Songbird…

Songbird stamp-1

A smile so pure and innocent, energy without end,

ideas and dreams continuously explode in her head.

Holding nothing back, she has a thought to share,

from the silly to the sublime, serious to scary,

her heart pours forth.

A family that makes her feel safe,

imagination set free.

Sings more than speaks,

harmony so tender.

A gift of song to touch the heart

bringing tears to a parents eyes.

A talent to be shared, enjoyed by more,

awe of the divine resonance exalted.

Need for security more valued,

than standing before the applause.

This gift reserved for home,

private concerts on her time.

Adults slow to understand and accept,

the nature of this one.

So unlike them yet so much like herself,

with no reason for change.

We get it now.

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Pause…

 

Opening night awaits, the run sold out,

the gift of a wonderful role.

No time to hold back or play safe,

throw self to the winds without hesitation.

Give the patrons a chance to unwind,

to tap their feet and laugh.

Two hours of merriment,

a chance to temporarily free the soul.

Oftentimes, pause is the most important gift

needed by so many.

Movie…

What I learned from working on a movie set this past week.

  1. The glamor portrayed about Hollywood is strictly for the actors, and by actors I mean top shelf performers not the bit part players.  All the others spend most of their day sitting like the extras waiting.  When I say waiting, I mean waiting.
  2. Eating is taken seriously when it’s able to happen.  Sitting down to a meal isn’t always an option but good food is available all the time to snack on.
  3. Shooting a scene can sometimes take an eternity to get just right, oftentimes the extras start to rumble and cheering does happen when finally completed.
  4. The best way to be noticed and used often as an extra in a movie is to show up as a cute 17-24 year old girl.  If you’re an fat old fart like me you just have to be forceful and show up even when they don’t call you (worked surprisingly well)
  5. AD’s (Assistant Directors) are the hardest working people I’ve seen in a long time.
  6. There are people in this world who are professional extras and they talk about their careers like they are a form of nobility.
  7. Short of the US military, I never seen logistics done as they are on a movie set.  Precision movement of so many by so few is a sight to watch.
  8. A scene that takes 25 minutes to shoot can last a short as 5-15 seconds on film.
  9. Other than being the star of the movie, the only job I would want in the industry would be the clicker board guy.  He seems to move at ease and doesn’t do much heavy lifting.  I could handle this.
  10. It cannot be understood the amount of time spent doing nothing waiting for a scene to be set up or reset.
  11. Some high profile celebrity types are real assholes, however, the majority of the people, including the talent, are very kind, gentle and considerate of the minions about the set.
  12. When doing group shots, try to stand near a buxom woman to get the cameraman to include you in the picture.
  13. Actors can pretend many things but transforming from a pretty boy to a home run hitting baseball hero will take some hard work in special effects to look believable.
  14. It’s really really hard work, the day starts early and goes very late with little or no breaks except for a meal.  The meal only happens if they’ve been able to capture the shot perfectly, otherwise the shoot will continue uninterrupted.
  15. Most scenes of excitement, clapping, yelling, cheering, etc…are actually done in pantomime and sound is added later.  Performing such a scene is a mind blowing experience, kind of like a bad drug trip from ones youth.
    —Getting an affirming nod from Clint Eastwood made the whole experience worthwhile.

Open the Curtain…

The work light is focused directly above me, its warmth a welcome relief as I sit and await the curtain opening.  I have a few moments to ponder this next scene as the set is re-arranged behind me preparing for a dramatic closing number.  Most people don’t find themselves sitting in a wheelchair wearing fishnet stockings and high heels at my age but life does require risks.  I think back over my life as I prepare to reveal legs that maybe aren’t the prettiest nor the most athletic anymore, proudly showing their nearly 50 years of use.  I think briefly about my seminary professors and overly opinionated church leaders who directed and shaped my early ministerial career, how this moment is far removed from those days.

I’m glad to be distanced and separated from the mindset that seeks to destroy everything that isn’t deemed sanctified and holy by a select few.  I’m glad to be surrounded by the likes of folks considered so unworthy, folks whose company a man of great honor would never consider being associated with, so they say.  Performing in a play like Rocky Horror would make the blue hairs and combover’s of my past grasp at thier hearts seeking a diving healing.  Funny how life works. 

What am I doing here?  What was I thinking?  How did I ever manage to get into this situation anyway?  My kids are going to just plain die. 

Soon the rustle of hurried people diminish as the props find their correct places, the last scurry of actors find their marks as the creaking sound of the curtain lumbers overhead.  The light brightens and soon I see nothing but an overwhelming glow from the spotlight, the music begins and people trickle in singing proudly to the bouncing soundtrack.  Lingerie and feather boas accompanied by enough excessive face paint that would scare a small child suddenly surround me. I’m at a loss as I watch the character gyrations intertwine and become one mound of movement fittingly following the beat of the music ever so perfectly.

I count discreetly as my big reveal waits.  The only cue I have is a certain beat in the song and then a count is required to allow me the proper starting place so I finish just as the next group begins.  For me, concentration is hard with all this activity flowing around me, but I must stay in touch with that beat.  10, 11, 12…Time for my lines.  I finish just in time and fling my covering to the side showing the world what aged legs look like when dressed in fishnet stockings, garter belt, high heels shoes, and a bikini.  Legs begin to flail hopelessly in every direction; please don’t let me hurt anybody during this kick fest, myself included.  I’m as lost as a whirling dervish in prayer as I spin, twist, kick, and shimmy about the stage.  What do I care?  This is fun.  I enjoy having a good time.  Besides, I think I look good in stockings.

Far too many run away before the curtain opens and never put themselves out on the ledge.  Only when one feels the danger of falling does the thrill and excitement of living life fully come to the present.  I hope I can keep challenging myself right up till the time I need my own wheelchair and even then I’ll try riding a wheelie.  Living involves risk, risk living a life worth living. 

Live life profoundly….

Rocky’s Coming to Town…

I get less and less capable of accepting thinking promoted by small-minded church goers each and every day.  People who seem to understand their grasp on the world represents the interests of the almighty and they are the sole messengers of eternal truth. This same truth seems to only be somehow revealed to these extremists and the rest of us are nothing more than a floating particle drifting aimlessly in the vacuum of the universe.  I wonder… no, that doesn’t really do justice to my lack of comprehension; I’m befuddled how I read from the same writ of hope and walk away with such drastically different conclusions.

Our community theatre has recently chosen to do a production of Rocky Horror Picture Show, which granted isn’t everyone’s favorite blend of coffee.  Yet, it’s an opportunity to bring people together for fun, festivity, and frolic.  The town makes Halloween evening a large event that brings about community, the kind so described in the teachings of the master.  The kind where people of all stripes come together to enjoy the oneness we all share.  Young and old, rich and poor, locals and visitors, as well as people with accents and those without, each coming as life currently finds them.  Community isn’t a melting pot where all are unified in thought and mind resulting in a society of clones incapable of original thought.  Community is where people who have differences work together to appreciate what the other brings to the table in life and celebrate the finished product.

So the big Baptist church has come to the conclusion that this production is harmful to the children and will lead to eventual eternal destruction of the town.  Really?  Instead of working to help those with real problems; lack of housing, hungry children, unwanted babies in foster care, grim employment options, and racism.  Instead of working towards a solution to these very real problems, this local church is using its energy and resources to protest a silly show that makes no claim toward anything other than entertainment.

This is the mentality that tells us to stay away from Halloween for fear of the evil influences that hide in the shadows seeking damnation to those unsuspecting participants.  These same purveyors of promise who previously told us we should avoid Disney World because fantasy fun parks that allow everyone to enter without passing an entrance exam are harmful to the family.  Yet, these same ideologues will promote fear and evil based entertainment that advances a crazed fundamentalist perspective, like the” Left Behind” series of heresy.

As I get older I find myself less tolerant of the intolerant.

I can’t wait for the Rocky Horror Picture Show to come to our community theatre.  I’ve loved the silliness of the show since I was a stupid zit faced teenager.  Bring on the zaniness, bring on the extreme, bring on the outlandish…it’s all in good fun.

Someone tell the zealots of faith that fun is not a crime.  Maybe if they had a little more fun they wouldn’t be such miserable creatures.  These are the monsters we should be afraid of by protesting their influence on our children.

“Let’s do the Time Warp”



The Show…

Hearing the rapturous applause, I stood still and drank in the achievement.  This was a mind blowing event.  I’ve never encountered such a moment as this.  In my nearly 50 years walking this earth I never encountered such a truely moving experience.   My actions have caused this audience to gasp, laugh, clap, cheer, and now stand to their feet with appreciation.  Mind you I’m very aware that this production was a team effort and each led amazingly to the final successful affirmation.  But right now I’m choosing to be selfish and just focus on me.  I walk as though my feet slide across the air touching nothing.  This is a moment meant not to be forgotten.

Laughter is a tremendous gift to provide others.  For those two plus hours, members of the audience thought nothing of their own needs, their own sadness, and their own desperation.  For a little more than two hours these people were transported to another place and time where reality doesn’t matter, and this moment is the epicenter of life.  This is the place where for a brief period in time, the present reality can be enough.

If I’d known all of this about performing in theatre I certainly wouldn’t have waited until I was 45 to begin.  But this much I’m sure, I’m glad I did at least start.  I found a gift within me I previously failed to understand.  I’ve now found a means to make others smile.  I think this is an important vehicle that needs to be unleashed and allowed to roam free.  I love the idea of making others happy.  It’s a great feeling.

Today I’m resting ever so briefly in the moment I was privileged enough to share.

Theatre does make a difference.  I’m grateful for being allowed to play.  I may be growing older but I’m not giving up just yet.

The Ring…

I’m performing in a local theatre production and the part I play requires me to be a bumbling philanderer who finds himself caught up in a web of deceit.  The show is really funny.  The premise while it sounds entertaining, which it is, requires me to act in a fashion that has long passed from my person.  Playing pretend is fun for adults too not just children.

After doing a full dress rehearsal it was pointed out that I need to remove my own wedding ring so the audience wouldn’t be confused by my actual married status.  My character isn’t married and wearing a ring would make the storyline quite confusing to the careful observer of which I’m told we have many.

The removal of my wedding ring was a significant undertaking as I’ve not taken it off for many years.  I rather enjoy having it on.  Each time I look at the ring I’m reminded of the beautiful gift provided me and the daily opportunity to love and be a better human being.  With significant effort after soaking my hand in ice water, the ring was finally freed despite my finger’s strenuous objection.

As I look at my now empty finger, the dull shine of the gold band is missing, yet something else stands out.  There where once the symbol of my undying affection once existed now another band has taken its place.  This new band was formed from years of wear on my finger by my wedding ring and this band possessed so much more character.  Character formed from the many choices made to bring love to fruition in our lives.  Character formed from trials and hardships learning to appreciate the differences that make us now happier.  Character formed from raising children and watching them grow, evolve, and become.  Character formed from a commitment that can say, “I’ll be with you tomorrow and forever.”

I look today at my empty hand with much joy.  The outer ring made of precious metal is there only for show that others may consider.  The ring that I now see, created by our time together, that’s the ring that really matters most.  This one is just for us.

Contented and at peace today.

National Day of Performance Prayer

I don’t get it.  I don’t understand the need.  I don’t see the value.

The National Day of Prayer.

First off, I believe in prayer and the value prayer plays in people’s lives.  Prayer enables us to find peace and calmness in a world where both are greatly lacking.  Prayer moves us closer to our God and the surrounding warmth of his presence.  Prayer works.

This event seems reminiscent the prophets of old running around cutting themselves, dancing and crying out to the pagan gods trying desperately to get the attention of a distant god who needs so much pleasing to care.  Again, I don’t get it.

Prayer should be a daily part of our existence, a very part of our being just as breathing is.  Staging such events to show everyone we are prayer warriors seems insincere.  Such propaganda is nothing more than creating infomercials to the holy for the sole purpose of securing a claim to God’s favor for our country and our people.  God has no more love for the American people than he does the Dalit’s of India.

We can’t be greedy, uncaring, and judgmental all year and expect these cruel traits be overlooked because we gather with others to show our sincerity once a year on a crowed courthouse.

I like theatre as much as the next person.  I wonder how God feels about it.

My Summer Vacation…

I love theatre.  I have for a very long time.  I’m talking about live theatre not the movie variety.  Movie theatres are sanctuary of sleep as far as I’m concerned.  Seldom, if ever. I’m able to sit through a movie without being jolted awake from a flying elbow from one of my children. “Wake up and stop snoring…you’re embarrassing me” is often spoken in harsh tones.

My first foray into theatre was purely for utilitarian reasons.  We were told extra credit was available if we attended the production and brought back a program.  Initially, I went with the thought of grabbing the program and leaving. Instead, I found my seat and waited for the proceedings to begin.  Imagine my suprise when I found my attention going to the performers.  Imagine my shock when I started to follow the story.  Imagine my internal struggle when I started to cheer for certain characters.  What have I gotten myself into?

My first foray into acting came in the form of community theatre.  Another activity I accidently fell into.  Talk about jumping into the unknown with both feet!  After accepting the offer to participate in this venture I wondered if, in fact, I was completely nuts and worthy of being committed.  Maybe the guess work on my mental stability was an exercise in futility.

Some background for the uninitiated.  Community theatre allows everyone a chance no matter their theatrical background or lack thereof.  In our production there where some very talented and creative individuals who participated.  Instantly, I was intimidated and overwhelmed at the thought of measuring up to these local thespians.  Experience, even a very little, makes much difference in these venues. 

I’m by nature very comfortable in front of a crowd. Actually, my ego tells me to seek out opportunities that offers such a stage.  Some people would call me a ham.  Somehow I’ve managed to miss live theatre as such an opportunity.  When I first had to read my lines in front of the assembled cast…I froze up.  I couldn’t get my breath, my heart was racing, I stumbled over the reading like the first time I read from my French textbook. 

Kind looks of acceptance from the cast look back at me.  Patience and understanding comes back to me from the director.  I try again only to somehow manage a worse effort.  “Ummm,  Sorry.” No one acts impatient or angry.  All I sense is encouragement.  I try and fail again.

It’s in moments like these that character is truly tested.  As a strong, tough, macho guy I could have simply stood up and stated, “This is stupid!” and left keeping my bogus pride in check.  As a traveler of life, I felt the need to fight the urge to walk away and work through this mess that I now was knee deep into.

I am told that my character will need to dance during an emotional scene with my stage (and real life) daughter (remember that stuff about not quitting?)  I’d have preferred dancing  be assigned to a more nimble man who could perform with great ease and grace.  I struggle with the Macaranna.  Really, me dancing in public during an emotional scene will destroy any attempt to make this anything but slapstick.

Different performers came to me and spoke words of enthusiasm and motivation.  Each said I was doing a great job and picking up the part really well.  When this was relayed to me I looked around first wondering if they had confused me with another.  Somehow it stuck that I didn’t completely suck at this and this allowed me to feel the freedom to release my inner being and become one with this character I was to portray.

There is a very Zen-like experience that occurs when one lets go of self to assume the personality of another.  This is the magic of theatre.  It’s a very transformative event that likens one to total freedom.  At this moment the ability to move, speak and react like another begins to unfold.  This was a very cathartic experience to a hayseed  like me.

I hear the introduction leading to my entrance…I’m sweating like a bricklayer.  My thoughts race through my lines.  I know how hard everyone has worked and really don’t want to disappoint the cast, crew or musicians.  Damn, I can’t go back.  I walk out to the sea of smiles and instantly feel a rush of warmth and confidence that both fills me up and covers me.  I see why people are so involved in theatre…this is a wonderful encounter, a moment to cherish.

By the way, I feel like I got a handle on the dancing.  The Waltz is actually quite lovely when you understand it.  Truth be told, I find myself waltzing around the house from time to time.   Somehow I was able to summon the emotional stength to bring the warmth of my character to life.  We never really know the depth of our resolve until we are tested.  If we never put ourselves in a position of challenge our capabilities are never tapped.

I met people during this show who have impacted me greatly.  I have made many new friends.  The words of encouragement, appreciation, and motivation will never be lost on me.  I am a better person for having participated. 

By the end of the run I was tired and worn.  But never lacked for want to perform just one more time.

Next year can’t get here quick enough.