acting, audience, christian blog, christian theater, communication, directing, stage, theater, theater education

It’s Not What You Say-It’s How You Say It

Meet Guest Blogger Anna Johansen Brown! I’m excited to introduce this charming, cleaver, talented writer to all of you! 
 
 
Anna Johansen Brown is a current journalist, former debate teacher, and eternal nerd. She writes for a daily news podcast called The World And Everything In It and the topical podcast Effective Compassion. In her free time, she creates fantasy worlds and plays DnD with her fellow nerd husband, Wesley. One day, Anna aspires to become a dog owner.

My husband has been educating me on Star Wars. I think he sees it as his duty to make me a well-rounded individual who fully appreciates cultural icons. And while I’ve seen the original trilogy, I’ve never watched Revenge of the Sith…or that one about the clones…or that other one whose name I can’t remember.

So we’ve been watching them together. And I have thoughts.

My first takeaway was that battle droids are adorable. Why did no one tell me this before? But my second takeaway was the dialogue. Like this infamous line, delivered by a mawkish Anakin: “I don’t like sand. It’s coarse and rough and irritating, and it gets everywhere. Not like you. You’re everything soft and smooth.”

NOBODY TALKS LIKE THAT.

Or if they do, you probably should be running away fast.

So I started thinking about dialogue, and how crucial it is in maintaining immersion for viewers or listeners or readers.

In real life, people are unscripted and say “um” and “uh” and “like” and “y’know”…and they really don’t drop similes into ordinary conversations. In real life, people fumble for words and speak in sentence fragments. They’re unscripted.

The way people talk also tells you something about their background. Certain words are unique to certain locations. (Y’all, anyone?) The words people choose indicate what they like to read and where they grew up and who they hung out with. So for writers, getting dialogue right is important. It’s important for general realism (your characters shouldn’t sound scripted, even though they are), and specific realism (your characters shouldn’t use words they wouldn’t know or have heard in their context).

When I started writing for a news podcast, I had to learn the difference between print and radio. In print, you can cram lots of details and clauses into a sentence. Like this frontpage Washington Post article from the mid-2000s:

“President Bush yesterday said he takes responsibility for the federal government’s stumbling response to Hurricane Katrina as his White House worked on several fronts to move beyond the improvisation of the first days of the crisis and set a long-term course on a problem that aides now believe will shadow the balance of Bush’s second term.”

Perfectly acceptable print sentence. But try reading that out loud. It doesn’t work.

For one thing, it’s too long. Normal people don’t speak in long, full sentences with correct clauses and subclauses. They use short sentences.

It also doesn’t make sense the first time you hear it. When you’re reading something, you can go back and re-read parts of a sentence or paragraph that you missed the first time through. If you’re speaking or reading to someone, you only get one shot.

So for stage and for radio, you have to translate it into something speakable. When I write scripts, I’m constantly saying the lines out loud as I type, to see if it feels natural. Once, my editor flatly refused to include “transmogrification” in a script because who says that in real life? (Well, maybe you’re writing a character who happens to be a super nerd. If so, you can use transmogrification in their dialogue. I’ll allow it.)

Bottom line: Choose words that your character would actually say. And that means you have to know who you’re writing about. Spend time with that demographic. Listen to how they speak, their sentence structure, their slang, their word choice, their pronunciation.

Kids don’t think in abstract terms, so don’t write in deep moral thought processes for your 6-year-old character. Women tend to say “I feel like [insert opinion here]” more than men do. Americans don’t call elevators “lifts,” and Brits don’t call an eggplant an eggplant. They call it “aubergine.”

So listen and mimic. But…only to a certain extent.

You want dialogue to sound natural, but the same time, you don’t want to write in all the ums and uhs and filler words so common in real-life conversations. That would bog down a script and sap all your artistry. There is a place in between ordinary conversations and scripted dialogue. That’s the sweet spot. National Public Radio calls it “speech that has been washed and pressed.” You mimic natural speech without being strictly accurate.

You can use rhetorical devices in scripts and dialogue. Scripted lines can (and should) have flow and rhythm and lyricism. But if you read it out loud (or have a 6-year-old read it out loud, or a Canadian, or a 40-year-old man, or whoever your character is most like), it has to sound like something they would actually say.

Whoever is voicing or reading your script will thank you. And if you do your job right, your audience probably won’t even notice, because they’ll be immersed in the characters and setting. There won’t be any sand…that coarse, rough, irritating stuff that gets everywhere…to distract them.

Have you ever performed in a play where the dialogue was difficult? Do you have certain authors that just make everything sound natural? I’d love to hear from you!

Until next time–this is just me-talking to you from the wings!

acting, artist, artistic vision, audience, backstage, christian blog, christian theater, communication, entertainment, theater

Doing “YOUR THING” Matters

I am so excited to share this post from our guest blogger today! Meet Julie Gernand! I’m thankful to have her as a part of Overshadowed and blessed to have her as a friend!

Today’s guest contributor, JULIE GERNAND, is wife to Ted and mom to Benjamin (3) and Peter (5 months). She has been seen on the OTP stage in the summer 2016 musical Guys and Dolls and was honored to choreograph both I’ll Be Seeing You (winter ‘17) and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (summer ‘18). She currently resides in Oswego, IL and enjoys teaching theatre classes for Heritage Homeschool Workshops and diving into her new passion of bringing joy to others through weekly online Zumba dance fitness classes. You can join her live on Facebook every Tuesday evening and Saturday morning!

Doing YOUR THING Matters.

I think it’s really important to find “that thing”. 
You know what I’m talking about. “That thing” that brings you joy in ways nothing else does. The creative outlet, class, hobby, or interest that makes you YOU. For my husband, it’s Cadillacs and baseball. Not necessarily in that order. 


For me? It’s theatre.


The fact that you’re reading this blog today probably means that you have an interest in theatre too. Is it “your thing” too?  In my case, I didn’t realize this about myself until about 7th grade. I was cast as Kate, an orphan in the musical Annie, Jr. with a small theatre group that met at a local dance academy. Sure, I had been in some hodgepodge church productions and elementary school music-class plays (for which my mom has saved every playbill and script in memoriam…anyone else?) but this was my first “big deal” role. I knew I liked being on stage, but it wasn’t until this musical that I felt it. The goofy camaraderie among the cast. The butterflies of that moment just before the curtain opened. The “going out to dinner with your show makeup on” sort of giggly pride. I really felt like I had found my people.


 Among these things, one moment that shaped this experience for me was during a live performance. We were performing the scene in which the orphans sing “It’s a Hard Knock Life” and perform an angsty dance with a rolling laundry basket when the musical accompaniment track suddenly cut out. The bunch of us, all elementary and middle school girls, were left to finish the song a cappella. I remember looking around, making knowing-glances at the other girls as we just kept singing. I mean, “the show must go on”, right!? Part of the true joy and magic of live theatre is learning what to do when mishaps occur, because they will. We threw Molly into the laundry basket, hit our final pose, and left the stage. I was so proud to be part of that cast as our director hugged us after the show, who through tears congratulated us for finishing that song strong and without missing a beat, as though nothing had happened to the music. From then on, I was pretty hooked on this musical theatre thing.


I’ve recently read a book (That Sounds Fun by Annie F Downs  – highly recommend) in which the author talks about the importance of doing something that you love, even if you’re not the best at it. In our world, we often think we have to be a professional at something to be doing it at all. This point resonated with me. Maybe it resonates with you, too.


The thing about my love of theatre was… well, I wasn’t the best at it. Sure, I had sung in our church’s children’s choir for a few years at that point and had a knack for silly faces, but I certainly wasn’t the singer they would choose to be the lead in any show, nor was I an exceedingly convincing actress at 13. But as I think back on this topic, I remember what my third grade teacher told my mom at a parent teacher conference:
“Julie thinks she has to know everything before we’ve covered it. She needs to realize she is learning!”
If I hadn’t found some brave part of me I’m not sure how I found, I never would have tried out for that musical. Well, I do know how I found it. God, in his kindness, gave me the gumption to try something that pushed me out of my comfort zone. Over time, I became  better at this craft, and found my true-love niche of musical theatre, dance.  The passion I found as a braces-wearing, awkward middle schooler became my college major, and eventually part of my career.


But sometimes, our passions don’t become our career. At OTP, so many performers hold daytime jobs that have nothing to do with performing arts, but they craft and mold their passion for theatre on the Medinah stage. This matters. Because it brings joy. Doing what you love will automatically bring joy to your own soul and to others sheerly because you love it. It will start to spill over, this thing you love. Sure, it may lead to bigger and better opportunities, but sometimes our joy is just our own. But I believe your thing is a reflection of the creativity and beauty of God. We get to see a little bit of the beauty of his creation through your passion. And that makes a difference, professionals or not.

Julie and Byron Mrowiec From Guys and Dolls Photo by Francisco Montes

What is your “thing”? Is it theatre? Building sets? Writing scripts? Share it with us!

Until next time!

broadway, christian blog, christian theater, family, stage, theater

My Top Ten Favorite Love Songs for the Stage

What is it the first  thing that grabs you about a musical? Is it the storyline? The actors? The authors and composers?

For me, it is the music. If I love the music–chances are I will love the musical.

Last year at this time I wrote about the top ten love stories for the stage. You can read about it here: https://fromthewings.org/2019/02/13/my-top-ten-love-stories-for-the-stage/

This time let’s look a little deeper and discover the top love songs. Music. It speaks of love. It communicates and it might even tug at your heart and  at times make you cry.

10. Helpless  (Hamilton)

I didn’t know what to expect when I first saw Hamilton. I thought it was entirely rap music and I didn’t know if I would understand it or even  like it. Boy! was I surprised. I loved the story. I could understand far more than I thought I would be able to. And I was entranced by the love story and brought to tears by the same story. Don’t we all feel Helpless and weak in the knees when we meet the “one”? Listen, to the love story begin.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DRcC_COfWrI

9. All I Ask of You  (The Phantom of the Opera)

I will be the first to admit that I am not a huge Phantom fan. I have seen it three times and each time I liked it less. But this hauntingly beautiful song is something that declares our innermost desires to the ones we love.

Let me be your freedom,
“Let daylight dry your tears;
I’m here, with you, beside you,
To guard you and to guide you.
Say you love me every waking moment,
Turn my head with talk of summertime.
Say you need me with you now and always;
Promise me that all you say is true,
That’s all I ask of you.”

It continues, “Let me be your shelter, your freedom..” In other words, everything you need.
Yes, my love, please be my everything. (and if the lyrics weren’t enough to get you–the vocals and orchestra…perfection.)

8. A Whole New World (Aladdin)

In this musical Aladdin (with the help of his Genie) rescues  Princess Jasmine from danger from the evil Jafar. To our eyes he is common and should never be allowed to marry royalty, but that’s not the way true love works is it? Especially not in fairy tales. And in our favorite ones good always triumphs over evil. In this song, Aladdin “opens” Jasmine’s eyes to life outside the kingdom and together they sing the song that we all know means that lovers feel an out-of-this world experience when they fall in  love. The new world gives them a chance to escape reality together…..something we always want to do with the one we love.

7. I Can Hear the Bells (Hairspray)

The heroic Tracy Turnblad fantasizes about her perfect marriage to the gorgeous Link Larkin – every schoolgirls’ biggest fantasy. There is something in pop musicals that captures that feeling of longing. Maybe it’s because we listen to that music as we are growing up and feeling all the things we feel as we are finding out who we are and what the real world is all about. There were plenty of times when I was growing up that I fantasied that the boy I “loved” would love me back, that we would be married and live happily ever after. And it all starts with “he touched me” or “bumped me” or “looked at me.” Yep, this song tells it all.

6. Can You Feel the Love Tonight ( The Lion King)

This song is a beautiful arrangement of the beginning of love. There is nervousness, doubt, insecurity, sadness as friends realize that love will take their friend from them. It starts tender, but as the song progresses the music builds with energy and orchestration– the way love should grow.
Can you feel the love tonight?
The peace the evening brings
The world, for once, in perfect harmony
With all its living things.”

That’s the way true love should make you feel.

5. If Ever I Would Leave You (Camelot)

I would LOVE to do this musical, but feel that there is no way to make it “fit. ” Camelot is supposed to be the perfect place to live. It never rained until after sundown. It must not be too hot. The fog must go away by 8 in the morning…you get the idea. Ah! the fantasy and romance of it all.

There is a beautiful love story between King Arthur and Guinevere until Lancelot takes his place at the round table. He falls in love with Guinevere and  shortly after she falls in love with him in return. Lancelot realizes he must leave Camelot, but he can’t imagine life without her.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BwuLkpJAcIY

4. Somewhere (West Side Story)

Set in a time of tragedy and conflict these two star-crossed lovers fall in love. Surrounded by heartache, after her true love kills her brother she begins to feel that their future is hopeless.  In this song they daydream of a place-a time-where race and families won’t divide them. You can hear the pain in their voices as they sing of a perfect place. It’s an oldie but goodie.

“Some day, Somewhere. We’ll find a new way of living.

We’ll find a way of forgiving.

Hold my hand and we’re half way there.

Hold my hand and I’ll take you there.”

Perfection.

 3. On My Own (Les Misérables)

Eponine wanders the streets imaging the life that could have been, if only her beloved Marius hadn’t fallen in love with someone else. I have had my share of unrequited loves in my life and I guess I love this tragically beautiful song because it speaks so honestly of how love is in our own minds, but how painful it is when reality hits and you are standing….on your own….alone.

2. As Long As You’re Mine  (Wicked)

My favorite musical ever is Wicked. I’ve seen it 8 times and can’t wait to get the chance to see it again. There is a moment that is almost heart stopping for me. Hiding in the woods from those who pursue them, Elphaba and Fiyero finally succumb to their mutual attraction, which has been building since the first time they met. Chemistry at it’s finest.

Aren’t these beautiful?

“And just for this moment
As long as you’re mine
I’ve lost all resistance
And crossed some border line
And if it turns out
It’s over too fast
I’ll make every last moment last
As long as you’re mine.”

Making each moment last is what it is all about!

1. Can’t Help Loving That Man of Mine (ShowBoat)

Since this is the musical that made me fall in love with theater it just makes sense that I should have my top love song be from this musical. This is a classic and second only to “Old Man River” from the same musical.

Julie sings this song in an attempt to explain why she continues to love her man even though he comes home late and leaves home unexplained yet she adores him. He might be lazy or slow, but she loves him.

Don’t we all wish we could love and be loved exactly the same way? At least in our dreams.

For this Valentine’s Day, why not listen to some of these amazing songs. Or maybe even have a weekend of musical watching!

What are some of your favorites love songs from musicals?

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Until next time, this is just me, talking to you, from the wings!

acting, artist, audience, christian, christian blog, christian theater, directing, entertainment, family, stage, theater, theater education, theater professions

Why Do Theater?

This week I looked out over an audience of only 38 people. We are allowed 50, but Illinois had a huge snow storm and some of our audience decided not to come.

I always stand in the corner of the balcony at curtain call and glance over to see the audience’s reactions. Will they give the cast a standing ovation? Will they grudgingly stand or enthusiastically reward the cast for their performances? Were they moved by the performances or bored silly?

This past Saturday the cast of Noah! finished the first part of an extended run. We had performed for three weeks. We will now take three weeks off and then come back ready to perform again. Covid restrictions has reduced us from allowing 198 audience members to only 50. It is really empty in there.

(Photo by Francisco Montes)

This show is emotional and tiring and these eight characters give it their all. In fact, so does the technical crew, stage crew, box office and front of the house. So when I saw the audience enthusiastically stand to applaud, I was thrilled. We all worked as hard for 38 people as we would have for 198.

Still….

I felt a little badly for them. As an actor, director, we all want sold out, full houses. It is so quiet in the theater with such a small house.

Don’t get me wrong! We are super thrilled to be able to perform! But, what would it be like if night after night we could have the audience of 198? It might not change the performance, but would it change us?

Acting involves a great deal of collaboration from many people. As you build/create your characters you also build/create a relationship with the other cast members. The costumes add a layer to your performance as the hair/make-up and tech also does. Live theater is important because you must be FULLY PRESENT with another group of FULLY PRESENT people to truly be authentic. And especially after this past year, I believe that live theater is not only good and enjoyable, but also necessary for the human spirit.

Why?

  1. Theater reminds us that we are not alone. We share each experience with the audience and actors. We connect. Actors and audience agree for a time period that we will take a journey together.  Perhaps we will laugh, perhaps cry, but we will do it together.
  2. Live theater is never the same. The script is the same and the actors are consistent. But acting is reacting so if one actor has a little different emotion or reaction it might cause the next actor to react differently. It is a unique experience each night.
  3. Live theater allows us to forget, laugh, weep and many other emotions. For just a brief moment in time we are insulated and can forget the troubles of our days and lives.

So why do we do theater?

Because we want to be that person that can share that experience with a room of strangers. I heard recently that audience’s hearts beat together as one. I’m not sure how that was proven, but if it is indeed true it is a beautiful thought. We are sharing a moment that is so unique that will never be the same. We also want to be that performer that makes the woes of the world disappear.

If that is true, then changing even one person’s life is worth it all.

Large audiences might be a rush, but there is an intimacy in a smaller one. The person is the same. Let’s connect. Let’s take this journey together.

Why do you do theater? How do you feel about performing for small audiences? How does it make you as an audience member feel?

I’d love to hear from you!

Until next time,

This is just me-talking to you-from the wings!

theater

The Stage is a Blank Canvas

The first time I stepped on a stage was when I was a freshman in college. I mean, a REAL stage.  The other stages (like church platforms) were equally important to me. I loved every  thrilling, exciting and heart-racing wonderful one of them.

Then I stepped on an official, curtain closing, lights pointed at me, look at all those ropes, stage and I was terrified. My journey for confidence was a long one and as much as I wanted to be a dramatic productions major my advisor didn’t have to try very hard to convince me it wasn’t the place for a woman. Little did he know that my heart’s desire was so strong that eventually I would learn the things that I needed to learn on my own so that my life’s purpose would still be on a stage, in front of it, behind it…well, you get it.

In all honesty, if I knew the things I would have had to do as a theater productions major I might have quit anyway. I’ll never forget seeing the first design my daughter, Becca, drew. She told me the critiques she received, but I honestly don’t think I heard any of them because I was thinking how I would  have failed at that class. Who knew you needed to be able to draw? I only wanted to direct!

I an so thankful for the team I had around me when I began to direct. I stumbled through finding a vision and communicating the direction I would like to go for the set, costumes and technical aspects. In fact, in the beginning there were many times I would have to design some of those things myself.

Somehow, I continued to learn and somehow we survived.

I am so fortunate that God has now called a team of wonderful people to Overshadowed that share the vision, but also have the talent to fulfill beautiful designs that are far better that anything I could have ever dreamed up.

I asked Yohannan Lee and Steve Keller if they would share some of their thoughts about the process of designing the set for our current production of Noah!

Yohannan Lee and Steve Keller

For me, the process of creating all the aspects of a production is about the power of the team. As they tell you in sports, “You are only as strong as your weakest link.” That resonates with me in theater. As the team designs each area it challenges the other areas to excel as well. The actors respond when the set and costumes add to their characters they have created and together all create a powerful presentation for the audiences to enjoy. For the teams at Overshadowed we all agree it is about telling God’s story. Period. Not about us.

I don’t think I ever knew I was going to be an artist. Perhaps I have stretched the definition a little:

artist-A person who practices any of the various creative arts, such as sculptor, novelist, poet, or filmmaker.

My definition: director- a person who starts with a blank stage and creates a work of art from the elements of stage, lights, costumes, sounds and character.

I am so fortunate to have such a talented group of people who inspire me and give of their talents so brilliantly.

Noah! will run until March 20. We have new dates that will be added on Feb. 1st. If you haven’t seen it, I hope you will join us. http://www.overshadowed.org

I’d love to hear what you have to say about directing or being directed? What do you think about the story of Noah? As always, please share this blog or like it and comment! It really does help!

Until next time–this is just me-talking to you-from the wings!

theater, WWII

The Things We Remember Most About Our Presidents

I am fiercely patriotic.

I am proud to be an American and proud to have a dad who fought in three wars and taught me to love freedom and everything it stands for.

My dad’s funeral. Arlington National Cemetery.

This last year has not been a pretty one for the United States. We stood up for what we believed, but in the process we have been petty, hateful, and violent. I am not here to debate the rights and wrongs and how far it is ok to go when repaying evil with evil… but why don’t we just look at what the Bible teaches about that?

We have  seen death. Lots and lots of death. We have heard the horror stories of bodies piled up in New York City because they literally had no place to put them.

We saw a mob of Americans invade the Capitol.

We saw murder hornets.

Relief finally began to appear as a vaccine for Covid 19 was developed in record time.

Trump lost the election, but refused to admit defeat…..ever.

We’ve seen ugliness in our land, and we’ve seen it in each other.

But I’m still proud to be an American.

Here are my thoughts about the men who have served our country as President…well, the ones I can remember.

The first president I really remember was John F. Kennedy. I was in the second grade. I will never forget how I felt when they announced over the intercom that we were all being sent home early because evil had killed our President. We watched TV the rest of the day and evening devouring every bit of information we could. Our nation mourned.

1963-1969 Lyndon B. Johnson
Let’s face it. I remember Lady Bird Johnson better.
But if pressed, I’d say my memories are made up of the Vietnam War. Maybe that’s because my dad left us to go fight in that horrible war in 1968. I know Johnson didn’t start America’s involvement, but it seemed to escalate and divide our country under his leadership.

1969-1974 Richard Nixon
My memory starts to get a little better as I got older. Nixon lost his first bid for President to Kennedy. Many people blame his loss on how he appeared on TV. (This should have been our first warning as to how much the media would play into our decision making) He got American troops out of Vietnam. The Watergate Scandal. He resigned because he was facing impeachment.

1974-1977 Gerald Ford
He was the first man to become President in US history having  not been part of a presidential campaign, instead being appointed vice president by Nixon after Spiro T. Agnew resigned.  Ford pardoned Nixon for any crimes he may have committed as President.
Note: There was great controversy over this decision, but Ford said that our nation’s future hinged on ending the ordeal of Watergate and beginning the process of healing.
Great words. I wonder if anyone will lead us with those same sentiments or continue to accuse and point out failings and continue to stir up bitterness.

1977-1981 Jimmy Carter
He was a peanut farmer. He wanted to be known as a man of the people. There was high unemployment, rising inflation and an energy crisis. The Iran hostage crisis.

1981-1989 Ronald Reagan

Actor.

Reagan was fiercely opposed to communism and the spread of it. He was known for calling the Soviet Union an evil empire. When he took office the economy was in double-digit inflation and interest rates were near 20%. His approach to tax cuts and economic expansion became known as “Reaganomics”. The hostages in Iran that were held for 444 days, were released. The Iran-Contra affair happened reporting that Reagan authorized the sale of arms to Iran in order to free the hostages in Lebanon. I loved his speeches. Literally the man could convince me to buy snow. He was known as the “Great Communicator” for a good reason.  I wish all Presidents were like him. I know other people wouldn’t agree with me, but I loved the Reagan years.

1989-1993 George H. W. Bush

I admired him most for his military service. He won the Distinguished Flying Cross for bravery. He picked Dan Quayle to be his running mate…..need I say more? Operation Desert Storm.

1993-2001 Bill Clinton

He was impeached for perjury and obstruction of justice in connection with the relationship he had with Monica Lewinsky. “I did not have sex with that woman.”

2001-2009 George W. Bush

September 11, 2011. A day we will never forget. Terrorist Attacks against America in which over 3000 people were killed. In response American troops invaded Afghanistan. Hurricane Katrina devastated  the gulf coast and Bush was criticized for his slow response to the disaster.

2009-2017 Barack Obama

First African American President. “Obamacare”. The killing of Osama bin Laden. Legalization of Gay Marriage.

2017-2021 Donald Trump

Real Estate Developer and Reality TV star, but nothing like Reagan. Ran the campaign under the slogan “Make America Great Again.”  Beat Hillary Clinton. Entire Presidency was served with allegations of election interference, constant firings of his staff. He was impeached then acquitted and then impeached again. Our Economy did quite well and business enjoyed the take charge Trump, but with Trump came his mouth. If only he would have learned to keep it shut at the right times. COVID.  Trump refused to admit defeat after his campaign for reelection. Trump accused states of voter fraud. To end his four years he made a speech outside the Capitol where he vowed to never concede. After his speech a mob stormed the Capitol and five people died.

January 20, 2021–?? Joe Biden
Only time will tell.

If you are still with me and managed to read my musings I hope you will notice that even though the last four years were more rough than others, we have had a history of Presidents that made bad decisions.  Presidents who were impeached. Presidents who didn’t manage well or lead our country wrongly into wars or even managed to lead us into high inflation and unemployment.

If you look back through history you will see a group of men who were willing to serve and try to lead our country. Some failed.

But you know what I see? I see a group of Americans who God allowed to be in office.
We are “a nation under God.”

He rules.

Take comfort in this thought. God will rule these next four years as well.  I take comfort in the fact that God–not man–is in control. “The heart of the king-is in the hand of the Lord.”

I am proud to be an American.   What about you?

What do you remember about our Presidents? I’d love to know what you think! As always please share and comment!

Until next time–this is just me–talking to you– from the wings!

artistic vision, christian, communication, family, Fear, hope, theater, writing

Nine Things You Should Know About the Story of Noah

Eleven years ago I wrote a play that for some reason became one of the most special experiences our cast and crew had ever had. The theater space was not big. We had no animals. The set was made out of styrofoam instead of wood and we had absolutely no minutes with a completed stage before we opened the doors for the audience. When you are an all volunteer army you take the time people can give you whenever they have it to give you.  And, well, God knows and somehow it always gets done.

When I decided that it was time to repeat this wonderful story I had no idea that the world as we know it would stop and that the cast and crew would learn some of the same lessons that we imagine the original inhabitants of the ark might have felt. Why, Lord? How long, Lord? And a few others. But we understand that God’s timing is ALWAYS perfect.

It is always difficult to write a story that is taken from a Biblical story. I always want to be careful to note that some of this story is out of my imagination. The Bible doesn’t give us detail of what those eight passengers felt or thought while they were floating all those days. However, in reminding ourselves that these were REAL people I like to ask my audience to consider things that  they might not have ever thought about. Consider, for example…did they fight? Were they thankful? Did they complain like the children wandering in the desert?  And as an audience….how does that change our walk with God?

Here are nine things that impacted me in writing this play:

1. The story of Noah is told in a form of parallelism. It is interesting to note that as the story prepares us for the flood it unfolds in such a way that as the waters unfold it parallels  the beginning. For example,  we learn of Noah and his sons. We are told that the ark needs to be built and the flood will happen. There is a covenant made with Noah. The food is loaded into the ark and the command is given to enter the ark. There are seven days waiting for the flood. They enter. God shuts the door. 40 days of raining. The mountains are covered. The waters remain for 150 days.

Then, (I love this thought) The Lord remembers Noah.

Now, this is what I mean about how the account is parallel. Look how the next part unfolds. The story reverses.

The waters recede for 150 days. The mountain tops become visible. They wait 40 days. Noah opens the window of the ark. Raven and Dove leave the ark. They wait seven days for the water to recede. There is a command to leave the ark. God gives instruction about the food outside of the ark. God makes a covenant with all flesh. God promises He will not destroy the world with a flood in the future. And they leave the ark: Noah and his three sons.

I am not enough of a Biblical scholar to know the significance of that, but I do appreciate the beauty of it.

2.  The size of the ark (if we consider  that there is  18 inches to a cubit), the total cubic volume of Noah’s ark would have been 1,518,000 cubic feet, the equivalent to 250 single-deck railroad stock cars. Since the average stock car can carry 80 180 lb. sheep or 160 50 lb. sheep per deck (2.5 – 5 sq ft per animal), it’s estimated the ark could carry 20,000-40,000 sheep size animals. Wow. Just wow!

3. It is interesting to note that ancient records note that sailors would use doves, ravens, and other birds to help them find and navigate toward land. It is said that a raven will fly directly toward land, so they could follow the raven as a guide. Doves are not able to fly as long so they were used to determine location of land. If the dove returned it would mean that land was not close.

4. Noah and his family were on the ark for a total of 370 days. (There is a little debate about the exact  number of days, because of lunar years, but this is the number most scholars agree upon.)

5. Noah’s first recorded act after leaving the ark was to build an altar to the Lord (Gen. 8:20). Imagine what the world would be like if our first response to difficulties would be to honor God with sacrifices and praise?

6. The Bible says the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat (a mountain range in Turkey) but does not specify which mountain.

7. The only time Noah is recorded as speaking is when he curses Canaan and blesses his sons Shem and Japheth. At all other points in his story, God does the talking and Noah does the listening. Again, another example. God talks….I should listen….totally not enough listening going on in the world today!

8. At 950 years of age, Noah had the third longest life recorded in the Bible (after Methuselah (969) and Jared (Father of Enoch) (962)). We all are aware that Methuselah was the oldest, but I had really never stopped to consider that Noah was only 19 years short of achieving the same record!

9. Besides the book of Genesis, Noah is also mentioned in eight other books of the Bible (1st Chronicles 1:4, Isaiah 54:9, Ezekiel 14:14; 20, Matthew 24:37-38, Luke 3:36, 17:26-27,Hebrews 11:7, 1 Peter 3:20, and 2 Peter 2:5).

Noah has a place of honor in the faith chapter.  Consider God’s servant: Noah.

What are other things you have learned when considering Noah? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Here is a little taste of our production.

 

January-March 2021
anne frank, book review, christian, christian fiction, entertainment, non fiction, reading, theater

The Book List–2020

Last year at this time I was inspired by all of my friends who one after another listed the books they had read over the past year.

I must admit, I was a little ashamed that I realized my love of reading had gone by the wayside. Almost completely forgotten like an old toy. I decided that I could make time easily to read one book a month. I set an easy target and continued to read, “The Diary of Anne Frank” (A book that I was rereading and had been plugging away at it for almost a year by this time.)

Three months later, I finished it.

Not a good start to this lofty goal of 12.

Then….yeah..you got it….COVID.

And reading became the thing to do. I started blogging about the books. I made new friends with authors I was discovering. I convinced people to read. I learned. I was inspired. I became reacquainted with my lost love.

Thank you to Rebecca Kaser and Bob Bixby for several of the book suggestions!

I don’t recommend everything I read, but I do recommend that you read even if you start small.

2020 goal -12
Read-20
2021 goal–52

1. The Diary of Anne Frank by Anne Frank N/F 5/5
2. Creativity, Inc. by Ed Catmull N/F 5/5
3. When I lay My Isaac Down by Carol Kent N/F 5/5
4. Where the Lost Wander by Amy Harmon 4/5
5. The Sea Before Us by Sara Sundin 4/5
6. News of Our Loved Ones by Abigail DeWitt 2/5
7. As Bright As Heaven by Susan Meissner 4/5
8. Educated by Tata Westover  N/F 5/5
9. The Boyfriend Project by Farrah Rochon
10. If For Any Reason by Courtney Walsh 5/5
11. The Sky Above Us by Sarah Sundin 4/5
12. What the Wind Knows by Amy Harmon 4.5/5
13. All That You Leave Behind by Erin Lee Carr  N/F 2/5
14. The Last Flight by Julie Clark 5/5
15. Untamed by Glennon Doyle  N/F 3/4
16. Homegoing by Yaa Yasi 3/5
17. Just Look Up by Courtney Walsh 5/5
18. Just One Kiss by Courtney Walsh 5/5
19. The Promise of Rayne by Nicole Deese 5/5
20. The Land Beneath Us by Sarah Sundin 5/5

Did you read any of these? I’d love to know what you thought! Did you have a favorite book this year?

Until next time!

christian fiction, family, Fear, hope, theater, writing

Charity Chooses Hope and So Do I

Charity opened her diary for what she expected to be one last time in 2020.
She looked at the blank pages. One after another for the last month the pages were blank.
She closed the diary.
Standing up, she crossed to her dresser and picked up the newspaper.

“Another “166 people Dead as the Pandemic Continues to Reign.”

One solitary tear escaped the corner of her eye and made it’s way down her cheek.

So much loss. So much pain. So much devastation.

“Yep 2020. You didn’t bring any of the things we had looked forward to. New Year’s Day can’t come soon enough.”

Even with that thought came the next negative one right on top of it.

“How is the change of a date going to make any difference on our future?”

Then, for the first time in a long time she heard a voice of hope deep inside her.

“Because with the change of a date comes hope of something new.”

“Where did the tradition of writing New Year’s Resolutions come from anyway?” she continued to think, “Resolve…a commitment to continue a good practice or change a behavior or do something to improve my life.”

Charity crossed back to her diary. She flipped pass the last month of blank pages and stared at the last page. She picked up her pen and wrote largely……HOPE.

Maybe the problem wasn’t so much the disease, although it was a tragedy. Perhaps the problem was in her own attitude.

“Today I am responsible for one thing…how I look at the events of my life. I can choose to find the positive. I can choose to look at the events in the world realizing that none of this is a surprise to God and humbly give Him this day of my life…. or I can wallow in what I have lost and blame Him.”

RESOLVE

She paused for a moment and almost laughed out loud. “Why did it take me so long to remember, Lord? Every breath I have is only because it comes from You. If the sun shines or rain and snow comes it is only because of You. You, Creator, Healer, Sustainer, Maker, Artist, Savior.”

Charity closed the diary and stood up straighter. “I don’t have to wait until Midnight to start. I’m going to cling to Hope right now and through each day of the new year. Hope that we will gain control of the virus. Hope that our nation can be healed from the unrest and ugliness that has held us captive. Hope that I can make a difference.”

How are you going to look at 2021?

Thank you, God, for another year that you have given us. May we all sing Your praises with anticipation of another year to serve You.

Happy New Year.

I’d love to hear what words you have chosen to represent your 2021!

Until next time!

P.S.  Charity is a character from a book I started years ago….Should I ever finish it?? What should happen to Charity….

christian, Christmas, entertainment, family, theater

What’s on Your Christmas List?

My December has not looked like any December I have ever spent. During most of my adult life December has always been full of shopping, meeting with friends, family times and tons of recitals, plays and church events.

Well, not this year. On those rare occasions that I have been around friends and family there are nagging questions, “Was this a mistake? Did they wash their hands? Where is my mask?”  and more.

But. This is Christmas. Christmas isn’t really about shopping and tons of recitals etc. Christmas should be about ONE thing. We should be focused on the birth of Jesus. The very name “Christmas” has CHRIST at the beginning. He comes first.

Is it possible that after years of struggling to keep the main thing the main thing–that this year could actually RESET our way of thinking? Perhaps with the stopping of the hustling and running around we actually can put CHRIST at the very center of all of our activities.

Over and over we ask our friends, “Are you ready for Christmas?”

What does that even mean?

Some of us make lists.

1) shopping
2) cards
3) decorate
4) bake
5) coordinate calendars
6) send Christmas lists.

And maybe a great deal other items are on that list….

This year I added:

1) Find ways to keep Christ the center of Christmas every day.

Just putting that statement on the top of my list changed my awareness.
But I added a few others as well.

2) Read a chapter of Luke each day in December. (Doing that leads you through the life of Christ so that you focus on the whole gift of God)

3) I found a calendar for Acts to Keep Christ in Christmas. There weren’t 25 suggestions, but there were several that were interesting. (All focused on giving rather than getting and most in the spirit of Jesus–giving to those in need.)

4) Watch Christmas movies that incorporate the reason of Christmas!

5) Instead of writing a letter to Santa–write a letter to Jesus. Keep them. It will mean so much to read how your relationship and thoughts about Christmas might change year after year.

6) Have a Bethlehem dinner. Tell the story of Mary and Joseph and eat a dinner they might have eaten on Christmas Eve. Perhaps dress up and maybe even eat by candlelight.

7) Study the symbols of Christmas. It is interesting to know why bells, trees, candles are so important at Christmas. Take one a day or one a week and really highlight the reason many of them are part of our celebrations.

8) This year I heard about a new tradition that some friends are adding. They are going to celebrate Christmas Eve-Eve. They will have a traditional meal and then sing Christmas songs together. Sounds like a great way to usher in the real Christmas Eve.

9) Study Advent and prepare your hearts.

Whatever you do –remember that the true gift of Christmas is Christ. Remember, it isn’t about giving or getting the biggest or best present. It isn’t about having the best decorated house or the one with the most lights. It isn’t about getting everything done on your list.

This year let the presence of Jesus reign in your home and heart.

Let Jesus reign. Allow Him to give you the hope of peace that only He can give.

One final note: Growing up I used to love to watch The King Family Christmas Special. To this very day I remember one particular episode that well, was really meaningful.  Home is pretty special more this year than others perhaps.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZAf806Fdc0o

What are ways that you keep you keep Christ the center of Christmas?

Merry Christmas!