

But theater is not a solo endeavor.

Besides creativity and teamwork, its most important ingredient is trust. The playwright must trust that their story will be told with integrity, even with creative license. The director must trust that the world he/she envisioned will truly be brought to life by the design team, the crew, and the actors. And when the audience sits down to dine on the feast that is truly the ´theater experience´, they trust that the performance they are about to partake in has been cooked up with the greatest love, professionalism, care, detail, and creativity, with a dash of magic. Bon appetit!

ou can contact Kady at kdebelak@gmail.com

We would love to hear what you think about the creative process. Please take time to share this blog!

Until next time!

It May Seem Impossible…But God

This past Sunday we all celebrated Mother’s Day. Some of us had the luxury of being together. Some of us had wonderful zoom calls from our kids. Some of us mourned the loss of our mothers. In whatever way you celebrated, I’ll guess that the conversations around your table were different than the conversations held in the past. I’ll tell you the most special gift in the world would have been to be with my children and my mom. As the day went on I thought about my mom spending mother’s day all alone in her retirement home. I am so thankful she is safe, but just like so many other mothers…she is alone. On the day that is set aside to remember mothers and celebrate them–countless numbers of them spent the day all alone. Honestly, I grieved not being able to see her or my kids.

My mom with her mother and older sister. I never knew my mom had curly hair like this!

So what are we learning through this crisis?

  1. To celebrate life. Each and every moment is important. We never know when we are going to be able to spend an additional moment with those we love. We will never take them for granted again.
  2. We are learning that things we took for granted are infinitely more valuable and necessary than we knew. A hug from a friend. Dinner with a friend. A visit with mom.
  3. Priorities. What are the things you are missing most during this time? What can you live without? What can’t you live without? Is it possible that we could be building new habits as we realize what things are truly important?
  4. Things we need to work on. If there is anything we have now it is time….time to think. Time to reflect. Time to figure out if there are bad habits we need to get rid of or good ones we need to develop.

What do you have time for that you never did before?

I’m not going to say that I NEVER had time for a Bible study because I’ve done quite a few in my life, but at the beginning of our shelter-in-place a friend of mine suggested that we start a book/Bible study. I resisted, but as weeks went on I realized it was a really good idea. My mind needed to focus on God and not searching the internet and Facebook for everything that MAN was saying. We are only on our third week, but it is such a blessing to gather and pray with these ladies. And listen….I do not think I would have joined….if not for the virus. Thank you, God, for giving me time to commit to you in this way. Thank you, for the time we spend together.

I look around me and, while I treasure my mom and my family; I am also spending time thinking about all the hardships I see around me. People out of work. People struggling to pay bills. People who have lost loved ones to this horrible virus. People who are suffering with depression or feelings of hopelessness. People who have loss loved ones! Let’s face it, we can all look at the hardship and hopelessness all around us and start to feel lost, depressed, discouraged.

Or, we can come face-to-face with something else. Jesus is the only one that can help. Someone wrote me this quote the other day, “It may seem impossible, but God….”

God. Healer. Comforter. Prince of Peace. Deliverer. One who Sets Us Free. Mighty God.

There are many more, but these are the ones I am claiming for today….

It may seem impossible….but God!

God understands our loneliness. Our Grief. Our disappointment. Our fear. He reminds us with each name from the Bible to call on Him–He alone can comfort, protect and deliver us! Will you all join me to pray earnestly for healing for our country? A treatment? That God will stop this virus?

Well, this is a theater blog after all, right? So I’d like to end with a song that I’ve been thinking about.

This is from Fiddler on the Roof. It makes me cry every time I hear it.

Is this the little girl I carried?
Is this the little boy at play?
I don’t remember growing older,
When did they?

When did she get to be a beauty?
When did he grow to be so tall?
Wasn’t it yesterday when they were small?

Sunrise sunset, sunrise, sunset,
Swiftly flow the days,
Seedlings turn overnight to sunflowers,
Blossoming even as they gaze…

Sunrise sunset, sunrise, sunset!
Swiftly fly the years,
One season following another,
Laden with happiness and tears…

My Mom and me. I think 2018?

Dear Father God,

They grow so fast. The days go quickly. Please let us see our families and enjoy the wonderful gifts that come from You. Please help us to understand our purpose here, when we can’t go out , and it seems like months before we even be able to worship together. How are we supposed to act? What are we supposed to do? We walk in places we have not walked before. Thank You for leading the way, because humanly it all seems impossible. But we know You are the Creator of all and nothing is impossible with you. We also know that you love us more than we can fathom and that you feel our pain during this time. We take comfort that as you wept at the grave of Lazarus that you feel our pain. We ask that you send the Holy Spirit to comfort us and give us strength.

I’d love to hear your thoughts and how you are coping and praying during this time.

If you think this might be a blessing to others please take time to follow and share.

Until next time,

Reba

Ten Lessons About Social Distancing and Times of Crisis That We Can learn From Theater

I had the chance to meet “Shrek” and loved it when he said I was just a big kid! Don’t judge!

  1. Shrek is the perfect example of social distancing. When he is misunderstood, he decides it is better to live alone and in the swamp. Of course, he meets Donkey and Fiona and well..who can resist a good love story reminding us that we are better with people. The other favorite about this musical is

that it ends with a Monkee’s song, Daydream Believer. I loved the group and this is one of my favorite songs so getting to enjoy that song at the end of this musical makes it a real treat.

2.  Les Misérables. I think I can speak confidently for broken-hearted girls everywhere that Eponine is their representative. She has a horrible home life and has really had to take care of herself most of her life. Then she meets, Marius, basically someone that could be her prince charming. Is it love at first sight? Nope, not for this tragic creature. Instead she helps him communicate with the person he has fallen in love with. She sings the song that many a girl has belted out in their rooms through tears. “On my Own.”

On my own
Pretending he’s beside me
All alone
I walk with him till morning
Without him
I feel his arms around me
And when I lose my way I close my eyes
And he has found me

Yep. That’s what we are all doing right now. All alone. Maybe the lesson we learn from her is that we can sing our way through any circumstance in life!

3. Rapunzel. This sweet character was locked away in a tower for most of her life. I mean, you all remember how long her hair was when her prince climbed up to rescue her, right? (And you think you need a hair cut…) One of the main things I love about Rapunzel is that she made good use of her time. She painted and baked and well…everything. What new skill are you learning as you are confined?

Brianna Valentine played Rapunzel for our Movie in the Park event. I am so sorry you can’t see her beautiful long hair in this photo! Especially since it represents how badly we all are going to be in need of a hair cut when we get out again!

Oh, by the way. This story also teaches us about hope. Rapunzel’s parents never gave up hope that she was going to return. In a way, it was the beauty of the lanterns and their optimism that brought her home. So, let’s not give up hope that we are going to conquer this evil virus sooner rather than later!

4.  The Hunchback of Notre Dame. I might as well do all my tower characters together! Quasimodo. This tragic character was born deformed. Because of his appearance he was condemned to the cathedral’s tower by the caretaker. Quasimodo yearned to experience the outside world and be among the people. (Sound familiar?) I love the lesson of this show….who the monster is and who the man is depends on your point of view.

5. The Phantom of the Opera. The Phantom lurks around hiding and isolating himself. Let’s face it, he was wearing a mask before it was cool! In fact, this beautiful operetta sings an entire song about masks!

Masquerade! Paper faces on parade

Masquerade! Hide your face so the world will never find you

Masquerade! Every face a different shade

Masquerade! Look around, there’s another mask behind you

Yep, masks, masks everywhere I look. In all seriousness, one of the lessons of Phantom is that regardless of circumstances we have a choice on how we live our lives. Such a good reminder right now.

6. Beauty and the Beast. Yep. you guessed it. Another character that is isolated alone, hiding away from the world as we know it. But the Beast is lucky, he has Lumiere, Cogsworth, and Mrs. Potts to keep him company. Then, as fate would have it Belle enters his life. What lesson can we learn? We actually learn the lesson from Belle. The fairy tale, happily-ever-after love story might not look like one right away, but don’t give up ! That love story might be waiting for you when you least expect it!

7. Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. Adam and his brothers lived outside of their town. They had no manners and knew little about love. They thought they could force their seclusion on others and kidnapped the girls in town that had captured their hearts and forced an avalanche so that they could keep them all winter. Lucky for the girls, Milly, Adam’s wife, forced the guys to stay in the barn and kept the couples apart. Lesson? The premise is bad, but thankfully it is seen as a farce and teaches the lesson that love changes the heart of another. We can also learn that it isn’t good to be alone–people make bad decisions! (Seems like we keep being reminded of that lesson)

8. Wicked. Elphaba is green and misunderstood. So….she doesn’t really wear a mask….but again…she is GREEN so I think that counts. But don’t count her out. You won’t find her in the middle of the crowd and that’s ok. There are so many great things to learn from this musical. You don’t always have to do the “popular” thing. Sometimes the other choice is better. Your future is unlimited. Lastly, sometimes you just have to dance through life.

9. The Diary of Anne Frank. I know I’ve mentioned her quite a bit lately, but there is so much to learn from her. As you know, her family went into hiding on July 6, 1942. They continued to live in hiding until they were arrested on August 4, 1944. In spite of Anne’s living conditions, she was aware that her family had more than others. What can we learn? The importance of perspective. We can also learn to look for the silver lining instead of thinking about how horrible our situation is. In hiding she wrote,

“The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go…somewhere where they can be quite alone with the heavens, nature and God.”

“Those who have courage and faith shall never perish in misery.”

10. The Trip to Bountiful. I have saved my favorite for last. When the stay at home orders were issued we were in the middle of our production of Bountiful. I had the honor of portraying Carrie Watts and I’m pretty sure I’ll never have the chance of playing another character that is as wonderful as she is. Why Carrie? She says:

“That was what was killing me! To be locked up in those two rooms! I bet I’ll live to be 100 now that I can get outside again!

I think we can all understand how Carrie was feeling! One other thing we can learn from Carrie is that no one can take away our song. We might not be able to get out and do all the things we want to or be with the people we want to be with, but you can keep singing. And I can’t wait to sing again with all of you.

Keep singing, my friends!

I’d love to hear what you think. Are there other characters I should have included? Please share this blog and follow so you don’t miss a post!

Until next time!

7 Predictions on How the Theater World Might Change After the Virus

For weeks now we have listened to the news waiting anxiously to hear how many weeks it will be before cities around the United States start to “see the curve flatten”. I took heart a few weeks ago when I heard that New York had announced that Broadway would plan to open again on June 7th. It has now become clear that probably will not happen. In fact, the prediction is that touring groups, regional theaters and community theaters will open long before Broadway. In other words, for the first time ever…WE have the opportunity to set the standards for Broadway. How different will things look? How long will it be before people want to come back? These are questions that are ringing in all of our ears.

Each night I record the latest totals of Covid cases per state. I’m not sure why I do it– other than it will make interesting reading for someone who looks through my journal one day. We are making history after all, right? Every night my husband asks me, “Do you really think people will want to sit next to each other at ballgames, movie theaters or live theater?”

Well, I guess we aren’t out of the woods yet, but we’ve definitely had a lot of hours to think about how we are going to act when we are set free. And, I agree, I think things are going to be different.


Here are 7 predictions:

1. Seating is going to be limited. I don’t think people are going to want to sit next to people they don’t know for a long time to come. I have heard that airplanes are not going to be selling the middle seat. (Thank goodness.) If the airlines aren’t going to plaster us in their seats, I don’t think theaters will either.

Just this week I received an update from the company that runs our on-line ticketing. They are working on software that automatically blocks out the seats around a group of seats that are purchased. Now….how do I figure out the percentage of tickets sold so I can quote the accurate numbers to apply for royalties??? New problems….

2. Online sales will dominate. During this crisis I continue to hear people say that, “Money is dirty.” Businesses have offered to have payment options so that people don’t have to exchange money. I think theaters are going to want to protect their employees by only having payment options that don’t require the handling of money. That includes concession time. Perhaps pre-ordering your snacks so that people will not have to stand in line next to each other? Which actually might be a very nice courtesy to offer patrons. What is your average time standing in line at intermission??

Will that change anything for the industry overall? People have been purchasing tickets on line for years. In the long run we will have to juggle the credit card and service fees that go along with it. Have you noticed that some companies charge over $20 in fees???

3. Real Estate is going to be more affordable. Now this is exciting. With all the companies that have had to figure out how to work remotely…I think a lot of buildings are going to become unnecessary which leaves them open for theater space! Before this crisis, there wasn’t enough of it or it was too expensive. Maybe that is something positive to explore.

4. Live streaming is going to be a very real possibility. Man, there is just nothing like watching a live show, but if you can’t find a way to attend then seeing that live stream is for sure a second best. I can’t wait to see how this continues to develop.

5. Theaters are going to be more flexible about the ability to change tickets. Perhaps we will send out instructions with the ticket order on how to exchange tickets if the customer doesn’t feel well. Along with that, perhaps the theater will take temperatures before the customer is allowed into the theater. It will be all about making sure that the audience member feels like we have their safety in mind.

6. Limited seating will be available. I’m not sure how long social distancing will be in place or how long it will take for us to be comfortable sitting next to someone we don’t know. So, theaters will limit the amount of seats that will be available for performances. This will give everyone ample room to spread out and not come in close contact. Perhaps ushers will dismiss people row by row as well. It will all be about how we can limited the contact of the audience. Perhaps we could also have certain performances that were strictly for those at higher risk? Limiting the number of seats even more.

7. Theater will come back. We need it. We have survived wars and TV and Netflix and I believe people will be craving the community that is theater. I’m not sure how long it will all take. We might all have to rebuild. But we will be there for you when you are ready to come back!

Do you remember the first live performance you ever saw? I do! I remember how I felt when I heard the orchestra begin to tune. I remember the energy of the audience and how I felt when each cast member appeared. I cannot wait to sit in an audience and feel all the feels again. Will you be there with me?

I’d love to hear what you think of these idea and if you have others! Please take a moment to like, share, comment and follow!

Until next time!









Meet Guest Blogger–Nathan Pittack

Featured Post

The Chameleons of the Theatre (what they do and why they matter)

I am so thrilled to introduce Nathan to all of you. Some of you may remember Nathan from a few year’s ago when we had the honor of having him at Overshadowed just for a few weeks before he returned home to get married. He made a lasting impression on us in just that short amount of time and I can’t wait for you to get to know his heart in this blog! Enjoy!

When Reba asked me if I would be a guest author on her blog, I must admit I felt both honored and nervous—happy to reconnect with Overshadowed, but also a tad afraid of the topic. She asked me a seemingly simple question: “What is a dramaturg?” 

But the truth is there’s no official, textbook definition. The role can vary from show to show, company to company. Not to mention dramaturgs are often overlooked in America. But one thing is for sure—dramaturgs are the chameleons of the theatre. When involved, they enrich every single aspect of a production, even though their specific influence may be hard to define. In short, they are Content and Context experts. Their main responsibility? To ask 3 questions about every play they work on. And to answer them as thoroughly and collaboratively as possible.

Question 1: Why Then?

“How much is a guinea worth?”
“Where did swing music come from?” 
“What were French fashions in 1834?” 
“What does this Shakespearean monologue mean, anyway? Can I cut it?” 
“Why was it like that back Then?”

Dramaturgs are tasked with answering countless historical questions for designers, directors, and actors alike. Mercifully, they usually join a production before any other member of the team (unless a playwright is involved). This gives them time to gather a wealth of information to share before any acting, design, and directorial choices are made. These findings are gathered into one large document called the Actor’s Packet. Typically, production team members get a copy during preliminary meetings, and actors receive it on the first night of rehearsal.Now you may be thinking: “Don’t the cast and crew do their own research?” And the answer is yes, they do (or should!). But by doing a lot of research ahead of time, dramaturgs help save them hours of work. But even more importantly is how dramaturgs offer insight into questions that aren’t quite so easily answered with a Google search:

“What’s with the scrims in The Glass Menagerie?”
“Why is Arthur Miller obsessed with Greek theatre structure?”
“How did religion shape Shakespeare’s plays and characters?”

These are questions of culture—specifically the aesthetics of the playwrights themselves and the societies they lived in. And unfortunately too many productions skip right on by these. 

“But why is that a problem?” you may ask. Well, think of it this way: Plays, like any art form, are created in response to something—personal, political, societal, you name it. And so if we divorce ourselves from the original context of the play—and the reason it was written—we not only fail to understand the message itself, but fail to know how to translate it to a modern-day world. 

Dramaturgs help us make this connection. Which leads me to Question 2.

Question 2: Why Now?

A dramaturg’s job doesn’t end with the Actor’s Packet. He’s not just handing out a bunch of historical facts and aesthetic recommendations–then walking away hoping it’s all done properly.  

No—the dramaturg is an active on-going presence throughout the rehearsal process. Serving as the confidant to the director, the dramaturg keeps this question in sight at all times: 

“Why this play Now?”

In other words, 
“What is its significance today?”

Or—if it’s a new play—
“Why is it worth the risk to support this playwright and produce it?”

Dramaturgs keep the team focused on answering these “Now” questions in several ways. 

First of all, they champion the play itself. If it’s an established script, they make sure that its original context isn’t lost—or worse, misrepresented for the sake of “innovation”—during the production’s process. To do this, they facilitate meaningful discussion and interpretation of the play, including modern-day applications. 

If it’s a new play, dramaturgs work with the playwright directly—consulting them on potential adjustments, maintaining the script’s integrity, and ensuring the play’s present-day message isn’t muddled. Because if it is, then the theatre has lost the reason they took the risk to produce it!

Second, by focusing on “Why this play now?”, the dramaturg reminds the team of why they chose to do this play in the first place. For instance, let’s say the director shared a brilliant vision for the play at the table read. A couple weeks in, the dramaturg asks:

“Is this vision being realized?”
“Are acting and design choices in line with these directorial goals? With the text itself?” 
“Based on how rehearsals are going, will the audience receive the intended message?”

( a shot of the departmental statement Nathan wrote for a recent production)

Dramaturgs help directors keep the original vision intact, and they serve as sounding boards for the thousands of decisions that come directors’ ways. While directors may feel they’re making one isolated choice after another, dramaturgs are there to point out how each choice influences the overall vision—and ultimately, how the audience will experience the play. Which leads into Question 3.

Question 3: Why Here?

This question is critical. 

Why is this theatre doing this play in this community?

And unfortunately many theatres don’t even think to ask it.

But a dramaturg has it on their radar long before a script is selected in the first place. In fact, theatres with resident dramaturgs often task them with sourcing play options for their seasons. And there are two crucial reasons why.

First, we know any established theatre ought to have a clear and distinct identity and mission. We should be able to say, “Oh yeah, that theatre is known for [family/edgy/comedy/etc.] shows.” And so when a theatre company is looking to pull together a cohesive season, dramaturgs go to work to find plays that fit the theatre’s niche, and even specific themes if desired. A lot of times this is how new playwrights are discovered—dramaturgs are dear friends of new works!

But it’s not enough to know why the theatre is doing the play.

Secondly, a dramaturg helps determine why a specific community needs this play. Let’s say you’re a comedy-oriented theatre and you want to do a production of Neil Simon’s Barefoot in the Park—a funny play about a newlywed couple in New York City. But there’s a catch: you’re located in southern Mississippi surrounded by an older community of blue collar workers. The play may fit your niche, but it doesn’t serve your audience demographic. 

This audience-centered thinking is the bread and butter of the dramaturg. If a play’s appeal doesn’t extend beyond the theatre company itself—if it’s not a gift to the larger community, speaking to them in specific ways—then the dramaturg should rightfully ask:

Why are we doing it at all?” 

But—when a play is chosen that does meet the theatre’s niche as well as its surrounding community, dramaturgs are in their happy place. In fact, this is personally my favorite aspect of dramaturgy and why I am so passionate about it. Because the dramaturg now gets to create meaning that extends beyond the production itself.

Through presentations to cast and crew, dramaturgs get to express why this play matters to the outside world—the one right outside their door! And by creating lobby displays, program notes, and talkback sessions, dramaturgs show audiences that this production speaks to their lives and experiences right now, right here. 

It’s a gift. And it’s personal. 

When you choose a play for a specific audience, a specific community, you’re saying:

 “I see you. I hear you. I know what you value—what speaks to your soul.”  

And sometimes even:

I know this one will be hard for you; but I think you need it—it’ll help you grow.” 

Dramaturgs search for plays that serve their audience. And I kind of think that looks like Jesus.

So to sum up a post longer than I intended, dramaturgs are a vital part of the theatre. Because their three questions—why then? why now? why here?—all answer one ultimate question: 

Why it matters

If we fail to answer that, then we’ve failed to give a gift. And if we fail to give a gift, then we’ve failed to make art. 

May we as Christians always be gift-givers.

Selected Resource: 

Ghost Light: An Introductory Handbook for Dramaturgy by Michael Mark Chemers

You can follow Nathan @nathan_pittack or contact him at nathanpittack@icloud.com

As always, we’d love to hear your comments! And we’d love it if you’d take a moment to like us and share this blog!

Until next time!