book review, characterizations, christian, christian blog, christian fiction, communication, family, non fiction, theater, writing

All That Really Matters

*I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book which I received from the author and publisher as part of the author’s launch team. All thoughts below are my own and I was not required to post a positive review. Also, this blog post includes affiliate links which I do not receive compensation for.

All That Really Matters by Nicole Deese

 

They tell you not to judge a book by its cover, but in this case, you totally can! From the moment you hold this beautiful book in your hands you know it is going to give you so much more than the typical Christian fiction. It is beautiful inside and out!

From the cover:

Molly McKenzie’s bright personality and on-trend fashion and beauty advice have made her a major social media influencer. When her manager-turned-boyfriend tells her of an upcoming audition to host a makeover show for America’s underprivileged youth, all her dreams finally seem to be coming true. There’s just one catch: she has little experience interacting with people in need.

To gain an edge on her competitors, she plans to volunteer for the summer at a transitional program for aged-out foster kids, but the program’s director, Silas Whittaker, doesn’t find her as charming as her followers do. Despite his ridiculous rules and terms, Molly dives into mentoring, surprising herself with the genuine connections and concern she quickly develops for the girls–and Silas. But just as everything seems perfectly aligned for her professional future, it starts to crumble under the pressure. And as her once-narrow focus opens to the deep needs of those she’s come to know, she must face the ones she’s neglected inside herself for so long.

https://www.amazon.com/That-Really-Matters-Nicole-Deese/dp/076423496X/ref=sr_1_1?crid=3G6D3CES39HG1&dchild=1&keywords=all+that+really+matters+nicole+deese&qid=1617729103&sprefix=all+that+really+ma%2Caps%2C164&sr=8-1


So many times when I begin a book review I say that the book was not what I expected. It is rare that I say it was MORE than I expected.

I knew I would like this book, in fact, I have only recently discovered Nicole Deese. I read her book, The Promise of Rayne (you can read my review of that book here: https://fromthewingsorg.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=2431&action=edit) and instantly declared her as one of my new favorite authors! I just didn’t know how much I would love her book. But, I did. I laughed, cried, cheered, and more than that, cared for the characters– not just Silas and Molly, but ALL of them.

What I loved about this book:

Nicole Deese is a deep, thoughtful writer. The plot is never simple. Instead, she captivates you with the main plot of the story and then begins to build such deep dynamic characters that the backstory becomes a huge part of the plot. Her characters are memorable because Nicole crafts them masterfully to reveal charm, wit, humanity, weaknesses, goals, and inner conflicts.

I LOVED Molly and Silas. In fact, everyone needs friends in their lives like these two. Friends aren’t always perfect, but sometimes we judge instead of forgiving. They were both so real in their shortcomings and failures, but forgiving even when they had the right to judge. I loved watching their personal development both individually and in their relationships with others.

I especially loved Molly’s transparency as she wondered aloud how many people around the world were praying for her as she made a living “profiting from one of the world’s deadly sins: vanity.” I am reminded that it is easy to prejudge when we don’t know the whole story.

I laughed so much at the debate on the numbers of followers between Silas and Molly. Molly knew exactly how far away she was from a million…Silas was like the rest of us…if you have 600,000 it might as well be a million!

I also loved that Nicole took a topic (foster care and aging out of the system) and made us more aware of a deep need in our society. I love that she also mixed the story with the hot topic of social media. The story was current, relevant and fascinating. If I can read a book for entertainment and at the same time learn and feel, it is a definate win for me!

All That Really Matters. The inside cover quotes this verse: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. Phippippians 2:3-4.

In today’s world I find that the struggle to be heard, to have a voice that matters, to be “someone” pulls at most of us. How many “friends” or “followers” do you have? Some of us fight with an inside voice that tells us that how many “likes” you get matters. This book strips what we see of an influencer and lets us see the struggle that someone with Molly’s conscience might feel. It was convicting to me and a challenge to start my day remembering, “what really matters.”

One last thing–I loved that Nicole reached into a world of non-profits and exposed a need. There are so many wonderful causes to give or volunteer at. Thank you, Nicole, for pointing out a need.

I cannot say enough good things about this book or this author! I hope you will purchase a copy today and let me know what you think of it!

Who should read this book? Lovers of Christian fiction, Christian romance, Influencers, Adoptive parents or parents of foster children.

Favorite Quotes:

Molly, when you feel good in your own skin, it’s easy to help someone else feel good in theirs.”

Share your spark with the world, Molly, Stop trying to hide what God created to be seen.

I want to be more than a pretty face with an addictive personality. I want to be seen as the real deal. Someone who uses their influence to pay it forward. For good.

“…it has very little to do with that and everything to do with having the courage to speak up for herself. To speak her mind when she feels belittled and overshadowed. And don’t even think about telling me that’s not a critical life skill. Because that might just be the most critical life skill she could possess as a female living in our world today.”

“How you frame your words is often more important than the words themselves.”

A million dollars may as well be a hundred million to a nonprofit that barely managed to scrape by as it was.”

“Because that’s where hope actually lives–in the hustle. And if they can hustle a little harder, a little longer, a littler faster…mayber all those pretty things can be theirs. Maybe life will finally make sense. Maybe something they do will actually matter. Reality isn’t enough. It’s never been enough.”

“God has uniquely shaped gifts for every one of His uniquely shaped people.”

Because if you gave everything up, He might, what? Love you more? Forgive you more? Accept you more?” I didn’t miss the way Silas tried to catch my eye. But I didn’t want to be caught. All of that was true. “If that’s your goal, you’ll never meet it. There’s nothing you can sacrifice that’s worthy of what God gives us freely.

You don’t honor God with your life by changing your personality and tossing out everything that is unique about who you are. You honor Him by offering those very gifts back to Him.

When I’m focused inward, I miss out on divine opportunities to bless others–to serve, to help, to protect, to befriend. To love beyond my own capacity and capability. This heart makeover is still a work in progress.

Rating: 5/5

PURCHASE ALL THAT REALLY MATTERS TODAY!

Baker Book House: https://buff.ly/2NNV3gP

Amazon: https://buff.ly/3d2yihF

Barnes & Noble: https://buff.ly/3fbz7qX

Christianbook: https://buff.ly/3rfYri3

Kobo: https://buff.ly/3lNhLC0

About the Author:

Photo Credit: © Rayla Kay Photography | Image Courtesy of Baker Publishing Group
Photo Credit: © Rayla Kay Photography | Image Courtesy of Baker Publishing Group

Nicole Deese’s (www.nicoledeese.com) eight humorous, heartfelt, and hope-filled novels include the 2017 Carol Award-winning A Season to Love. Her 2018 release, A New Shade of Summer, was a finalist in the RITA Awards, Carol Awards, and INSPY Awards. Both of these books are from her bestselling Love in Lenoxseries. When she’s not working on her next contemporary romance, she can usually be found reading one by a window overlooking the inspiring beauty of the Pacific Northwest. She lives in small-town Idaho with her happily-ever-after hubby, two rambunctious sons, and princess daughter with the heart of a warrior.


Thank you, Bethany House Publishers and Nicole Deese for allowing me to read such a beautifully written, touching story.

Until next time,

Reba

acting, christian, christian blog, christian theater, Easter, Fear, Good Friday, history, hope, theater

The Women at the Cross

In Matthew 27:55 it tells us that there were women at the crucifixion of Christ “looking on from afar” it also says that they had “followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to Him.” Those named in the different Gospels include Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedee’s sons–Salome. In John 19:25 it says that the two of them were with Mary, the mother of Jesus who stood by the cross. Perhaps they were not allowed to come closer at first? Or perhaps they were afraid? But as time went on they came close enough to Jesus that He could speak to them.

Where were the apostles? Remember Peter? He denied Christ three times just as Jesus said he would. Most of the apostles fled and hid. 

But these women had more courage than the disciples themselves…these women stood  close and watched.

The mouth knows not how to express what sorrow they must have felt as they saw their Lord betrayed. How their hearts must have broken as they watched Him suffer. How can we conceive the hopelessness they felt as the world grew darker?

I know not what was in Mary’s head as she stood at the cross, but perhaps it went something like this:

She wasn’t sure how long it had been since she slept. Her eyes were swollen from all the tears and she was weary. The procession to the cross was full of emotion she did not understand. There was dread and excitement. The people began to cry out, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” She saw the soldiers and someone carrying the cross, and then…her son. “What was that on his head? There was blood…was it thorns?” She gasped as she saw the open wounds on his back. “My Lord, I do not know how to pray.”  She continued to watch as they climbed up the hill and listened as the crowd grew to a maddening mob. “Crucify Him!”

“Crown of Thorns” from God’s Masterpiece at Bethel Baptist Church 2015. Photo by Francisco Montes

 

The soldiers took Jesus and laid Him on the cross. She turned away as she realized they were going to hammer nails into his hands and feet to hold Him to the cross. When the pounding stopped she looked again and watched as the soldiers raised the cross and set it in place. Tradition held that He would need to hang there until His death.

“How long have I been standing here? It seems forever and yet time also seems to stand still. I can stand. I will not fall. I will be strong for Him…although He does not need me. I need Him. My Son. My Messiah.

Thirty-three years. It went so fast. Lord, I could never forget the angel that told me I would bare this son! I still don’t understand why I was chosen! I should have been afraid, but somehow You comforted me as the angel blessed me with the news of Jesus. Joseph. How amazing that he understood and became such a wonderful earthly father. The trip to Bethlehem. Did it really happen thirty-three years ago? The star. The stable. The shepherds. “

Mary forgets where she is for a moment and smiles at the thought of Jesus at twelve. “We had gone to Jerusalem to pay our taxes and had started home. We traveled a whole day before we realized he was gone. We had to go all the way back to Jerusalem to find him. Finally after three days we found Him in the temple sitting among the teachers. I didn’t understand at that time what He meant when he answered us, ‘Why were you searching for me? Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?'”

She looks up at her son hanging on the cross and her smile fades. Mothers always want to save their children from pain and protect them. She shakes her head. “Oh, Father, Your son has never done harm to anyone!  And now he hangs…nailed to a cross! What was the crime? Jesus who taught scriptures, healed the sick and even….think of it…raised the dead. What was the crime?  He said He was the son of God.”

Mary reaches over and grasps the hand of her best friend, Salome, who is lost in her own thoughts.  She catches the eye of John who stayed by her side.  Then she looked up at her son again just in time to hear Him say,

Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” She also heard him say to John, “John, behold your Mother.” and then to her, “Mother, behold your son!” Tears filled her eyes again. How could He be thinking of her while in such pain??

My God! My God! Why hast thou forsaken me?”

“Soon, God, please do not let Him suffer longer.” Mary watched as Mary Magdalene stepped forward, watching in disbelief. Salome reached for Mary Magdalene and the three of them held each other close sharing their raw emotions and comforting each other in a way only those who share pain can.

Then,

Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit. It is finished.

Mary thought, “Finished? No more beatings or death or pain or suffering. Finished.” And in the next horrific moment a soldier plunged his spear into Jesus’ side and water and blood flowed down his side.

She watched as Jesus’ body was lowered from the cross. “Where will they take Him?” She listened as Joseph of Arimathea offered a tomb. She watched as he and Nicodemus gently lay Jesus in the tomb.

“Too soon, O Lord! I cannot make sense of it all! The angel told me He would be King of Kings! Savior to our people! But, He’s gone. Hope is gone.”

As the sun sets it begins Sabbath so they all need to return home. Home that will never be the same again.

It was difficult for Mary and others to understand what Jesus had tried to teach them– for the exciting thing about His death is that He did not stay dead, but arose from the dead on the third day. For this reason, hopelessness is turned into hope and despair is turned into joy. It is not the end, in fact, it is the beginning!

“He is risen” from God’s Masterpiece at Bethel Baptist Church 2015. Photo by Francisco Montes

 

They only needed to wait a few days to discover the rest of the story.

What about you? Do you know that Jesus is alive today interceding to the Father for us?

What about you? Are you able to stand firm and keep your eyes of Jesus even when you do not understand?

What about you? Are you able to find hope in  “the Father’s business”?

What about you? Do you follow Jesus at a distance? Or do you have the courage to draw close and make others aware of your faith?

What about you? Will you run to tell others the joyful news, “He is risen! Let us worship Him.”

One interesting fact to note. The women didn’t cave to fear. They didn’t run away. They were first at the tomb on Sunday. Nothing could keep them away, not fear of death or punishment from soldiers.

May we all be more like these women.

May you have a Blessed Easter.

acting, artist, artistic vision, audience, christian, christian blog, christian theater, communication, directing, family, Fear, hope, stage, theater, theater education, theater professions

This is Who I Am and Why I Do What I Do

My learning curve for social media has been much slower than most people’s.
I started off being afraid of it because I was taught not to trust all the people that were getting information about me.
Then I was afraid no one would ask to be my “friend” or “follow me.”
It wasn’t until way down the line that I realized it was okay to just be who I am and spread my message to the people who want it.

Even if it is only one person.

During the shut down this past year I tried to learn and follow the suggestions of countless mentors and advisors.

1) Start a blog.
2) Have a personal Instagram account as well as a business account. (reba.hervas)
3) Start a personal YouTube account.

What??? Why????

Because Reba is different that Overshadowed. Yes, there is a merge most of the time, but advisors teach that it is important for me to have my own name recognition in order to have another road that leads to Overshadowed.

So, I did. You can watch the first episode here:

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=dc_ITOkFULA&t=27s

As you will see, we’ve come a long way.

But again, I was advised to not be discouraged by what we have done, but to constantly strive to be better the next time. (Which fits in with our mission at Overshadowed)  I think we’ve done that and I’m happy that we are finding our rhythm. Hopefully, we will continue to grow.

Now, I was advised again, who are you? Why should people watch this? What are you all about and why do people need to subscribe to your channel?

Hopefully, this will explain it all.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=ZW4dsRj_ml4&feature=youtu.be

Mr. Perry, thank you for investing your love of drama in hundred’s of students at Kinston High School. Thank you, for noticing a student like me and introducing me to a world of theater. To Mr. Unknown Tech, thank you for your life-changing words of wisdom.

To all of you: Remember, your speech is a valuable gift. Use it wisely. Be empowered by the unique gift that you have been given. You are truly blessed.

If you want to thank a speech teacher somewhere you can start by following my blog and my YouTube channel and I’d love it if you’d share this message as well!

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

broadway, christian blog, entertainment, history, luck, luck of the Irish, st patrick's day, theater

Where Would We Be Without the Luck of the Irish?

Ah! St. Patrick’s Day. I must admit I usually forget about this fantastic day until it is too late to do anything about it. My parents never celebrated it or really even talked about it so my first introduction to this day was at school when I usually forgot to wear green so I spent the remainder  of the day getting pinched. Do they still do that?

I love a good Irish accent. I would absolutely love to visit Ireland and some of my favorite books have been set in Ireland. In recent years, I have loved learning more about the history of Ireland and the facts that continue to draw me to all things Irish.

I love four leaf clovers, leprechauns , rainbows with the idea of a pot of gold, songs about luck and of course, Riverdance.  I also love the idea of the luck of the Irish! But, what exactly does that mean?

Ireland is a small country that has had a big influence on America and on history.  It has had a long history of unrest mostly due to years of famine, oppression, and wars. And yet, they are known to be overall happy cheerful people. Is that because of luck?

In his writings, 1001 Things Everyone Should Know About Irish American History,  O’Donnell outlines the meaning of “the luck of the Irish.” He writes: “During the gold and silver rush years in the second half of the 19th century, a number of the most famous and successful miners were of Irish and Irish-American birth.

“Over time this association of the Irish with mining fortunes led to the expression ‘luck of the Irish.’ Of course, it carried with it a certain tone of derision, as if to say, only by sheer luck, as opposed to brains, could these fools succeed.”

In 1845 a famine hit Ireland and thousands left their country. Many traveled to America, most having to stay in the bottom cargo area of the ships. Many countries considered them to be diseased and lower class. In spite of this many of them survived and the Irish people claimed “the luck of the Irish.”

When they arrived in America many of them were indeed poor and unhealthy. Americans considered them threats both because they were afraid they might carry diseases, but also because they thought they might take their jobs from them. They practiced a different religion and in short, were not Americans.

Conflict between Protestants and Catholics had already led to violence in Ireland now Americans feared the same violence. Along with that were rumors that women were held against their will in convents and that the priests raped nuns. Not a pretty union. You might say that maybe Americans treated all newcomers with distaste, unfortunately the Irish were especially vilified.

It was said if they were to succeed in this country it must be as a result of dumb luck. Yet, they performed the most dangerous and menial jobs. They dug trenches, laid rail lines, cleaned houses, they were stable workers and blacksmiths and they did it all for lower pay.

There were signs that said, “No Irish Need Apply.”  and “No Dogs, No Irish.”

Slowly they found their footing in our country. They became involved in politics. They voted. Slowly they began to control the political scene and began to climb the social ladder as more immigrants from China and Easter Europe crossed into America’s shores.

In many ways the Irish transformed America and strengthened it.

And now our country wears green on St. Patrick’s Day.

Why? Actually St. Patrick’s day started as more of a religious holiday. St. Patrick came to Ireland as a missionary. Early depictions of him show him wearing blue and soon became the official color of the Order of St. Patrick.  

Blue?? What happened?

Ireland’s nickname is The Emerald Isle. The flag of Ireland has a green stripe that represents the Catholics of Ireland and…St. Patrick is thought to have used green shamrocks to teach about the Trinity. (God the father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit). 

I do love the folklore of the Irish and would love to meet a leprechaun! Who wouldn’t want to make friends with someone who spends his time protecting his pot of gold that lies at the end of a rainbow?

“Wherever you go, whatever you do, may the luck of the Irish be there with you!”

“May the luck of the Irish lead to the happiest heights and the highway you travel be lined with green lights.”

As this week comes to a close enjoy this number from the latest Irish musical! Once. Have you seen it? If not, I hope luck brings you to this wonderful musical soon! Oh! Sooooo good!

When this day was first celebrated it was a day of prayer and reflection.

May we all reflect on the blessings we have had this past year in spite of the disease that plagued our world.

I would love to hear your thoughts about St.Patrick’s Day! Do you celebrate it? How?

As always it would be so kind of you to follow my blog and share it!

Until next time!

book review, christian, christian blog, christian fiction, non fiction, reading, theater, writing

Cover to Cover

I set a goal of 52 books to read this year and I’m sad to say that it is March and I have finished only 4 books. I’m not off to a rousing start! I began the book Blackout in December. If you are interested in reading more about my thoughts on that book, please look me up on instagram at Reba.Hervas.

This month I tackled 3 books.

Book #1  Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker by Jennifer Chiaverini

I received this book for Christmas (thank you Kendra Jones). It has been on my want- to- read list for years. I think it hit the stands in 2013!
A book is a book and if I ever write one I would want people to still buy and read it years after it is first published!

From the cover:

“In a life that spanned nearly a century and witnessed some of the most momentous events in American history, Elizabeth Hobbs Keckley was born a slave. A gifted seamstress, she earned her freedom by the skill of her needle, and won the friendship of First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln by her devotion. A sweeping historical novel, Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker illuminates the extraordinary relationship the two women shared, beginning in the hallowed halls of the White House during the trials of the Civil War and enduring almost, but not quite, to the end of Mrs. Lincoln’s days.”

This book was not quite what I expected. After only a few chapters in I found myself searching historical reports to learn more about Mary Todd Lincoln. Perhaps because I grew up in another part of the country and perhaps because I wasn’t always a good student in the beginning, I never knew that Mary Todd wasn’t as admired as her husband.

What I loved about this book:

I love when a book inspires me to go back and study and see how the history holds up against the fiction part of the book. In this case, the book is so remarkably well done. I became more educated and inspired all at the same time.

It was quite shocking to me to learn of Elizabeth Keckley, an extraordinary woman, that most of us have never heard of, a former slave, who managed to cross the culture of the time to be a witness to a time in history that well….changed the United States. How fortunate we are to have Elizabeth Keckley’s real words to testify of the times. If you are interested check out her book, Behind the Scenes.

I love history that tells the story “out of the normal box.” In this case we see the struggle of our nation during an ugly part of history not from the side of the north or south, but from the eyes of a former slave who is now experiencing the background struggles–the things most of us can only imagine. It was fascinating as well as informative. Seeing the victory of the Civil War through her eyes was so much more meaningful than any other account I read.  To be honest, I found myself believing the book was really Elizabeth’s own thoughts instead of Jennifer’s.

Some of the best lessons we have as humans come from history. This book paints a beautiful picture of historical events, Lincoln, everyday life, and the struggles of slavery.

One of the highlights for me was the detail Jennifer gave to Lincoln, including the very foundation of his philosophy of life and politics.

I did not feel like I was reading a historical fiction novel, but instead a real documented account of life with the Lincolns.

The book doesn’t just paint a rosy picture. To say that Mrs. Lincoln lived a pain-filled life would be quite the understatement,  but along with the personal pain  we also learn of the pain caused by  gossip, slander, rivalry, and the dishonesty that can take place in politics and life.

I grew to love Elizabeth so much that I truly felt pain for her at the end. She loved Mary Todd so much. She was a true friend, but Mary Todd didn’t have the mental capacity to be able to recognize that fact. It would have been easy for Mrs. Chiaverini to present a picture of Mrs. Lincoln very distasteful, but she did allow us to also see qualities that were admirable.

It wasn’t an easy read for me. I tend to have to trudge through long passages of details. I would much rather read dialogue and shorter accounts that pass from subject to subject. That said, it was truly a wonderful novel.

Who should read this book? Lovers of history, Civil War, Historical fiction, Lincoln.

Favorite Quotes:

With malice toward none, with Charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”

The sublimity of witnessing the ruler of a mighty nation turning to Holy Scripture for comfort and courage, and finding both in his darkest hour, brought tears to her eyes.

He was young, not to understand how foolhardy it was to take pride in something so fickle, so fleeting, as fame.

” I often heard Mr. Lincoln say to his wife: ‘Don’t worry, Mother, because all things will come out right. God rules our destinies.”

Her greatest legacy could not be measured in garments or in words, but in the wisdom she had imparted, in the lives made better because she had touched them.

Rating 4/5

Book #2  The Flight Girls by Noelle Salazar

From the cover:

Synopsis: 

A stunning story about the Women Airforce Service Pilots whose courage during World War II turned ordinary women into extraordinary heroes

1941. Audrey Coltrane has always wanted to fly. It’s why she implored her father to teach her at the little airfield back home in Texas. It’s why she signed up to train military pilots in Hawaii when the war in Europe began. And it’s why she insists she is not interested in any dream-derailing romantic involvements, even with the disarming Lieutenant James Hart, who fast becomes a friend as treasured as the women she flies with. Then one fateful day, she gets caught in the air over Pearl Harbor just as the bombs begin to fall, and suddenly, nowhere feels safe.

To make everything she’s lost count for something, Audrey joins the Women Airforce Service Pilots program. The bonds she forms with her fellow pilots reignite a spark of hope in the face war, and—when James goes missing in action—give Audrey the strength to cross the front lines and fight not only for her country, but for the love she holds so dear.

Shining a light on a little-known piece of history, The Flight Girls is a sweeping portrayal of women’s fearlessness, love, and the power of friendship to make us soar.

What I loved about this book:

It was an easy read. It was light, fluffy and a wonderful love story that had me  rooting for the two main characters the moment they were introduced.  I have read other reviews that disliked the book because it was more of a romance than historical fiction. I guess I was in the mood for exactly that, because that is the reason I loved it.

I loved the way the book began. I love WWII and thinking about the hours/days/moments right before Pearl Harbor was attacked helped me to see life on the island in a different light. Then, to see the devastation through the eyes of Audrey brought me to tears. Salazar masterfully described the scenes without the graphic detail that would have been uncomfortable to read. I found the emptiness and pain that Audrey and her friends felt to be realistic. How does anyone heal completely from seeing the horrors that they did?

I loved Audrey’s view of love. I found her entire journey to be one that might be unrealistic in today’s world. She knew who she was interested in and although they had no promises of a future commitment she felt as if she were cheating on him with any involvement with another guy.

I loved Audrey’s love of friends and the backstories that added to the drama of the book.

It was a little simplistic, and the details were not always true to historic form, but I enjoyed it!

Who should read this book? Lovers of historical romance, light romance, World War II.

Favorite Quotes:

“How some of us stay the path, others remain tormented, letting the pain devour them, and still others find a new route—different from the original—but somehow just as satisfying.”

Rating 4/5

Book #3 One to Watch by Kate Stayman-London

From the cover: Bea Schumacher is a devastatingly stylish plus-size fashion blogger who has amazing friends, a devoted family, legions of Insta followers–and a massively broken heart. Like the rest of America, Bea indulges in her weekly obsession: the hit reality show Main Squeeze. The fantasy dates! The kiss-off rejections! The surprising amount of guys named Chad! But Bea is sick and tired of the lack of body diversity on the show. Since when is being a size zero a prerequisite for getting engaged on television?

Just when Bea has sworn off dating altogether, she gets an intriguing call: Main Squeeze wants her to be its next star, surrounded by men vying for her affections. Bea agrees, on one condition–under no circumstances will she actually fall in love. She’s in this to supercharge her career, subvert harmful beauty standards, inspire women across America, and get a free hot air balloon ride. That’s it.

But when the cameras start rolling, Bea realizes things are more complicated than she anticipated. She’s in a whirlwind of sumptuous couture, Internet culture wars, sexy suitors, and an opportunity (or two, or five) to find messy, real-life love in the midst of a made-for-TV fairy tale. In this joyful, wickedly observant debut, Bea has to decide whether it might just be worth trusting these men–and herself–for a chance to live happily ever after. – Dial Press

I am not a huge fan of shows like The Bachelor, but I’ll be honest- I did watch it at the beginning. I was heartbroken for Trista Sutter after she was runner-up for the man she thought she loved and couldn’t wait for her to find happiness in her own season of The Bachelorette. And she did, the whole country watch Ryan fall deeply and madly in love with her and she returned it. They married in 2003 and have been married ever since. After that however I was disappointed when the couples seem to break up within weeks of the finale. So I stopped watching.

Enter One To Watch. Oh! what a magnificently fun book. I opened it and literally did not want to stop reading it.  The plot was fun and unique and I loved the idea of finding love for Bea on a reality show!  The scandals and manipulations that follow are heartbreaking and intriguing. I didn’t trust any of the men, but secretly rooted for one to be her prince charming. Seriously, I couldn’t stop talking about it!

How does this” unlucky in love” end up on this reality TV show? Let’s just say there are many dangers in drinking too much…

I love the quirky way Kate Stayman-London has written this book. I love her details, including things that we take for granted but yet are so important to help us “see” the story.  I love Bea, as insecure as she is. I loved going on “the dates” with her. (I might have wanted to scream at her a few times) We get to watch her make stupid mistakes, but we also get to see her turn into a better version of herself.  LOVED the way it ended. 

I also loved the insertion of the chapters including social media: the twitter conversations, the interviews etc. It was such a realistic picture of how life is and how we, the public, cast our uneducated opinions out into the world without knowing the full story.

I’m not sure I love the horrible way Bea was abused by the show to gain ratings. Some of the men were so mean and said such horrible things to Bea that it made it difficult to read. Unfortunately, I think people can totally be that mean.

I also longed to have one boy/romance that made my heart speed up as I anticipated Bea finding her true love. Sadly, although it’s a romance, none of the relationships gave me all the feels.

Favorite Quotes:

“I’m afraid that you’re looking for your next chapter, and I’m looking for the whole rest of the book.”

“Some part of me that still feels like I should be grateful for any attention you show me, even if it’s nothing close to the way I want to be loved.”

 

Have you read any of these books yet?  What did you think of them? Which of these sounds most interesting? Let me know in the comments below! I’d love to talk about it!

 

artistic vision, backstage, christian, christian blog, christian theater, communication, costume design, directing, theater, theater education, theater professions

The Finishing Touch

When Overshadowed first opened its doors sixteen years ago we started with a Christian play I had adapted from a novel “Silent Star“. It was a hard hitting, dramatic, cry your eyes out- kind of play with the gospel message strong within it. Why? Why would I start a brand new theater company with something like that instead of a light funny, everyone leave smiling -kind of show?

The very mission of what Overshadowed is- calls to BOTH types of plays. I wanted to declare boldly that I would never shy away from a play that would bring you to your knees even though much of what we do includes the feel good stories.

Twelve years ago we performed Noah! for the first time and it instantly became a show that people talked about and requested over and over. In fact, when our ten year anniversary came around I asked our audiences to pick the season by vote and Noah! came in second….but barely.

So, in 2019 when I was picking the season for 2020, I decided it was time to mount this production again. Who knew that it would tell the story of the first quarantine and reach the depths of our hearts because of the year we recently had?

Well, God did. He is the author, planner, sustainer, comforter and guide. It was the perfect choice.

Noah! has now become the longest running show Overshadowed has done. Not most attended (Because we are limited to 50 audience member still.) But, we have now scheduled 26 shows and we will add more if  we sell Easter weekend out. Did I mention this show would be a fantastic show to see Easter weekend?

Recently, I wrote about the set design of Noah! You may read that post here:

https://fromthewings.org/2021/01/29/the-stage-is-a-blank-canvas/

A great production requires more than a great story, fabulous actors and an amazing set. It also requires a fantastic costume design. Since Overshadowed began, our philosophy has been that we might not have a real stage, or all of the bells and whistles of a professional theater, but that within our power we would make the production elements that we could afford be fabulous. Costumes became the element that we consistently spent more money and time on. We had super talented people who poured their hearts and souls into some pretty fantastic pieces. We knew that one choice alone would set us apart from other theaters close to us. We wanted to “look” professional and we knew that “clothes make the man” or in this case–the character.

It is amazing to me how often an actor really cements his character once he puts those costumes on. It is indeed the “finishing touch.” Perhaps it is the most important touch.

I had the chance to interview Debra Schott and Margaret Sahli for this week’s episode of From the Wings. I love their vision and can’t wait for you to hear what this process has been like for them.

https://youtu.be/HKPFQXR-BKw

I’d love to hear what your favorite costume experience has been? Would you like to join our costume team? We would love to have you!!

As always, it would be such a help to me if you would subscribe to this blog and share it!

Until next time!

Reba

P.S. A special thanks to Rebecca Leland and Brianna Valentine for their help with the recording of Fromthewings!

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!