artistic vision, audience, awards, broadway, christian, communication, entertainment, family, theater

Freedom and Hamilton and What We Can Learn from Both

I’m not so sure why this week’s blog was so difficult to write. I’d love to say that it’s because I wasn’t a history scholar and perhaps I’m afraid of saying something wrong.

I’m afraid it runs much deeper than that.

I have told you before. I was raised to be deeply patriotic. My dad fought in three wars and spent twenty-five years in the military. He loved America. He saw the faults, but loved this country and by his example, I did too. I feel privileged to be raised an American. I’m proud of my dad. I’m proud that he would risk his life to protect the freedoms that we all enjoy. Have you ever thought that there are reasons people put their lives in danger to try to make their way into our country and escape their own? I think we have it pretty great.

And yet….we are a divided country right now. We are torn politically. We are torn because of the virus. And we are torn on other levels as well.

It isn’t the first time we’ve been divided. When the Continental Congress declared their independence from the British during the reign of King George the III not everyone was in favor of that decision, but TOGETHER we fought for freedom. Our country has been torn during the Civil War and again during the Vietnam War when people avoided the draft and escaped to Canada to avoid fighting for something they didn’t believe in.

For years, people disdained a person who avoided the draft in such a manner. Now, it makes no difference to most people.

For a time we loved the freedoms that this country fought for and in turn granted all those who were citizens.

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” – The First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution

What are the freedoms we are granted?

  1. Freedom of speech
  2. Freedom of religion
  3. Freedom of the press
  4. Freedom to assemble peaceably
  5. Freedom to petition the Government.

With these freedoms we become the freest people in the world.

When do you get those freedoms? Do you have to work for them? Or be of legal age? No. You are granted these freedoms the day you are born. It doesn’t matter politically what side of the fight you are on: Republican or Democrat, you can use the freedoms you are given to push for change or oppose it.

Wow. You. Me. We. have the freedom to push for change. And I am so glad we all do.

Did you know that, John Adams, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, wrote that the 4th of July should “be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty!

So you might be thinking….what does freedom and what people have fought for have to do with Hamilton?

During this time of celebration by many Americans, the Broadway musical Hamilton is making it’s screen debut and I think we can learn a lot from the production as well as the man.

Timing is everything.

Could this musical be a source of healing? Is there a way to look at the moral vision of the show, and in some way, come together as a county? Instead of allowing our differences to destroy us? Could there be an intersection between faith, arts and change?

I have to admit, I didn’t know much about the musical when I first had the opportunity to see Hamilton! I thought it was full of rap music and had a story line that I wasn’t super crazy about, but I wasn’t going to miss the chance to see something that was such a work of art. Hamilton won 11 Tony Award in 2016, including best musical. I now know it is a work of genius.

What can we learn from this musical?

Chuck, Ashley and me before the show last winter!
  1. Hamilton is the retelling of a time in our history, but brilliantly deals with the social issues that we face today. Hamilton was an immigrant from the Caribbean and a major theme of this musical is his fight for dignity and equality.
  2. The story also centers on grace, forgiveness, death and redemption. Themes that a person of faith rests on, but ones that we all should remember. Those themes should give us hope and show us what life might look like. Those themes open the door for us to have discussions about faith and hope and how we all need God’s Grace in our lives.
  3. The musical includes scripture that impacts as it tells the story of the past. Did you know that the song, “One Last Time” contains a phrase from the scripture that George Washington used in his personal writings throughout his life? Historically, the most famous use was at a time he used it to express hope that Jews would flourish in America.

“May the children of the stock of Abraham who dwell in this land continue to merit and enjoy the good will of the other inhabitants–while every one shall sit in safety under his own vine and fig tree and there shall be none to make him afraid.

May the father of all mercies scatter light, and not darkness, upon our paths, and make us all in our several vocations useful here, and in His own due time and way everlastingly happy.”

4. Did you know that Hamilton, like many of our founding fathers, practiced a real faith in God.? He even wrote hymns and poetry when he was a boy. Here is a few lines from one of his most quoted:

“Hark! Hark! A voice from yonder sky, Methinks I hear my Saviour cry, Come gentle spirit come away, Come to thy Lord without delay.”

5. Hamilton tells the story about a man who was ambitious. It has been said that the poorest man has the chance to be a millionaire in America and indeed, “Hamilton didn’t “Throw Away His Shot.” By the time America was formed, Hamilton was the second most powerful man in the United States.

6. Hamilton teaches forgiveness. His wife, Eliza struggles with forgiving Alexander for an affair and the chorus sings, “Forgiveness, Can you imagine?” Can we, in our country, forgive each other? Can we take a moment to listen and understand the pain and forgive? Can we follow Christ’s example? 70 x 7?

7. Hamilton broke the “rules.” It is full of hip-hop, rap, poetry and it is the first musical to cast people of color to play characters who historically were not. Hip-hop and rap has traditionally been known as music of rebellion. To place it in a musical about a revolution is brilliant and eye-opening. Then the original casting hopefully opens our eyes to a new way of thinking about things and new possibilities. There is so much to learn from that.

Are we listening?

8. It is a story of heartbreak and redemption. Hamilton receives the honors of war and yet becomes a political outcast. He loses a son in a duel and ultimately dies the same way. And yet, his wife redeems all the hurt. In the final scene Eliza sings about her new calling to start the first private orphanage in New York. She sings:

” In their eyes I see you, Alexander. I see you every time.”

And she looks up to heaven and smiles.

When we celebrate July 4th this year I am going to be thankful for my country, my freedoms, my friends (both the ones who share my beliefs and the ones who don’t).

I’m also going to be thankful for God’s work of redemption. At times, the world seems full of sadness and suffering. May we each have the courage to speak out and spread the hope the God gives. May we have courage to be a catalyst for change not just a bystander. I am going to be thankful for my freedom of speech (even though sometimes I’m afraid to take the chance to express myself.)

I am also thankful for musical theater!

I hope you can enjoy your families, friends and FREEDOM! Happy 4th of July!

Please let me know your thoughts! Has the time of unrest in our country sadden you? Or do you see it as a wonderful catalyst for change and discussion?

Don’t forget to subscribe to this blog so you never miss a post!

Until next time!

entertainment, family, theater

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Overshadowed by His Love,

 

Reba

 

 

 

family, memorial day, theater, WWII

Memorial Day–Remembering the Cost of Freedom

 On Monday we began the week by celebrating Memorial Day. I began wondering what the history of this special day was. I was surprised to learn that it was originally called “Decoration Day.” I guess it dates back to 1866 when the women of the North and South began to honor those killed in the Civil War by placing flowers on their graves. After WWI those ceremonies began to honor those who were killed in all the wars. In 1971, Memorial Day was declared a national holiday and we began to officially observe it on the last Monday in May. This day is different from July 4th where we celebrate freedom. This day we observe the cost of freedom.

At the first Memorial Day ceremony held in Arlington National Cemetery, small flags were placed at every marker, starting a tradition that is carried on to this day.

Have you ever been to Arlington? I have. My father, a hero in my eyes, is buried there.

Richard E. Ruffin was born on August 24, 1927, during WWII he was in the Navy and as

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My dad’s funeral. Arlington National Cemetery.

the story goes as soon as my 6 foot four inch tall dad got off the Navel ship he walked across the street and joined the Army. During the next years he was in Korea, two deployments in Germany and one tour in Vietnam. He received the Bronze star, the Purple Heart and several commendations. How I wish I had somehow asked the right questions to learn more about that time of his life.

My dad loved America. He taught me to value the freedoms that we have. I might not like everything America does or the decisions that some of our leaders make, but I know that we have freedoms that other people do not enjoy. Why? Only one reason. Because, people like my dad fought for those freedoms, died for them, protected them.

Since this is supposed to be a blog about things on and off the stage…I’d like to remember that we have the freedom of speech.

“Freedom of speech is the right to articulate one’s opinions and ideas without fear of government retaliation or censorship, or societal sanction.”

Freedom of speech allows me to write this blog freely–to express my opinions about God, if I so desire–and to not fear government censorship. This is just one of the reasons I’m thankful for America.

This week let’s join together and remember the cost of our freedoms and the people who gave their all for us.

Here are some of my favorite quotes:

“It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God such men lived.”– George S. Patton

“My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”    – John F. Kennedy

I have never been able to think of the day as one of mourning; I have never quite been able to feel that half-masted flags were appropriate on Decoration Day.  I have rather felt that the flag should be at the peak, because those whose dying we commemorate rejoiced in seeing it where their valor placed it.  We honor them in a joyous, thankful, triumphant commemoration of what they did.  ~Benjamin Harrison

These heroes are dead.  They died for liberty – they died for us.  They are at rest.  They sleep in the land they made free, under the flag they rendered stainless, under the solemn pines, the sad hemlocks, the tearful willows, and the embracing vines.  They sleep beneath the shadows of the clouds, careless alike of sunshine or of storm, each in the windowless Place of Rest.  Earth may run red with other wars – they are at peace.  In the midst of battle, in the roar of conflict, they found the serenity of death.  I have one sentiment for soldiers living and dead:  cheers for the living; tears for the dead.  ~Robert G. Ingersoll

Do you know someone that served our country? Do you have a favorite story about them? Do you have a thought about freedom or Memorial Day? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Until next time!

Reba