acting, artist, audience, audition, backstage, christian theater, directing, entertainment, family, theater, theater camp, theater education

The Importance of Theater Camp or What Mary Poppins Taught Me

Several years ago we mounted the very large full-scaled production of Mary Poppins on our regular stage. It was a large, full of special effects, show that pushed us to be better that we were. Flash forward several years and I decided that I wanted to do a theater camp that didn’t need much work costume or set wise since we all ready had both from the full production that we had produced several years ago. Ha!

Theater camp is a different experience all together.  We audition on Monday. Tuesday we start developing characters, learning choreography and music, memorizing lines and working all the set and prop movements. We also build lights and sound and set and costumes and well, the work is still a lot! Eight days later we mount a full scale show! Whew!

Today was the eighth day. I might have cried a little. I am so proud of all these students have learned in such a short time.

So have we learned anything?

I hope so. I hope we’ve learned more than the lines, music and etc. I hope we’ve learned the value of team work and responsibility. I hope we’ve learned how much work it takes to put on a good show and HOW MANY PEOPLE IT TAKES to create the magic that goes with a good show.

There are lessons in the show itself that we have talked about as well.

Mary Poppins is a redemptive story about a father who can’t be bothered with his children because the pressures of life have him working hard to create the “right” impression for the “right” people and to work hard to  because the pressures of the job demand it.  

Who can forget his lament?

A man has dreams of walking with giants

To carve his niche in the edifice of time.

Before the mortar of his zeal has time to congeal

The cup is dashed from his lips,

The flame is snuffed aborning,

He’s brought to rack and ruin in his prime.’

Ah! The pressures of life.

We can all fall slave to them.

Let’s take a moment to remember that we don’t have to compete to always “keep up with the Jones'”. Let’s not work so hard at living that we forget who we are living with. 

I wish I could spend one more day in the park with my kids that’s for sure!

Take a moment to watch this interview with our “Bert” and “Mary.” We open tomorrow!

Please make sure you like and share if you enjoyed this episode!

Until next time!

acting, artist, artistic vision, Blog, broadway, christian, christian blog, christian theater, communication, directing, speech, theater, theater education, theater professions

Love God. Love Others.

Many of you know that the catch phrase of Overshadowed Theatrical Productions is “Theater With a Difference.”

There are many things that make us “different.” At the top of that list is that we don’t produce and perform primarily for entertainment. We perform because our God is a creator and has given us the means to tell stories. Some of these stories entertain, but many of them inspire or point others to Christ.

At the heart of being “different“, we also want to treat others with love and kindness and show them what it would be like to be in Christ’s family.

This month I had the chance to sit down with Darren Lawson, Dean of the School of Fine Arts and Communication at Bob Jones University. To say that I was treated with kindness and love would be an understatement. True to their educational philosophy, they loved on me and shared wisdom and education to both Rebecca Leland (From the Wings editor and videographer) and me.

Have you ever wondered what kind of student you would be if you could go back and do it again? Or how great it would be if things were like they are now–back then? Or maybe even wondered if you should have majored in something different?

Darren answered all the things I have always wanted to know.

There are many reasons you should watch the video below, but I’ll start with this one–

If you have ever wondered if there is a place for you in the arts and what that would look like on many different levels…start here.

I am so humbled to have had Darren, David Lurtey, and Kathryn Gamet take time out of their busy schedules and encourage us, insprire us, and teach us. Thank you all for pouring into, not only your students, but us old grads and friends as well. It was an amazing experience.

I hope you will all watch the video below. Remember to follow us on this platform as well as YouTube.

Dean Discussions | Interview with Darren Lawson Pt 1

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

acting, artist, artistic vision, backstage, christian, christian blog, christian theater, communication, directing, Fear, theater, theater education

The Competition Crisis

I’ll never forget the first speech tournament I competed in. I was a Jr. and scared out of my mind. I wasn’t exactly a novice when it came to competing because our school required all speech majors to be involved in the commencement contest each year. I don’t remember ever putting my whole heart into it.  I was never really recognized in the speech department as being much of a talent, so couple my insecurity with that and I felt the full weight of imposter syndrome.
Looking back, I just don’t think I worked hard enough. I certainly didn’t walk up with confidence and I’m sure my insecurities hurt me when I competed.
After graduation, I taught Jr High and then High School Speech. Our school began to enter the Fine Arts Competitions and I began to encourage my students to enter and compete.
I don’t think I really understood the art of competing though until I worked under Randy Thaxton (who was in charge of the Bible Quiz team). I also began to learn from what Donna Reed (English and Speech Teacher) did to train each of her competitors. If I didn’t hold those secrets so close to my heart I could write a book! They taught me through their thoroughness, preparedness and spirit of excellence.

I used to tell my speech students that they had no idea how lucky they were to come from a school that had three speech teachers and people that wanted to invest in them. I’m so glad my own children had the chance to learn from both of them.

As I began to realize how important my role was in preparing the students to compete, I learned that my job was more important than just preparing them “to win”. It was a ministry and I LOVED working with each student. I have such great memories from humorous speech and reader’s theater performances and my favorite, duet acting.

Not every person that enters a competition can win. There is always a loser.
Are you a failure if you lose?

NO!

Babe Ruth once said, “Never let the fear of striking out stop you from playing the game.

I have learned so many life lessons from being involved with competitions. I really miss the times I watched my own children compete and I loved watching them win. The losing wasn’t as fun, but the determination that came after that was inspiring.

Ah! “The Thrill of Victory the agony of defeat.” There is nothing like it.

I hope you’ll watch the video below for the five benefits of competing! And then? Go find something to compete in!

acting, backstage, Blog, Blogging, christian, christian blog, christian theater, communication, directing, family, Fear, theater, theater education

All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Theater

This week’s blog is by Kelly Zea. Thank you, Kelly, for sharing your love of theater and God with

us both now and on stage!

One of my earliest memories was at the church my grandfather preached, watching the kids rehearse for their Christmas program. I remember adult’s encouragement to participate, but I shied away and just watched them sing, quietly and inevitably learning the lyrics. I remember the fear mixed with excitement as the window of opportunity neared its final moments to perform alongside the other kids. I remember my shy, single-digit aged, watch-from-the-sideline self was the bravest it had been as I took the chance and joined the chorus of cardboard costumed Christmas presents on stage. That small act of being present gifted me the value of being braveboth on stage and off.

Fast forward to my formative teenage years when our Pantherettes Poms team was cut from the school budget and eliminated, freeing up time to audition for my first high school play, “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.” Disappointment of dancing off one stage turned into walking onto another, a blessing in disguise which would become the most memorable part of high school and lead to where I felt I truly belonged: the theater.

That first show quickly revealed an irrational insecurity when its only song required us to sing. The director accommodated my fear of singing by gifting me the shortest solo and single word, “Flush,” and also a nickname I’d bear the rest of my high school theater days. I later even purposely tried to get the role of the Wicked Witch to spare myself from having to sing. It was the summer going into my senior year when I decided to face my fears so that I could attempt to obtain the lead role in what would be my last high school show. I bought the cd to memorize the songs, took a choir class and extra lessons from my generous music teacher, and was more determined than ever. Earning the role of Annie Oakley in “Annie Get Your Gun meant everything to me and required a growth spurt like none before to rise to the challenge. Thanks to my directors who believed in me and took the risk casting me and coached me throughout, I gained confidence and it reinforced the decision to continue to pursue acting by becoming a theater major in college.

While my time at Columbia College Chicago was a different story, my story with the stage thankfully did not end there and as I faced more fears.  My bravery was a building block to more blessings of opportunities such as: Second City’s Music Improv program, working as an extra in Chicago’s film and tv industry, and  the sweet suburban community theater the scene which ended up changing my life the most). Community theater became the space to stand up for faith and ultimately grow in faith.

I once again fought through fears in front of everyone auditioning for Overshadowed’s “It’s a Wonderful Life” in 2013 and resisted the growing urge to leave before it was my turn. It didn’t take long to realize that God kept me there for a reason. Overshadowed would soon become one of the most crucial places of my faith journey. It was a ministry, unlike any theater experience I’d had, and became a place filled with prayer and desires to glorify Him. Not without growing pains, of course, but thankfully alongside grace-filled believers valuing the power of prayer and God’s Word, I continue to experience healing and sanctification.

I’ve been blessed that theater has been a constant in my life and a home away from home.  Theater has  encouraged growth through habitual risk taking, generated creativity and more joy than I could have ever dreamt, and, most importantly, fostered community and brought me closer to God in so many ways. Although my trajectory went in a different direction than I dreamt as a little girl, I am so grateful that God was with me each step and led me to the places I’ve been. I’m grateful to the building blocks of bravery which led to so many amazing opportunities and memories that continue to form to this day.

Just as children learn to stack blocks when they are children, building blocks can be used in many areas of our lives. You can’t run before you learn to walk. You learn the alphabet before you learn to read. Is there something in your life you need to pursue step-by-step?

I encourage you to see that our biggest blessings are just beyond our fears. Is there a fear that’s been stealing your joy? Are excuses keeping you from trying something you’ve always wanted to? I pray you experience God’s peace and bravely follow His lead into adventures you couldn’t imagine, touch lives you don’t yet know, and become more like Him through all of it.

Isn’t it sweet of the Creator of the Universe to bless us with creativity and ways to glorify Him through the arts? Be brave and blessed, dear friend.

Kelly Zea is a Christ-following, theater-loving northwest suburbanite who works as an Instructional Assistant in a high school. When not professionally bantering with teenagers, she can be found pet sitting, capturing moments, indulging in theological discussions, dreaming of and missing Africa or running, punning and dancing through life, Zeabunking the lies of the world one reminder of God’s truth at a time. You can follow Kelly at@Kelifornialove28

We’d love to know how God is using theater in your life? Or what building blocks are helping you grow?

Until next time!

acting, artistic vision, audience, backstage, bible, Blog, christian, christian blog, christian fiction, christian theater, communication, directing, entertainment, family, theater

Was Francine Rivers WRONG to Make the Movie “Redeeming Love”?

Wrong? What do you mean wrong? ” You might be asking.

I’d like to ask if you think she actually sinned by making the movie….but I don’t want to be side tracked  by conversations about other people making their own choices.

The main point is this….even if you liked the movie, even if you could see that the movie is drawing people to God….is it RIGHT for a director to ask people to strip almost naked and act out sexual scenes for others to watch? 

Yes, you are responsible for the choices you make. You alone have to decide where the line is. I remember being told as a teenager that I needed to decide what my dating standards were before I went on a date because in a car was not the time to decide if I would or would not…..kiss, make-out, have sex.

The same goes for actors. I actually asked a potential Christian intern last year what their” line was.” They looked at me in complete bewilderment so I continued. “For example, what do you believe is wrong for you to do on stage…like would it be okay to be naked?” Their response? “I guess I’d do that. Depending on the context and purpose.”

Maybe that is the root of the problem.  What happened to us as Christians that some of us think it is not only okay to watch just about anything, but equally okay to actually be the one naked and “having sex.” ?

Is any of it sin?

I keep thinking of “Be careful little eyes what you see, for the Father up above is looking down in love.” and “never put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother.” or in Mark 9:42, “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe to stumble, it would be better for him if, with a heavy millstone hung around his neck, he had been cast into the sea.”

So, was it wrong for Francine Rivers to allow others to be so naked (granted, she might have had a bandaid on) that to the world she APPEARS naked?  In fact, she wanted us all to believe she is naked. Further more, was it wrong for the two characters to imitate having sex, complete with movements and well, more….?

Just in case you think that Francine Rivers didn’t have a say once she sold her script, this is from a recent announcement with Penguin Random House:

Over the years with other options, the character of Michael didn’t come across the way it must. When Cindy Bond of Mission Pictures approached us, I decided to write a sample script of what I felt needed to be seen. I read a few books on how to write a script, loaded final draft onto my computer, and took a whack at it, never expecting they would use it. They bought it! When D.J. Caruso pursued the job of directing the movie, we worked together on the script. He restructured it and we strengthened scenes. It was a collaborative effort to bring a powerful redemptive story to the screen. I was also involved in the auditions and selection of the actors – especially Abigail Cowen and Tom Lewis, who played the leading roles. They are wonderful!”

In every other interview I’ve seen Rivers seems to be thrilled with the movie.

Last week I talked about the movie generally, you can read that post here: https://wp.me/p9JkzU-QT

Here is part two of our discussion:

Many thanks to Naomi Rogers and Rebecca Leland for their discussion and Rebecca for the editing and filming!

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject. Should Christians have “a line.”? Was Francine Rivers wrong? 

In recent years did you move your personal “line” for what you allowed yourself to watch or perform?

Is it time to move “the line” back?

Please like, follow and share this, it would mean the world to me!

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

Reba

acting, artist, audience, awards, backstage, Blog, characterizations, communication, critics, directing, entertainment, family, theater, theater education

Being the Ricardos or What I learned from Loving Lucy

This past week I settled in to watch the movie, “Being the Ricardos” that is now streaming on Amazon Prime. I had seen trailers and was pretty excited to see it. Why?

Two Reasons- I love stories/movies based on real people. I think they are fascinating as much for the historical truth as well as the creative perspective. Secondly, I Love Lucy. Seriously, I have long been a fan. When I was younger I didn’t care how many times I watched Lucy and Ethel stuff candy in every nook and pocket of their clothes. I watched with great joy as Tennessee Ernie Ford guest starred along with countless other stars. It was hilarious to watch Lucy, week after week, conniving to “act, dance, perform, sing.” Perhaps I was inspired by her.

Later, I watched “The Lucy Show” and again was mesmerized by her flawless attention to detail and her incredible comedic timing. Her facial expressions are entrancing and again, I was inspired by her. Years later I found out that Lucille Ball was actually kicked out of acting school!

In her autobiography, Lucy tells that all the teachers praised a big-eyed blonde in class, yet never cared for her (Lucille). Well, I guess that was understandable because that blonde was Bette Davis!

The acting school said that Lucy didn’t have talent! They kicked her out saying that it was a complete waste of money for her to continue her studies! What would you do if your school wrote you such a letter?

Yet…this would- be actress, that was told she didn’t have talent, changed the course of American TV along with her husband Desi. There is a huge void in the world without her lighting up the screen. This became clear to me as I watched Nicole Kidman portray this icon. (By the way, Kidman did an incredible job she just was the wrong person to play this role.) However, to me, what I really saw was the brillance of Lucille Ball. There was a scene in the movie that Kidman is recreating a scene in “I Love Lucy. “You might be familiar with the scene where Lucy smashes grapes. I can almost see it in my mind even now. Lucy’s facial expressions communicated every emotion and thought that she was thinking in that vat. Seeing Kidman, I was struck with how incapable anyone is when trying to recreate what Lucille Ball did. It wasn’t even close. Sadly, she didn’t seem to have the energy that Lucille Ball was known for and ugh, I’m not sure if the prosthetics made her unable to move her face or if she just didn’t, but how can you play Lucy if YOU DON’T MOVE YOUR FACE??

Don’t get me wrong. I still really enjoyed “Being the Ricardos“, but I also learned why I love her so much. So here is what I learned from loving Lucy then and now.

  1. You cannot copy comedic genius. You can learn from it, but you cannot clone it. There was and will always be only one Lucille Ball.
  2. Don’t let someone else crush your dreams. If I had received the letter Lucille Ball received from the acting school I am positive I would have given up on acting. The world is thankful that Lucille Ball didn’t give up. So, a little known story… I was rejected pretty early at the college I attended. So much so, that I was afraid to really put myself out there. I caved and pursued speech education instead. I didn’t want to be told that I wasn’t good enough and at that time my advisor was trying to talk me out of theatrical productions saying things like, “How would you ever support yourself if you had no husband or he died?” (That’s a whole different discussion for another day.) Basically he frightened me into not trying. I wish I had known Lucille Ball’s story at that time.
  3. Work the details of a scene. I loved the scenes that showed Lucille Ball thinking and visualizing each scene to make sure “it worked.” Details matter, and if you, as the director take the time to work on the details of a scene, it will be more believable to the audience.
  4. You don’t have to be the star of the show. Lucille Ball was once called the “queen of the B movies.” She didn’t say no to parts because she felt that she could always learn something from each experience and that it was a good way to make connections and get her name out. I think many times we miss the best roles of our lives because we want to be the star.
  5. You aren’t too old. Lucille Ball got her own show when she was almost 40. Sure, I’m older than that…but I’m no Lucille Ball…I can wait a few more years!

I’m not sure I can say it enough. Don’t give up, and don’t be lazy. Work hard on the stage and off. Maybe there is one more Lucille Ball out there…if so, I can’t wait to see what she gives the world to enjoy.

Here are a few moments to learn about Lucille Ball in her own words.

Did you watch “Being the Ricardos”? What did you think? Who inspries you?

I’d love to hear what you think! As always, I’d be so honored if you would take the time to share, like, comment and subscribe!

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

Reba

.

I.

.

acting, artist, artistic vision, audience, backstage, bible, Blog, Blogging, christian, christian blog, christian theater, costume design, directing, entertainment, Grief, hope, Prayer, set design, stage, stage manager, stage managment, theater, theater education

The Top Ten Blog Posts of 2021 Chosen by You

January 1st. Everyone is setting goals and picking words and kissing 2021 good-bye. I’m doing a little of that as well, but I also thought it might be interesting to see what blog posts YOU the reader liked the most. It is a great way to evauate what I do and see how to give you more of what you like.

It is a good reminder to me that things I obsess about might be things no one notices or things I take for granted might be the very thing you wanted to talk more about. All in all, it continues to make me better and that’s always a good thing!

So, here are YOUR Top 10 favorite blogs of the last year:

1) Hope From the Wingshttps://fromthewings.org/2021/07/15/hope-from-the-wings/

2) Breath of God https://fromthewings.org/2021/11/12/breath-of-god/

3) In the Face of Grief https://fromthewings.org/2021/08/26/in-the-face-of-grief/

4) The Stage is a Blank Canvas https://fromthewings.org/2021/01/29/the-stage-is-a-blank-canvas/

5) Why Do Theater? https://fromthewings.org/2021/02/04/why-do-theater/

6) The Finishing Touch https://fromthewings.org/2021/03/03/the-finishing-touch/

7) What Does a Stage Manager Do Anyway? https://fromthewings.org/2021/04/22/what-does-a-stage-manager-do-anyway/

8) Edits Aren’t Only For the Written Word https://fromthewings.org/2021/11/05/edits-arent-only-for-the-written-word/

9) Nine Things You Should Know about the Story of Noah https://fromthewings.org/2021/01/15/nine-things-you-should-know-about-the-story-of-noah/

10) Doing “Your Thing” Matters by guest blogger Julie Gernand https://fromthewings.org/2021/02/17/doing-your-thing-matters/

So there you have it. These are the blog posts that people were talking about in case you missed one and want to catch up! and hint….if you want to make sure you NEVER miss a post please make sure you follow me! I only need 8 more subscribers to hit 100!

An interesting observation…none of my posts about books made the top ten. Perhaps I should have the book blogs be an additonal post instead on one of the weekly? My posts about grief and hope were my top ones. Perhaps some of you are in need of hope and healing as well? I will pray for you, my readers, I’m sad to say I haven’t really thought of doing that until now. Another thought is that you truely cared about the pain I was going through. If that is the case, I’d like to thank you again. Writing this blog was so theraputic this year.

Thank you for your likes, shares and comments. I’m hoping 2022 will be a happy, healthy year for all of us.

For now, this is just me, writing to you from the wings.

acting, artistic vision, audience, broadway, christian theater, communication, costume design, directing, entertainment, family, theater, theater education

Take a Chance on This Classic: Don’t Let Theater Die.

Over 10 years ago someone told me we should produce “12 Angry Men.” They suggested that we have a cast of all women and another cast of all men. They thought it would be a clever marketing ploy. I declined for several reasons. One of them being that I didn’t think I had 12 men that could pull off the acting that this show requires. I put it on the back burner of my mind and waited. In the meantime, I saw the Theater in Chicago production with Brian Dennehy and George Wendt and John Boy Walton…oh, I mean, Richard Thomas as Juror # 8.  I also spent the time visiting local community productions and waited until the time was right.

As I  have complained about for now, over a year, Covid has really done a damage to our theater. In our area, several shut their doors for good as they couldn’t continue with the costs of rent etc. while they just waited to entertain again. We were able to produce an original Biblical drama that kept us going with 50 audience members a night until we thought everything was getting back to normal. Not quite trusting, I decided to mount a smaller musical, The Marvelous Wonderettes, for the summer. It was fantastic, but the audiences didn’t come. A summer show usually brings over 2500 to our doors. This summer we didn’t even get 1500. So, what better time than now to pull out that old marketing ploy? We decided that we would mount two shows with two casts. We would have four directors, two of each gender that  would each be in the play and direct the opposite version of the play.

At auditions, we were thrilled. People came. We even had to turn people away. (Which always makes me sad.) We began the character studies and blocking and somehow in the middle of the process I stopped enjoying it. It was difficult. Why didn’t I notice that we were actually going to be producing two shows at the same time? One is hard enough…but two? I think I might be a little crazy….

What made matters worse is that I’m not sure that any of the other directors were enjoying it either. We were all feeling the stress of having to be in two places at one time plus carry on with our outside duties. The creative experiment of working together didn’t gel the way I thought it would. Instead of being inspired by each other we did the opposite. At times we were afraid to speak up, or at times we didn’t want to make an issue about something, or at times we felt competition, or that we weren’t as important as the other directors. Emotionally, it was difficult. One week ago. I would have told you that this theater experiment was a failure

12 Angry Women

12 Angry Women opened last week and if you asked me now I would tell you that I probably wouldn’t want to direct with four directors ever again, but that I did learn. That’s a good thing. I want to learn each and every time I decide to be involved with a production.  

Here are some facts:

12 Angry Men is the play many of us, of a certain generation, had to read in high school. This  courtroom drama by Reginald Rose has been around since 1954; first as a live Television play, then in its more well-known incarnation, the 1957 film, starring Henry Fonda, directed by the great Sidney Lumet. (Did you know the film was nominated for three Oscars?)

Question #1 that we faced:   Isn’t it dated? What relevance does it have today?  Come see the play and you will soon find our that Juror #10 leads the way with his immigrant and minority comments.  Unfortunately, we all go in to any conversation with a great deal of bias and maybe realizing this would help all conversations end more peacefully. We can learn from each other. We adopted a tag line #Don’t confuse me with the facts. Sadly, many times we don’t care enough to step out of our own selves and into someone else’s. 

Reba Hervas (Juror #10) and Jessica Means (Juror #7) discuss how miserable Juror #8’s thoughts are.

The drama begins when a lone holdout, Juror #8,  believes there is a reasonable doubt in the case of a youth “from the wrong side of the tracks” on trial for the murder of his abusive father. The stakes are high and the jury is mandated by the judge to think about it wisely and carefully, because the punishment for conviction is the death penalty. Since the decision must be unanimous the deliberation begins. The Jurors range greatly in personality, economic and educational background and ethnicity.  A thrilling ride when you realize this is real life. Every jury is made up randomly and everyone does walk in with different  personalities, educational backgrounds and ethnicities.  

As Jessica Means (my co-director) and I watched the 12 Angry Men rehearsal last night we were thrilled. It was tense, riveting and thrilling–just as people had told us the women’s production was last week. Every juror looks as if they walked in off the street in 1959 Manhattan. The set is beautifully simple; it manages to be both artful and authentic. The cast is constantly moving to almost be “the camera” and allow the audience to see the jurors from each angle.

12 Angry Men. It is amazing how different a play can be based gender.

Why 12 Angry Men/Women?

It is a bucket list love of a classic theater piece that I always wanted to tackle.

To learn from a totally unique theater experiment.

To take an old classic and see that even after years some things never change. 

People. It’s simply great theater. 

So, the marketing ploy?  Unfortunately, things haven’t changed since this summer. Our tickets sales are horribly low. Even with 24 people in the cast–I’m not sure we will even hit our numbers from the summer. I’d like to ask for a little help. Don’t let Covid kill this theater. If this is a play you weren’t planning on attending…could you decide to come? If you are seeing one of the versions could you decide to see both? Could you spread the word? Please tell your friends and neighbors that this is one show that should not be missed. 

One last thing: 12 Angry Men is a timely, riveting drama that will get you thinking about your preconceptions and stereotypes. It is a reminder that we must question apparent facts before making tough decisions. I don’t think that’s such a bad thing.

Okay. I lied…one more last, last thing. My co-director’s are all brilliant and now that we’ve all gotten past the hard parts we all admit it was a crazy great experience. Thank you, Jessica Means, Brad Holloman, and Mike Larsen for sharing your time, creativity and inspiration with us all.

Now, will you all please go to Overshadowed.org and buy tickets? Let’s show everyone there is still a place for theater!

I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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

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, 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