I Was in Prison

I recently got to perform for gang members incarcerated at Riker's Island. Upon arrival there was some kind of a fight which required a lockdown: No one was able to move from place to place anywhere in the facility. So we started late. The half-hour I'd prepared to fill was reduced to about 10 minutes, so instead of the 20-minute Jonah followed by a message I did Lazarus and just followed it with an altar call. 

There were about 30 guys, and after telling them that the same power that raised Lazarus and Jesus from the dead could empower them to overcome any darkness in their lives. Then I invited them to give their lives to the Lord. I told them that if they already knew the Lord to pray aloud so people would know. One guy on our team said though he didn't look around during that prayer his sense was that some may have come in as Christians but they all left as new creations in Christ! Pray the Lord speaks into the new commitments and that they all attend the Bible studies that are offered!

My grandmother took me to visit inmates when I was in junior high. I know that gave me confidence that I can talk to anyone and that eternity is more important than fear.

Another prison connection happened last month when I got to accept the award for Best Animated Film at the International Christian Film Festival. I accepted it for a teenager: Garrison Hill. His family produced A Matter of Perspective for which I won Best Actor in a Short Film. You'll have to watch this four-minute film to see its connection to prison.

Click below to watch, or if you're reading this from an email you can watch the film at www.RichDrama.com/FatherDaughterDance.


If you liked it, vote for it.
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A Clear Leading tells the story of Quaker abolitionist John Woolman, who spoke against slavery a century before our Civil War.

Fellowship: Jesus Is with You in Mission

I got to open this morning's service at Westchester Chapel, and I did so by sharing about an upcoming booking, which I'll share more about later. I also introduced the film The Pilgrim's Progress, for which we hosted the NYC Premiere.

Pastor Jim Warren preaches on Matthew 28:16-20. He mentioned a video of Francis Chan, which you can see below, and he refers to the illustration pictured below.  Announcements by Rachel Taylor.

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.

The Pilgrim's Progress film

WOW! WOW! WOW!!!!!
We almost got to see this at the International Christian Film Festival, but technical issues and time constraints collaborated to keep us from it. The director, was kind enough to give us a screener. It's absolutely brilliant!
I've been a fan of Pilgrim's Progress since landing a role in a musical version by auditioning for the producers while showing them around the Lamb's Theatre my first year or so in NYC.
It's shot in glorious Southern Oregon where we filmed A Matter of Perspective, and where I grew up. They worked on a micro-budget with actors from church, but David played their limitations like an instrument! The way they tackled complex challenges is simply genius! I think it has the excellence and camp that could make it a Christian Princess Bride.
Joyce said, "We loved it! We super super loved it!"
It's being released in August, so be sure to like their Facebook page to get the announcement.

Watch the trailer and a scene below:






A Clear Leading tells the story of Quaker abolitionist John Woolman, who spoke against slavery a century before our Civil War.

Rocky Mountain Christian Filmmakers Camp 2017


We had such a wonderful week with these amazing people at the Rocky Mountain Christian Filmmakers Camp! We completed the short film "Milk and Oranges" based on a true story told by Nathan Ashton, who shares seven film credits with me

This marked Joyce's directorial debut:


The rough cut of our short looks great! I'll let folks know when it's ready through www.RichDrama.com/Updates

We also provided headshots to all the actors, and I coached each of them for an audition to a live feature film. Woo hoo!

International Christian Film Festival Awards

Tonight the International Christian Film Festival Awards will be aired on TV and online.

Here are the nominations for which I might have gone to the stage:
• Represented A Matter of Perspective for Best Short Film

• Performed and served as Acting Coach on One Day, which was nominated for Best Short Film

• Represented Mike Hill for Best Director of a Short film for A Matter of Perspective

• Coached Andrew Hurt, who was nominated for Best Lead Actor in a Short Film for One Day

• Was nominated for Best Lead Actor in a Short Film for A Matter of Perspective

• Represented Hudson Michael Hill for Best Lead Actor in a Short Film for Mission Underground, for which I was a consultant

• Represented the Hill family for "Father Daughter Dance," which was nominated for Best Animated Film

• Represented the Hill family for "Father Daughter Dance," which was nominated for Best Student Film
I got to go up three times, so if you forgot which ones, don't look them up so you can enjoy the suspense! The third time, they cut what I said after the director.

Here's an article on the event: International Christian Film Festival Exceeds Expectations.

You can watch the awards show below:



Restoring Fellowship

Joyce celebrates Father's Day by teaching on Matthew 27:45-56. She mentions the confirmation of my grandfather's Salvation. Opening by Pastor Jim Warren. Communion by Dr. 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.

Treasure Seekers will share some exciting news this Sunday

Trevor has been having adventures up north, and on Sunday you'll hear an amazing story about a translation of the Beatitudes and how they can bring life to our lives.

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



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

Renew the Love!

Joyce teaches on the Book of Ruth, which is read every year at the Feast of Weeks, celebrated by the Church as Pentecost, which falls today. She referenced Ezekiel 1:1-28, 3:12.

Pastor Rachel Taylor opens and prays over the service. Call to worship by Melanie Solomon, who also reads John 14:16-17.

Pastors Jim and Linda Warren renew their marriage vows and are commissioned by the board as the new co-lead pastors of Westchester Chapel.

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.

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Registration is now open for the 2017 Rocky Mountain Christian Filmmakers Camp, and we have a surprise opening! Send an email to the address on the Registration Page at www.ChristianFilmmakersCamp.com.

Celebrity Confessions: Live from Broadway

I've been cast in an exciting New York City production, Celebrity Confessions: Live from Broadway, which opens June 12!

We'll be baring our souls and sharing how the Lord met us in our lowest valleys.

Among the cast I have four friends involved:

Daniel Knudsen, Joyce Swingle,
Kristina Kaylen, Patricia Mauceri
and me at the NYC premiere
of Courageous Love
Patricia Mauceri (Courageous Love, The Farmer and the Belle, One Life to Live) and I have worked together for more than a decade. She has worked alongside James Earl Jones, Christopher Plummer, Richard Dreyfus, Johnny Depp and many, many more.

Joyce and me with Jim Chandler
and his wife Jenn Gotzon.
Jenn and I are each holding
our Best Lead in a Short
Film awards at the International
Christian Film Festival.
Jenn Gotzon, who has performed in five films with me, and her husband, Jim Chandler, who's been in over 35 film projects. I was a producer on the NYC footage of their film The Farmer and the Belle in which I also played Jenn's character's manager.

Donna East at Comedy Strip Live,
where she's hosted several events.
My friend of two decades, Donna East, will be opening the show. She is a comedienne who has performed around the world with the USO.

I've been blown away during the rehearsals to hear surprising, shocking, healing, encouraging things from friends I've known, in some cases, for decades! I'm so blessed by these folks!!!

The director and producer is Jordan Scott Gilbert. I met Jordan a couple of years ago through Mastermedia. He is the first recipient of Broadway Global's Producer of the Year Award.

Broadway World ran a great article on the production.

Our first performance had a standing ovation!

Watch my Schedule if you'd like to be sure to see me in a performance, and save the service fees by using the code RSwingle when you buy your tickets at the door: Actors Temple Theatre, 330 West 47th Street (between 8th and 9th Avenue). You can also buy tickets in advance at St. Luke's Theatre Box Office, 46th St., between 8th and 9th Avenues, New York, NY 10036. Be sure to check box office hoursFor Group Sales click here, and use the code when you pay by check.

We are now offering 20% OFF of all ticket sales exclusively through www.TelechargeOffers.com with the code CELEB01 (enter it in the box at the top - left hand side of the page).  To go directly to this offer, you can also click here.

Friends, the producer has kindly set up a system whereby the actors can earn a commission from your tickets. After you purchase your tickets using CELEB01 I'd be SO grateful if you would send a personal email to info@oceanbayentertainment.com before that performance begins with the subject: CELEB01, and in the body of the email: your first/last name, # of tickets, final sale price, show date, and RSwingle, as illustrated below:

Subject: CELEB01
John Smith
2 Tickets
TOTAL SALE PRICE 
RSwingle

Please help spread the word: Like our Facebook Page and join our Facebook Event!

*Parents should know there are themes of addictions and brokenness mentioned en route to wholeness in Christ.

Lamplighter Theatre

Crystal Van Artsdalen, Rebekah Stought,
Rachel Marley and Morgan Fairbanks
have been my students at MasterWorks
 and The Rocky Mountain Christian
Filmmakers Camp
.
I played several roles and served as Afghan accent coach in the audio dramas Escape from the Eagle's Nest and The Giant Killer for Lamplighter Theatre, part of Lamplighter Ministries (www.Lamplighter.net).

When they're finished in a few months they'll be broadcast on about 2,000 radio stations around the world. The Giant Killer is now available for pre-order, and on that page you can hear my voice in the Behind the Scenes Recordings at 19 seconds and 1:23.

Both stories are based on books by A.L.O.E., which stands for A Lady of England. It was the pseudonym she used to get those and many other books published in the 1800s.
In the booth with Israel Oyelumade,
Rachel Marley and David Sanborn.

After I was cast as a cook (to perform the role, not to actually prepare food), I was asked to recommend someone who could play an Afghan who grows from a little girl into a married woman. I recommended some of my students, and they chose Rachel Marley. Besides being my student numerous times she was on our performing arts team in Sochi during the 2014 Olympics. What a delight to work with her and have several scenes together.

A few weeks after they cast Rachel, producer John Fornof told me there were visa issues. They used to record in London, so that's where all their contacts are. John’s US contacts are union actors. He asked if I could get the word out to my nonunion contacts in case the visas did not come through since just about everyone besides Rachel and I were coming from the UK. This was the first time they invited people to watch the process, so dozens of observers were signed up, coming to Mt. Morris, NY, from as far as North Dakota.

Nathan "Nato" Jacobson and I have
been a part of four films together.
I sent out about 350 emails to students and colleagues who turned in 189 auditions. John and executive producer Mark Hamby said they had perfect peace about the situation and were sure the visas would come through but if not, God would provide. When the final word came that the visas were denied John and team went through all the auditions in two days, normally a two-week process! The casts were announced on Friday and Saturday and we began recording on Monday!

Garry Nation and I (who share three
film credits
) got to play giant brothers:
He was Sloth, and I was Selfishness.
The only one from the UK was Israel Oyelumade, who volunteered his time to bypass the need for a visa! Before I performed Beyond the Chariots for the community he shared how the Lord had led him to play Jesus in a massive Passion play. It was done outdoors with 300 actors.

I was delighted that Lamplighter Theatre cast four of my students, and that I got to perform with colleagues from numerous films. My friend David Sanborn was cast in twelve of the 17 roles for which he auditioned, and then he picked up others along the way.

Working with so many great friends in and of itself made it one of my favorite weeks, but the highlight came through a new friend, Akmal. Patrick Powell the director of Escape from the Eagle's Nest found him on an internet search. Akmal lived his first twelve years in Southern Afghanistan, where the story takes place! He translated passages from The Sermon on the Mount, Revelation and Isaiah into Pashto, and then he came up with a tune inspired by music from his homeland and recorded himself singing the Scripture while he played keyboards underneath it.

John Fornof and I in London where
he directed me in The Dragon and
the Raven
.

Our director for Escape from
the Eagle's Nest
, Patrick Powell,
is one of a very small number
of actors who have performed
St. John in Exile by Dean Jones.
David Sanborn sang the Scriptures with our friend's tune, then he led the rest of the cast humming the tune. We were portraying the Afghanis who began by shouting down the foreigner. Then, as they were hearing words of life in their heart language, sung with a familiar tune they quieted down, and slowly started to join, humming the tune. I got to direct small groups who joined as the Scripture moved along. Once all of them had joined in, something extraordinary occurred. As had happened when he was singing the Pashto translation, David became overwhelmed with what was happening. We were all touched at a very deep level, so much so that everyone observing, including the director, were weeping. Executive Producer Mark Hamby compared it to the tongues of fire that fell on the disciples at Pentecost (Acts 2)!

I can't wait to hear how it turns out! Be sure to get the announcement of its release by signing up at www.RichDrama.com/Updates.


Fellowship with Jesus: Lavish Love

Joyce teaches on Matthew 26:1-16 at Westchester Chapel Church of the Nazarene. I open the service sharing highlights from District Assembly and showing my award for Best Actor in a Short Film to my church family who helped me win it! I also mention the story Pastor Larry Mancini tells in my last postPastor Jim Warren leads communion, reading from Hebrews 10, and shares announcements. Jan F. mentions our prayer calendar (prayer updates), to which you can subscribe by clicking here.

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.

Pastor Larry's Work in Haiti

Larry Mancini was telling me so many profound and marvelous stories about his six (so far) trips to Haiti that I just had to capture one of them...



Here's a link to his Facebook page: To Haiti with Love.

Evaluating w/ Jesus Values: Riches

The morning after I won Best Lead Actor in a Short Film at the International Christian Film Festival in Orlando for my performance in "A Matter of Perspective" our church, Westchester Chapel Church of the Nazarene, celebrated the award!

Dr. Linda Warren teaches on Matthew 19:16-30 and shares her testimony. Rachel Taylor prays over the service and shares announcements, including my award. We watched "A Matter of Perspective" last Sunday, but if you missed it you can see the trailer, and watch for an announcement through our New York City updates for a possible screening in NYC.

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.

Rich performed a sketch on today’s passage when he, Joyce and Elizabeth J. were in Romania during the 2012 Olympics...



If you're reading this in an email you can watch the video by clicking here.

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

Remain In Fellowship – Remain Ready

In this service at Westchester Chapel I open the service and introduce the short films A Matter of Perspective and One Day. I also mention Twin Rocks Friends Camp and the Joni and Friends performance that put me in touch with the filmmakers of A Matter of Perspective.

Rachel Taylor teaches on Matthew 24:36-44 and Genesis 6. Dr. Linda Warren prays over the message and over Joyce and my trip to Orlando for the International Christian Film Festival where both films are up for Best Short Film, Best Director and Best Lead Actor. One Day is also nominated for Best Screenplay. Dr. Linda also shares announcements.

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.

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

Pure Flix Is Getting Attention

The New York Times just did a front page of the SundayStyles section article on Pure Flix: Seeing, and Streaming, Is Believing. Though the title of the article is having fun with the subject, the article is quite fair-minded. 

If I missed one please post it in a comment below. Thanks!

I play a lead in Providence, though it's not yet on PureFlix.com you can bring to your area.

The High School Final

Joyce and I with Cindy on a recent
visit she took to NYC.
Since about 1994 I've been performing in public schools through the invitation of Cindy Sebring.

That year I drove (back when I tried to keep a car in NYC) down to the DC area for a Christians in Theatre Arts conference. I remember the rain was also driving, and my windshield wipers weren't staying up with the volume. I ended up getting there in the middle of a performance by Frank Runyon, the third one-man play I'd seen, after Curt Cloninger and Roger Nelson. A gentleman in the back of the auditorium welcomed me, and after the performance we struck up a conversation. He knew some folks at the Lamb's Church of the Nazarene where I was an intern at the time. He asked me where I was staying, and I told him I hadn't figured that out yet. I didn't tell him, but I was hoping someone would give me a place to stay so I wouldn't have to spend a significant percentage of my savings on a hotel! He invited me to stay with his family, and to join them on Sunday at their church. 

That Sunday I met Cindy. Soon I was invited to perform at a retreat that church was hosting. Cindy offered to drive me to the retreat from DC. 

Soon after the retreat started Friday evening I told the pastor who would be preaching Sunday morning that I'd be happy to write a fresh piece to go with his sermon, but he didn't know what passage he'd be using. At about 10pm Saturday night he said he'd be preaching on John:15:1-17, about the Vine and the Branches. I stayed up until about 3am writing (and rehearsing) The Legend of Billy Branch, which came with some musical interludes. I discovered the next morning that Cindy's room was next to mine and she heard me singing as I rehearsed the piece! 

I'm pretty sure it was on that trip, despite her loss of sleep, that Cindy invited me to perform and teach workshops at her public high school for the first time. In those 23 years she only invited me if her classes were well-behaved, but there weren't many years I missed. 

I just returned from my final performance for her students. She is retiring in a couple of months. It was a very special trip, because these opportunities have been priceless.

This time around I performed The Fall, my one-act piece based on the novel Les Misérables. I shared it with three classes, and after each I followed up with a sociodrama. The first one was short, so I just based it on Les Miz. I engaged them in an exercise which allowed them to express the most valuable thing to them. The winning vote was, interestingly enough, food. My one-act revolves around the bishop forgiving Jean Valjean for stealing his silver, after which the bishop gives him his silver candlesticks. In our scenario the bishop character was a homeless man. Jean Valjean stole his pizza. A police officer brought him back, but Jean Valjean said, "If he stole from a homeless man he must really need the pizza more than I do," at which point he gave him a $5. All of this came from the students. 

The other two classes had just read Fahrenheit 451, a novel about censorship. The title is the temperature at which paper burns. The main character is a fireman, meaning he sets fire to books. I told them some of the discoveries we've made visiting Cuba, ChinaRussia, and two borders of North Korea

The first of those two classes did a sociodrama based on a student who was told by his parents that if he didn't cut his hair he would not be allowed to cut his hair until after he graduated from high school in a couple of years. Afterward I drew from another story they'd read: Death of a Salesman. I pointed out that Willy Loman drew his identity in part from his son, Biff. Tim Keller uses this as an illustration in a sermon on the Breastplate of Righteousness. Then I pointed out that parents who, regardless of motives, have the right to raise their children in the ways they think best, but dictators controlling what their people are able to read and say is a very different thing. 

The last class also brought up a parental scenario, but I brought up the difference between parents and dictators right up front. The students ended up exploring a world in which it was no longer legal for us to speak to people outside of our nation. The main character was on the phone with a friend in Russia. The police knocked on her door and told her they discovered that she was on an international call. She hid her phone, but the police did a sweep of her home and discovered a computer, which the enactors decided in the moment was also illegal. She complained that she had purchased the computer when it was legal to have one. One of the officers told her she should have thrown it out the window when the law was passed. (I pointed out that this was an SAT word posted in the halls of their school: "defenestrate.") In the end the young woman was able to escape with her hidden phone. I asked them if Fahrenheit 451 felt more real after living through a similar scenario. There was an overwhelming agreement that the sociodrama had helped make it more real. 

I hope there will be other opportunities to share my plays and workshops in public schools, so if you know of a teacher who might be open send him or her to www.RichDrama.com


A Clear Leading, one of the plays I've shared at Cindy's school, tells the story of Quaker abolitionist John Woolman, who spoke against slavery a century before our Civil War.

Easter Fellowship: Turn to the One Who Knows Your Name

Joyce teaches on John 20:1-18, and she shares one of her funniest stories from her corporate career! Pastor Jim Warren opens the service with "Happy Resurrection Day" in the numerous languages of our congregation, and Pastor Linda Warren prays over the children and the sermon.

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.

We opened with Don Francisco's "He's Alive!" This rendition begins with Don talking about his process of writing the song...



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

Good Friday: Abandonment to the Cross

Linda with Joyce and I just
before the turn of the century.
Tonight Dr. Linda Warren taught on Matthew 27 and Psalm 22:1-11, and as an analogy she shared how she came to the Lord. I was sobbing and sobbing, because she's the one who led Joyce to the Lord when they worked together at Sports Illustrated.

The opening is by Pastor Jim Warren. Readings from Matthew 27 by Pastor Linda, Elizabeth J., myself, and John C.



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.