broadway, christian blog, christian theater, family, stage, theater

My Top Ten Favorite Love Songs for the Stage

What is it the first  thing that grabs you about a musical? Is it the storyline? The actors? The authors and composers?

For me, it is the music. If I love the music–chances are I will love the musical.

Last year at this time I wrote about the top ten love stories for the stage. You can read about it here: https://fromthewings.org/2019/02/13/my-top-ten-love-stories-for-the-stage/

This time let’s look a little deeper and discover the top love songs. Music. It speaks of love. It communicates and it might even tug at your heart and  at times make you cry.

10. Helpless  (Hamilton)

I didn’t know what to expect when I first saw Hamilton. I thought it was entirely rap music and I didn’t know if I would understand it or even  like it. Boy! was I surprised. I loved the story. I could understand far more than I thought I would be able to. And I was entranced by the love story and brought to tears by the same story. Don’t we all feel Helpless and weak in the knees when we meet the “one”? Listen, to the love story begin.

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

9. All I Ask of You  (The Phantom of the Opera)

I will be the first to admit that I am not a huge Phantom fan. I have seen it three times and each time I liked it less. But this hauntingly beautiful song is something that declares our innermost desires to the ones we love.

Let me be your freedom,
“Let daylight dry your tears;
I’m here, with you, beside you,
To guard you and to guide you.
Say you love me every waking moment,
Turn my head with talk of summertime.
Say you need me with you now and always;
Promise me that all you say is true,
That’s all I ask of you.”

It continues, “Let me be your shelter, your freedom..” In other words, everything you need.
Yes, my love, please be my everything. (and if the lyrics weren’t enough to get you–the vocals and orchestra…perfection.)

8. A Whole New World (Aladdin)

In this musical Aladdin (with the help of his Genie) rescues  Princess Jasmine from danger from the evil Jafar. To our eyes he is common and should never be allowed to marry royalty, but that’s not the way true love works is it? Especially not in fairy tales. And in our favorite ones good always triumphs over evil. In this song, Aladdin “opens” Jasmine’s eyes to life outside the kingdom and together they sing the song that we all know means that lovers feel an out-of-this world experience when they fall in  love. The new world gives them a chance to escape reality together…..something we always want to do with the one we love.

7. I Can Hear the Bells (Hairspray)

The heroic Tracy Turnblad fantasizes about her perfect marriage to the gorgeous Link Larkin – every schoolgirls’ biggest fantasy. There is something in pop musicals that captures that feeling of longing. Maybe it’s because we listen to that music as we are growing up and feeling all the things we feel as we are finding out who we are and what the real world is all about. There were plenty of times when I was growing up that I fantasied that the boy I “loved” would love me back, that we would be married and live happily ever after. And it all starts with “he touched me” or “bumped me” or “looked at me.” Yep, this song tells it all.

6. Can You Feel the Love Tonight ( The Lion King)

This song is a beautiful arrangement of the beginning of love. There is nervousness, doubt, insecurity, sadness as friends realize that love will take their friend from them. It starts tender, but as the song progresses the music builds with energy and orchestration– the way love should grow.
Can you feel the love tonight?
The peace the evening brings
The world, for once, in perfect harmony
With all its living things.”

That’s the way true love should make you feel.

5. If Ever I Would Leave You (Camelot)

I would LOVE to do this musical, but feel that there is no way to make it “fit. ” Camelot is supposed to be the perfect place to live. It never rained until after sundown. It must not be too hot. The fog must go away by 8 in the morning…you get the idea. Ah! the fantasy and romance of it all.

There is a beautiful love story between King Arthur and Guinevere until Lancelot takes his place at the round table. He falls in love with Guinevere and  shortly after she falls in love with him in return. Lancelot realizes he must leave Camelot, but he can’t imagine life without her.

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

4. Somewhere (West Side Story)

Set in a time of tragedy and conflict these two star-crossed lovers fall in love. Surrounded by heartache, after her true love kills her brother she begins to feel that their future is hopeless.  In this song they daydream of a place-a time-where race and families won’t divide them. You can hear the pain in their voices as they sing of a perfect place. It’s an oldie but goodie.

“Some day, Somewhere. We’ll find a new way of living.

We’ll find a way of forgiving.

Hold my hand and we’re half way there.

Hold my hand and I’ll take you there.”

Perfection.

 3. On My Own (Les Misérables)

Eponine wanders the streets imaging the life that could have been, if only her beloved Marius hadn’t fallen in love with someone else. I have had my share of unrequited loves in my life and I guess I love this tragically beautiful song because it speaks so honestly of how love is in our own minds, but how painful it is when reality hits and you are standing….on your own….alone.

2. As Long As You’re Mine  (Wicked)

My favorite musical ever is Wicked. I’ve seen it 8 times and can’t wait to get the chance to see it again. There is a moment that is almost heart stopping for me. Hiding in the woods from those who pursue them, Elphaba and Fiyero finally succumb to their mutual attraction, which has been building since the first time they met. Chemistry at it’s finest.

Aren’t these beautiful?

“And just for this moment
As long as you’re mine
I’ve lost all resistance
And crossed some border line
And if it turns out
It’s over too fast
I’ll make every last moment last
As long as you’re mine.”

Making each moment last is what it is all about!

1. Can’t Help Loving That Man of Mine (ShowBoat)

Since this is the musical that made me fall in love with theater it just makes sense that I should have my top love song be from this musical. This is a classic and second only to “Old Man River” from the same musical.

Julie sings this song in an attempt to explain why she continues to love her man even though he comes home late and leaves home unexplained yet she adores him. He might be lazy or slow, but she loves him.

Don’t we all wish we could love and be loved exactly the same way? At least in our dreams.

For this Valentine’s Day, why not listen to some of these amazing songs. Or maybe even have a weekend of musical watching!

What are some of your favorites love songs from musicals?

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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

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

Why Do Theater?

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

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

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

(Photo by Francisco Montes)

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

Still….

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

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

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

Why?

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

So why do we do theater?

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

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

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

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

I’d love to hear from you!

Until next time,

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

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
christian fiction, family, Fear, hope, theater, writing

Charity Chooses Hope and So Do I

Charity opened her diary for what she expected to be one last time in 2020.
She looked at the blank pages. One after another for the last month the pages were blank.
She closed the diary.
Standing up, she crossed to her dresser and picked up the newspaper.

“Another “166 people Dead as the Pandemic Continues to Reign.”

One solitary tear escaped the corner of her eye and made it’s way down her cheek.

So much loss. So much pain. So much devastation.

“Yep 2020. You didn’t bring any of the things we had looked forward to. New Year’s Day can’t come soon enough.”

Even with that thought came the next negative one right on top of it.

“How is the change of a date going to make any difference on our future?”

Then, for the first time in a long time she heard a voice of hope deep inside her.

“Because with the change of a date comes hope of something new.”

“Where did the tradition of writing New Year’s Resolutions come from anyway?” she continued to think, “Resolve…a commitment to continue a good practice or change a behavior or do something to improve my life.”

Charity crossed back to her diary. She flipped pass the last month of blank pages and stared at the last page. She picked up her pen and wrote largely……HOPE.

Maybe the problem wasn’t so much the disease, although it was a tragedy. Perhaps the problem was in her own attitude.

“Today I am responsible for one thing…how I look at the events of my life. I can choose to find the positive. I can choose to look at the events in the world realizing that none of this is a surprise to God and humbly give Him this day of my life…. or I can wallow in what I have lost and blame Him.”

RESOLVE

She paused for a moment and almost laughed out loud. “Why did it take me so long to remember, Lord? Every breath I have is only because it comes from You. If the sun shines or rain and snow comes it is only because of You. You, Creator, Healer, Sustainer, Maker, Artist, Savior.”

Charity closed the diary and stood up straighter. “I don’t have to wait until Midnight to start. I’m going to cling to Hope right now and through each day of the new year. Hope that we will gain control of the virus. Hope that our nation can be healed from the unrest and ugliness that has held us captive. Hope that I can make a difference.”

How are you going to look at 2021?

Thank you, God, for another year that you have given us. May we all sing Your praises with anticipation of another year to serve You.

Happy New Year.

I’d love to hear what words you have chosen to represent your 2021!

Until next time!

P.S.  Charity is a character from a book I started years ago….Should I ever finish it?? What should happen to Charity….

christian, Christmas, entertainment, family, theater

What’s on Your Christmas List?

My December has not looked like any December I have ever spent. During most of my adult life December has always been full of shopping, meeting with friends, family times and tons of recitals, plays and church events.

Well, not this year. On those rare occasions that I have been around friends and family there are nagging questions, “Was this a mistake? Did they wash their hands? Where is my mask?”  and more.

But. This is Christmas. Christmas isn’t really about shopping and tons of recitals etc. Christmas should be about ONE thing. We should be focused on the birth of Jesus. The very name “Christmas” has CHRIST at the beginning. He comes first.

Is it possible that after years of struggling to keep the main thing the main thing–that this year could actually RESET our way of thinking? Perhaps with the stopping of the hustling and running around we actually can put CHRIST at the very center of all of our activities.

Over and over we ask our friends, “Are you ready for Christmas?”

What does that even mean?

Some of us make lists.

1) shopping
2) cards
3) decorate
4) bake
5) coordinate calendars
6) send Christmas lists.

And maybe a great deal other items are on that list….

This year I added:

1) Find ways to keep Christ the center of Christmas every day.

Just putting that statement on the top of my list changed my awareness.
But I added a few others as well.

2) Read a chapter of Luke each day in December. (Doing that leads you through the life of Christ so that you focus on the whole gift of God)

3) I found a calendar for Acts to Keep Christ in Christmas. There weren’t 25 suggestions, but there were several that were interesting. (All focused on giving rather than getting and most in the spirit of Jesus–giving to those in need.)

4) Watch Christmas movies that incorporate the reason of Christmas!

5) Instead of writing a letter to Santa–write a letter to Jesus. Keep them. It will mean so much to read how your relationship and thoughts about Christmas might change year after year.

6) Have a Bethlehem dinner. Tell the story of Mary and Joseph and eat a dinner they might have eaten on Christmas Eve. Perhaps dress up and maybe even eat by candlelight.

7) Study the symbols of Christmas. It is interesting to know why bells, trees, candles are so important at Christmas. Take one a day or one a week and really highlight the reason many of them are part of our celebrations.

8) This year I heard about a new tradition that some friends are adding. They are going to celebrate Christmas Eve-Eve. They will have a traditional meal and then sing Christmas songs together. Sounds like a great way to usher in the real Christmas Eve.

9) Study Advent and prepare your hearts.

Whatever you do –remember that the true gift of Christmas is Christ. Remember, it isn’t about giving or getting the biggest or best present. It isn’t about having the best decorated house or the one with the most lights. It isn’t about getting everything done on your list.

This year let the presence of Jesus reign in your home and heart.

Let Jesus reign. Allow Him to give you the hope of peace that only He can give.

One final note: Growing up I used to love to watch The King Family Christmas Special. To this very day I remember one particular episode that well, was really meaningful.  Home is pretty special more this year than others perhaps.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZAf806Fdc0o

What are ways that you keep you keep Christ the center of Christmas?

Merry Christmas!

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.



book review, christian, christian fiction, family, non fiction, reading, theater

Gateway into Other’s Lives

One of my friends posted on Facebook a few days ago. She asked her friends to list all the positive ways Covid had changed their lives. I was stumped. I typed out:

“Covid has done nothing positive for me. It has changed me, but not for the good.”

As I was typing I saw all the positive responses that others were writing. I decided I really didn’t want to be THAT person. You know the one I mean? The one that always has to think the worse or take a good situation and make it negative.

So, I stopped typing. I tried so hard to think of something positive to say. Sadly, I couldn’t think of any. I expressed that thought to my husband when he came home and he looked at me and said, “What about your hummingbirds?” Oh! Yes, I thought….and then I thought about the hours I spent on my deck watching them and reading. Oh! Yes, reading! That is something very good that has happened to me this year. I have regained a lost love.

Try it. It’s good for you.

Last month I tackled 4 books! Here is my review for each of them.

Book #1 Untamed by Glennon Doyle

https://www.amazon.com/Untamed-Glennon-Doyle-Melton/dp/1984801252

As I have mentioned, I would rather read historical fiction than anything else. However, I have decided that it is good for me to read other genres and thus improve my awareness and knowledge. I have made it a rule to read one non-fiction book a month. So far, I’m still not a fan. Maybe I just don’t pick the right books for me.

That being said, I do think it’s good for me. There is a lot going on in the world that I didn’t know about. Knowledge about who Glennon Doyle is one of those. I guess she is a incredibly popular writer, partly made popular by Oprah.

To fill you in, Glennon Doyle is the author of Love Warrior and Carry On, Warrior. She became popular as a Christian mommy blogger who focused on self-discovery, parenting and faith.

From the cover:

Soulful and uproarious, forceful and tender, Untamed is both a memoir and a galvanizing wake-up call. It offers a piercing, electrifying examination of the restrictive expectations women are issued from birth; shows how hustling to meet those expectations leaves women feeling dissatisfied and lost; and reveals that when we quit abandoning ourselves and instead abandon the world’s expectations of us, we become women who can finally look at ourselves and recognize: There She Is.

What I liked about the book.

Untamed is divided into short, meditative chapters. I loved that I could pick up the book and read two or three pages and be left with profound thoughts to meditate. Each chapter charts her experiences. Some of them are about finding herself, getting sober, motherhood, and feminism. She talks about the good, the bad and the ugly and her life and is honest about how she deals with it all. She proclaims that it is okay to fail. She teaches that it is okay to speak the truth you know. She is a very powerful writer.

I think most woman strive hard to be good at everything. We compare ourselves to other mothers, teachers, friends. Glennon points out that this competition doesn’t make us better–it makes us weary, unhappy and overwhelmed. We compare our lives and loves to romantic movies and books and wonder why we don’t have the happy ending like in fairy tales. We push away the discontent and tell ourselves to settle…until it’s too late. She tells the story of rebuilding herself with a great deal of honesty and humor.

Warnings:

There is a great deal of language as well as details about love life with her ex-husband and new love life with her new partner, Abby.

Who should read this: if you are a fan of Glennon Doyle, if you struggle with finding your own voice, if you have pain in your past that you are struggling to deal with. I also find it interesting to read about her faith that so much a part of her life both past and present.

Favorite Quotes:

The thing that gets me thinking and questioning most deeply is a leader who warns me not to think or question.

The beauty industry convinces us that our thighs, frizz, skin, fingernails, lips, eyelashes, leg hair, and wrinkles are repulsive and must be covered and manipulated, so we learn to not trust the bodies we live in.

People will like me or not, but being liked is not my One Thing; integrity is…I’m willing to lose anything that requires me to hide any part of myself.

Rating: 3/4

Book #2

https://www.amazon.com/Homegoing-Yaa-Gyasi/dp/1101971061

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

“The tale begins in the late 18th century in an Asante village, part of the Gold Coast which eventually became Ghana. A young girl, Effia Otcher, is sold by her father to a British slavetrader named James – as a bride, not as a slave – and taken to live with him in Cape Coast Castle, a fort overlooking the sea. The slaves are in dungeons underneath the castle, awaiting transit to the Americas and the Caribbean via the Middle Passage. Among them are ex-house servants, overflow prisoners of tribal and regional wars and unlucky captives sold to the Europeans for money and goods, such as 15-year-old Esi Asare, Effia’s half-sister. Esi was seized during a raid on her own village and brought to the castle by “bomboys”, local boys who worked for the British transporting cargo. In a series of subsequent interconnected stories, the bloodlines of these two women are followed through seven generations covering the associated histories of the US and Ghana up to the turn of the 21st century.”

Yaa Gyasi has truly crafted an extraordinary picture illuminating slavery’s troubled legacy and reminds us how slavery will continue to cause pain to our nation.

I will admit it took me awhile to get into the book. I was confused with the constant addition of new characters and the jump in the timeline. I had to constantly refer to the genealogy chart in the beginning of the book. Once I got the hang of it I couldn’t wait to see where Yaa Gyasi was going to take us next. I loved watching the stories unfold and seeing how the pain of the past caused pain in the present. I felt the horrors of slavery and the injustice that still plaques generations of families.

This book was enlightening, eye-opening and disturbing. I was drawn into a wonderful family history that introduced me to African culture and the horrors of the slave trade. It is a reminder to tell a story that should not be forgotten.

Favorite Quotes:

“We believe the one who has power. He is the one who gets to write the story. So when you study history, you must ask yourself, Whose story am I missing? Whose voice was suppressed so that this voice could come forth? Once you have figured that out, you must find that story too. From there you get a clearer, yet still imperfect, picture.”

“They would just trade one type of shackles for another, trade physical ones that wrapped around wrists and ankles for the invisible ones that wrapped around the mind.”

“The older Jo got, the more he understood about the woman called Ma. The more he understood that sometimes staying free required unimaginable sacrifice.”

Who should read this book? Anyone who is interested in generational stories or if you are interested in historical perspectives or learning more about african culture.

Warnings: drug use, spousal abuse, slavery (and all associated horrors), racism

Rating: 3/5

Book #3 Just Look Up by Courtney Walsh

https://www.amazon.com/Just-Look-Up-Courtney-Walsh/dp/1496421485

From the book cover:

After tirelessly climbing the ranks of her Chicago-based interior design firm, Lane Kelley is about to land her dream promotion when devastating news about her brother draws her back home–a quaint tourist town full of memories she’d just as soon forget. With her cell phone and laptop always within reach, Lane aims to check on her brother while staying focused on work–something her eclectic family doesn’t understand.

Ryan Brooks never expected to settle down in Harbor Pointe, Michigan, but after his final tour of duty, it was the only place that felt like home. Now knee-deep in a renovation project that could boost tourism for the struggling town, he is thrilled to see Lane, the girl he secretly once loved, even if the circumstances of her homecoming aren’t ideal.

Their reunion gets off to a rocky start, however, when Ryan can’t find a trace of the girl he once knew in the woman she is today. As he slowly chips away at the walls Lane has built, secrets from his past collide with a terrible truth even he is reluctant to believe. Facing a crossroads that could define his future with Lane and jeopardize his relationship with the surrogate family he’s found in the Kelleys, Ryan hopes Lane can see that maybe what really matters has been right in front of her all along–if only she’d just look up.

I hate to sound like a broken record, but I really love the way Courtney Walsh writes.

JUST LOOK UP is everything I love in a book. It is a beautiful love story that has a little drama that teaches all of the main characters a lesson. This might be my favorite Courtney book yet.

The story pulled me in right away. I didn’t want to put it down. I loved that the story was complex enough that it wasn’t predictable.

Courtney has a beautiful ability to develop characters that you believe and root for.

I loved Lane from the beginning. I devoured each page of her story as she fought the demons in her life and let others into the shell she had put around her heart and life. I love how smart, talented and witty she is. I felt her pain and couldn’t wait for her to realize that the pain of her past didn’t have to ruin her whole life.

And oh, Ryan. He was the perfect and I mean perfect boyfriend prospect. He is kind, loving and the perfect example of “a love that wouldn’t let go.”

One of the things that I admire most about Courtney Walsh’s writing is that her characters are well layered. They each have hurts, but they each have triumphs as well.

I loved the history of Ryan and Lane and how he was able to let her be herself and brought out a banter and personality that she didn’t let others see.

This is more than a love story though, Courtney gives a picture of the whole town and the community. (Warning, you may want to move there.) Courtney also weaves a religious aspect through her stories in a way that is natural. It never sounded preachy. It just feels like this is how life should be.

In case you can’t tell, I love everything I read from this author and I can’t wait to read the next one that I pick!

I did review If For Any Reason also by Courtney Walsh and you can read about it here https://fromthewings.org/2020/09/09/who-is-in-the-mood-for-a-good-story/

Who should read this book? Well, everyone, but especially lovers of contemporary Christian fiction.

Favorite quotes:

“She glanced at Betsy, who smiled as if they’d always been friends, the kind who could communicate without words, the kind who knew what the other one needed whether anyone said so or not.”

“seeing him there served as a well-placed reminder that life was short and people were what mattered most.”

Rating: 5/5

Book #4 The Promise of Rayne by Nicole Deese

https://www.amazon.com/Promise-Rayne-Nicole-Deese/dp/1503937704/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

From the cover:

Rayne Shelby has spent her entire life trying to earn the approval of her high-powered family, with the hope of one day managing her late grandfather’s prestigious Idaho lodge. But when she makes a mistake that puts her future in jeopardy, she faces an impossible choice: defy her family or deny her dream. The only way to fix the mess she’s created is to enlist the help of her neighbor, Levi, the apprentice of her family’s greatest enemy. And if Rayne gets caught crossing the divided property lines, the consequences will be irreparable.

Levi Harding has never forgotten the August night he shared with Rayne when they were teens—or the way she later rejected him. Despite his warring instincts, he can’t ignore her plea for help or the spark that’s ignited between them. But now, as wildfires bear down on their town and family secrets are revealed, their newfound alliance might just go up in smoke.

I have so loved discovering new authors and this one does not disappoint! This book captivated me from the very first paragraph. This book is a perfect blend of mystery, love, family, faith and forgiveness.

Rayne Shelby is a beautiful character who has lived to please her family her whole life. She is talented, smart, and giving. She has worked to be appreciated and seen, but has failed. She is loving and loyal and naive. I love the way she loves not only her family, but history and her town. Nicole did an excellent job of creating someone I just wanted to see be happy.

Nicole has written Levi in a way that was entirely intriguing. From one chapter to the next you are left wondering if Levi is a bad boy or if he is really the hero we long for. Our hearts go out to him as we learn about his past. We root for him to become that knight in shinning armor for Rayne. He is electrifying and interesting.

The reminder of the characters are also well developed. The story is so well written that those characters provide a great foundation to propel the actions of the story. You will find yourself loving some of them and hissing at the villians!

I was charmed and entranced by this book and I cannot wait to read another one by Nicole Deese!

Who should read this book? Lovers of Contemporary Christian Fiction as well as all of you who just want to read a good love story with a twist of intrigue.

Favorite quotes:

“Good character isn’t produced overnight; it’s grown over many seasons. In the same way you sort the good apples from the bad, the marks of poor characters are just as easy to detect.”

“You told me not to worry. You told me that God takes care of his creation…that his timing is always perfect – Rayne”

“Bitterness can compromise a heart the way fireblight disease can consume an apple orchard.”

Rating: 5/5

Reading is a wonderful way to learn more about other cultures, lifestyles, history. In short, it is a gateway into the lives of others. I hope you read. There is nothing like it.

I’d love to know if you have read any of these books and what you thought! What are you reading?

Until next time–this is 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.
broadway, christian, family, theater

What Can We Learn From Theater and Politics?

As I write this it has not been decided who will be the next President of the United States.

It has been a long campaign season…well, it’s been a long year in many ways.

Theater is such a wonderful way to escape my everyday problems. I’m sad that the lessons from theater and entertainment aren’t available to us right now. But I find myself thinking about it anyway.

Politics and Theater? It all makes me think about Julius Caesar. (Yes. I’m that much of a theater geek….Oh, you thought I was talking about history?? Well, hang on.) It seems there was a recent production that styled their Caesar after a recent President. It began making political waves. Is this a shock? No. Theater has always been political. In fact, almost every play engages with the politics of its time in some way.

Here are a few political plays and musicals to put on your watch list.

1. Mary Stuart (1800) by Friedrich Schiller
I love Elizabethan history. I am so thankful that we live in a time that you don’t get your head cut off just for being on the wrong side of an argument!
No one understood better than Schiller the devious ways of politics. At first glance one could be fooled that this is simply a romantic tragedy about two warring queens, Elizabeth I and Mary Stuart. The most famous scene; however, shows Elizabeth beset by contradictory arguments about Mary’s fate. Should she be beheaded? Should she be forgiven and banished or should she live under the threat of…well…the axe?

2. The Crucible (1953) by Arthur Miller
Did you know that Miller’s historical drama about the Salem witch trials of 1692 was inspired by Senator Joe McCarthy’s House Un-American Activities Committee and its persecution of suspected communists? Like most plays, the deep meanings are not the ones simple to find. Set in 1692, inspired by events of 1938, and yet the plot of this play can resonate with us today. It is about a community plagued by guilt, suspicion and fear. What is truth?

3. Richard III by William Shakespeare
I did just mention Julius Caesar, but if you want a Shakespeare play that really makes you think of dirty politics try this one. Shakespeare’s Richard is most likely more of a despicable tyrant than the historical Richard was, but the story of his rise to power is very much the story of a dangerous, charismatic man seizing power from people who refuse to take him seriously.

4. 1776 by Sherman Edwards and Peter Stone. The show is based on the events leading up to the signing of the Declaration of Independence, telling a story of the efforts of John Adams to persuade his colleagues to vote for American independence and to sign the document.

5. Of Thee I Sing by George and Ira Gershwin
This musical lampoons American politics; the story concerns John P. Wintergreen, who runs for President of the United States on the “love” platform. When he falls in love with the sensible Mary Turner instead of Diana Devereaux, the beautiful pageant winner selected for him, he gets into political hot water.

6. Hamilton by Lin-Manuel Miranda
Do I really need to say anything else? Read here for more of my Hamilton thoughts. https://fromthewings.org/2020/07/03/freedom-and-hamilton-and-what-we-can-learn-from-both/


Politics. Not something I love or enjoy. I don’t think it brings out the best in anyone. Sadly, I don’t think we can escape politics. Perhaps in this moment you think that the election is over and we don’t have to deal with ads or debates or news media twisting the facts and that may be true in that arena. However, politics exists in every area of our lives. We deal with dishonesty, corruption, lies, slander, backbiting, climbing to get to the top and much more in our workplace, with friends and sadly even the church. So, what do we do?

1) Laugh long and often. Even at yourself.

2) Remember the words to the old chorus:
“This world is not my home I’m just a passin’ through. My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue.” Keep your eyes on the prize.

3) Hold yourself to a higher standard. Remember, we are all sinners. Worship our God not men.

4) God will hold you fast. Rest in that.

5) Watch plays and musicals. Trust me.

Have you watched a political play that I’ve forgotten? What do you think of the ones I’ve listed here?

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