The Ignition of FireOffBroadway

Brad L. Smith, the playwright of The Man from Aldersgate, has agreed to write a press release for our Off-Broadway run.

To give him some background I've written up the story of how this all got started, and I'll post it under comments below in case you're interested.

I'm also going to post quotes about Beyond the Chariots. Since the play has only been seen by eight audiences to date I would love to gather a few more comments. If you've seen Beyond the Chariots and would like a chance to be quoted (hopefully in some major periodicals) feel free to leave a quote by clicking on "comment" below.

Thanks so much!

4 comments:

Rich & Joyce Swingle said...

I was in Nice, France, on my ninth honeymoon with my wife, Joyce, when I looked down at my Treo and saw that Roger Nelson was calling me. I was delighted to find out that he wanted to partner with me in renting an Off-Broadway theatre for our one-man plays.

Roger was one of the actors who inspired me to do one-man plays. I saw him perform The Man from Aldersgate in Vancouver, BC, just before I moved to New York City. I was in Vancouver for a networking conference for Christians in Theatre Arts, and I was using the event to help me decide if I should really make the move to the Big Apple, so Roger not only influenced my career, but also my residence for the last dozen years.

I hadn't been living in NYC for long before I found out Roger would be performing here. He was staying at The Lamb's Church/Theatre, where I was on staff at the time. I told him of my interest in doing one-man plays, so he graciously let me watch his rehearsal and invited me to show up to his performance (at a church practically across the street from where I live now) early to watch him prep…and stay late to tear down. I was once again inspired by the play and empowered by his back stage comments. I remember asking him so many questions I was afraid he'd get annoyed, but he remained quite genial through my entire interrogation.

Less than a year after that I toured with my first one-man play and that has become my career. Last year I performed or taught workshops in 17 states and three foreign countries. My first seven major plays are listed at RichDrama.com. Click on "Major Plays" in the right column.

I chose Eric Liddell as the subject of my eighth play because he is a hero of mine for a couple of reasons.

Chariots Of Fire inspired me as a runner all through high school and college. I ran the long races: 1500m, cross country, and then steeple chase in college. I was no sprinter, though in training for this play, I've brought my time on an elliptical machine within six seconds of Liddell's world record 400m time, but then again, I'm using my arms as well as my legs!

That's quite an improvement over my time at the Stade Colombe in Paris, where Liddell won the Olympic gold medal, featured in the award-winning film. I didn't plan on running when Joyce and I (on our eighth honeymoon) started our difficult search for the Stade. Since it is no longer the main stadium of Paris, and neither of us speaks French well, it took some time to figure out where it was and how to get there. But standing on the historic track, now rubberized, it was impossible not to take a lap, though I was wearing jeans. Let's just say my time was well off Liddell's 47.6 seconds.

I'm also connected to the story through Eric's call to the mission field. My grandparents were missionaries in Kenya when my mother was a girl, so I grew up strongly considering missions work. Ironically, during a chapel at my alma mater, George Fox University (a college at the time), we were challenged by a speaker to come forward at the end if we could say to the Lord, "I'll go anywhere you want to send me." I marched up there, ready for any mission field, but I distinctly remember thinking, "but please don't send me to the inner city." I'm writing this in my office in a Broadway theatre a stone's throw from Times Square. And it's actually quite a mission field! There are people here from almost every nation on the planet. I've collected phrases like "How are you?" and "Thank you," in 31 languages.

I started my research for Beyond the Chariots on our third honeymoon, to Edinburgh, Scotland, where Liddell attended Edinburgh University. There I was able to look at Liddell's Olympic medals (he brought home three) and programs from his races. The times for each heat were hand written into each program, showing that, not only did Liddell win all but his first race in Scotland, but that he consistently broke records, even when they were his own.

While in Scotland's capital we knew that we wanted to visit the Eric Liddell Centre. One of four churches on what is known as Holy Corner in Edinburgh was converted into a living memorial to Liddell. We decided to attend one of the other three that Sunday. We chose the Morningside United Church, which happened to be the church where Liddell taught Sunday school (it was then the Morningside Congregational Church), while he was a student at the University. His niece, Dr. Peggy Judge, attends there and agreed to meet us at the Centre to answer some questions.

The Liddell family has been very helpful in this process and, in fact, his middle daughter, Heather Ingham, is planning her first visit to New York in order to see the play.

I'm quite excited for Beyond the Chariots to be making its Off-Broadway debut at Theatre 315. The beautiful space was recently built by the Salvation Army. It is an "Army" band that plays outside Liddell's hospital window in one of the scenes in the play, and if all goes well, we'll have Army band members playing his favorite hymn at each performance.

Also the Salvation Army is going to professionally record both Beyond the Chariots and The Man from Aldersgate. They'll be made available through the Army and at RichDrama.com/Bookstore. An announcement will be made at RichDrama.com/NewsBlog once they're available.

I just lined up tickets to Hong Kong, where a performance of the play (possibly translated to Cantonese) is being arranged. I'll post to the main page of the blog as details develop. This will make the twelfth country in which I've either performed or taught, and I'm hoping it will work toward a "run" in Beijing during the '08 Olympics, only about 50 miles from where Liddell spent most of his life.

As Roger and I were brainstorming on the address for a website for this endeavor we stumbled upon FireOffBroadway.com. We chose the image of fire for a number of reasons: my play is a follow-up to Chariots Of Fire; in a scene from The Man from Aldersgate John Wesley's life is threatened by fire; the Methodist Church, which Wesley founded, uses fire in the image representing their denomination, and perhaps most importantly we hope these plays set people's hearts on fire to impact their world the way the heroes of our plays did.

Rich & Joyce Swingle said...

Comments on Beyond the Chariots

(Rich has) exuberance and high energy in the portrayal of several well-defined characters of the piece. This guy is REALLY talented!
—Felicia Lopes
General Manager, Drama Desk Awards
President, 5 Stone Productions, LLC


Good job!

—Tony Campolo
Author, Speaker, Sociologist


If you need an event that will inspire believers in Christ, draw seekers to Christ, entertain all and amaze everyone, this is it!
—Susan Somerville Brown
Closing company of CATS on Broadway


[The following people have not yet seen Beyond the Chariots but have agreed to use their quotes about my work in general to promote this play.]

Rich's work has not only a dramatic appeal, but is spiritually nourishing, and that's quite a powerful combination. Theatre has the ability to lift peoples' consciousness and dramatically impact our lives. The theatre pieces that Rich creates and into which he breathes life so lovingly and with such dedication, ascend to these essential heights.
—Kimberly Vaughn
Tony-nominated producer of Broadway's Swinging on a Star and Marlene, critically acclaimed director, performer and teacher


Martha (Graham) would have loved Rich's physicality, and his innate ability to maintain character and dramatic line throughout his performance.
—Steve Rooks
former Principal Dancer
Martha Graham Dance Company

[For more general quotes go to RichDrama.com/quotes.]

Rich & Joyce Swingle said...

If you saw Beyond the Chariots, please feel free to leave a quote by clicking on "post comment" below. By doing so I'll assume you're giving me permission to use it for publicity purposes.

Rich & Joyce Swingle said...

For those of you subscribed to receive email updates to this blog, I appologize that I spammed you!!! I posted and left the office. By the time I got home all our inboxes were flooded. I'm looking into it and hope with you all that it will never happen again!