Meet Guest Blogger–Nathan Pittack

Featured Post

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

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

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

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

Question 1: Why Then?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Question 2: Why Now?

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

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

“Why this play Now?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Question 3: Why Here?

This question is critical. 

Why is this theatre doing this play in this community?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why are we doing it at all?” 

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

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

It’s a gift. And it’s personal. 

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

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

And sometimes even:

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

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

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

Why it matters

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

May we as Christians always be gift-givers.

Selected Resource: 

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

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

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

Until next time!

One Book Can Change the World

“Maybe this is why we read, and why in moments of darkness we return to books: to find words for what we already know.–Alberto Manguel

At the beginning of 2020 I read page after page of posts on Facebook from friends who beautifully recapped all the books they read during 2019. I was ashamed, informed, entertained and inspired. You see? I love to read, but somehow I’ve gotten out of the habit. I’m not quite sure how it happened, but after reading post after post I decided that the bad habit needed to be broken and I resolved to read at least one book a month during 2020.

I started off great during January and February, but as I was working on “Trip to Bountiful.” reading became a huge luxury because I needed to spend so much time on my lines. I vowed that I would still get back to reading. I just needed to make sure my lines were firmly embedded in my brain before moving on.

Then, our world stopped and reading…well, reading became everything. I must admit, I spent the first part of quarantine reading about the virus and the dangers and all the theories behind it, but slowly I pulled my head away from that and decided I wanted to be entertained instead.

Why is it that some of us love to read and others make ourselves read and still others don’t do it at all? I’d love to hear your thoughts on that subject because I’m not sure I know the answer and I’d love to hear theories.

For now, I’d like to share my January-March reading experience with you.

I had the honor of being in a production of The Diary of Anne Frank last year. I actually started this book at that time, but just couldn’t fight way my through it. I finished it this year. I’m not sure I could have picked a better book to begin my new journey with books.

BY Anne Frank

Do you know the story? It is the real life account of a young girl during WWII. Anne’s father, Otto, has the forsite to prepare a place for his family and one other to hide from the Germans. Anne faithfully writes in her diary the day-to-day activities during their time in hiding. She was thirteen when she began detailing her accounts. Most of us think of reading this book for school, but I think I learned even more reading it as an adult. I’m inspired at Anne’s intelligence and how prolifically she writes. Was it because she was trapped with adults for such a long time or has the world been robbed of a bright mind that would have given us such immeasurable greatness? When Overshadowed produced this play last year, we talked about living in cramped spaces with people who would grow to get on our nerves. We talked about eating the same things over and over and the idea of not being about to go outside and how that would feel. We talked about the fear of the unknown and dependance on others…..who knew that we would be experiencing a little of the same things? It makes me so thankful for what we DO have. Freedom at the top of the list.

Favorite quote:

As long as this exists, this sunshine and this cloudless sky, and as long as I can enjoy it, how can I be sad?–Anne Frank

This book is available at Amazon! There are also other books that you might be interested in. Some of them are also in the photo above.

In February I read –The Girl Who Came Home by Hazel Gaynor. https://www.amazon.com/Girl-Who-Came-Home-Titanic/dp/0062316869

I loved this book! I am a fan of all things Titanic and this story about fourteen members of a small village in Ireland who journey towards America is captivating. We instantly love, Maggie, who is torn as she heads to a future that must be better, but ache for her as she leaves her true love behind. The story blends the past with the present as we meet Grace Butler who struggles to find focus on the future until her great-grandmother decides it is time to tell the story of….The Titanic.

This story is inspired by true events and the blending of history, fact and fiction reminded me of so many tragic decisions involved in the sinking of that great ship that changed the world forever.

Favorite Quote:

That night when Titanic went down was so terrible that some survivors, like me, wanted to stop talking about it. I suppose people move on, history moves on, and there will, sadly, always be something more terrible waiting around the corner.--Maggie

Why is that my favorite? Because it reminds us to talk, because stories teach. And it reminds us that life has wonderful times and terrible ones. We need to find the good in all of them.

In March I read News of Our Loved Ones by Abigail DeWitt https://www.amazon.com/News-Our-Loved-Ones-Novel/dp/0062834746/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

This one was a struggle to read. In fact, I had to make myself read a chapter a day to get finished with it. I found the disjointed way that she introduced her characters hard to follow. I continually went back and reread portions to see if I had missed something. It finally all came together in the end, but that’s too long to wait for the story to make sense. It also touched upon being very inappropriate at times. She didn’t go into detail, but it just made me feel uncomfortable and I don’t want to feel that way when I read!

By the way, I do NOT receive anything for the recommendation of these books. This is just me…sharing things with you!

I’m not sure why I chose these three books for the beginning of this year. They all involved very deep topics and all three brought me to tears at times. My title for this blog was One Book Can Change the World. I truely believe it can. I think The Diary of a Young Girl did that. What books have your read that changed you or the world? Or…should you write one?

During this time of darkness….why not pick up a book and read!

Please take a moment to like and share this! And please let me know about books you have read!

Until next time,

MEET GUEST BLOGGER–JESSICA MEANS

Meet Jessica Means–Guest Blogger

Featured Post

When God Calls–God Equips

I am honored to have guest blogger, actress, teacher, mom, wife and friend join us this week. From the moment I met Jessica I was astonished by her spirit, wisdom, talent and enthusiasm. Thank you, Jessica, for sharing your thoughts this week!

When I was asked to be a guest blogger for Reba, I had two questions:
Number One: What do I write about?
Number Two: Why would anyone care?

I get why Reba has a blog and people want to read it; she is President and Artistic Director for a theatre company that she founded! She started something from the ground up and took a huge risk. How cool is that!? If people need to learn from someone it is Reba.

So, what do I do? I teach high school, direct theatre, am a mom, and perform on the side for my personal sanity. But then I began thinking, I really do not just perform on the side. Over this past year I have taken a step to become more active offstage, which is in turn helping me better onstage.

The answer to the first question then came to me: What do I write about?

Where God calls, God equips. I am not going to take personal credit for this statement, as it was in my sermon notes from last month. However, it rings true with my connection with Overshadowed Theatrical Productions.

Over three years ago I performed with Overshadowed for the first time in the musical Mary Poppins. Before that I had been performing in musicals for years upon years with other local theatre companies. I did notice that Overshadowed was different. The people were a community, all people. I saw that the crew worked like a well-oiled machine. I was impressed by the professionalism of the company, but I was just a performer, so I did my job, finished the run, and continued working with other companies.

I did not get involved with Overshadowed until the spring season of last year. Involved meaning I jumped into serving. Last spring season, during the production of Seussical, I was asked to join the Gala Committee and I said I would help wherever I was needed. Silly me…of course that was the silent auction. (Who wants to ask people for donations?)

Fast-forward to late July and my afternoon date with Breana Akerberg. She showed me the ropes on how to ask for donations. (If you do not know already, Breana is a Rockstar at accomplishing goals!) At first, I was timid to walk into a business and do “the ask”. But with Breana’s help by the end of the afternoon we had great success (and ended our gala work with a mini smoothie date). That afternoon I gained the confidence I needed and a new friend.

You will never get anywhere if you do not ask (although it is not always comfortable at first). In the end, it was work, but rewarding work. I knew I was serving an important cause. And honestly, seeing the gala’s silent auction room last October I felt so proud that I had played a part in that (especially when I found out the amount raised for Overshadowed!). Laura Benanti said in a podcast interview on the Theater People that theatre “bonds you quickly” because together you are “working towards the same goal”. I think this is true onstage, but also true offstage and in life.

When we work together it bonds us, especially when we can enjoy the fruits of our labor with others.

During the course of a year, I began to take on more tasks for Overshadowed from seam ripping (not a costumer), assisting with makeup, writing news sources to market shows, and eventually overseeing Overshadowed’s social media. I am also now heading up the silent auction subcommittee if anyone wants to make a donation. (See what I did there?) However, I am taking initiative and asking if I can assist where I see a need. People are not always going ask, because much like my adventure with Breana, I was nervous to ask. People are afraid to burden others. So, if you see a need that you can fill, put out an offer.

Where am I going with this? I am a performer. I could just be an actress. I don’t have to volunteer in other capacities. But Overshadowed is theatre with a difference. I serve Overshadowed, because I am called. I am equipped. I am needed. Serving for Overshadowed makes me better and it makes Overshadowed better.

This past Christmas I had the absolute honor to perform in Overshadowed’s winter production of Holiday Inn. By that time, I had immersed myself in the culture and community of Overshadowed. Performing each night was more than just singing, dancing, and acting in a show like it had three years ago in Mary Poppins. I was now bonded to not only the cast, but the crew, and all of the volunteers. When we finished each performance the greatest compliment, I heard from the audience was that there was not a single weak link, even down to the scene changes, lighting, and sounds cues. Holiday Inn was a well-oiled machine, because everyone had invested their time and served during that production. Even more amazing, almost every member of the production has now volunteered their time offstage in the two productions following Holiday Inn by running sound cues, assisting in hair and makeup, as running crew backstage, painting and building sets, or ushering.

Now, to answer the second question: Why would anyone care?

Overshadowed is more than a theatre company; it is a ministry. Overshadowed needs volunteers. But best of all, when we volunteer, we work together on a common goal bonding people together.

If you are called but are unsure where to start, reach out, because there is always something small (remember I first started ripping seams?) and God will equip you along the journey. As you grow in your service you will see Overshadowed grow in strength, the community grow in faith, the audience grow in spirit, and your heart will be full.

Since truly getting involved with Overshadowed Theatrical Productions I have continued to perform, but the experience is vastly different than my first time on the Overshadowed stage. I am a part of the well-oiled machine that I observed during Mary Poppins. In January when I announced on Facebook that I was working on a new project, The Trip to Bountiful, a fellow Chicagoland actor commented on my post saying, “It looks like you found your theatre home”. I laughed and showed Reba. She smiled at me and said, “Yep, it is!” Overshadowed has become a home for me, because I have allowed myself to listen to the call of service and the fruits of my labor are even more rewarding.


If you are called to serve, be it a school, church, community service, or a ministry, I pray that you answer the call and take the initiative to fill the need.

The work will reap rewards.

As always, we would love to hear your thoughts or comments. Please take a moment to follow us so you don’t ever miss a post!

Until next time,

Creating Theater When the World Seems to be Falling Apart

Last weekend was supposed to be the closing weekend for “The Trip to Bountiful.” Our season is designed that after that “March” play– we have a break in our season that allows us to beginning planning for next season and gear up for our busiest time of year–the summer.

Like I said, that’s what was supposed to happen. Instead, two weeks ago theaters all across the United States begin to shut down, suspend productions, and in some cases close them all together, in reaction to the pandemic that is attacking our country. We didn’t want to close–but we had too. We had to for the safety and health of our country, families, patrons….everyone.

This was an incredlbly difficult decision. Why? Because we still do not know how long and what disasters will have occurred when the rainbow comes out at the end. I wish I had dollar for every time I’ve said, “If I only knew…” my whole life. Well, if I only knew….then I could make the decisions a artistic director needs to make. Decisions about how to create theater when the world is falling apart.

First of all, you might be wondering exactly what is a artistic director?

Artistic director: the person with overall responsibility for the selection and interpretation of the works performed by a theater, ballet, or opera company.

In my case, I also have the responsibility to create budgets and vision for the paths we are going to take during the year. This is the time of year I start to make those decisions for the next season.

Panic sets in.

How in the world am I supposed to do that if I don’t even know if I will be able to open the doors of our theater before the end of the summer? My thoughts spin in my head like a tornado. “Do I postpone auditions? Are we going to be able to hold camps? Should I rearrange the season? Should I change shows that we finish the year with? Should I contact the royalty companies now or later? How is this going to hurt us fanancially? Can we survive at all? ” And probably other thoughts as well.

Where do I even start?

  1. Keep thinking and keep creating. The second you stop then the very artist inside of you will stop as well. Even if you don’t know when you’ll perform again or what tomorrow will bring. Just keep creating. How? Maybe it will look different because your safe theater isn’t open, but find another one! Write. or take a lesson, or give one. or read on-line to entertain others. Overshadowed has chosen to open it’s vaults and let others see past shows. Whatever you do, please just do it!

2. Keep Planning. This is a difficult one for me. I feel like the calendar is moving all over the place and I can’t make a decision or decide anything because my target keeps moving. But, I must keep planning. If I don’t have “the next step” ready then we will be behind on everything for the rest of the year.

3. Think about finances. This is a bottom line necessity all the time. God has always been very gracious and has blessed Overshadowed in so many ways. Honestly, this might be the toughest battle we face. Because we don’t know when we are going to re-open or if we will have to permanently cancel part of our season then we don’t know if we will have to reimburse part of the money we have collected up front. In this time of crisis that would be devastating. So, decisions have to be made to keep us going? How do you keep a theater company going when the theater world has stopped? We make decisions based on the future. Do we add something to our fall season? Do we spend less money now? Do we take this time “off” to make sure we inform others of services we have to offer? Classes? Rentals? Original scripts? My mind is searching for ways to help our communities but have services to offer others in the future. I’d like to think, that we will come out of this better because we’ve had time to think differently….time will tell. The one thing I know. This was God’s company when we started. It’s God’s company now. It’ll be God’s company tomorrow.

4. How do we get the name of our company out to people who would be interested? And in this case, how will we KEEP our name in the minds of our current patrons. Entertainment and theaters are going to take a hit along with everyone else in this crisis. We aren’t sure how long it’s going to last, but I want to be there when it’s all over. Small decisions have deep impacts on people. There is a science to marketing that I am not good at, but I do understand that people need to hear the name of your company over and over before it starts to sound familiar and even more times before it becomes something they are willing to check out. So, we are still sending out our weekly updates. We are also offering the link to one of our shows each week. (If you aren’t on our mailing list contact me and I’ll send you the link to one of these shows.) We are also trying to creatively market the people of Overshadowed and past memories. I really appreciate, Jessica Means, who is heading up all of that! She is so creative and is doing such a fabulous job!

5. Keep your tribe around you. Folks, we need each other. We might be bunkered down alone, but that doesn’t mean we should hibernate. FaceTime, text, call, email, zoom….there are many ways to reach out. Keep talking. It will help us stay motivated and maybe even appreciated and sane in the end!

My thoughts have gone back to the stories I heard about WWII and the times families would sit around and listen to the stories on the radio. Do you know what that teaches me? That when times are tough sometimes we need to shut out the world and give voice to hope and laughter and joy and see theater that becomes a means of comfort. We need breaks in times of sorrow and sadness. We need a connection between communities.

I’m thankful for theater. I hope it never dies.

One last thought that I have been clinging to. I was reminded of an old gospel hymn. “I know who holds tomorrow and I know who holds my hand.”

I’d love to hear your thoughts! Please take time to share this if you know someone it might encourage. Thank you!

Until next time!

"And the Oscar goes to…" Part One

Last night the 92nd annual Oscar awards was on tv. Just like always, I hunkered down to watch the display of all the movies, clips, and songs that had been selected as being worthy of awards for this past year.

You might be a little like me in that as the year goes on you keep a list of your favorites and perhaps even have a list in your mind as who you think should win. For example, Chuck and I LOVED 1917 for its cinematography, but thought it’s story line wasn’t really worthy of Best Picture.

This year, we saw two amazing performances that we thought we so far above the rest that we didn’t see how that could be beat. In fact, I felt a little sorry for the other people in both categories Best Actor and Best Actress. What a bad year to go up against Joaquin Phoenix and Renee Zellweger (Am I the only one who didn’t know she had a thick Texas accent?) I will be honest, I cheered when she won.

When I saw “Judy” last year I meant to write a review, but I saw it so late in the run I decided that it was too late. So now I’m excited to share a few of my thoughts.

What can I say about the real Judy Garland? I loved her when I was a little girl watching her wistfully sing, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” I then become enamored with her movies with Micky Rooney and then, “Meet me in St. Louis.” I watched her sing and dance as a guest star on many tv shows and to me, Judy was a perfect performer. I will never forget that I was sitting in the back seat of my parent’s car at my grandparent’s house when the radio announced that the world had lost this tragic soul.

I have since read books about her and seen interviews with her children and know what a troubled life she lived. Am I a Judy expert? No. But I have a vision and a knowledge that is pretty firmly routed.

When I saw the first trailer for “Judy” I started to count down the days until it came out, but then a heard a few more and the scenes that I saw didn’t really scream who Judy was to me. Then, I had a friend tell me how wonderful the movie was and when they described that it was more about the later years of her life instead of the beginning, I really lost interest. I knew the pain of those years and I didn’t want to immerse myself in Judy in her downward spiral years of drug abuse. (She was dependent on pills by the time she was 15.)

Start investigating Judy Garland’s life and you will quickly become outraged at her parents, directors, managers, castmates, husbands….

And, yet, I was a fan.

I sat down to watch Renee and thought…”She’s nothing like Judy. I wish they had used Judy’s voice…” and a thousands of other thoughts.

The Garland of this movie is the Garland close to her death. (She died from an overdose of barbiturates at the age of 47) She is fragile, at times unreliable and perhaps terrified. She is broke and goes to London to take a stab at performing in order to go home with enough money to provide for her children. Zellweger shows up with a performance that shows all the pain, sadness, insecurity and bad behavior with exactly the transparency that we’ve read about. Watching her moved me in a way that surprised me and my heart went out to Judy Garland just as it always has.

It reminds me of quotes from the real Judy.

“Being a living legend is lonesome. It’s like a Statue of Liberty, or something like that, who doesn’t breathe. And so no one calls you on the phone and asks you to dinner. So I just sit by the phone.”

“I’ve sung, I’ve entertained, I’ve pleased your children, I’ve pleased your wives….I tried my…. to believe in the rainbow that I tried to get over and I couldn’t. So What!”

By this time I’m all in with my fascination with the movie. Then comes the moment. Judy has been fired from her London gig, but she goes back to say good-bye. This crowd who had thrown things at her and heckled her not sits enraptured by her raw beautiful performance. I listened as the words “if tiny little bluebird fly then why oh why can’t I?” and I began to cry….and I mean cry…real ugly sobs. It was a moment that I will never forget.

Did Renee deserve to win that Oscar. I say, yes 100%. If you haven’t seen “Judy“–please watch it. If you want to know about the real life of Judy Garland, here are some possibilities:

Rainbow: The Stormy Life of Judy Garland by Christopher Finch

Judy and I: My Life with Judy Garland By Sid Luft

Me and My Shadows: A Family Memoir by Lorna Luft

Judy Garland: A Biography by Anne Edwards

All of these are available on Amazon (and if you buy them on Amazon smile you could select Overshadowed as your charity😀)

Are you a fan of Judy’s? Did you see the movie? What are your thoughts? Join me again next week for more thoughts on acting and the pain behind the mask.

Until next time!

And the Oscar Goes To: Part Two or Are You Sure You Really Want To Do This?

When I last wrote I had no idea what our world was going to look like just a few short weeks later. I wish I could go back to a time when our biggest worries were what we were going to have to eat for dinner or which movie we were going to see. But time wasn’t on our side this time and instead our world is in complete chaos. If you aren’t worried about if you are going to get the virus, you are probably worried about your job, or how you are going to survive for the next eight weeks without going stir-crazy.

I wish I could say that I’m not worried, but that would not be true. I know that God holds us in His hands, but my reasoning and anxiety constantly argue with me and I have to continue to purposefully focus on God. In some strange way though, that’s a good thing, I think. We are supposed to keep our hearts and minds on Him and maybe…maybe this is necessary for us to humble ourselves and pray…pray for God to heal our land. Not just from sickness, but from lack of faith and from having other gods that we put before Him. Whatever the case, pray, my friends, and know that our God is faithful and His promises are true. Search for Him and you will find Him.

When we discussed Judy I talked about the real life Judy Garland and the troubled life she lead. I ached for Judy, but then I started to think of others.

Robin Williams, Margot Kidder, Marilyn Monroe, Freddie Prinze, Mark Salling, Kate Spade, Whitney Houston, Prince, Elvis Presley, Heath Ledger, Philip Seymour Hoffman.

Believe me, that is barely a drop in the bucket for the names you will find if you start googling this subject of famous people who have chosen sucicide or fought addictions or depression.

Is the rate of suffering from depression, anxiety or substance abuse higher if you are famous?

I have no idea. I haven’t studied this and in no way do I claim to be an expert.

However, these things I do know:

  1. We are more aware what happens to a person of influence because the news and social media keep us informed. Honestly, that might be part of why people who stumble across stardom have anxiety. They can never get away from us…the people who have the need to know every detail about them. The constant reporting can make it seem like the rate is higher than instances in the rest of the world.
  2. Stars and entertainers usually have the means to afford substance abuse more than the average person. We all know that money brings the ability to have many things–this particular ability can ruin and destroy even the innocent. These things are addicting, friends: they can ruin your life, your family, your pocketbook, your future. I am so thankful that I have never had that temptation.
  3. Really talented performers are able to tap into their emotions at a deeper level than most people. That is part of what makes their portrayal so brilliant! They are able to emphasize and pull reality from things they learn about or even have experienced themselves.
  4. They have to be”on” all the time. High stress environment and a demanding schedule seems to be a risk factor for the rest of the population. What about stardom? Pressure. Pressure. Pressure to perform at high levels added to the fact that they can never get away from it. Reporters, photographers, fans. How can they ever just let down, relax and enjoy life? There are many that are just searching for a way to escape! Think of what we enjoy by being able to enjoy places like Disney World? Liz Taylor among others solved that by having to rent Disney Land to herself after the park closed!

I don’t think I realized that the cost of Fame is that it’s open season on every moment of your life. –Julia Roberts

Let’s say that all the factors above don’t really cause addiction or depression. I’m pretty sure they at least make recovery harder.

Why do I say all of this?

I’m afraid. I see more and more people who have their eyes on the “prize of stardom.” I’m just not so sure that it’s the prize we sometimes think it is.

What are your thoughts? I’d love to hear from you! Please take a moment to like or share or follow me!

Until next time!

Ten Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me Before I Started a Theater

“All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players;

They have their exits and their entrances, and one man in his time plays many parts.”–William Shakespeare

  1. Name recognition is everything.  This is everything. Believe me, I didn’t believe it and I didn’t want it to be true.  Before I started Overshadowed, I used to work at my church and school that my children attended. We produced a major Easter production as well as the school play every year. Somehow we created quite a following and had people attending from miles away for both of these productions every year. I took that into consideration when making plans thinking that some of those followers would join us on this new journey. I soon discovered that the name Overshadowed didn’t mean anything to those past followers and that we had to build name recognition and a new reputation.
  2. Business skills might be more important that artistic skills. From the very beginning I just wanted to produce plays. I wanted to build a community where everyone was welcome and naively I thought if we sold x number of tickets we could meet the budget. I really had no idea if the budget I created was even based on accurate numbers. Thankfully, God surrounded me with people who did have the business knowledge that I lacked. These wise, talented people have been extremely patient with me as I have struggled to keep up and gain the knowledge that would have greatly benefitted us from the start.
  3. Advice comes in all forms. It is important to remember to listen to everyone. It is easy to have pre-conceived ideas that make you close your mind to ideas that don’t fit your originals goals. I remember the first time a friend of mine encouraged us to begin a younger camp. She offered to run it and also host it at her church. I really fought her on it because I believed we didn’t have the people who would be interested. We now fill two camps for that age  group and have even raised the minimum  and have a younger camp as well. I’m thankful for people who also dream the dream and push when the time is right!
  4. Take care of your health and encourage your team to do the same. My mom took a Bible study at her church years ago called “First Place.” The idea was that if God has first place in your heart, then you should take care of your body (which is the housing of the Holy Spirit) thus you should eat right, exercise, sleep etc. Then recently I attended a Broadway class where an actress explained that she felt the thing actors most take for granted is their health. She reminded us that they don’t sleep right, usually eat wrong and maybe even have a few other vices that are harmful. Put those two ideas together and I wish I had thought of that years ago. We need every minute we have sometimes to get a production together so we do take risks. I wish I had the nerve to say–“It’s time for everyone to go home and go to sleep.”
  5. Dividing your time is difficult. This is still a very difficult lesson for me. I tend to think I can do it all and honestly, sometimes think I have to if no one else is around. When you try to do too many jobs at once they all suffer. Instead, if you are the director, delegate running the backstage to someone else etc.. You need people who can help in all areas. Sometimes, you also need an outside eye.
  6. Getting Sponsors is difficult. When we started Overshadowed, part of the business plan was to have sponsors and ads in our playbills. I mean, when I look at a professional playbill that have pages of them, right? Over the years this has not gotten any easier.  I thought that sponsorship is a good form of advertising and perhaps even a tax deduction. I didn’t realize how often every business is getting asked to put ads in a variety of places and how precious those advertising dollars were. I am extremely grateful for the sponsors that we do have. Most of them have been with us since the very beginning. I am so thankful for their support and so excited when they get business from their sponsorship!

    Dawn and Mike Larsen. Dawn is one of our longest and valued sponsors. Need to buy or sell a house? Contact her at: Dawn.Larsen@bairdwarner.com

  7. Picking a season is one of the most important decisions for success. When it comes down to it–let’s refer back to number 1–name recognition is everything. People come to see the plays and musicals that they have heard of. The shows that become a little more challenging to sell are the unknown ones…especially when they are written by an unknown author…me.
  8. It’s tough. I mean really tough. On the surface it seemed that starting a theater was going to be hard work, but not impossible. The goal was to get sponsors, donors, ads, and people who had a desire for family friendly entertainment would come. Whew! Add all of the reasons I listed above and your realize that the cards are stacked against you. You have to make up your mind that this is a calling. Make up your mind that you aren’t doing this for recognition or money or fame or awards and do it for the love of your mission. Every time….let me emphasis that….EVERY TIME  I have become really discouraged God has given me such a positive note or thank you or blessing! Sometimes it is like manna in the wilderness, but keep your eyes on Him and the tough is not so tough.
  9.  I was going to have to “sell” what we do ALL of the time. Promoting myself and Overshadowed is not something I’m comfortable doing all the time. Sometimes people change the subject before I can even get the words out about what we do. But, I’ve learned that the people who are the most passionate about a mission are the ones that have to promote it…constantly. Hearing an unfamiliar name or recommendation just once isn’t enough for people to remember. Studies say a person has to hear the name of a place or person 7 times just for it to start to become familiar. I had to get comfortable with the idea that I have to sell who we are and why we are different and be proud of it!
  10. I am enough. That is a phrase that is popular these days, but it is so true. When I first started planning how to create this company I got a lot of negativity. People told me all the negative reasons it would never work…I mean, “You aren’t going to pay people? What?” All of the where? When? How? questions really got in my head so that even when things went well–at times the negativity was like cement on my feet. I wish that for every negative person there was a positive person to tell you to pursue that dream of yours!

Now….please don’t read all of this and think that I’m complaining or feeling sad! Not at all! Most community theaters close their doors within ten years of opening them. Overshadowed just began their 16th season! That’s pretty exciting! Also, I’m smart enough to know that even if I had known these ten things….there  would have been ten more that I wish someone had told me. I believe that I should never stop learning. Every play brings a new experience and every new volunteer makes our company better and stronger!

Now what about you? What dream are you letting go of instead of pursuing??

Please take time to share this and follow me!

Until next time!

 

 

Fun=Theater. (Is it the Same for Everyone?)

 

When I decided to start a community theater I will confess I had no idea what I was doing. Don’t get me wrong. I had been directing plays/musicals for over twenty years. f67c7ab1-8c7b-475e-9ee8-05316d29e0fcHowever, that did nothing to prepare me for the difference in attitude in both audience and cast, as well as all the work that went into marketing and so many other areas. I naively thought that the people who came to see my church and high school productions would be excited about a Christian theater and would follow me to that venture. I quickly learned that Overshadowed Theatrical Productions had no name recognition. Quickly, my number one focus went to marketing. I began to feel stress for my new “product.” My desire never changed though. I wanted to provide professional type theater in an unconventional non professional way.

My goals, desires, standards never changed, but I soon discovered that the rest of the world either has the same problems I do or they are not bothered by things that I wish I didn’t have to tolerate.

The question is this? If you apply rules, standards, restrictions to a production experience–does it take the fun out of it for the performer?

Fun: it’s a word frequently thrown about in non-professional theatre circles. Fun. When someone asks why you are willing to put so much time into a production the number one reason is: “It is a lot of fun.”

And believe me, I agree. Putting a show together and performing it to a live audience is an experience like no other. Pure magic.

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Backstage look at curtain call from a recent production of Newsies

However, there is so much more than fun to the process. I don’t want to scare anyone off, but theater is hard work, especially to anyone that is going to devote their life to this field.

I will write more about this in a separate blog, but we amateur theatre artists always struggle to be recognized. It takes commitment to stay up late rehearsing and memorizing lines and creating character development. Most people have full-time jobs that they still work hard at, but of course, we as an audience don’t see that part of it.

I actually love that theater is hard work. I love that when you pour yourself into a character you are exhausted at the end of a show. It is a rewarding experience to pour yourself into a process like that. Is it hard work? Maybe. Time-consuming for sure.

Maybe it boils down to the reason why you participate in theater. Some do it for fun, some do it professionally, and some do it because they believe in the show or purpose. Isn’t it true that most of us will put up with almost anything if it is for something we love?

I love that theater brings people together. We make new friends and create something that lives. The danger is when some people treat the show as a hobby or something they are just doing for “fun.” Tensions sometimes arise when people have to work hard to cover for what some of the cast isn’t bringing. t is wonderful that community theatre brings together people with various levels of experience, but it is hurtful to the whole production when cast/crew treat the show as something secondary which does not deserve their full attention.

Please remember this: being paid or volunteering should not affect the quality of the work you provide. I think when the work suffers it is because we see ourselves as inferior when we don’t get paid, or don’t get the reviews or awards. Do not settle, but always push yourself to achieve more than you thought possible. Mediocre? Never! Let’s shoot for the top!

When producing a show, I think about the audience. What do I want them to enjoy, learn, feel? If I think about the cast instead, then we become a group of divas and honestly, become a little selfish. Sometimes we have to put personal thoughts aside to put on the best show possible.

Is theater fun?  Yes! Exciting, creative, rewarding and fun! Theatre is all about creativity, exploration, and play. It is exciting, enthralling, and, yes, very fun. It is also hard work and commitment. Let’s stick together and make each show better than the last. Someday we might get the recognition, but until then, the show must go on!

I’d love to hear your comments or thoughts! Please take the time to follow my blog or to share it with others!

Until next time!

Reba

 

“Where is My Prop?” (And how one simple rule can save a show.)

We do not have the luxury of a full backstage or expansive wing space. We do, however, have a wonderful stage manager and props mangers who dedicate shelf space and have a place for each prop. All the actors have to do is remember to take it with them on stage or communicate otherwise to the managers so the prop is in the right place at the right time. Simple rule, right? What on earth could go wrong? Well, plenty. But here is how to avoid the tragedy.

  1. Be responsible for your prop. Yes, the team did acquire the prop for you, but now it is up to you to make sure you have what you need when you need it. Great actors go through the script ahead of time and decide which things they need. The next step is to figure out if you have enough time to get your prop from backstage or if you will need to preset it. Communication is key here.
  2. Return your prop to the props table. The backstage team has a great deal to do after the show to preset it for the next performance. Don’t leave your prop lying around, but put it away. Otherwise, things can sometimes get lost. Again, if you cannot return it–communicate that so someone can help you.
  3. Put the props exactly  where they belong. I don’t want to beat a dead horse here, but it makes everyone’s job so much easier if every prop has a home and you put yours where it belongs. I understand that actors want to hurry and get out of the show at the end of the night, but so does the backstage team! Please take the extra moment to care for the order of backstage!
  4. Please don’t touch other actor’s props. (Unless you have been asked) I love that you want to help, but there is a correct order and if you don’t know exactly where to place things sometimes the fact that you “helped” can send someone else into a needless panic when their prop “disappears.” Worse, is when that prop becomes a toy that you can’t resist playing with and  just 10 minutes before curtain that essential prop is broken..
  5. Treat your props with respect and care. Please don’t mistreat your props or throw them around needlessly. Things break and then they are gone.

Some of these seem like common sense to me, but I think we just don’t consider that taking time to follow a few simple rules will potentially save a great amount of stress!

That being said, some of my favorite moments involve “prop” mishaps. Here’s a favorite:

Miracle on 34th Street. There is a scene when Fred is trying to ask Doris out but she is too busy. He gives her a necklace, and asks her out. She declines because she is “too busy.” At this point Doris was supposed to drop some cards leaving the “elves” notice of a meeting. (which is an important event in the play.) Doris realized she didn’t have the cards and told Fred she’d be right back and exited leaving our Fred (Mike Larsen) on stage….alone. Wondering what to do. He paced. Looked around. Said, “You’d think giving a girl a necklace would at least get you dinner.”

Ah! The magic of live theater!

What are your experiences with props? Any rules to follow that make it better for the play? Please like us, share, comment and follow!

Until next time!

Overshadowed by His love,

 

Reba

 

 

From the Inside Out: Ramblings About The Diary of Anne Frank

When I was in third or fourth grade I read a book that I will never forget. The Diary of Anne Frank captured my attention in a way that no other book has ever done. The idea that a girl (who was not much older that I was at that time) could write so proficiently and express her thoughts in such a spell-binding manner was fascinating. For those of you who don’t know, Anne Frank went into hiding with her family in 1943. She was only thirteen. Her crime? She was Jewish.

I didn’t understand how anyone could treat another human so terribly. How could one possibly live in such a tight space, dependent fully on the help of outsiders who put their lives on the line day after day? Yet this girl said something that is life changing.

“In spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart.”

She was positive, joyful and dreamed that her writing would change the world. It did.

Flash forward to 1976. My husband had the privilege of playing Peter Van Daan in a University production of “The Diary of Anne Frank.” Flash forward another twenty years and my daughter played Mrs. Van Daan in a production I directed at her high school. Another six years pass and my oldest daughter directs a production of “Diary” at the same University that Chuck portrayed Peter all those years before.

And now, I have checked a dream role off of my bucket list. For one more weekend I get to step out on that stage of become “Mrs Van Daan.”

She’s not the lead, but I think she is fascinating. She is insecure, flirty, frightened, industrious and loving. She is the most complicated character I have ever played and I have loved every second.

In the play you see Mrs. Van Daan through the eyes of a thirteen year old girl. I can only imagine what my daughter’s diary might have said about me at times she was angry with me. The point? The writings give us a unique view into the secret annex, but we must remember Anne’s writings were Anne’s thoughts and expressed honestly through Annes’ emotions.

In talking about the personality of Mrs Van Daan I began to realize that at the core of her personality were all the traits Anne writes about, but there must be something that drives her to act the way she does. I chose  insecurity and love--those traits are at the root of every reaction she has.

Did you know? She was born in 1900 in Germany. She had three siblings: Gertrude, Lotte, and Gretta. It was Anne who gave her the name of Mrs Van Daan as a code name,  as she did everyone one in the diary, in case the diary was ever discovered it would protect those she wrote about. Her real name was Auguste van Pels.

She was real. She lived, loved, laugh, feared and hoped. Much like 6 million other Jews that we may not know anything about.  This play is for everyone that died during that horrible time in our history. May we never forget.

I am thankful for a young girl who decided that writing her story was important. I am thankful that the Germans didn’t discover and destroy the book. I am thankful Otto allowed the rest of the world to see the diary.

If you haven’t documented your life in some way why not do it? Your life, your story is important. Please leave your legacy!

If you can–treat yourself to one of the remaining performances.  It is one of the finest casts I’ve ever had the privilege of sharing the stage with. The lights, set, story…it is truly special.  Please hurry though. Only four shows remain. Overshadowed.org

What about you? Have you read the book? Please take a moment to like this post, share, comment! Thank you!

Overshadowed by His Love,

 

Reba

 

 

 

The Write Conversation

Ramblings about all things theater from stage to screen

Kathy Howard

Kathy Howard. Unshakeable faith. Bible Study. christian speaker. christian retreat speaker

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Personal ponderings while preparing and reflecting on worship expressions & other faith matters.

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Mimi Matthews

Maggie Rowe

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The Producer's Perspective

Ramblings about all things theater from stage to screen

Stephanie Howell

bloom where you're planted

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"The most wasted of all days is one without laughter." -E.E. Cummings

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