Three Things That Should Change about Theater Critics.

I have recently been listening to pod casts by Ken Davenport. He invites a professional in to his studio and asks them questions such as how they got in the business, what keeps them going, what kind of training they received etc. I haven’t listened to them in any particular order but the ones I have listened to lately have all made the same point. If they could change anything about the industry–it would be the critics. Now, they each then go on to explain what they mean by that and the specifics are usually different, but the core is the same.

And if you asked me….I might not say that’s the one thing I’d change, but I’d definitely think about it.

Let’s face it–the whole industry is changing a little. And believe me, when King Kong starts to visit other towns–it’ll change some more.

Here are the top things professionals want to change about critics:

  1. They would like them to have more diversity in their responses. It seems that things go in cycles of what type of musicals win top favored criticism, and it would be nice if the critics would judge things with a more open attitude. I think I agree with that. Critics, in general, would not favor wholesomeness.  I would plea that being edgy  does not necessarily make it an award-winning presentation.
  2. They wish that critics wouldn’t have the power that they do. I would agree with this point. I recently learned about the sabotaging of a Broadway musical that is really a brilliant show. I do not understand why the critic has the power to make or break a show, but they do seem to have that authority. Because so much is subjective shouldn’t we subjectively read their thoughts and then come to our own conclusion?
  3. They wish that the critic would have a personal relationship with them–almost like an agent. The critic would then champion the play– giving instructive criticism and giving thoughts on how to fix the performance instead of ripping it to destroy. I’m not sure how that could ever happen, but it is an interesting idea.

Maybe we have it all wrong?

Jonathan Mandell said, “Theatre critics can help careers, boost morale, and even aid a creative team in refashioning a show. But they do not exist to inspire or enrage theatre makers.”

I again would like to state that I believe that theater is changing. In our world of social media there are hundreds of us (myself included) who like to write a review of things they have seen on stage or screen. (look here for past posts: https://wordpress.com/post/fromthewings.org/110, https://wordpress.com/post/fromthewings.org/157 (review of Frozen and Harry Potter)

In short, there are so many of us who have the ability and drive to go to the theater that you can find information about the show from more people than the professional critic who may or may not have the standards/interests that you do.

My thoughts? There is no amount of money that I can spend that has the same impact as getting a review from the paper. Then, if they can print a picture along with it? It would give a huge impact on my sales. What I can’t stand is that for whatever reason, I cannot seem to attract the interest of a critic or a  paper printing  a review by an audience member. I’m not sure why that is the case, but it vexes me that it is true. I don’t want to give the critic that much power, but I think in my lifetime that will not change.

I will admit,  I do read the critic’s thoughts..both to determine if I want to see something and/or to determine if it’s a show I’m willing to think about producing. Do I always follow their advice? Nope. But it still means something.

Ken Davenport always ends his podcast by asking the interviewees a “genie question”. If they could change one thing about the industry what would it be. Two times in a row the answer was the critics. If he asked me….I think I would change them as well. Not because of what they say…but because it means so much. I wish that could be available for us little guys that are just out here trying to make a difference.

What would you like to see change about the industry? What is your “genie question?”

Please take time to share, like, and follow me so you don’t miss a blog post!

Until Next Time!

It Not Just about the Award

It’s almost November.

What does that mean? Every bit of news has something to do with how I should vote–why I should vote–or who I should vote for. I do believe that’s important. It’s one of the privileges of being an American that I treasure.

What does that have to do with theater? Well, we vote in theatre as well. Just think of the awards….the Emmys, the Oscars, the Tonys. Many of the winners are voted on by a group of their peers.

The past week I realized that Overshadowed qualifies for a regional award. They are called the BroadwayWorld awards.

BroadwayWorld is the largest theatre site on the internet. It covers Broadway, the West End and spreads to 100 US cities and 50 countries worldwide. It boasts of 4.5 million monthly visitors and delivers Broadway and regional theater news, interviews, reviews and more. This company has their own awards–anyone can vote. You vote for your favorite theaters, favorite shows, favorite actors/actress, favorite directors and more.

One of the most common conversations I have with people is when they question why Overshadowed’s shows don’t get reviewed. They ask me how we’ve been in business for 15 years and they are just hearing about us now.  The perfect example of this was after our last production of “A Tale of Two Cities.” We had a troop of people who decided to reach out to local critics… such as Dean Richards and Chris Jones (as well as others.) ( I would like to give a shout out to Dean Richards who was kind enough to respond to the inquiry and explain why he couldn’t make our show. Thank you, Dean!)

Sadly, Overshadowed cannot seem to get noticed. Do we want to? In my heart there are  times that I wonder what life would be like to qualify for a Tony or other such award. At the end of the day, I know that it isn’t the praise of man that makes something a success. Still, recognition means something.

The site of BroadwayWorld with their 4.5 Million viewers who regionally might say, “Overshadowed’s “On Golden Pond” wins Best Play–well, that is a pretty big deal.

As I was pondering this I was asked if it really means anything since it’s done by the people who know you instead of a critic. I say 100 percent, “Yes!”

Here’s why:

  1. We want you, our audience, to enjoy every moment you spend at our theatre. We hope that we are giving you great moments of sheer joy and delight. If you take  time to nominate us and then perhaps vote later–we would know we are succeeding.
  2. Marketing is difficult and expensive. This might be the singlehandedly best way to get the word out about “this little theatre that could.”
  3. Let your voice be heard. Do you like the kind of shows that are winning awards these days or perhaps would you like to have a say to tell the world that family friendly still has a place in the industry?

Now, I know I’m not giving you a lot of time to make this happen and I also know that the form takes a little bit of time–perhaps fifteen or more minutes; but I’m asking you to make time to nominate us.

Here are the rules:

  1. Today is the last day to nominate any production.
  2. Only shows within the last year can be eligible.  Our qualifying shows are: “I’ll Be Seeing You”, On Golden Pond“, “Sleeping Beauty” (Best Theater for Young Audiences production), “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers”and “A Tale of Two Cities.”
  3. Make sure you vote under the RESIDENT NON-Equity category.
  4. There are so many different fields under each show and you can vote for up to four people. If you need to know who qualifies–please ask and I will help you out.
  5. Here is the link: https://www.broadwayworld.com/chicago/2018nominations.cfm

Thank you in advance. As always please follow this blog, comment and share! I’m looking forward to hearing from you!

Until next time!

Adventures in New York (Part Four) or learning everything you can about theater in four short days….

Whew! We finally made it to Day four! By this time, we are exhausted and inspired and can’t wait to learn more today!

Our day started with a session called: Devised theater: Tectonic Theater Project.

This session explored movement work that forced us to explore the potential of all the elements of the stage to create a theatrical narrative. This method was used to create “The Laramie Project: Movement work which is highly collaborative and creative. Theoretically it can be used to create new works as well as re-imagine new texts. I have never thought myself to be an out of the box thinker or even claim to think abstractly so this is a huge learning stretch for me. Very valuable.

Here is how it works:

Start in a circle. Each person tells a moment in theater they will never forget. Then the production team reads the script together.

The team should explore movement work together. They should explore all elements of the stage (both on stage and around the room.) When they find an object they start with “I begin” Then proceed to act around that object to show the audience a unique way of looking at that piece. They end with: “I end.”

This exercise can be repeated using gestures and then group movements that now start. “We Begin.” and end with “We end.”

There should be discover time in which anything in the space is analyzed. Architecture (which is anything that can’t be moved) is discovered for what it does. What is the poetry of the piece? Does it move or make noise?

The same can be done with props and or costumes.

Then, the group names the moments so they can remember.

Important note:

Work to create intention that leads to the narrative you are creating.

Take away:

It is what happens not why we feel.

Next came one of my favorite sessions. (Not that I intend to need the direction, but it is good to have it to give those who are pursuing such dreams!)

Path to Broadway:

Our guest artists were:

Etai Benson (The Band’s Visit)

Will Burton (Ambrose in Hello Dolly!)

Aurelia Williams (Once On This Island)

They were each so personable and shared from their hearts the good fortune and hard work that got them to where they are in their careers-not to mention how wonderful each of their solo performances were that we got to enjoy!

Take away:

Go to a college that has a showcase in their senior year program.

Two shows today!

My Fair Lady

By far the most perfect production I have ever seen. Breathtaking beautiful costumes, sets and vocals.

I really can’t say enough about the set. It was a house that rotated and even retracted to hide behind the scrim when it wasn’t needed….Hmmm. maybe it was the stage I really loved!

I will not spoil it, but I was completely disappointed in the last two moments of the play. Message me if you want to talk more about that!

If you are in New York–it’s a must see!

The Band’s Visit

Loved it!

I was completely captivated by this unique story about a band that mistakenly ends up in the wrong city and has to stay there overnight. Strangers house and entertain the band members even letting them stay in their  own homes. The band members unknowingly change the lives of all who come in contact with them.

The band plays on stage and the music is unique, haunting, and beautiful.

There is a reason this musical won so many Tony’s. It is worth every dollar you spend and definitely the high light of my trip!

And just like that my trip came to an end. Why did I choose to go to this intensive week again? I feel that it is so valuable to me personally as an artist/director/manager/writer.

It it refreshing to spend time away and get to see a host of new shows. It is educational to hear from professionals of how and why they design. And it is encouraging to hear that I have some of the same problems other theaters have.

I love having this dream of theater–may we constantly bring joy to others.

What about you? What have you learned lately?  Please share this blog and feel free to ask questions or comment!

Until next time!

Adventures in New York (Part Three) or learning everything you can about theater in four short days…

Tuesday opened to a workshop called. “How Do We Know We Are Good Theater Teachers.” This session was taught by Peter Avery who is the Director of Theatre, NYC Department of Education. New York has one of the largest school systems and Peter oversees all aspects of theater education.

Granted I have never taught in the public school system, but I’m wondering if all states are as fortunate. It was a fascinating example of how theater can teach and inspire students. After discussing what theater education looks like in New York. Peter showed us a video of a teacher in action. Here are my take aways:

  1. The entire class was involved.  Together they inspired and motivated each other.
  2. A student was assigned to be a stage manager. He/she would call time to keep the class on track.
  3. At the end of class they break into pairs and communicate the one thing they learned from class that day and the one thing they need more work on. They communicate it to each other not publicly in the class.

I loved how involved everyone was. I loved that the evaluation took place in a way that forced them to repeat what they learned that day. I am thinking about using that technique as we begin rehearsing our next play.

The next session was on Stage Management and was taught by Matt DiCarlo who is the current stage manager for “The Play That Goes Wrong”.

Take Aways:

There are three parts to stage management.

  1. Organizational. This I all ready knew. Having a good stage manager is such a valuable necessary asset. A stage manager takes care of everything from the stage and behind. They organize the set changes, and oversee the choreography of entrances and exits. They make sure everything is in its place. They also usually keep an emergency kit that has everything from band aids, safety pins, batteries, highlighters, breath mints, flashlights, glow tape, aspirin and anything else that the cast might need in an emergency. Stage Managers are in fact, life savers.
  2. Technical. The stage manager sometimes runs scenes, takes the place of the director  if necessary, keeps track of communication and schedules and run times. They also call cues at times during performances.
  3. Artistic. It is the stage managers responsibility to maintain the product. In most theaters once the show opens the director moves on to other shows checking in only occasionally. The stage manager is then in charge of making sure the actors and everyone else stays true to the production the director created.

The stage manager must have an understanding of what everyone does.

Scheduling goals: They rehearse M-F, 10-6 for five weeks. In that five weeks they have two weeks of tech.

Resources: Production Stage Management For Broadway by Peter Lawrence.

Recommended apps: Wanderlist /base camp

Let me just say–I love being a stage manager. If I didn’t direct, I would want to stage manage.

After lunch we had a chance to meet with Diana Rigg. Those of you who are young might not know her, but I LOVED her in the TV show The Avengers. (Not the marvel comic book characters.) She is currently staring in “My Fair Lady.”

Take aways: “I don’t care what your private problem is. Your problem is to see what’s on the page and to get it right.”

” Actors are here to serve the directors, the play and the audience.” (Hmmm perhaps that’s a blog post all in itself)

I loved her directness and witty sense of humor. My favorite moment was when one of the teachers asked her how she kept a performance fresh after performing it night after night. She looked confused and then answered, “I’m a professional!”

That night we went to see ” Mean Girls.” Imagine our delight when Jonalyn Saxer, our dance instructor from day one, as swing played the lead! She was amazing and we loved her.

I did not like the play. It was upbeat and lively and while I knew the main lesson it was trying to teach, I felt that it glamorized the art of being mean rather than the proper way to stand up to bullies. My most disappointing moment was a song that was dedicated to “giving the finger” to those who mistreat you. I just cannot think that’s the message we want a new generation of young girls to shoulder!

Should you see it? My vote would be no. Even though I could teach you the dance moves to the closing number, “I See Stars.”

Have you seen “Mean Girls”? How is theater in the public school system where you are? I would love to hear your thoughts!

Until Next time!

Adventures in New York or Education from One Director (or artist) to Another (Part Two)

On Monday, July 16, a group of theater directors, teachers, community theater personal and even wanna be directors gathered on West 53rd Street in New York for the annual Broadway Teachers Workshop. The opening session was led by Nicole Kempskie (an award-winning writer, educator and theater artist) and Todd Woodard (an actor and previous Managing Director of Arts to Grow). This was a time for us to explore the problems that other organizations face and problem-solve to help each other. The take-away? Many of us face the same problems. There is comfort in knowing that my issues–the ones that make me feel like a failure –when I face them time after time–are not unique to me. We divided up into groups and each listed a problem and together thought of ways to help each other. They left the poster up all week so we could circle the room and see the other issues and answers.

My next session was with Jonalyn Saxer (swing Mean Girls, Holiday Inn, Honeymoon in Vegas). She taught a dance class….no, before you ask, I didn’t dance, but I LOVED watching!  And if I had to do it all over again I would have jumped up and tried.  I discovered many of the teachers aren’t fortunate enough to have a team of people. They direct, teach music and do the choreography. Dancing might not have been the greatest skill of all of them, but they stood up there and did their best and had fun while they were doing it….just like we request our students to do.

Lessons from Jonalyn:

  1. Your body should be stronger than what is required of you. Work out, rest, eat right.
  2. She explained exactly what a swing does. Wow. Easily the hardiest part on stage and worthy of a great deal of respect.

My next session was a projection design session which honestly was WAY over my head. I found myself sending little videos back home to our technical director.

#1 lesson: If your projection light is bright enough, black is a better surface than white. That was eye-opening for me.

The last session of the day was design for productions. We split into groups again and Tobin Ost (Set design for Newsies) assigned each group a different theater space. We all had to design a set for Jesus Christ, Superstar based on the stage space. This was extremely difficult for me as this is a play I’ve never seen so it was difficult to know what each scene required. After the breakout session we each reported on the design and why certain decisions had been made. As we reported on them it was eye-opening to see how the environment plays into the strengths/weakness of each spot.

At 8:00 we went to see Once on this Island.

I have to say, I loved the space. It was theater in the round. The moment we sat in our seats the action on the sand-filled stage began. There were goats and chickens and the actors talked and played and were fascinating to watch. The singing was fantastic although sometimes the dialect made it quite hard to understand. I know this was a Tony award-winning play. I didn’t like it. I find little use for a play that spends most of its time praying to the “gods.” I won’t spoil the end, but let me just say I felt like I had wasted my evening when the girl’s prayer wasn’t answered. When you see it, please let me know if you agree.

We had a talk-back with the cast afterwards. What a wonderful group of people. They explained to us that this show was much more difficult than anyone knew it was going to be because they are singing and dancing on sand the whole evening and sand shifts so they are constantly trying to find their footing.  It seems my day was filled with actors telling me the toil musical theater takes on bodies!

All-in-all it was a tiring day, but very informative and fun!

This is just me, trying to be a better director!

Let me know if you have questions or comments about any of these things or if you have seen Once On This Island!

Until next time,

Reba

Adventures in New York (Part One)

So what does any good director do after tech week? Go to New York, of course! Well, I wish I could go after every tech week, but time doesn’t allow such luxuries!

Every year Music Theater International puts on a workshop called Broadway Teachers Workshop. I had the opportunity to attend last year and decided that this is something I really should attend every year if possible. So I packed my bags and flew out Saturday morning. I decided to add two extra plays to the experience. So, over the next couple of days I am going to let you share my experiences.

First night….Frozen! It was everything I wanted it to be and more. The moment the lights came up I was enchanted by Zoe Glick and MiMi Ryder who player young Anna and Young Elsa. They were so precious and did such a fantastic job of portraying the young girls exactly how I envisioned them.  The audience loved Olaf and Sven and were really caught up in all the beloved characters. (one of the things I love about a New York audience is the way they applaud when each new character enters the stage for the first time.)

After seeing the movie I was so curious as to how this production could ever happen, but Disney did it again. The special effects were amazing and we all looked in amazement as the stage turned into an “ice place.” Cassie Levy left us breathless at the end of the first act when she belted out, “Let It Go.” Causing us to say, Idina who?

The one moment I didn’t care for was during the second act when the ensemble sang “Hygge.” At first the ensemble had towels on as they came out of the “warming house”, but on their next entrance they removed their towels and had leaves in both hands that they used to cover their private areas in a choreographed routine. I’m just not sure why that was necessary. I was quite distracted by it.

At one point I looked across the aisle and saw a women a little younger than me singing and smiling with reckless abandonment. That’s why we do it, folks. That face said it all. If you get a chance make sure you see this show. It’s that good!

Sunday.

On Sunday morning I attended a one day director’s workshop. Our speaker was Peter Flynn (most recently credit was directing an off-broadway production of Ragtime at the Ford theater.)

I should write a whole blog post about this one day. He was so fantastic! Here are the highlights:

  1. There are no absolutes.
  2. We don’t tell the story. We interpret the story.
  3. Directing a show is not about our comfort, but rather our clarity.
  4. Always remember we are in a service industry.
  5. Be specific and authentic.

And so much more…. He was so good.

Next I went to see Harry Potter parts One and Two. For more on that check out this video from The Potter Collector who joined me on this adventure! https://youtu.be/o8OqodytIDE

If you’ve seen any of these plays or have comments about Peter’s workshop make sure you leave a comment!

Until next time!

The Battle Known as Tech Week

I have been silent lately. There is a good reason. We opened our summer musical last Friday. The opening went great! The energy of the cast was spectacular and the audience laughed and enjoyed it and we even received a standing ovation! You might be thinking, “That’s all good, right? So why have you been silent?”

Tech Week.

For those of you involved in the theater you know exactly what I am talking about. For those of you who don’t well….there are no words.

Tech week is the week before a production opens. This is the week that all the remaining elements are added. (Lights, costumes, set pieces etc) In all fairness it is stressful for everyone involved. People who are normally the most loving and gracious begin to survive on coffee and energy drinks. No one wants to put pressure on anyone else but you can almost hear the very air surrounding you whispering, “When is that going to be done?” The cast who has been perfect starts to forget lines and not make entrances on time because we keep throwing new things at them–like costumes, lights and even new set pieces. And I begin to feel terrible. All these wonderful, talented people from designers to actors, from seamstresses to stage crew–I feel that I’m not giving them the very tool they need the most. Time. (Well, maybe help is a close second.)

Theater is a set of building blocks. The director sets the vision. The designers then create from that vision. Then people start sewing and building and lastly the technical elements can be put into place. Acting is the same. You build your character based on the building blocks of what you discover either from lines your character says or what other characters say about you. When the actor gets to step into costumes and make-up it is the last building block.

So you see why tech week is so important? It all comes together right at one critical moment.

Half way through the week I realize most of us have slept less than 15 hours all week and when they did sleep it wasn’t it their bed! Some of us haven’t even had time to shower. Anyone who walks into the theater is immediately put to work and we don’t even have time to go pick up the playbills.

It is truly a wonderful experience. I look around at all the people who sacrifice and pour their hearts into making the perfect set, having the perfect costumes, adding the magical technical aspects and I say, “Thank you.” Thank you, for loving theater, this theater.

Thank you to those actors who come in and walk the space and think through their lines in an effort to make sure their characters are performance ready. Thank you to the set artist, designers who repaint because the set just doesn’t look like they wanted it to. Thank you to the technical directors who rehang the snow machines because the snow doesn’t hit at just the right angle. It’s really a very special kind of passion.

The result? A beautiful powerful production that brings a laugh and hours of enjoyment to our audience. Those smiles make it all worthwhile. We are fortunate enough to have another benefit. The cast has become incredibly close. We have cried together, prayed together and rejoiced together. And on opening night we celebrate together.

I’m very thankful that these are the people who surround me.

If you haven’t seen it Seven Brides for Seven Brothers runs for three more weeks. overshadowed.org

Do you have any stories about tech weeks that you have experienced? Or tips to help survive one? I’d love to hear from you!

Lessons from High School Musical

It’s been 12 years since we first watched Troy and Gabriella ring in the new year, and heard those iconic songs that bring memories of a brand new way of musical dancing. I remember watching the Disney special that proclaimed you could learn the dance moves and dance along with the finale. I tried for awhile and realized that they weren’t really talking to me….(ah, to be young again).

After the movie came two sequels and a stage production and a message, well, actually several messages.

1. Be brave enough to try something new. 

When Troy and Gabriella were first pushed on stage together to sing karaoke, they were totally beyond their comfort zones. In spite of their fear they discovered something new that they really enjoyed! We often are afraid to try something different–don’t let fear stop you.

2. Break the weight and bonds of cliques.

Learning to enjoy things that others do is a wonderful part of life.  The drama geeks can all learn from the jocks who can learn from the tech wizards who can learn from the….well, you get my drift. High school is such a short period of time. Don’t miss something really special by staying in a clique.

In fact, one of my favorite moments as a director was watching one of the “jocks”of the high school I was volunteering at get the courage to audition for Fiddler on the Roof. His hands were shaking so bad! He got the part and proceeded to lead that school in a way that really helped make all the students more well rounded.

3. The “status quo” is a prison that we put ourselves in.

All it took was word that Troy Bolton started singing for an entire cafeteria of students to confess their own secret passions. It’s amazing how people follow the leader. If you have a secret desire to try something new go for it!

4. Communicate with your parents.

This is a part of the movie I feel very strongly about. I think it’s important to be respectful of your parents. If they want you to do something it’s probably because they want the best for you. But, maybe they just don’t know how powerful your feelings are inside of you.  It was hard for Troy to tell his dad that he was interested in theater because he didn’t want to hurt him, but believe me, your parents want you  to talk to them and share what you are going through.

5. There’s room for everyone on stage.

Oh, I could talk forever about this one.  Sharpay and Ryan were the leads in every musical. They intimidated others and thought they were better than everyone else. People–just because you aren’t the lead doesn’t mean that someone is better than you. Every person on the stage is important and sharing the stage makes a much better show! Please don’t feel like you aren’t talented or not important just because you didn’t get a solo or named part. Also, don’t be opposed to playing something other than the lead. Many times being a part of the ensemble can be just as challenging and rewarding.

6. A real friend is in your court no matter what.

It may have been hard for Chad to accept that Troy was getting his head into a game other than basketball, but in the end, he wanted his friend to be able to fulfill both his dreams. Real friends stand by you even if the

IMG_4360
“Breaking Free”

things you have in common start to change. They support you as you gain new skills and encourage you to be a  better person.

7. You’re never alone.

Remember this. In this day and age that the suicide rate is up–this lesson is important. We’re all in this together. Some days are hard. Sometimes you might feel like you are alone. You might feel that you aren’t smart enough or talented enough or loved enough. We are all in this thing together, and there’s nothing that you’re going through that a million others aren’t too. Remember that.

This past two weeks 41 students, 7 directors, 3 costumers and a 3 person tech team came together to put on our own production of High School Musical, Jr. We created memories, made new friends and hopefully were all reminded of these very lessons.

Theater camp is one of the highlights of my year. To all of those involved: thank you for making this experience so delightful! IMG_4346

Musical theatre teaches.

What are some lessons you learned from camp or High School Musical ?? I’d love to hear from you!

Until next time!

Reba

                                                                  Photo Credit: Francisco Montes

Life-Changing Theatre Experience

Do you ever wish you could go back and do things over?

Sometimes you might want to have a redo. Other times it might be because it was such a wonderful experience that you’d like to enjoy it all over again. This past weekend someone told me that there is a fad now saying that your life is defined by what song was #1 on your 14th birthday. (Mine, by the way, was “I’ll Be There.” I can’t tell you how much I love that!) Of course, the second I heard that I was fourteen again in my mind.

The years that marked my time between Jr High and High School were spent in North Carolina.  I was a butterfly desperately trying to get out of her cocoon. I didn’t have confidence and honestly I feel most of that could have been changed with the help of teachers in my life that encouraged and mentored me instead of humiliated me….yeah, Jr. High was rough….

But then we moved back to Kinston. I loved Kinston. I loved my grandfather, Pop. We would walk together and he would tell me stories and listen to me and sometimes we would just be. (For more on my grandfather our next season will contain a play about a portion of his life. Look for it in the fall of 2019, “I Remember Pop”) Pop would listen to me and most of the time help me discover what we really important.  I always felt like I could achieve and do something that mattered when I was around him.

Flash forward to those days I would wander into the back of the local high school theater. (a school I didn’t attend. For more on that read:  https://fromthewings.org/2018/04/20/by-no-stretch-of-the-imagination/) The drama teacher stopped me and asked me why I was watching instead of participating. He then told me that he directed a theater group in the summer and he would love for me to get involved. As you know from the other post, I did. Throughout that summer my life changed. I gained such confidence. The confidence to try new things. The confidence to speak up. I also began to gain skill as the rehearsals involved singing and dancing. I loved every moment.

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Overshadowed Camp “Into the Woods”

Next week, our first summer camp of 2018 begins.  (By the way, we still have four spots left! Come join us! overshadowed.org ) Why do we have camps? It’s not to make money. It’s for a list of reasons:

  1. To provide an affordable theatrical experience. We learn everything in two weeks. We have auditions on the first day and teach and intensely rehearse for the next days until the three performances complete with costumes and set are performed the following week. What a rush!
  2. To teach. To help students to find new skills and hone the ones they all ready have.
  3. To provide a safe environment. We do not ask anyone to wear clothes or do something on stage that they might not be comfortable with.
  4. To encourage. (We are all in this together!)
  5. To change lives. Simply put, I believe the aspect of putting a play together in this short amount of time unifies the cast in ways that are unexplainable. I believe that our team of directors really care about the student more than the production and that we work to make each person feel important.

During that summer of community theatre someone asked me why I blushed so much. I 282440_208460605871759_2018874_ncouldn’t answer him because I was too embarrassed to get the words out. His reply, “My goal this summer is to get you to be able to speak confidently. The best gift God gives us is our speech. You ought to be able to use it effectively.”

I have held on to that life changing concept. That. Simply that. Is WHY.

If you are in theater, please remember the power you have. But it’s a good reminder for all of us I believe.

Do you have a story about the power of theater? Or speech? Or camp? Please take a moment to share it with us!

Until next time,

Reba

 

Memorial Day–Remembering the Cost of Freedom

 On Monday we began the week by celebrating Memorial Day. I began wondering what the history of this special day was. I was surprised to learn that it was originally called “Decoration Day.” I guess it dates back to 1866 when the women of the North and South began to honor those killed in the Civil War by placing flowers on their graves. After WWI those ceremonies began to honor those who were killed in all the wars. In 1971, Memorial Day was declared a national holiday and we began to officially observe it on the last Monday in May. This day is different from July 4th where we celebrate freedom. This day we observe the cost of freedom.

At the first Memorial Day ceremony held in Arlington National Cemetery, small flags were placed at every marker, starting a tradition that is carried on to this day.

Have you ever been to Arlington? I have. My father, a hero in my eyes, is buried there.

Richard E. Ruffin was born on August 24, 1927, during WWII he was in the Navy and as

18765747_10155248332564831_6786388097962464756_n
My dad’s funeral. Arlington National Cemetery.

the story goes as soon as my 6 foot four inch tall dad got off the Navel ship he walked across the street and joined the Army. During the next years he was in Korea, two deployments in Germany and one tour in Vietnam. He received the Bronze star, the Purple Heart and several commendations. How I wish I had somehow asked the right questions to learn more about that time of his life.

My dad loved America. He taught me to value the freedoms that we have. I might not like everything America does or the decisions that some of our leaders make, but I know that we have freedoms that other people do not enjoy. Why? Only one reason. Because, people like my dad fought for those freedoms, died for them, protected them.

Since this is supposed to be a blog about things on and off the stage…I’d like to remember that we have the freedom of speech.

“Freedom of speech is the right to articulate one’s opinions and ideas without fear of government retaliation or censorship, or societal sanction.”

Freedom of speech allows me to write this blog freely–to express my opinions about God, if I so desire–and to not fear government censorship. This is just one of the reasons I’m thankful for America.

This week let’s join together and remember the cost of our freedoms and the people who gave their all for us.

Here are some of my favorite quotes:

“It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God such men lived.”– George S. Patton

“My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”    – John F. Kennedy

I have never been able to think of the day as one of mourning; I have never quite been able to feel that half-masted flags were appropriate on Decoration Day.  I have rather felt that the flag should be at the peak, because those whose dying we commemorate rejoiced in seeing it where their valor placed it.  We honor them in a joyous, thankful, triumphant commemoration of what they did.  ~Benjamin Harrison

These heroes are dead.  They died for liberty – they died for us.  They are at rest.  They sleep in the land they made free, under the flag they rendered stainless, under the solemn pines, the sad hemlocks, the tearful willows, and the embracing vines.  They sleep beneath the shadows of the clouds, careless alike of sunshine or of storm, each in the windowless Place of Rest.  Earth may run red with other wars – they are at peace.  In the midst of battle, in the roar of conflict, they found the serenity of death.  I have one sentiment for soldiers living and dead:  cheers for the living; tears for the dead.  ~Robert G. Ingersoll

 

Do you know someone that served our country? Do you have a favorite story about them? Do you have a thought about freedom or Memorial Day? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Until next time!

Reba