Praise the Lord for His Wonder

This morning at Westchester Chapel, Joyce mentioned our trip to her hometown of Rhinelander, WI, during my #SevenWeeksOfWonder. My reflection in the service was a memory from the novel Les Misérables from 30 years ago!

These stories were invited by Pastor Randy and Melanie Solomon's very interactive exploration of Psalm 19 and 104. Many members of WCCC shared their testimonies of the wonder of the Lord and his creation. Pastor Randy mentioned The Case for a Creator by Lee Strobel, the author of The Case for Christ, which was made into a major motion picture.

From Rich's performance at the
Nordic Black Theatre in Oslo, Norway
Dr. Linda Warren mentioned my upcoming performance of my one-man play about John Woolman who spoke against slavery over a century before the Civil War in America. It will be at Warwick Valley Church of the Nazarene on September 28 at 6pm. She mentions my performance of that play last year in Norway. You can find out more about that at www.RichDrama.com/IDreamedIWasFree

Click the arrow below, or if you're reading this in an email you can click this link, to play the service:



This service is available for download free on iTunes, where you can also subscribe to our podcast. Search for "Westchester Chapel" on the iTunes Store.




I Dreamed I Was Free tells the story of Quaker abolitionist John Woolman, who spoke against slavery a century before our Civil War.

Seven Weeks of Wonder

I recently returned from seven weeks on the road. It was a mix of teaching, coaching, performing and spending time with family. You can see highlights searching for #SevenWeeksOfWonder on this blogInstagram and Facebook.



See the rest of Olympic champion Eric Liddell's Chariots of Fire story in Beyond the Chariots. Watch it online and book a live performance.

The Ledger and Mine


I got to perform and serve as acting coach on two projects outside Calgary, Canada, over the past two weeks.

The first project was a film competition. On June 30 we were given three elements which had to be included in the film: a key verse (I Samuel 12:14), a prop (a book), and an action (a broken leg). We had a week to write, produce and edit a film. We finished with seven minutes to spare!

I can't wait to share the final product with you, but I must. They'll announce the finalists in August, and if we make the cut we won't be able to share it with the world until after the Way of the Storytellers Conference, January 19, 2020.

I can at least share that we titled it "The Ledger," and I got to play the lead and do a bit of actor coaching. We're all really pleased with how it turned out, and we did a screening for the team and close friends and family, and they seemed to love it, too. There were a number of miracles along the way, which seems to always be the case with Christian filmmaking.

After finishing that project, we moved on to a scripted project, "Mine." I played a key role, and served as acting coach. My character comforts a woman who is struggling with the guilt and loss of having gone through an abortion. My character offers support and hope. It's really a beautiful little piece, and I hope it brings hope to many!

Our team for both of these projects was just phenomenal! I'd love to work with any and all again on future projects!


We finished filming a day early, so we went to Banff. It was my second trip, but I truly hope it's not my last! It's just stunning! 
Some of us went on to Lake Louise to watch the sunset, and that was even better! Click here for more photos.

I play a lead in Providence, which you can bring to your area.

Rocky Mountain Christian Filmmakers Camp 2019

We had another great group of students at this year's Rocky Mountain Christian Filmmakers and Actors Camp! I got to coach our acting students in a short piece by Zack Lawrence called "Loneliness," and I really think it will resonate with a lot of people, and prayerfully it will encourage them greatly! I also got to play the role of the lead character's father, so that was fun, too.



We'll open registration for the Rocky Mountain Christian Filmmakers Camp for 2020 in the fall. Sign up at www.RichDrama.com/Updates to get the announcement.

The Perfect Stranger


Last night, after a series of great dinners with great friends, we watched The Perfect Stranger, which is the ultimate great dinner! A cynical lawyer gets an invitation to dinner at her favorite restaurant with Jesus Christ, and He answers all of her questions, quite profoundly. I highly recommend it!

I posted about the dinners and the movie on social media, and almost immediately my friend Katie Lentz commented: Rich! In The Perfect Stranger, Nikki is played by my friend Pamela! You met her when we saw you in Revelation. Cool connection!

I'll say it's a cool connection! I got to thinking about it, and when Pamela saw Revelation she watched my character interact with Jesus. So, my mind kept going on this. I first saw The Perfect Stranger in the Philippines while performing and teaching some workshops at Asia-Pacific Nazarene Theological Seminary, where I just found out our host for one of our dinners had taught a few years before I was there. The man playing Jesus with my character in Revelation was played by a Filipino.

So I had a little whoah moment, but my brain kept noodling. That cool God wink wouldn't have happened if I hadn't been in Revelation, which happened because I "happened" to be at the only combined gathering of Mastermedia and The Hang that I'm aware of. That was where I shared that I do a 1-man play about The Revelation, and the producers later called to see if I'd perform the role of John in their Off-Broadway musical.

But Pamela wouldn't have seen Revelation the Musical if Katie hadn't invited her, and Katie wouldn't be alive if it weren't for a series of extraordinary miracles after an extreme car wreck (main miracles, follow-up).

I wouldn't have seen The Perfect Stranger in the Philippines if I hadn't met the folks who invited me to perform there while I was in Indiana, and I wouldn't have been there if I hadn't been invited to teach for one week... that turned into 16 years at the MasterWorks Festival. I wouldn't have been invited to teach for that week if I hadn't been a member of Christians in Theatre Arts.

And you wouldn't be reading this if I wasn't pondering it hours before I'd planned on getting up for my last work day before leaving town for seven weeks. I felt like the Lord wanted me to take the time to write this up. Maybe it was for you.

If you don't notice the profound things the Lord is doing all around you, I invite you to have dinner with Jesus.

I write more about that at www.RichDrama.com/MyPassion.



I play a lead in Providence, which you can bring to your area or watch at home.

The Mountain Contest

I'm so pleased with the final edit of "The Mountain Contest!" It's the latest episode on Airship Genesis, and I got to reprise my role as Elijah! 
For about 20 years I've been doing a short play about Elijah called "Prophet of Fear" (www.RichDrama.com/ShortPieces). In 2005 I got to perform it on Mt. Carmel, where the Airship Genesis story also takes place. 

Stay tuned for information on the release of their upcoming mobile game in which I'll reprise another role, John the Baptist: www.RichDrama.com/AirshipGenesis.



I Dreamed I Was Free tells the story of Quaker abolitionist John Woolman, who spoke against slavery a century before our Civil War.

Joshua Faith Challenge

Today is the first day of a Great Experiment, hosted by Christian Union, a campus ministry to the "Ivies," the eight Ivy League universities. You don't have to be a graduate to take part.
One of our commitments is to do a Joshua Faith Challenge, stepping beyond our daily routines to expand the Kingdom of God in a way that is larger than our typical patterns. I've chosen one of their suggestions which is to daily post the Good News that Jesus loves you every day on social media. I'd love to share testimonies from others of how the Lord has changed your life through a relationship with Him. Please post yours below, and I'll share it on my Facebook and Instagram pages.  

I got to speak at Christian Union's Ivy League Congress on Faith and Action a few years ago (www.RichDrama.com/IvyLeague), and it gave me great hope for our future to see 500 of our nation's brightest students from all eight Ivies worshipping the Lord with wild abandon and talking about using their world-class degrees to expand the Lord's Kingdom on earth.  
I'm tagging them on Facebook and Instagram as #RichSwingleJoshuaFaithChallenge. 


There are still openings for the Rocky Mountain Christian Filmmakers Camp this summer, where I'll be teaching acting for film.

John the Baptist in Airship Genesis Mobile Game



That's from the Airship Genesis Mobile Game, and recently I performed the voice of John the Baptist for it.

It was pretty cool, because in 2011 I got to play him baptising Jesus... about 100m from a church dedicated to that event!

The day after I played John the Baptist for the mobile game I was reading through Farm Boy on Times Square, the journal I kept when I first arrived in NYC in 1993, and found this entry:
When John the Baptist came to prepare the way for Christ, he was a voice, crying in the wilderness.  He was for them, a modern-day prophet.  The people related to that image.  It was familiar.  Society in NYC, and in America in general, is so individualistic, that it seems to me personal messages are the only ones received well.
The mobile game is quite fun and challenging! My "scene" is on level 11.


I Dreamed I Was Free tells the story of Quaker abolitionist John Woolman, who spoke against slavery a century before our Civil War.

Interview about Revelation the Musical on The Gate Radio

I recently got to do an interview on The Gate Radio with George Flores, who I've known since the mid-90's. We even made their front page! Here's the direct link to the full page.

Here are links to things we talked about in the interview:
Revelation the Musical
Dustin Ceithamer
Jonathon Blair
www.RichDrama.com/UpdatesNYC
www.RichDrama.com/TheRevelation
Mastermedia.com
TheHang.NYC
Melissa Mollner
If you missed it, there's one more airing Saturday at 7:40 AM.



There are still openings for the Rocky Mountain Christian Filmmakers Camp and the Christian Artist Mentoring Project this summer, where I'll be teaching acting for film (RMCFC) and stage (CAMP).

Revelation the Musical

What a joy it's been to be a part of Revelation the Musical. I'm half-way through my three weeks of this Off-Broadway run which will run through June 9.

I’ve been performing my own one-man play based on The Revelation for almost 20 years, so I’m just delighted to be playing John in this musical production of the last book of the Bible. Its energy and creativity make it feel like it could become the next Godspell.

If you didn't get the discount code I sent to friends in and near New York City, subscribe at www.RichDrama.com/UpdatesNYC, and I'll get it to you.



This one has different clips, and includes me getting pulled into the air by two of my colleagues.





There are still openings for the Rocky Mountain Christian Filmmakers Camp and the Christian Artist Mentoring Project this summer, where I'll be teaching acting for film (RMCFC) and stage (CAMP).

Breakthrough

OPENING NIGHT
It wrecked me again. Maybe even worse the second time because I know I started weeping earlier this time. Since we saw a pre-release screener in March there was a moment when I knew the inciting incident was imminent. My friend Joseph Holmes was sitting next to me, and after the film was over he said at that point he thought maybe he didn't know the story! He and I both met the pastor of John Smith, who's story Breakthrough tells, last fall at the Hollywood Divine International Film Festival. You can read my notes about that encounter below.

There was a New York Times "Critic's Pick" review of Breakthrough on April 15 that speaks to the quality of the filmmaking, but it ends by saying, "its willingness to let the mystery of the young man’s survival linger enhances the film’s power." When I read that I thought maybe it wasn't as clear as I remembered. Watching it again it is quite clear that John's healing is an absolute miracle. The doctors are floored, and the closing quote as the credits roll is from Dr. Kent Sutterer, who was the attending physician when John's pulse returned: "Boy dies. Mom prays. Boy comes back to life."

If you're interested in knowing Who brought him back to life click here.

PRE-RELEASE SCREENER
Joyce and I got to see a pre-release screener of Breakthrough last month, and we both thought it was so powerful! It tells the true story of how John Smith (played by Marcel Ruiz of One Day at a Time) fell through ice, where he wasn't recovered for a full fifteen minutes. His brain was without oxygen for a full hour.

After the show there was a panel discussion with Chrissy Metz (This Is Us), who plays the mother of John, DeVon Franklin (Miracles from Heaven, Heaven Is for Real) producer, and Roxann Dawson (This Is Us) director. They were interviewed by David DiCerto of the host venue, The Sheen Center, and introduced by Cardinal Timothy Dolan.

Dawson said that Joyce Smith, the real mother, told her, "You got it." Though some elements are fictionalized to raise the stakes in the drama, the basic facts of it are absolutely true. Franklin said, "A documentary is the facts, a movie is the truth." Dawson, who expressed great joy in doing a project with a Christian theme said, "Let's use media in the correct way," meaning in ways that point people to the Lord.

HOLLYWOOD DIVINE INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL SNEAK PEEK
In October I got to perform at the Hollywood Divine International Film Festival, where I was up for Best Comedic Performance for "All God's Children." But the real highlight for me was meeting Jason Noble, who was the pastor of John. Jason (played by Topher Grace of Spider-Man 3) was in the room when John's mother walked through the door, just as the doctor (played by Sam Trammel of This Is Us) was ready to declare her son's time of death. She called on the Lord and her son's pulse came back. You can see that much in the moving trailer below, but the rest of the story is just as dramatic! It's one miracle after the next, no matter how little hope they're given by the specialist (Dennis Haysbert of 24).

Jason has written a companion book to the film, Breakthrough to Your Miracle. I haven't read the book yet, but Jason is very excited about it can encourage people through examples healing from the Bible and the present. He talks about the principles of prayer they learned by walking through the miracles that are helping John graduate from high school this spring!

Jason told how he was being interviewed on a show for TBN, and the guy in the greenroom struck up a conversation with them. On their way out, after the interview the guy said, "Do you know who I am?" They just assumed he was there to make sure they had what they needed before and after the interview, but it was Devon Franklin. He told them he wanted their story to be his next film. You can hear Devon's version of that story here:
Christian Movie Made by Major Studio is Full of Miracle Stories: Behind the Scenes of BREAKTHROUGH.

SPOILER ALERT
During the panel discussion in March, Franklin mentioned that John played Ruiz in a 1-on-1 basketball game. Though his actor won, John declared that there will be a rematch! It reminded me of my friend Art Sanborn, who told his medical support team that, though he was a quadriplegic, one day he'd beat them at basketball. After he was healed, he did play basketball against them! To see who won read his book, A Walking Miracle. I was able to tell Franklin about it after the panel, so join me in praying that Art's story will be his next film!

It's now slated for 2,400 screens across America, opening April 17.

Parental warnings: There were a couple of uses of hell as an expletive, and an OMG. Visit www.Dove.org for more details.




See the rest of Olympic champion Eric Liddell's Chariots of Fire story in Beyond the Chariots. Watch it online and book a live performance.

Sight & Sound's Noah


I just posted my review of Noah: www.Blog.RichDrama.com.
Posted by Rich Swingle on Wednesday, April 10, 2019


We loved Sight & Sound Theatre's production of Noah, as filmed for their Fathom Event release, and not just because I played Noah's son Ham in The Adventum, and Shem in the Beginners Bible video.

We saw a screener of their Fathom Event, which is in theatres tomorrow night: www.NoahEvent.com.

One of my favorite things was that they emphasized the importance of people heeding the warning that judgment was coming, and that they could be saved by getting onboard the vehicle of Salvation the Lord provided. Judgment is promised for our day, too. Thank God that He provided a vehicle of Salvation for us!

Read my review of their production of Moses to see what I thought of their surprisingly impressive production quality. They held to a high bar with Noah, too.

We're really looking forward to seeing their production of Jesus live in a couple of weeks.

To watch the trailer click the arrow below or if you're getting this in an email, visit www.Blog.RichDrama.com.




Ham is one of more than a dozen voices Rich provides for The Adventum.

Step Beyond Your Dream into Your Destiny

I just heard Michael Guillen, PhD, speak this morning at a New York Media Initiative breakfast. He's speaking again tonight at 7PM at 414 W 51st St., New York City, as a part of God Talks NYC.

Dr. Guillen told how he went from being a 7-year-old Mexican kid in East LA who had a dream of being a scientist to a professor at Harvard and the go-to scientist for four shows on ABC, including Good Morning America and 20/20, but now he is really stepping beyond his dream into his destiny. Part of that destiny is sharing the Gospel with a scientific slant on the campuses of major universities. He rattled off a list of big schools including Arizona State. Michigan State is coming up next week.

He encouraged us to dream big, but not put blinders on. Otherwise, you may miss your destiny. When ABC asked him to come on full-time, he seriously hesitated because his dream was to be a scientist, and teaching at Harvard really gave that identity to him. Now he sees that as a pivotal turning point in shifting from dream to destiny.

He sees God's hand in how things have unfolded for him, and he told about how he originally was picked up by ABC, a story he also tells in his online article "Dreams vs. Destiny: Why the Two Can Be as Different as Night and Day":
     On the car trip from Ithaca to Cambridge, I stopped off at the Smithsonian’s Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C. to attend a panel discussion on George Orwell’s novel “1984.” It was moderated by Fred Graham, then the legal correspondent for CBS News.
     At the gala reception afterward, I noticed Graham standing alone with his female companion. For no particular reason except that he was famous, I walked up and introduced myself to him.
     Upon learning that I was a scientist, Graham said something like, “Maybe you can settle a disagreement I’m having with my producer here.”
     “Sure,” I said, “what’s the problem?”
     “You know that giant pendulum out in the rotunda?”
     “Yeah, it’s called a Foucault pendulum.”
     “Right, that’s it. My producer says that once you get it going, you can leave it alone and it’ll never stop swinging. I disagree. I think they need to push it now and then to keep it going.”
     This was a no-brainer for me. I explained that there wasn’t much friction to slow down the pendulum – just a little rubbing where the steel cable was attached to the ceiling – but enough so that the pendulum would stop eventually if it weren’t nudged now and then.”
     Graham leaped on my explanation, gushing something like, “Would you like to be on television?!”
     It took me a moment to grasp what he was asking – that he wasn’t kidding.
Click here for the rest of the story, and more on the difference between dreams and destiny.

He said at another point he sensed the Lord saying, "I'm preparing you for something." Not long after that he was given the money to produce the film Little Red Wagon.

He said, "God has a destiny for you that's so much grander than your dreams because it's from Him."

During the Q/A session he was asked about time. He said Hindus and Buddhists believe that time is cyclical, that we'll come back as a better person or worse depending on how we live this life, and some Greek philosophers believed that every moment would be repeated thousands of years later. Dr. Guillen said that Christians were the first to see time as linear because it's an unfolding story.

Afterward he told me that he'd noticed that I'd raised my hand and apologized for not getting to me. I told him my question was about Marcelo Gleiser, the Dartmouth theoretical physicist who was recently awarded the Templeton Prize because of his "exceptional contribution to affirming life’s spiritual dimension.” In an interview with Scientific American  (By the way Dr. Gleiser counts himself an agnostic. He isn't a Christian...yet.) he said, "There is a difference between 'science' and what we can call 'scientism,' which is the notion that science can solve all problems. To a large extent, it is not science but rather how humanity has used science that has put us in our present difficulties.” John Stonestreet of Breakpoint wrote about Dr. Gleiser's award and said, "Instead of staying humble and curious, proponents of scientism insist that any question we can’t answer in a laboratory isn’t worth asking. In effect, they stand on the little island of knowledge and deny the ocean (of the unknown) lapping at their toes.

I told Dr. Guillen that I'd heard 28% of scientists believe there is a God, and he said he thinks it more like 33-40% of scientists who believe there is a personal God, and when you count those who hold to a more deist position, that God created the universe but is no longer involved, that number goes much higher.

If you're near NYC I hope to see you there tonight!

Click here for my notes from Dr. Guillen's last talk I was able to attend at a Mastermedia event.
There are still openings for the Rocky Mountain Christian Filmmakers Camp and the Christian Artist Mentoring Project this summer, where I'll be teaching acting for film (RMCFC) and stage (CAMP).

Grace Unplugged

I wrote this review years ago but never finished it. I came across it while searching for something else.

I have an assignment for any students I've ever had or will have: watch Grace Unplugged!

I wanted to teach before I wanted to act. Part of that was fear that I couldn't have a career as an actor. Twenty-four years later I've been blessed and blown away by how unfounded that fear was. But right from the start one of the reasons I wanted to teach was because I never wanted to act to make a name for myself. Not that that hasn't crept up as a temptation along the way, but it was never a driving motivator. Since performing sketches in our high school youth group under the empowerment of our youth pastors Ron and Deb Mulkey I've seen the power of drama to move people's hearts closer to the Lord.

I've always told my students that the Lord calls people into many aspects of entertainment, and not all Christians are called to create art with a Christian message. But I hope I've said enough about how much more grounded in the Lord a Christian needs to be if he or she is entering secular media.

Grace Unplugged is a picture of moving forward without the right foundation. All the doors open, every dream comes true, but the motivation was all wrong. It's Harold Abrahams sulking in Chariots of Fire after he wins the Olympic Gold medal. It's my bride before she was my bride. You can hear her tell how all of her dreams came true but she wanted to kill herself.

I do hope all my students past and present will take the effort to watch this film and consider the condition of their hearts before taking one more step in the entertainment industry. I'll never give a grade. But at the end of their lives I want them to hear from One greater than I, "Well done." And that won't be based on IMDb credits, awards won or bank accounts.

I bought a guitar and learned a song so I could audition for the role of the dad, along with one of my former students. We read for each other with her as the daughter. I never dwell on projects I don't get to do, but this is one role I really would have loved to have landed simply because I wish it would have been me my students heard yelling, "You're not ready!" if their hearts aren't in the right place. And it would have been me they would see [SPOILER ALERT] hugging what's left of the sin out of them when their hearts drop into proper alignment with the Lord's view of their gift, whether they consecrate it for direct ministry or for the mission field of the secular entertainment industry.

Christians should know
* thematic elements (rebellious arguments)
* teen drinking
* More details at www.Dove.org.



Break the Sin Cycle

I open this morning's service at Westchester Chapel, and I talk about Unplanned after the service. Pastor Randy Solomon preaches on Hebrews 5:11-14. He mentions the film I Can Only Imagine. Prayer by Pastor Linda Warren.

Click the arrow below, or if you're reading this in an email you can click this link, to play the service:



This service is available for download free on iTunes, where you can also subscribe to our podcast. Search for "Westchester Chapel" on the iTunes Store.

If you want to more about starting a relationship with Jesus Christ visit www.WestchesterChapel.org/Salvation.

Photo courtesy of NicolettiPhoto.com.



There are still openings for the 2018 Rocky Mountain Christian Filmmakers Camp.

Gerri Castle

My first boss in New York City, Gerri Castle, went to be with the Lord on March 11. On the 7th she was injured during a home invasion.

Several of us who knew Gerri from her time at The Lamb's Church of the Nazarene began praying for her, and it was truly miraculous that she was able to stay alive long enough for family and friends to visit and connect. A small group of us who knew her were able to pray over her through a social media call while she was still responsive. I'll always be grateful for that moment!

Please pray for this dear family as they sort through so many mixed feelings right now.

Gerri had a key role to play in my development as a young man. I was granted an internship at The Lamb's Church, but it hadn't been determined where I'd be spending my 15 hours each week. I met with the pastor to share my ministry experience and year at seminary. I met with the social worker and told her that I had a sociology/social work degree. I met with the artistic director to let her know I was working on a masters in theatre. But it was Gerri who took me under her wing... to file papers and run errands. And it was the very best thing that could have happened to me! It reminded me that I was there to serve, and I know that it set my heart in such a way that the rest of the training and experience was all focused on serving others. I've certainly tried to keep that attitude in all of my performing and coaching. I'm eternally grateful for Gerri's influence.

Here's her obituary:
Geraldine Mae Miller Castle, 73, died Monday, March 11, 2019, at Greenville Memorial Hospital in Greenville, SC from injuries sustained during a home invasion. Born November, 21st 1945, in Logan, Ohio, she was the daughter of Wilbur Wilson Miller and Monta Catherine Grim Miller (Walnut Street, Logan, Ohio). Gerri graduated from Logan High School in 1963. She attended Ohio Business College in Columbus, Ohio and Edison State College in Piqua, Ohio. She was an active member of the Church Of The Nazarene in Logan, Ohio, Piqua, Ohio, Clearwater, Florida, and Manhattan, New York. She worked as an Administrative Assistant at Logan Church of the Nazarene and as an early childhood teacher at Piqua Church of the Nazarene. In the 1990s, she was very honored to serve as the Office Manager for the Lambs Manhattan Church of the Nazarene, which housed two Off-Broadway theaters and a mission that served the homeless in Hell’s Kitchen, NY.

Gerri is survived by her daughters, Robin Carol Castle Fountain, and Dee Anna Castle Brown (Eric), as well as 9 grandchildren and 4 great-grandchildren, and a multitude of cousins. She was preceded in death by her parents, her sister, Lois Anne Miller, and her beloved husband, Garrett Dee Castle. A memorial and celebration of life will be held on November 29th, 2019, 4 pm at Lovely Lane Chapel, Epworth By The Sea, in St. Simons, Georgia.


I was working for Gerri while developing I Dreamed I Was Free, which tells the story of Quaker abolitionist John Woolman, who spoke against slavery a century before our Civil War.