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

The Finishing Touch

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

https://youtu.be/HKPFQXR-BKw

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

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

Until next time!

Reba

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NOBODY TALKS LIKE THAT.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Doing “YOUR THING” Matters

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

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

Doing YOUR THING Matters.

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


For me? It’s theatre.


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


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


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


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


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

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

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

Until next time!

artistic vision, christian, communication, family, Fear, hope, theater, writing

Nine Things You Should Know About the Story of Noah

Eleven years ago I wrote a play that for some reason became one of the most special experiences our cast and crew had ever had. The theater space was not big. We had no animals. The set was made out of styrofoam instead of wood and we had absolutely no minutes with a completed stage before we opened the doors for the audience. When you are an all volunteer army you take the time people can give you whenever they have it to give you.  And, well, God knows and somehow it always gets done.

When I decided that it was time to repeat this wonderful story I had no idea that the world as we know it would stop and that the cast and crew would learn some of the same lessons that we imagine the original inhabitants of the ark might have felt. Why, Lord? How long, Lord? And a few others. But we understand that God’s timing is ALWAYS perfect.

It is always difficult to write a story that is taken from a Biblical story. I always want to be careful to note that some of this story is out of my imagination. The Bible doesn’t give us detail of what those eight passengers felt or thought while they were floating all those days. However, in reminding ourselves that these were REAL people I like to ask my audience to consider things that  they might not have ever thought about. Consider, for example…did they fight? Were they thankful? Did they complain like the children wandering in the desert?  And as an audience….how does that change our walk with God?

Here are nine things that impacted me in writing this play:

1. The story of Noah is told in a form of parallelism. It is interesting to note that as the story prepares us for the flood it unfolds in such a way that as the waters unfold it parallels  the beginning. For example,  we learn of Noah and his sons. We are told that the ark needs to be built and the flood will happen. There is a covenant made with Noah. The food is loaded into the ark and the command is given to enter the ark. There are seven days waiting for the flood. They enter. God shuts the door. 40 days of raining. The mountains are covered. The waters remain for 150 days.

Then, (I love this thought) The Lord remembers Noah.

Now, this is what I mean about how the account is parallel. Look how the next part unfolds. The story reverses.

The waters recede for 150 days. The mountain tops become visible. They wait 40 days. Noah opens the window of the ark. Raven and Dove leave the ark. They wait seven days for the water to recede. There is a command to leave the ark. God gives instruction about the food outside of the ark. God makes a covenant with all flesh. God promises He will not destroy the world with a flood in the future. And they leave the ark: Noah and his three sons.

I am not enough of a Biblical scholar to know the significance of that, but I do appreciate the beauty of it.

2.  The size of the ark (if we consider  that there is  18 inches to a cubit), the total cubic volume of Noah’s ark would have been 1,518,000 cubic feet, the equivalent to 250 single-deck railroad stock cars. Since the average stock car can carry 80 180 lb. sheep or 160 50 lb. sheep per deck (2.5 – 5 sq ft per animal), it’s estimated the ark could carry 20,000-40,000 sheep size animals. Wow. Just wow!

3. It is interesting to note that ancient records note that sailors would use doves, ravens, and other birds to help them find and navigate toward land. It is said that a raven will fly directly toward land, so they could follow the raven as a guide. Doves are not able to fly as long so they were used to determine location of land. If the dove returned it would mean that land was not close.

4. Noah and his family were on the ark for a total of 370 days. (There is a little debate about the exact  number of days, because of lunar years, but this is the number most scholars agree upon.)

5. Noah’s first recorded act after leaving the ark was to build an altar to the Lord (Gen. 8:20). Imagine what the world would be like if our first response to difficulties would be to honor God with sacrifices and praise?

6. The Bible says the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat (a mountain range in Turkey) but does not specify which mountain.

7. The only time Noah is recorded as speaking is when he curses Canaan and blesses his sons Shem and Japheth. At all other points in his story, God does the talking and Noah does the listening. Again, another example. God talks….I should listen….totally not enough listening going on in the world today!

8. At 950 years of age, Noah had the third longest life recorded in the Bible (after Methuselah (969) and Jared (Father of Enoch) (962)). We all are aware that Methuselah was the oldest, but I had really never stopped to consider that Noah was only 19 years short of achieving the same record!

9. Besides the book of Genesis, Noah is also mentioned in eight other books of the Bible (1st Chronicles 1:4, Isaiah 54:9, Ezekiel 14:14; 20, Matthew 24:37-38, Luke 3:36, 17:26-27,Hebrews 11:7, 1 Peter 3:20, and 2 Peter 2:5).

Noah has a place of honor in the faith chapter.  Consider God’s servant: Noah.

What are other things you have learned when considering Noah? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Here is a little taste of our production.

 

January-March 2021
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.



audience, christian, communication, theater, theater education

How You Can Be an Effective Speaker–(The First Step)

Communication. What would we do without it? We communicate in numerous ways daily: speech, written, body language just to name a few ways.

Some people communicate so powerfully that all they have to do is open their mouths and the world stops to pay attention. Others, like me, have always wanted to say more, have more of an impact, but struggle to know if anyone is listening.

My family was very loud and loved to tell stories. Family meal time and afterwards would be filled with laughter and fun. I can remember wanting to be involved, but feeling like no one cared what I had to say. Sometimes, honestly, I still feel the same way.

When I went to college our speech class had to memorize The Ten Principles of an Effective Speaker. At the time, I didn’t understand the power of those principles. There is so much wisdom in each one of them. Not onlyf or how you should act and speak, but also for who you should pick to be a person you would want to listen to.

The first one is: The effective speaker is a person whose character, knowledge, and judgement command respect. My latest YouTube video From the Wings discusses this principle. https://youtu.be/XH59LxMYuBk



Do you struggle with your language or anger or how to use your voice? Here are ten Bible verses that remind us of the importance of using our mouths wisely.

Proverbs 18:13
“If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.

Ephesians 4:29
“Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”

James 1:19
“Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger;”

Colossians 4:6
“Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.”

Proverbs 25:11 “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.”

Proverbs 15:1
“A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”

Proverbs 10:19
“When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent”.

Psalm 19:14
“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.”

Colossians 3:8
“But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth.”

Proverbs 12:18
“There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.”

Perhaps you have heard all of this before and still think no one cares about what you have to say. Stop right now. Listen to me. Believe. Believe in yourself and the power of who you are. You are unique with your own thoughts and dreams and experiences. There are people who need to know you and what you can teach them.

I’m still learning, but I want to be that person.
Who do you know who deserves your respect?
Let’s not blindly follow someone who doesn’t.

I’d love to hear what you have to say about this and if you think this is worth sharing please do….I need a lot of followers (and I need people to watch) before From the Wings will pop up on the search results…

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

christian, communication, family, Fear, thanksgiving, theater

Thanksgiving–A Time of Hope?

“The Pilgrims made seven times more graves than huts. No Americans have been more impoverished than these who, nevertheless, set aside a day of thanksgiving.”- H.U. Westermayer

Thanksgiving

1) An expression of gratitude. Especially to God.

2) In North America an annual national holiday marked by religious observances and a traditional meal including turkey. The holiday commemorates a harvest festival celebrated by the Pilgrims in 1621.

My earliest memories of Thanksgiving are all surrounded by family. Big meals. Lots of laughter. Lots of dishes to wash. As a child my younger cousins and I had to do the dishes. I hated it then, but would love to be back and spend a moment with all of them now.

My first Thanksgiving away from home was when I went to college. My freshman year was extremely difficult for me anyway, and being away from my family just made me more lonely. Remember, times were different then. We had to wait in line to be able to use the phone and I had to save my quarters to be able to call home. Even five minutes on the phone was priceless.

I’ll never forget that weekend. At the college I went to-Thanksgiving was more about the prospective students that visited on that weekend. We still had classes on Fridays so that the guests could get a true picture of what the school was about. Thanksgiving was a pretty big deal. We had a big meal that was so good in later years my parents would come down to visit just to eat there. There was always a big soccer game between rival societies. It was called The Turkey Bowl. The stands would be packed and many alumni would come from all around to watch this game. In fact, for many years after we graduated it became a tradition for us to spend Thanksgiving at that school. Wonderful traditions and memories that I am able to treasure. Unfortunately, this year just isn’t going to look like either of those scenarios.

I, you, still have so much to be thankful for. It’s been a rough year. Yes. But our freedoms and joys are still too numerous to count. Let’s start at the first Thanksgiving.

Do you remember your history lessons?

In September of 1620, about 100 people left England on the Mayflower, most of them in search of religious freedom in the New World. After two months the ship landed in what is currently called Massachusetts. In December, a scouting party landed at Plymouth. We now call these people, Pilgrims.

The journey was not smooth sailing and they were plagued with storms. The trouble wasn’t only on the water, but also on board as quarrels and disagreements began before the passengers disembarked. The Pilgrims knew that they needed to do something before each person would be on their own so they wrote and signed the Mayflower Compact.

During the first winter the new colonists would live on the Mayflower as they built their new homes on shore.

MORE THAN HALF THE SETTLERS DIED DURING THAT WINTER.

Life in this new world was difficult. The winter was harsh and they didn’t have the means to eat properly.

Thankfully, Squanto, a Native American, befriended the settlers. He and his Pawtuxet tribe taught them how to plant corn and fish and hunt.

In the fall of 1621, the Pilgrims shared a harvest meal with this tribe. We consider this the First Thanksgiving.

I would love to think of that celebration innocently, but I’m sure it wasn’t the picturesque painting that we see. Perhaps we can learn from the past and apply the lessons to our present and future.

1) Thanksgiving. A time of hope. The Pilgrims left England in search of a new beginning. They experienced sickness, starvation and death, but by listening to the Native Americans they were taught how to survive. God sent help.

There is a letter written by Edward Winslow that says, “God be Praised.”

2) Praise God. We should be practicing this habit daily, but especially at Thanksgiving we should stop and give praise to our Almighty Father. Yes, life isn’t always pleasant. We don’t always receive what we want. There may be times of “starvation.” Our faith should rest in the fact that our God is still on the throne. None of this is a surprise to Him. And He loves you and cares for you more than you can ever know. I keep repeating this, but if the hairs on your head are numbered how can he not be caring for you? I mean, that fact alone means He is taking care of me constantly!

3) Stop making enemies out of people who are different than you. Just like the settlers and the Pawtuxet tribe, don’t be afraid of them. Instead, embrace them and learn what we can from each other. The same holds true for believers. I find that we fight against each other more than learn from each other. In fact, the devil doesn’t have to work very hard to destroy us…we do that quite well on our own.

4) Tomorrow is a new day. There is an old song, “I know who holds tomorrow and I know who holds my hand.” God promises, “As thy days, so shall thy strength be.” God gave the people in the wilderness the manna they needed for that day. Cling to those promises today and know that tomorrow is coming.

I don’t know how you celebrated Thanksgiving yesterday. Chances are many of you altered your plans or maybe canceled them all together. You might feel bitterness or depression or emotions we aren’t used to feeling on a day set apart to give thanks. As we look back at our year there has been death, poverty, disagreements, loss, grief. At first thought you might think…what is there to be thankful for?

My friend, so much.

Can you add to my list?

1. Freedom

2. America

3. A God who loves and provides a way of salvation

4. Friends and family

5. Forgiveness

6. Books and history

7. and so much more.

What are the things you are thankful for?

I can’t wait to hear about your Thanksgiving! Until next time! This is just me–talking to you–from the wings.
acting, artistic vision, audience, communication, entertainment, family, theater

The Trial of the Chicago 7-“What’s Faith Got to do with It?”

When COVID shut our country down months ago, my husband and I found ourselves in front of the TV night and after night. When we determined that this crisis was not going to go away anytime soon, we started to try to figure out how to change what we were watching as well as breaking it up so that we weren’t just watching mindless TV EVERY NIGHT.

We established Friday night movie night. He brings home a nice take-out dinner and I pick three movies for him to choose from. Then we have Sunday night documentaries–look at us being all educational!! I usually let him pick that as well.

This past Sunday our conversation went something like this:

Me: “Do you know what documentary you want to watch tonight?”

Him: “Yes.”

Me: “Okay. Which one?”

Him: “The Trial of the Chicago 7.”

I had seen that advertised and knew that it was something I wanted to check out, but hadn’t had the chance to do it yet so….

Me: “Great! I thought that looked interesting too.”

Fast forward five minutes into the movie.

Me: “This doesn’t seem like a documentary to me.”

Silence.

Me: “You pulled a fast one, didn’t you? This is a movie.”

Him: “Yes. I wanted to see it. And it’s a little like a documentary.”

Uh No. No, it isn’t.

What is the difference?

  1. Actors. Generally, documentaries use real people in real situations to tell a story. (Sometimes they do reenact the stories as well.) Films use actors. And man, was the acting good in this one.

Fantastic Beasts star Eddie Redmayne plays anti-war activist Tom Hayden. Sacha Baron Cohen assumes the role of fellow protester Abbie Hoffman. The Black Panther Party co-founder Bobby Seale is portrayed by Yahya Abdul-Mateen II (Watchmen), and Snowden’s Joseph Gordon-Levitt is prosecuting lawyer Richard Schultz. Throw in Frank Langella and Micheal Keaton and you see this cast of full of acting power! Their characters were believable and realistic. That alone made the movie worth watching!

2. Escape vs. Reality. The general purpose of a film is to entertain. Documentaries are meant to inform or confront the audience with reality. Now, granted, documentaries want to engage their audience and a movie can be informative, but what is the motivation?

Sorkin’s film, hit Netflix on Oct.  16 and tells the story of the riots at the 1968 Chicago Democratic National Convention and the circus-like trial of political activists that followed the next year. Research seems to indicate that Steven Spielberg first mentioned the idea to Sorkin in ideas of themes–civil unrest, politics, police brutality, tensions in all political areas –over 14 years ago.

“I never wanted the film to be about 1968,” Sorkin says in an interview with Hollywood Reporter, I never wanted it to be an exercise in nostalgia or a history lesson. I wanted it to be about today. But I never imagined that today would get so much like 1968.”

Strike two.

3. Fact or Fiction. Movies are usually mostly fiction. They can be based on actual events or people, but elements get added and directors admittedly take creative license. Documentaries are non-fiction. The director might shape it a certain way, but they don’t add elements to the stories.

Uh. Oh. Read this article for just one of the many articles that will help you separate the movie from the real story. https://in.mashable.com/entertainment/17720/separating-fact-from-fiction-in-netflixs-the-trial-of-the-chicago-7

Now that I have won my case....

Was it good? Yes. And if the purpose was to get me to know more about this historic event, it succeeded. It was brilliantly written. The dialogue between the judge and Abbie Hoffman alone is worth the watch.

If the purpose was to awaken me to the horrors of police brutality and racial injustice it failed. Not because it didn’t show events that were horrific because it did and at first I was outraged. Taking a deeper look troubled me.

I believe part of the problem with our culture right now is that we have lost understanding of the truth. Our leaders, social media, politicians, news outlets– shout their story–twisting just a little bit here or there until we either follow blindly or turn our minds off because it is too overwhelming. Once in awhile there is the brilliant person who can make sense out of the whole mess. Why take a story that was deeply rooted in police brutality, racial injustice and twist it to make it worse? The story itself was terrible.

In twisting and adding to the story, I believe you make it a fictional story. One that we need not take seriously. There is a huge danger to that because indeed, it is a story that needs to be told. There is another danger, and that is that we allow ourselves to be shaped by what entertainments sources tell us or what us to believe instead of digging and learning the truth. People, there is power in the truth! FIND IT!

Many of the protesters were in response to the Vietnam War. As I write that, my fingers refuse to type for a few more moments. My dad and countless number of his friends fought in that war. I’ll never forget standing next to him at one of the Vietnam Walls as he searched for the names of his friends. My dad was a hero. My dad and countless others served, fought, bled and some died so that we could have freedom. I know the protestors had their reasons to be against the war, but where would we be now without all of our heroes who bled and died for our freedoms?

This year has been a struggle. We all know the reasons and we all know how we have responded.

What have we come to, America? What have we come to, Christians? Do we rise up to stop bullying, slander and injustice….untruth?

Are you part of it? Do you speak out? Or has fear caused you to “hide your light”?

I know I have been all over the place with this post, but I believe this is a story that needs to be told.

Several years ago our church was in a bad place. About ten of us decided to start a Bible study outside of the church. We read the book, Crazy Love. If you haven’t read it, do it. It will change your life when you get a small picture of how much God loves you.

Anyway, one of the ladies told us that she was going to begin to pray for a certain thing to happen that would allow our church to heal. We all laughed at her. Seriously.

But she kept praying. And praying. We told her that God was big enough for that to happen, but we didn’t think He would grant us that answer. But still she prayed. With faith. Nothing wavering.

And the prayer was answered. And then she started praying for the next step in the healing process and… well, you understand.

Maybe it’s time for us to become reacquainted with our faith and the power of prayer. It might be a really good time to drop to our knees and ask God for help, grace, mercy and compassion.

Who is with me???

P.S. Watch The Trial of the Chicago Seven. I’d love to know what conclusions you come to!

This is just me talking to you–from the wings,

Until Next Time,

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FVb6EdKDBfU

 

book review, christian, communication, entertainment, reading, theater

The Reading Life

I have successfully completed another month of reading one book a week. I’m pretty proud of this month because I did it even while I was studying my lines every day for the play that closed this month. Maybe….maybe I have successfully regained the love I used to have for this and found time for my new habit.

So, here is what I read this month.

Book #1 The Sky Above Us by Sarah Sundin

This is book number two in a series called Sunrise of Normandy. I reviewed book One a few months ago. You can read that review here: https://fromthewings.org/2020/08/05/from-my-bookshelf/

It is possible to read this book without reading Book One first, but I’d recommend reading, The Sea Before Us first.

The series tells the story of three brothers who are estranged by an event. Each book highlights the story of a different brother. Reading book one will give you a better understanding of the pain of these brothers.

Violet Lindstrom wants to be a missionary like her great aunt, but for now she is in the American Red Cross Aeroclub in England. She wrestles with her inner demons because she believes God wants her to be working with children but that is only a small part of her job. She is recovering from a broken engagement and the men around her are crude and immoral. Except for the kindly Lt. Adler Paxton, whom she met on the boat ride over.

When Adler meets Violet, he is attracted to her but determines to avoid her. A tragic decision during a family outing led to the death of his fiancée, and in the hours immediately following that calamity Adler made some decisions that hurt a lot of people he loved. He refuses to believe that he is worth having any joy in his life as a result of his bad decisions.

We all know that God is bigger than all of our inner doubts and this is a sweet love story as God reaches out to both of them.

I enjoyed this book even more than I did the first one.

Sundin has a campy, quirky style of writing that is easy to read. I love the way she combines the plot points- such as the dangers the men faced on their missions, and the vital work of the Red Cross – by keeping the focus on how these things affect the characters. In this tale, there is also a mystery that is perfect for the storyline and is ideally utilized to show growth by Violet.

If you like Christian Historical Fiction then you will love this book! The plot tackles some big issues as the main character needs to learn how to forgive himself and others. Humility is one of those sins people don’t talk about very often and I love that this character has to deal with that as well.

Warning: There is a big plot reveal that deals with some sexual decisions in Adler’s past. When I first read the book I was able to dismiss the behaviors as plot developments. Now, thinking back, I’m a little disturbed that it was wrapped up in too nice of a package. It was confusing how violently Violet reacts to Adler’s past. I loved how she came to terms with his behavior, but I did it make sense for her to be so unforgiving at all? I think reacting in disappointment might have made more sense.

In spite of that, I really did enjoy the book. In fact, I liked it even more than I did the first one. The characters were fantastic and I loved that there were things about them that made them extraordinary. There are things to relate to in Violet if you grew up thinking that you needed to be a good “church” kid. There comes a time when you obey because God lives in your heart not just because you are doing as you are told. I love Violet’s journey to discovering for herself what God wants her to do.

I have all ready ordered the third book in the series! I can’t wait to read it!

As usual Sundin writes detailed historical descriptions.

Who should read this? Lovers of history, World War II, and love!

Favorite Quotes:

“Wars weren’t won with caution, and aces weren’t made in straight and level flight.”

Once again, God was winning the wrestling match, and Adler silently thanked him. For most of his life, he thought he’d deserved all of it. God had waited to give it to him until Adler knew he deserved none of it.”

Rating 4/5

Book #2 What the Wind Knows by Amy Harmon

From the back cover:


In an unforgettable love story, a woman’s impossible journey through the ages could change everything…

Anne Gallagher grew up enchanted with her grandfather’s stories of Ireland. Heartbroken at his death, she travels to his childhood home to spread his ashes. There, overcome with memories of the man she adored and consumed by a history she never knew, she is pulled into another time.

The Ireland of 1921, teetering on the edge of war, is a dangerous place in which to awaken. But there Anne finds herself, hurt, disoriented, and under the care of Dr. Thomas Smith, guardian to a young boy who is oddly familiar. Mistaken for the boy’s long-missing mother, Anne adopts her identity, convinced the woman’s disappearance is connected to her own.

As tensions rise, Thomas joins the struggle for Ireland’s independence and Anne is drawn into the conflict beside him. Caught between history and her heart, she must decide whether she’s willing to let go of the life she knew for a love she never thought she’d find. But in the end, is the choice actually hers to make?”

I am a big fan of things that involve time travel. Amy’s dialogue and description pulled me in from the first paragraph. Although I didn’t know where the story was going I felt Annie’s love for her grandfather and Ireland from the start. I didn’t want to put the book down–almost feeling that if I did the magic would come to an end.

I, too, had a grandfather that I loved deeply so as we learn the details about Eoin’s (Anne’s grandfather) past and he begins to share stories with her I just wanted more. I LOVED their relationship. What a brilliantly written connection between them.

I learned so much about Ireland’s history. I was intrigued by how Anne was able to remember stories from history that her grandfather had taught her and it reminds me to listen to older people. They can give you the world in their words. I must admit, the historical detail was a tad too much for me and I had to really concentrate to get it to play out in my mind. But I enjoyed it immensely! I especially liked the details as Anne had to adjust to her life without the modern day clothes and ….other items.

And the love story? I didn’t want it to end. I was so afraid that it wasn’t possible for it to continue, but I desperately wanted it to. One word. EPIC.

Here are a few of my favorite quotes. Honestly, I could have pages of them. I love the way Amy writes. There is a certain romance in the way she uses words.

“We turn memories into stories, and if we don’t, we lose them. If the stories are gone, then the people are gone too.” 

“Time was the one thing I wanted and the one thing no one could give me.” 

“I’d heard once that our view of God has everything to do with those who taught us about Him. Our image of Him often reflected our image of them. Eoin taught me about God, and because I loved and cherished Eoin, I loved and cherished God.”

“When you are old and grey and full of sleep,” he repeated over the chuckling, “and nodding by the fire, take down this book, and slowly read, and dream of the soft look your eyes had once, and of their shadows deep; how many loved your moments of glad grace, and loved your beauty with love false or true, but one man loved the pilgrim soul in you, and loved the sorrows of your changing face.”

“I’d been wrong about one thing. These were not average men and women. Time had not given them a gloss they had not earned. Even those I wanted to loathe, based on my own research and conclusions, conducted themselves with fervor and honest conviction. These weren’t posing politicians. They were patriots whose blood and sacrifice deserved history’s pardon and Ireland’s compassion.”

“Don’t write a book about Ireland’s history, Annie. There are plenty of those. Write a love story.’
‘I still have to have context, Eoin,’ I argued, smiling.
‘Yes. You do. But don’t let the history detract you from the people who lived it.”

Poetic, lyrical, charming, heart-warming. Who is this book for? Lovers of historical fiction. Historical romance. Science fiction (time travel)

Warnings:

I was deep into this book before the first mention of sexual activities. There are several.

Rating 4.5/5


Book #3 All That You Leave Behind by Erin Lee Carr https://www.amazon.com/All-That-You-Leave-Behind/dp/0399179712

Do you remember the first time someone really close to you died? My dad’s mother died when I was in third grade, but we were in Germany so I wasn’t around to experience it. My Mom’s dad died when I was in Jr High and I remember it vividly. Why is it that when we first think about someone dying, all we think about are the good memories? There is the old saying, “Never speak ill of the dead.”

Isn’t it okay to still learn the good and the bad after someone is gone?

In her memoir, All That You Leave Behind, Erin Lee Carr graces us with all the wisdom imparted to her by her late father, renowned New York Times’ columnist David Carr. Told through a series of emails, Carr’s debut novel documents each dad-to-daughter pep talk that shaped her life and career.

When I started reading this book I believed it was going to be filled with these priceless letters of whit and wisdom. I was reminded that I as a human need to put my words in writing and write the people who mean something to me. That’s about as far as my love for this book goes.

Carr inherits more than career wisdom from her father. She also inherits his love for excessive drinking. Her memoir tells us the lessons that she learned from her father–both good and bad. Erin is indeed a disaster. Every time she gets a break she ruins it with her black-outs or being too drunk to behave respectfully. I respect her ability to look at herself in light of her father’s eyes. It’s a hard look because it is very ugly.

What I found more disappointing is that what could have been a touching reminder of a father’s love became an annoying perspective that became frightening. As a father do you have to do hard things sometimes? Absolutely. Do you have to deliver them with hate and coldness? No. If this book was supposed to make me like and respect David Carr it failed miserably. After reading this I think of him as a talented journalist who failed with his communications within his family.

On the cover it states: “This book shows that love does not end after death, nor should it.” That is the whole reason I read this book. Did it show me that? Hmmm. maybe. Blind love? The love that only a daughter can have for her father. Defanately.

This book was not at all what I expected. I wanted a book about a father’s love and relationship as he mentors his daughter and watches her grow. I got a book about Erin’s failures.

Things I liked:

That it was raw and honest. It didn’t hold back from really delivering punches.

I loved the list of things she learned from David that are in the back of the book.

I also loved her list of what she read while she was writing this.

Favorite quotes:

“Storytelling still attains…and that means characters and import, but also editing and writing.”

“I started to understand the spasm of grief. Once someone close to you dies, you feel loss more plainly, as it is a part of your everyday experience. It feels crushing as the wave hits you, but then you can see the tide begin to drift in and out again after the storm.

“Whenever I would send him a flare email, his response was always relentlessly positive and made me feel like I was part of a tribe, a team. That someone was taking care of me. I knew, then and now, that this was a rare relationship for a child to have with a parent.”

Warning! Language. Lots. Difficult subject matter included abuse of …well, almost everything.

Rating 2/5

Book #4 The Last Flight by Julie Clark

Synopsis:

Two women. Two flights. One last chance to disappear.

Claire Cook’s husband is ambitious, admired, and from a powerful and influential family with deep pockets. Behind closed doors, he has a temper that burns as bright as his promising political career.

Claire is making plans to disappear.

But then she meets Eva James and her future is changed once again, but what has she gotten herself into now?

Julie Clark describes The Last Flight as a story about two women, both of whom have been victimized by men under different circumstances and in different settings. Now they both are seeking to run away. She knew her main character had to be a woman with “an inner strength, even if her current situation didn’t allow her to use it.”

I don’t think I have enjoyed any of my books as much as I did this one. I LOVED the characters. I rooted for both of them. Feared for both of them. Hated the circumstances and people who forced them to have to choose these paths.

If you had to make a hard decision like this, could you? Both of these women are strong and determined and afraid. As a reader, I was caught up with both of the stories and couldn’t wait to finish one chapter and start the next so that I could see what would unravel to reveal itself next.

To say I was captivated would be an understatement. I love books with an unusual plot that I don’t figure out and this one had me all the way.

It is interesting to note that Clark uses alternating narratives. Claire’s story is told in first person. Eva’s is told in third person. I loved that. For me, it added to the mystery.

The book is full of new plot developments and shocks. It will leave you with plenty of room for discussion!

Very easy to say! I LOVED IT! You will be thinking about this one long after you put it down.

Favorite Quotes:

“Eva could walk away with no regrets, knowing for certain the past held nothing of value for her. That sometimes, the death of a dream can finally set you free.”

“It’s a system that tells women we are unreliable, and then expendable. That our truths don’t matter when set side by side with a man’s.

“Are we who we say we are, or do we become the person others see?” 

“Everything you ever wanted is on the other side of fear.”

“If we don’t tell our own stories, we’ll never take control of the narrative.”

“If you pay attention, solutions always appear. But you have to be brave enough to see them.”

Rating: 5/5

What are you reading? Did you read any of these? I’d love to hear what you think!

Until next time this is just me talking to you, From the wings!

acting, artistic vision, audience, christian, communication, entertainment, family, theater, theater education, theater professions

Why are You Drawn to the Spotlight? (And a New Announcement!)

When the clock tolled to ring in 2020 I would have told you that I was very happy with what the year was probably going to look like. Overshadowed had grown. We had a new group of volunteers. We made changes to have some of our newer volunteers take ownership in areas that we consider ministry. I had become a better planner and marketeer. We had a record number of season ticket holders and a fantastic season planned. In short, we had met every one of our goals for the year!

And then COVID. (I know. You are sick of hearing me say that, but honestly I have no other words.)

When COVID shut us down I went through almost depression. I lost my focus. I honestly didn’t have any idea what God wanted me to do.

Slowly, I started to use the time to LEARN. I joined Ken Davenport’s THE THEATER MAKERS. I took an instagram class (Not quite finished with that yet.) And I attended (Virtually) a Writer’s convention (She Writes For Him). All of this was life-changing for me. It sharpened my focus and gave me a little drive to put things into place so that I can be a better leader when we fully open again.

The most important lesson I learned? My voice hasn’t been silenced. I may not get to act/direct right now, but whether I write an email or a blog post…it is still my voice. God gave me lessons and stories–I should share them.

Lesson Two. I’m behind social media wise. I knew that of course, but if I want people to hear me I was told I have to catch up. So. I was encouraged to start a You Tube Channel. This was a big jump for me, but a group of very inspirational people gave me some great advice. Here’s hoping that together we can create content that will inspire others. By the way, it will really help me if you become a subscriber. At present, From the Wings doesn’t even show up in a search. Help!

My blog will still be once a week. My YouTube will probably be more like once a month. Today’s blog contains the first video. As an actor it is important to know the purpose of the spotlight, but are there dangers that you can avoid?

I hope you will support me in this new venture! Please make sure you become a subscriber! If there are topics you’d like to hear us explore please let me know!

I’d like to give a special thanks to Aaron Brewster and Abby Wilken for creative wisdom. I’d like to thank Yohannan Lee for his design of my new logo and for his help and artistic wisdom in getting everything set up. I’d like to thank Mike Larsen and Rebecca Leland for their support in lighting and recording. I’d like to give special thanks to Brianna Valentine for her leadership, organization, and direction and editing. I am so fortunate to have an incredible team.

As always the more you talk about what we have going on here-the more other people will hear.

Until next time!

Are there dangers from wanting to be in the Spotlight?