At first, I was discontented. Well, okay, miserable. Only three awards out of eight possible? C’mon! Couldn’t the judges see the talent, energy, and pathos that went into the production?
Although I don’t usually watch the Oscars, I was curious to see how my favorite film of the year fared against the others.
Best supporting actress? Of course!
Best sound mixing? I agreed.
Best Makeup and Hairstyling? I saw that, too.
But, I wanted them to win all the awards. Then I settled down and realized there are other deserving actors/actresses, especially from other cultures who need a win as well.
Then, I got to thinking about our performance as Christians on the stage of life. Are we winning heavenly awards that will bring glory to God and not ourselves?
For instance (and I’m questioning myself) . . .
Best Leading Actor: Are men taking their roles as leaders seriously? How about church leaders? Or anyone for that matter, in a leading role?
Best Supporting Actress: Are you as a wife taking your God-given role seriously and supporting your man? Or, if you are a young person at home, are you supporting your parents? How about singles? Are you being a good friend, and honoring your boss (no matter what gender you are)? How about pitching in with the gifts God has given you in your local church? Congregations, are you bringing joy and not pain to your church leaders?
Directing: Let’s turn the tables — are you allowing God to direct your life, or are you taking charge?
Best Costume Design: Are you “putting off” the dirty garment of anger, lies, and filthy talk? And “putting on” the fresh, clean garment of kindness, humility and patience? (Colossians 3:3-14) Or, possibly, are you pretending to be someone you are not?
Best musical score: Is your life a symphony of comforting notes and scores that brings joy to those around you?
Visual effects — Does your countenance reflect your heart? Do your deeds reflect your relationship with the Creator?
Writing: Those of us who are authors, are we writing for the glory of God, or for a spot in the limelight?
Sound Editing: How is your tongue? Are you silencing those harsh or untrue words before they hurt others?
Cinematography: if you were to play your life back on the screen in a two-hour movie, how would the audience react at the end? Give it 5-stars? Cry at the tragedies that led to more tragedies without meaning? Laugh uproariously because its so true in your own life, a mirror that reflects your need to change?
I’d love to hear your ideas below in the comments!
So, I leave you with the musical performance of Les Misérables cast at the 2013 Oscars…now that deserved an award of its own! You can find the performance at 1:18
Of course, only God deserves our ultimate praise and worship, but, as we do our best in our work and life, we reflect God’s excellence:
“Praise him (God) for his mighty acts: praise him according to his excellent greatness.” Psalms 150: 2
This quarantine has provided me with some rare opportunities as I’m sure it has to you. (Positive thinking, people!) Maybe you found time to finally deep clean the garage or that closet? Or…just to sleep! I’ve found time for two of my favorite things: cooking and reading (make that 3 – eating – let’s be real). In addition to my favorite genres, history and fiction, I’ve been reading more plays (and eating more…and…riding my bike more – gotta combat the COVID 20!…Pounds that is).
I´ve been thinking about how I would stage and develop these plays (I have a few shelf fulls I´ve been working my way through). In thinking (and eating, of course) during all of this, I discovered the topic for this blog!
Cooking up Characters with Kady! (did you like that alliteration?) Seriously though, there are so many parallels between cooking and directing that once I started, I just couldn’t stop seeing the similarities. So, here are some ´tasty´ thoughts about how to ´cook´ up and serve characters and actually, the whole show, as a director.
First, and absolutely the most essential, is the visualization. I have always been fascinated with the process of taking raw ingredients and reshaping them into a new cohesive whole, which is why I love cooking. (plus I love eating, gotta be real folks). Taking ´raw´ ideas and reshaping them into living breathing characters in a ´real´ world is why I love directing. Both cooking and directing spring from visualizing the final product.
An important caveat: I make no claims to be a professional or even a remotely good cook! (and definitely not baking – I have not conquered the opera cake yet – plus I haven’t deboned a duck…let alone a chicken) And I am most definitely not a Broadway director. I direct summer camps for Overshadowed and direct my school´s drama program/plays. Broadway someday? I can dream. But in the meantime, I absolutely L-O-V-E what I do. So back to it.
I almost (not completely because I l-o-v-e to eat) enjoy imagining the combination of flavors, texture, and plating more than creating the actual dish. Why? It’s the wonder of possibilities! It’s the magic of ´before´ reality hits and all the obstacles jump up to bonk you in the nose. As I read a script, the same thing happens. Oh the possibilities! I imagine the world with the movie or I should say, the ´stage of the mind´. And while the show plays, I ask questions: What do I think the forest of Oberon and Titania actually looks like?Should the 39 Steps be staged as a radio drama or can it be ´live action´?And Jane Eyre..modern or historical?How should Don John hide his perfidy from the characters but not the audience in Much Ado About Nothing? How would an audience react to a production of Raisin in the Sun?How actually should I create the creatures of The Hobbit? (that one was answered brilliantly by my creative team!)
Sometimes the visualization doesn’t start with a script. It sometimes happens like my grocery shopping (especially when I´m hungry). Sometimes, I will see a unique ingredient (like a kumquat) and think, ´I´ve never cooked with that before. I wonder how it can be used and what other ingredients will go with it?´ Then, I pull out my phone right there and look up ideas, nutritional facts, and common or unique ways to cook it. And then into the cart it goes and the adventure begins! Sometimes I´m introduced to a new idea I´ve never used before, or a story I´ve never heard of, or a design element or tool I’d absolutely love to use. The research begins and ´Oh the possibilities´!
And once the mind, and sometimes the heart, are full of all the possibilities, I have found I need a lot of help to make that dream a reality.
Which of course leads to the next step: the collaboration.
With the ´recipe´ of the visualization in hand, I turn to my team. As a director or the visionary of any creative endeavor, this is the most essential task – getting your vision, ideas, tastes, textures, mood, hopes, fears, wish lists, and the world across to your creative team.
Not just so they understand what is being created, but so that they catch your hunger; so that they take ownership of the vision as well. Any chef knows the explanation of a recipe must be absolutely clear or what will be presented to the diner will be a muddied catastrophe. The director must be absolutely clear in establishing the framework and details the world his/her team is to work within. They become your sous chefs in their respective areas of expertise. Lighting, costuming, makeup/hair, sound, house, set, props, stage crew, marketing – you name it. This utterly essential team must hunger for exactly what you´re hungering for. If you pick well, as I have thankfully often experienced, they will love your vision as much as you do. And as such, will willingly share in the burden of creation.
The creative team is not just there to share in the burden, they´re there to add to the dish. Having other’s input adds flavor, shape, and foresight or resolution to problems you couldn’t see (I tend to dream big, my team helps keep my feet on the ground). Plus, someone else’s creativity and skill can make all the difference. That doesn’t mean the recipe loses its intrinsic value, its central identity, or that the director loses ownership. It simply means a new perspective of costuming, some expertise on how to actually make those puppets work, a composition of the mood you wanted to convey through music, or a unique way of enhancing audience interaction will all help create an authentic performance. That is simply invaluable. This team will become your fellow visionaries, and in some cases, dear friends with whom you can share and bolster the creative process through all the possibilities.
The third step (which I adore) is the preparation, or the creation of the characters. This is the step of pulling the characters from the page into the world that has been envisioned and is being created. This step requires reliance on the sous chefs/line cooks.
I think actors generally fall in the range of both. (I speak as an actor as well). What I mean is this: My niece is 14, precocious, opinionated, very chatty, beautiful, creative, and did I mention opinionated? My nephew is 16, tall, handsome, a sweetheart, intelligent (single) and follows instructions well. (I love them…clearly) When my sister and I cook or bake (Which we love to do! She could open her own restaurant), we do enjoy making it a family affair, which means pulling my niece or nephew into the adventure. Both enjoy cooking in my sisters kitchen, but one is a sous chef and one is more of a line cook. My nephew takes the instructions and performs with minimal questions. Need something diced? Grilled? He’s on it. If he doesn’t know how, a demonstration or explanation is given and he’s good. My niece, on the other hand, needs to know why. Always. ´Why not julienned instead of diced? It will look prettier, Aunt Kady!´ Oy vey! I have learned that after explanation, and after she has defended her point of view (vociferously), I have a choice. I can modify per her suggestion, or if that modification takes us outside the parameters of the recipe, I can choose not to. But I had better clearly explain why not to her before she is willing to move on. And she does, and dices with absolute precision. She does so because she owns her understanding of why. It’s now her mission, her task, her recipe too. Now I know sous chefs are second in command in the kitchen. I´m not saying actors are assistant directors. But, when it comes to character creation, the directorial vision has to be handed over to the ´assistant´ creators of those characters – which is the actors.
I have found that despite training (Meisner, Method, College degree, or complete amateur), actors generally land somewhere between my neice or my nephew. I enjoy both the line cooks and the sous chefs. Those like my nephew take the instruction and go with it. If they need direction they ask or accept it, then take it and go. They have already signed up to your vision because they trust it’s gonna ´taste´ good (especially if it’s pasta). They really thrive when the director is ´hands on´ in the early stages of laying out the elements of the character that he/she want to see brought to life and then stepping back and allowing the actor to take on the responsibility progressively throughout the entire process until of course they present the character on stage before an audience. Others…well…are my niece. They may question your vision from the very start. It doesn’t matter if they are highly trained or complete newbies. These are more sous chefs than line chefs and need to own the ´recipe´ of their characters as their own. This means you have to explain the vision and it needs to make sense to them. They need to understand the world their character lives in. And if it doesn’t make sense and they just can’t claim ownership of it, well… there have been times I’ve kicked my niece out of the kitchen. But when they do own the vision, when they are allowed to add their flavor to it… the performance that results from such an intensive shaping can be so enriched and authentic. In the world that’s been created by a team fully committed to the vision, adding a performance that has been relentlessly picked apart, lovelingly shaped together, and executed with absolute belief is utterly glorious! I guarantee that your audience won’t soon forget it. It is a beautiful preparation.
From visualization to collaboration to preparation, we’ve arrived at the final flourish, the lifting of the silver dome – the presentation! What a wonder it is when that curtain finally rises! A chef can indeed cook alone and create an adventure on a plate that the diner won’t soon forget.
But theater is not a solo endeavor.
Besides creativity and teamwork, its most important ingredient is trust. The playwright must trust that their story will be told with integrity, even with creative license. The director must trust that the world he/she envisioned will truly be brought to life by the design team, the crew, and the actors. And when the audience sits down to dine on the feast that is truly the ´theater experience´, they trust that the performance they are about to partake in has been cooked up with the greatest love, professionalism, care, detail, and creativity, with a dash of magic. Bon appetit!
This past Sunday we all celebrated Mother’s Day. Some of us had the luxury of being together. Some of us had wonderful zoom calls from our kids. Some of us mourned the loss of our mothers. In whatever way you celebrated, I’ll guess that the conversations around your table were different than the conversations held in the past. I’ll tell you the most special gift in the world would have been to be with my children and my mom. As the day went on I thought about my mom spending mother’s day all alone in her retirement home. I am so thankful she is safe, but just like so many other mothers…she is alone. On the day that is set aside to remember mothers and celebrate them–countless numbers of them spent the day all alone. Honestly, I grieved not being able to see her or my kids.
So what are we learning through this crisis?
To celebrate life. Each and every moment is important. We never know when we are going to be able to spend an additional moment with those we love. We will never take them for granted again.
We are learning that things we took for granted are infinitely more valuable and necessary than we knew. A hug from a friend. Dinner with a friend. A visit with mom.
Priorities. What are the things you are missing most during this time? What can you live without? What can’t you live without? Is it possible that we could be building new habits as we realize what things are truly important?
Things we need to work on. If there is anything we have now it is time….time to think. Time to reflect. Time to figure out if there are bad habits we need to get rid of or good ones we need to develop.
What do you have time for that you never did before?
I’m not going to say that I NEVER had time for a Bible study because I’ve done quite a few in my life, but at the beginning of our shelter-in-place a friend of mine suggested that we start a book/Bible study. I resisted, but as weeks went on I realized it was a really good idea. My mind needed to focus on God and not searching the internet and Facebook for everything that MAN was saying. We are only on our third week, but it is such a blessing to gather and pray with these ladies. And listen….I do not think I would have joined….if not for the virus. Thank you, God, for giving me time to commit to you in this way. Thank you, for the time we spend together.
I look around me and, while I treasure my mom and my family; I am also spending time thinking about all the hardships I see around me. People out of work. People struggling to pay bills. People who have lost loved ones to this horrible virus. People who are suffering with depression or feelings of hopelessness. People who have loss loved ones! Let’s face it, we can all look at the hardship and hopelessness all around us and start to feel lost, depressed, discouraged.
Or, we can come face-to-face with something else. Jesus is the only one that can help. Someone wrote me this quote the other day, “It may seem impossible, but God….”
God. Healer. Comforter. Prince of Peace. Deliverer. One who Sets Us Free.Mighty God.
There are many more, but these are the ones I am claiming for today….
It may seem impossible….but God!
God understands our loneliness. Our Grief. Our disappointment. Our fear. He reminds us with each name from the Bible to call on Him–He alone can comfort, protect and deliver us! Will you all join me to pray earnestly for healing for our country? A treatment? That God will stop this virus?
Well, this is a theater blog after all, right? So I’d like to end with a song that I’ve been thinking about.
This is from Fiddler on the Roof. It makes me cry every time I hear it.
Is this the little girl I carried? Is this the little boy at play? I don’t remember growing older, When did they?
When did she get to be a beauty? When did he grow to be so tall? Wasn’t it yesterday when they were small?
Sunrise sunset, sunrise, sunset, Swiftly flow the days, Seedlings turn overnight to sunflowers, Blossoming even as they gaze…
Sunrise sunset, sunrise, sunset! Swiftly fly the years, One season following another, Laden with happiness and tears…
They grow so fast. The days go quickly. Please let us see our families and enjoy the wonderful gifts that come from You. Please help us to understand our purpose here, when we can’t go out , and it seems like months before we even be able to worship together. How are we supposed to act? What are we supposed to do? We walk in places we have not walked before. Thank You for leading the way, because humanly it all seems impossible. But we know You are the Creator of all and nothing is impossible with you. We also know that you love us more than we can fathom and that you feel our pain during this time. We take comfort that as you wept at the grave of Lazarus that you feel our pain. We ask that you send the Holy Spirit to comfort us and give us strength.
I’d love to hear your thoughts and how you are coping and praying during this time.
If you think this might be a blessing to others please take time to follow and share.
I had the chance to meet “Shrek” and loved it when he said I was just a big kid! Don’t judge!
Shrek is the perfect example of social distancing. When he is misunderstood, he decides it is better to live alone and in the swamp. Of course, he meets Donkey and Fiona and well..who can resist a good love story reminding us that we are better with people. The other favorite about this musical is
that it ends with a Monkee’s song, Daydream Believer. I loved the group and this is one of my favorite songs so getting to enjoy that song at the end of this musical makes it a real treat.
2. Les Misérables. I think I can speak confidently for broken-hearted girls everywhere that Eponine is their representative. She has a horrible home life and has really had to take care of herself most of her life. Then she meets, Marius, basically someone that could be her prince charming. Is it love at first sight? Nope, not for this tragic creature. Instead she helpshim communicate with the person he has fallen in love with. She sings the song that many a girl has belted out in their rooms through tears. “On my Own.”
On my own Pretending he’s beside me All alone I walk with him till morning Without him I feel his arms around me And when I lose my way I close my eyes And he has found me
Yep. That’s what we are all doing right now. All alone. Maybe the lesson we learn from her is that we can sing our way through any circumstance in life!
3. Rapunzel. This sweet character was locked away in a tower for most of her life. I mean, you all remember how long her hair was when her prince climbed up to rescue her, right? (And you think you need a hair cut…) One of the main things I love about Rapunzel is that she made good use of her time. She painted and baked and well…everything. What new skill are you learning as you are confined?
Oh, by the way. This story also teaches us about hope. Rapunzel’s parents never gave up hope that she was going to return. In a way, it was the beauty of the lanterns and their optimism that brought her home. So, let’s not give up hope that we are going to conquer this evil virus sooner rather than later!
4. The Hunchback of Notre Dame. I might as well do all my tower characters together! Quasimodo. This tragic character was born deformed. Because of his appearance he was condemned to the cathedral’s tower by the caretaker. Quasimodo yearned to experience the outside world and be among the people. (Sound familiar?) I love the lesson of this show….who the monster is and who the man is depends on your point of view.
5. The Phantom of the Opera. The Phantom lurks around hiding and isolating himself. Let’s face it, he was wearing a mask before it was cool! In fact, this beautiful operetta sings an entire song about masks!
Masquerade! Paper faces on parade
Masquerade! Hide your face so the world will never find you
Masquerade! Every face a different shade
Masquerade! Look around, there’s another mask behind you
Yep, masks, masks everywhere I look. In all seriousness, one of the lessons of Phantom is that regardless of circumstances we have a choice on how we live our lives. Such a good reminder right now.
6. Beauty and the Beast. Yep. you guessed it. Another character that is isolated alone, hiding away from the world as we know it. But the Beast is lucky, he has Lumiere, Cogsworth, and Mrs. Potts to keep him company. Then, as fate would have it Belle enters his life. What lesson can we learn? We actually learn the lesson from Belle. The fairy tale, happily-ever-after love story might not look like one right away, but don’t give up ! That love story might be waiting for you when you least expect it!
7. Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. Adam and his brothers lived outside of their town. They had no manners and knew little about love. They thought they could force their seclusion on others and kidnapped the girls in town that had captured their hearts and forced an avalanche so that they could keep them all winter. Lucky for the girls, Milly, Adam’s wife, forced the guys to stay in the barn and kept the couples apart. Lesson? The premise is bad, but thankfully it is seen as a farce and teaches the lesson that love changes the heart of another. We can also learn that it isn’t good to be alone–people make bad decisions! (Seems like we keep being reminded of that lesson)
8. Wicked. Elphaba is green and misunderstood. So….she doesn’t really wear a mask….but again…she is GREEN so I think that counts. But don’t count her out. You won’t find her in the middle of the crowd and that’s ok. There are so many great things to learn from this musical. You don’t always have to do the “popular” thing. Sometimes the other choice is better. Yourfuture is unlimited. Lastly, sometimes you just have to dance through life.
9. The Diary of Anne Frank. I know I’ve mentioned her quite a bit lately, but there is so much to learn from her. As you know, her family went into hiding on July 6, 1942. They continued to live in hiding until they were arrested on August 4, 1944. In spite of Anne’s living conditions, she was aware that her family had more than others. What can we learn? The importance of perspective. We can also learn to look for the silver lining instead of thinking about how horrible our situation is. In hiding she wrote,
“The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely or unhappy is to go…somewhere where they can be quite alone with the heavens, nature and God.”
“Those who have courage and faith shall never perish in misery.”
10. The Trip to Bountiful. I have saved my favorite for last. When the stay at home orders were issued we were in the middle of our production of Bountiful. I had the honor of portraying Carrie Watts and I’m pretty sure I’ll never have the chance of playing another character that is as wonderful as she is. Why Carrie? She says:
“That was what was killing me! To be locked up in those two rooms! I bet I’ll live to be 100 now that I can get outside again!
I think we can all understand how Carrie was feeling! One other thing we can learn from Carrie is that no one can take away our song. We might not be able to get out and do all the things we want to or be with the people we want to be with, but you can keep singing. And I can’t wait to sing again with all of you.
Keep singing, my friends!
I’d love to hear what you think. Are there other characters I should have included? Please share this blog and follow so you don’t miss a post!