acting, artistic vision, audience, broadway, christian, christian blog, christian theater, critics, directing, entertainment, family, hope, theater

Crusade: The Musical and What I Learned About Theater From It

The tag line reads:

“A modern musical about the historical events and relationships that helped shape Billy Graham’s faith as he became the most iconic evangelist in the world.”

(Sadly, I have searched for the author/composer’s name and cannot find it. They announced it at the performance Sunday evening, but I thought it would be on my program so I didn’t pay attention. I am deeply regretting that. I also wished I had stayed  after the show and asked more questions. If this musical was a part of a residency program I probably would be  a little softer in my review. My encouragement to this group would be to publicize those details…maybe there is a financial backer or someone who wants to produce your musical that is trying to get in contact with you.)

Years ago, I heard Karen Kingsbury speak. I have followed her blog ever since. In July, she wrote a blog about the passing of time and how the clock stops for no one. She went on to say she had been watching Crusade: The Billy Graham Musical and was struck with the fact that a” blink ago Billy Graham was young and preaching and now he is gone. Just like we will be one day.”

I loved the points she was making, but more than that I was fascinated that there was a new musical out about Billy Graham! After research, I realized that it was performing very close to where one of my daughters lives…and with great anticipation I bought tickets.

I’m not sure what I was expecting, but it wasn’t what I found.

I was expecting a big venue. Why? Karen Kingsbury’s son-in-law (Kyle Kupecky) and daughter (Kelsey Kupecky) were the leads. Kyle is a singer that has actually toured with Mercy Me and together with Kelsey has authored the book “The Chase.” My preconceived ideas  decided this musical was going to be in a big venue, with hundreds of people attending per night. Stars plus subject matter? It’s a win-win.

When we arrived we pulled into a small parking lot that held perhaps 100 cars….I think that is stretching it, but…maybe.

We walked into the lobby and discovered that to get to the performing space we had to walk up a curved staircase. When we entered the theater area I realized this small space, that might have seated 100, was packed and literally had no empty chairs. One of the workers gave up three seats that she had saved for her family saying, “It’s okay, we’ve all seen it.” Hmmmm. Did  they oversell the show? Why were there no seats?

As the show begin we were seriously blown away by the projection and the graphic design. It was vivid, always in motion and brightly conveyed the scenes of the play as it progressed through Billy’s life. Many of the actors played multiple characters moving through the timeline of his life.

The music was loud. I don’t want to sound like a fuddy-duddy, but I really like to understand the words to the songs that the actors were so  passionately singing, but I couldn’t always hear them. One of my costumers also attended with me and was bothered by small details, like no flash bulbs in the prop cameras. These things are easily fixed.

The music was current and passionate. It was played by the author and composer with a keyboard and guitar. I’m sure there were some pre-recorded tracks as well. I’m not totally a fan of all of the electronic music, but it was performed with such power that I enjoyed it. In fact, the honest response is that at times I felt more like I was in a church service than in a play. All of the actors sang as if they were singing worship songs. I’m not sure why I was bothered by that except  that I went expecting to see a musical and this was a different kind.

As they were telling the story of Billy they mentioned that he had first attended Bob Jones College. Well, I wish they had just mentioned it. Instead, they had a scene that included Dr. Bob yelling and really chewing Billy out for failing and having so many demerits. Trust me, I am not always proud of everything Bob Jones has done, but it felt more like the author was making an attack on Bob Jones. When I asked about it at intermission, I was told that this attitude was from Billy’s perspective. Hmmmm. perhaps. I’m just not sure why it needed to be such a big point in the scene. Did that one incident become a turning point in some way for Billy?

Did I like the musical? Yes, I really did. I am not sure what  message the author was trying to present, but this is what I received:

Billy Graham was a typical kid. He loved movies and playing. In fact, wanted to be just like Tarzan, but God had other plans. Billy ran from God. He sometimes questioned authority and even “bucked the system.” God had other plans. He had a magnetic personality and could charm  even people like, George Beverly Shea. He was loyal to his friends. He questioned religion but then firmly believed in the infallibility of the Bible. He was passionate about all people, all races, and become their advocate proclaiming like Jesus,  “Do not forbid one to come and hear.”  Billy Graham is a man who has gone on to heaven. 

The more important message? This is a story about a man who lived in a different time, his time has past. But you can still be a Billy. You, today, could make the same decisions that Billy did. What will you choose?

In the beginning I made the comment that I felt like the whole cast was singing as if they were singing worship songs. They were. This cast poured their hearts out and sang for Jesus. They cried over us as they sang one last song and, honestly,  I might have even shed a tear or two as well.

Here is what I learned and they are important lessons for me as an owner of a Christian theater company.

  1. The venue doesn’t matter. I spend so much time thinking about what people think or about how comfortable they are. Believe me, our seats and views of the stage at Overshadowed are so much better than what we experienced and yet, people came. Night after night they were sold out….just like a Crusade.
  2. Christian themed plays can still attract sold out audiences. Sometimes our original Christian works are poorly attended. It is sometimes discouraging for me, but this gives me hope. I know this, but a good reminder is always important.
  3. God moves in the audience’s hearts. He doesn’t need great acting, big theaters, grand sets. He just needs me to be willing to follow His leading
  4. We should pray over our audience more. To be honest, it felt a little manipulating to be told that the cast prayed over each seat: for our spouses, future spouse, children etc. But in the end, I was comforted by that. That’s pretty incredible and felt pretty personal.  

If you get a chance please check out this musical. You can purchase the soundtrack from their website at http://www.crusadethemusical.com

Here is a sample:

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

Who was Billy Graham to you? What are God’s plans for you? Is He calling you to be a Billy? Do you think you would enjoy a musical like this one? I’d love to hear your thoughts! And as always, it would mean a great deal to me if you would like and follow my blog!

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

acting, audience, christian, christian blog, christian theater, communication, entertainment, family, theater, theater education

Theater That is More Than Just Theater

I must confess that I have never personally read any of Jan Karon’s popular Mitford series. I have heard of them, of course, and almost since the day Overshadowed began have been told that I should produce the play, “Welcome to Mitford.” 

I have been told that lovers of this series have a vision of the North Carolina town called Mitford. In fact, many Karon fans think that Mitford was modeled on Blowing Rock, where Karon once lived. 

When you are producing  a play, setting becomes very important and in this one it almost seems that the characters are held together by their relationships with each other, but equally important their relationship with the town. 

Karon’s novels tell the story of Father Tim Kavanagh, the beloved bachelor rector of Lord’s Chapel church in Mitford. His life is absorbed with the life of his town until he takes in teenager Dooley Barlowe, the unruly, orphaned grandson of the church gardener. The town’s complacency is further disturbed when Father Tim falls in love with and weds his new next-door neighbor, Cynthia Coppersmith, who writes and illustrates children’s books.

It is indeed a love story, not only between Father Tim and Cynthia, but also between Father Tim and the town. And just like in real life…there is conflict….but unlike real life…the community is so cohesive that they get through the conflict…together.

It is a joy to see something so encouraging. 

In fact, Father TIm says in one scene, “Give thanks in everything–in loss of all kinds: in illness, in depression, in grief and in failure, and of course, in health and peace, success and happiness. Give thanks in everything.” 

Thank you, Mitford, for reminding me of a lesson that is at the very core of my belief in God. “Rejoice in all things, again I say, rejoice.” Not a suggestion…. a command.

Are you with me? Are there days that your faith just isn’t strong enough to rejoice? Maybe the answer is that I shouldn’t be trying to find joy when I’m discouraged…but GOD!

What?

Mind altering for me. I shouldn’t be trying to figure it out or figure out why? I should just rest in the Lord. Remember the song, “My hope is in the Lord….

I don’t embrace my troubles…I embrace my God.  

Transparency now….it isn’t easy and I haven’t been resting in Him and filled with joy over the past few weeks. But, coming home from our summer musical the other night all of a sudden I thought, “I’m singing! I’m singing with the radio.” 

Weeks ago that was normal for me, but my joy was gone and for most of the summer I just couldn’t….

Wow! Did it feel good! The ice isn’t gone around my heart, but it’s thawing and I’m so thankful.

That passage of scripture goes on to say, “Tell God what you need and thank Him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand.”

So, how can I get myself out of my sadness and back to rejoicing?

  1. Meditate upon God and His Word.

Find verses and put them in front of you. Wake up and recite them. Sit and think about them. Journal your thoughts and prayers. MAKE AN EFFORT.

  2. Remind yourself of God’s promises.

Read books. Memorize scripture. Remind yourself that one of the attributes of God is that He is the Great Comforter! Lean on Him.

3. Keep your mind busy.

Fill it with things that will take your mind off of your sadness and give your mind peace and joy.  Perhaps being with friends? Or singing?

Or….

Come see this play this weekend and leave with a renewed hope in family, friends and community!  http://www.overshadowed.org

Did you know that theater increases creativity? It is a source of imagination. Theater requires a different kind of resourcefulness than just watching TV. Perhaps if we all learned from theater we would be able to solve some of the world’s problems! In fact, research has found that people who engage with theater either participating or viewing for two or more hours per week show signigicantly better mental health. Did you know that science shows that when people sit together in a theater their hearts beat together. That’s connection. Something most of us need.

In fact, theater is what got me through my sadness this summer. It’s the reason my heart is thawing in a way that I can sing again and ultimately it is what has reminded me to rejoice and lean in and embrace God.

I hope you’ll join us this weekend. Let’s support a new generation and show that there is good in theater and that theather TEACHES.

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

acting, artistic vision, audience, backstage, broadway, christian theater, directing, entertainment, family, intermission, planning, stage, theater

The Pain and Joy of Closing Weekend

I always get to this point in a show. Do you know the moment? It is when something is almost over–you can see the end in sight–a time you will never experience again–It is  here and I regret that more people haven’t seen this musical. I want to share it. There is pain and joy in the closing of a show.

This year has theater audiences struggling to come back from what they lost during Covid. We decided to do a smaller show for several reasons. We weren’t sure that people would want to sit next to each other. Or maybe we’ve all gotten used to sitting and watching our entertainment inside instead of taking the trouble to go out and actually BE with people.

So…I decided on The Marvelous Wonderettes. It is a jukebox musical. It was an off Broadway success. In fact, so much of a success that there are multiple sequels that are written and performed about these four girls.

These four girls….Missy, Cindy Lou, Suzy and Betty Jean. Entered my world months ago as strangers as did the girls who played them. (Amy Keipert, Jessica Means, Brooke Kassal and Grace Ryan) They worked harder than I think any of them expected as they discovered that this musical was much more than a few great songs strung together. They worked hours daily on their harmonies and choreography and characters and the work paid off. What we have is an amazing show with four brilliantly talented girls who sing difficult harmonies effortlessly.

Here I am at closing weekend wishing that I could convince everyone I know to spend a couple of hours in the theater with this show. Here are a couple of remarks I have received:

What a perfect show to mark the return to live theater. It was so good to laugh and smile and sing along with such fun songs.”

I haven’t had that much fun in years.

This show is better than vitamins. I feel ten years younger.

Honestly, those comments mean the world to me. The reason I am in theater is because I want to bring joy to the world. (well, one of the reasons.) This show did that.

We have one weekend left and if I could convince you to come out and join us for one of the remaining shows, would you? overshadowed.org

Even if you have seen the show before, the beauty of live theater is that it is never the same. Every night has a new audience and a new energy and most importantly a new moment to experience. I see the show night after night and love every second of it.

As we begin this weekend, we are tired, but it is a good tired. We are filled with the joy we have shared with audiences, the satisfaction of a job well-done and the feel- good sensation when you learn and grow from an experience.

We would love to share this joy…this story…this experience with you. We have lots of tickets left for tonight, friday night and two shows on Saturday…and it’s air -conditioned. (It’s a win-win.) Won’t you shake off the Covid hibernation and join us? Let’s get back to the joy of live theater.

Here is a little tease of the show:

Until next time–I’ll be in the wings–

Reba

acting, backstage, directing, stage, stage manager, stage managment, theater, theater education

What Does a Stage Manager Do Anyway?

When I first began directing over thirty years ago my team was made up of me…yep, just me. (I’ll bet some of you have been in that position!) My best friend, Sue, got talked into turning the lights on and off and I convinced a parent of one of the students to help make a few costumes. In my wildest dreams I never could imagine that I would be lucky enough to have the resources to have a stage manager!

In fact, at first, I simply had done things by myself for such a long time that I didn’t know what to do with a stage manager! Then, they became indispensable to me. I literally don’t know what I would do without one!

But what does a stage manager actually do?

A better question might be, “What don’t they do?”

Stage managers are in control of anything that happens from the front of the stage and back. They represent the director to make sure the production runs smoothly. They are liaisons between the director, actors, stage crew and technical team. They give support to the actors and anticipate their needs during performances.

( Kate Hart-stage manager of Noah!)

The stage manager and director often work together during rehearsals. The stage manager records blocking and notes for the actors and communicates what is decided during rehearsals to the rest of the team.

The stage managers responsibilities might include:

1) scheduling and running rehearsals
2) communicating the director’s wishes to designers and crafts people
3) coordinating the work of the stage crew
4) calling cues and possibly actors’ entrances during performance
5) overseeing the entire show each time it is performed
6) notifing cast and crew of rehearsal times.                                                                                         7) Scheduling  costume and wig fittings.

In the beginning stage managers can  aid the rehearsal process by mapping out the set dimensions on the floor. They also provide props and furniture as soon as possible.

It is important for stage managers to attend as many rehearsals as possible. It becomes their duty to record all blocking, light and sound changes in a master copy of the script. This book is called a prompt book. This book becomes very important in technical rehearsals.  If you are fortunate enough to be able to have a stage manager that calls cues, this prompt book will have all the information the stage manager needs to run the technical rehearsal. (Thus freeing up even more of the director’s time.)

I haven’t been able to “give up” any of my shows, but in professional theater the director’s job is over when a show opens. At this point the stage manager becomes responsible to carry out the the vision of the production until the production closes.

Each stage manager has different aspects they love and different aspects that are their strengths. Join me for this episode From the Wings.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xWXOGjliWCY&feature=youtu.be

There is something incredibly magical about a stage manager and their connection to the cast and director.

I would be lost without one.

Have you ever tried stage management? Do you have a memory of how a stage manager helped you through a show? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Also, it would be ever so kind if you followed this blog or subscribed to our YouTube channel!

Until next time!

P.S. A special thanks to my FROM THE WINGS team of Rebecca Leland and Brianna Valentine. You guys are so talented!

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

The Women at the Cross

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

May we all be more like these women.

May you have a Blessed Easter.

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

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

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

Even if it is only one person.

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

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

What??? Why????

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hopefully, this will explain it all.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NOBODY TALKS LIKE THAT.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Doing “YOUR THING” Matters

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

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

Doing YOUR THING Matters.

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


For me? It’s theatre.


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


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


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


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


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

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

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

Until next time!

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

Why Do Theater?

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

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

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

(Photo by Francisco Montes)

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

Still….

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

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

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

Why?

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

So why do we do theater?

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

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

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

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

I’d love to hear from you!

Until next time,

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

acting, artistic vision, backstage, communication, entertainment, family, productions crew, theater, theater education, theater professions

One Way You Can Be A Better Actor

I’ll never forget my first live theater experience.

My aunt took me to see Showboat at the local high school. As I sat in the audience I was completely drawn in by the sounds of the orchestra tuning. I felt the excitement of the parents and friends as they were ushered to their seats and I was entirely a part of the story as the dancers, actors, and singers performed.

There was more that I didn’t see. I didn’t see the people who designed and constructed the set , costumes, light, sound. I didn’t see the people who moved the set and props to make sure each scene was staged perfectly.

That’s true of so many of us. Do you believe you have to choose between either being on the stage or behind the scenes?

I’d like to encourage you to do both. What can you learn by working in some other capacity of the theater?

1) You get to watch as the actors work. You can learn from the experience others are gaining. Also experiencing the show from off stage sometimes gives clarifying moments of the element of storytelling that you might miss when you are focused on your own acting on stage.

2) You learn about all the jobs and responsibilities of the production crew. Work on the sound or light crew and you will understand why it is important to take mic checks seriously. Or work a long tech rehearsal and you will see why it is so important to be quiet when asked or be serious to get the job done.

3) You learn to respect others. You learn why it is important not to touch other props or to put yours back where it belongs. You learn that it is important to respect the people who do so much for you backstage. Maybe it will remind you to say thank you to each of them.

4) You will make new connections. Collaboration is one of my favorite aspects of theater. Making new connections is a benefit.

5) You might learn new skills. Not everyone comes into theater knowing how to sew or work tech, but be involved with these super talented people might give you the chance to learn and who knows maybe you will end up using that new skill in your life. Your focus might be acting, but there is creativity to learn from everywhere.

6) You get to see the show from a different perspective. When you see the show night after night you hear when people say a line a different way. I actually have people that don’t get certain jokes at first, but after hearing something over and over they begin to understand the humor! You see how the other elements (such as lighting) either aids the story or distracts from it.

Recently, I asked several of Overshadowed’s favorite actors/volunteers to share their experiences from a backstage perspective.

Many thanks to Casey Bender, Al Gorr and Michael Larsen for joining our panel!



If you haven’t spent any time working in an area behind the scenes I hope you will find a place to help out. Here are just a few of the skills I think you will gain:

1) Concentration
2) Organizational skills
3) Confidence
4) Problem solving

The benefit? All of those skills help you ON-STAGE as well.

What are your favorite parts of theater? I’d love to hear from you!

As always, a special shout out to Brianna Valentine, Rebecca Leland and Yohannan Lee for their wisdom, talent and time spent to make this video!

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