Happily Single Before Happily Married

Our friend we worked with in Singapore on the musical Judah Ben Hur, Diane Wigstone, just came out with a new book...

Vancouver 2010

I've been invited to perform Beyond the Chariots in Vancouver during the Winter Olympics through More than Gold. During the 2008 Olympics I got to perform in Beijing alongside world-record-breaking Olympic champion Madeline Manning Mims, who coined the phrase "More than Gold," so this for me is a really cool connection.

Beyond the Chariots tells the rest of the Chariots of Fire story: How, after breaking the world record in the 1924 Olympics, Eric Liddell spent the rest of his life as a missionary in China.

Here's our performance schedule while there: MoreThanGold.ca/event/beyond-chariots.

All performing artists, including professionals, are asked to raise our own support for this endeavor which will reach people coming from all over the world. Beyond the Chariots has been translated into Spanish, Traditional and Simplified Chinese, and Korean, so this play about a man who set aside Olympic glory to serve the Chinese people will be well placed.

If you would like to give toward this opportunity visit RichDrama.com/Donate. If you'd like to receive a tax credit, you may give through our church: Send a check payable to Westchester Chapel Community Church of the Nazarene, PO Box 265, White Plains, NY 10606. In the memo line write, "Olympics."

We expect our total costs to be about $1500. You may want to cover an airline ticket at $400, a night in the Artists' Village at $100, our registration fee of $50, or any number of transit shuttle passes which we'll need each day at $5.

Once our expenses for the trip are met we'll put any excess toward the London 2012 Summer Olympics.

Thanks so much for helping us reach the world in Vancouver, BC!

The following is an excerpt from the Off-Broadway production.

Merry Christmas!

Thank you so much for your prayers for us throughout the year! Despite the economy this year has been rich and full.

Joyce finished her second masters, this one in counseling. We were thrilled to discover that she placed second on one of her national exams!

She was the lead counselor again for the MasterWorks Festival, where Rich directs the theatre program.

If you missed Rich's report from last year's festival be sure to check it out: The Amazing Month of MasterWorks.

Joyce is now developing a counseling clientele, so if you know of anyone in the New York City area who could use counseling, send them to JoyceSwingle.com.

Rich performed, directed or taught almost 200 times in a dozen states, but the highlight was our trip Down Under. Rich was invited to perform The Revelation for the 20th anniversary celebration of The Salvation Army's Sydney Staff Songsters, a group that has performed all over the world. The Australian magazine, Creative Ministry reported the event on page 9 of their October issue.

And here's an excerpt from the performance, filmed by audience member Gay Wilson...

Venues were added to the itinerary in Newcastle, Melbourne and Auckland, New Zealand. Our blog postings are in the August and September archives.

Rich has been invited to perform Beyond the Chariots in Vancouver during the Winter Olympics through More than Gold. During the 2008 Olympics Rich got to perform in Beijing alongside world-record-breaking Olympic champion Madeline Manning Mims, who coined the phrase "More than Gold." All performing artists, including professionals like Rich, are asked to raise their own support for this endeavor which will reach people coming from all over the world. Beyond the Chariots has been translated into Spanish, Traditional and Simplified Chinese, and Korean, so this play about a man who set aside Olympic glory to serve the Chinese people will be well placed. If you would like to give toward this opportunity visit RichDrama.com/Olympics.

Rich was also asked to be on the board of Christians in Theatre Arts and the planning committee for Media and the Arts of The Third Lausanne Congress for World Evangelization, to be held in Cape Town, South Africa, in October 2010. He was able to connect their visions around CITA's annual sketch writing competition, so that scripts submitted to CITA will be considered for performance at Lausanne. Click here for more info.

We wish you and yours a blessed Christmas and a joyous New Year, and we appreciate your prayers for us in 2010.

We woke up to a white Christmas

Interviewing a Hero

Joyce and I drove from Denver, where we're celebrating our Lord's birth with her family, to Nebraska to interview Tad Nagaki, one of seven paratroopers who liberated the internment camp where Eric Liddell died. Tad will be 90 years old next month and is still farming!

We connected with him through Mary Previte, the great-granddaughter of Hudson Taylor, founder of the China Inland Mission. She was a member of the New Jersey State Congress and was asked to speak at a Memorial Day service for the China-Berma Veterans Association. She had been a 12-year old girl in the internment camp, when the seven paratroopers dropped into a field nearby. That was Tad's second jump. The first was in active duty over Burma. They didn't know how many Japanese guards there would be facing them, but after 1,500 internees rushed the gate, the guards lowered their weapons and went back to their barracks.

After telling that story to the veterans Mary asked, "Are any of my heroes here today?" The room went silent. That began a search which connected her to all six American jumpers or their widows. The one Chinese jumper, Eddie Wong, is believed to be in China, if still alive. Tad was the first living member of the team that Mary contacted.

We connected with Mary through her brother, the late Rev. Jim Hudson Taylor, III. He saw my play, Beyond the Chariots in Hong Kong in 2006, which was set up through fellow George Fox grad Brian Van Tassell. Rev. Taylor was also in the internment camp, and the first thing he said after I finished my play was, "It was softball. We didn't have enough room to play baseball." I changed the script.

Here are some articles we found in preparing for the interview:

Soldier Becomes 'Armored Angel' Freeing Prisoners
Tad Nagaki

Find dozens of more articles by visiting Weihsien-Paintings.org and searching for "Tad Nagaki".

En route to a hero

We're driving through Nebraska to interview Tad Nagaki, the last surviving member of the seven-man paratrooper team that liberated 1,500 Allied civilians from untold Japanese guards after their emperor surrendered, ending World War II. The internment camp they liberated had held Eric Liddell, featured in my play Beyond the Chariots, until he died six months earlier.

If you look closely at the photo you'll see three crosses atop the bluff.

Remember what the Lord has done

My friend, who is a scientist, gave me permission to share this here...

Remember what the Lord has done!
Merry Christmas!

love, JoAnn

[image is of a section of the part of the brain called the hippocampus, which is involved in memory.]

NYC MWF reunion @ MMI

I had someone snap this photo at a MasterMedia International event. Another MWF (www.MasterWorksFestival.org) faculty member, George Merritt, had already left.

1200 degrees

Here's a photo I hadn't posted from our trip to New Zealand, where I taught and performed in Auckland.

We stopped at a glass blowing factory. The hottest kiln heats the lava to 1200 degrees C or 2192 degrees F.

Launching forth

We're off for Denver, where we'll celebrate Christmas with Joyce's family.

biggest box office draw

From my friend, Lauren Yarger, who reviews Broadway plays from a Christian perspective (http://reflectionsinthelight.blogspot.com):
Subject: picking your brains Hi! I am researching a project and am gathering opinions about which Christian vocal artist people would most like to see star in a regular Hollywood film (singing is required of the actor). Could you send me your ideas of who might be the biggest box office draw? If possible, could you ask your readers to let us know what they think? There's a poll on our blog at http://www.facebook.com/l/5c61f;christianperformers.blogspot.com/ or they can email us at masterworkproductions@yahoo.com.
Thanks for your help.

Tennessee Williams

Just heard celebs tell memories of Tennessee Williams. My favorite was when he went to the debut of one of his films. The woman asked him where he was from (wanting to know what studio), and he said, "Mississippi." She called him a wise guy and turned him away until she heard Eli Wallach (who was telling the story) say, "Tenn, tell her who you are." She gasped, and said, "Are you Tennessee Williams!?" When he nodded she said, "Why didn't you tell me who you were?" "You didn't ask me that," he replied, "You asked where I was from."

Find Me

This is the first film by Tracy Trost, who will be directing A Christmas Snow early in 2010.

A Christmas Snow

I just auditioned for an upcoming film, A Christmas Snow, with two other MasterWorks faculty members: Mac Nelson and Patricia Mauceri.

Here are links to our auditions, which you can view when signed in to Facebook:

Patricia Mauceri as Kathleen's Mother
Mac Nelson as Sam
Rich Swingle as Martin
Rich Swingle as Claud
Rich Swingle as Andrew

If you're on Facebook, we'd love it if you'd vote "Like" for our auditions and post positive comments there to raise the director's interest.

If you watch the video here, after it's done, click here to vote "Like" and leave a comment.


ESB Thanksgiving Lights

The East River

We pray over the other burroughs and Long Island, and over all the ground the East River touches.

We've reached the end of our prayer walk. Thanks for joining us.

If you're starting this at the top of the blog, you can pray it in reverse.

Now we're heading back to dress the turkey. While it cooks we'll pray for the rest of the world.

Here's a quick way to pray for the whole world in a bit over five minutes: http://RichDrama.com/WorldPrayer.

The United Nations

We pray the representatives here would make wise choices for peace and justice around the world.

I got to perform in the UN when I was in the cast of The Jeweler's Shop, written by Pope John Paul, II, so I'm reminded to lift up the current pope. Lord, flow through his recent decision to honor artists.

News Media

We pray earnestly for all the media personnel, and that they would report with integrity and fairness.

The Lamb's Church

The Lamb's Church/Theatre/Center for the Homeless is where I lived the first four years that I was in New York, and I performed there for the church, theatre patrons, and the homeless, whom I served meals at least once a week. 

One of my favorite performances was when I put on A Clear Leading for the homeless clients. When I was portraying the racist characters they would boo, and when I switched to abolitionist John Woolman they would cheer! Exhilarating: especially since I knew them well enough to trust that they wouldn't beat me up while I was a character praising slavery!

Am I ever grateful for this place! May the Church of the Nazarene continue to help bodies and souls around the globe! I think we're in about 135 nations right now, and many of those that serve the needy are led by people who interned here.

When I first arrived in 1993 I kept a journal that preceded this blog entitled "Farm Boy on Times Square." You can read the first two entries here.

The post-parade push

As the Christmas Season begins, Lord, help us keep the right spirit.

Times Square

We're grateful to live so close to the cross roads of the world, where the echo of 60,000 voices of Prayer on the Square are so vivid in our memories. May many more prayers go up from this intersection!

And as people disperse from the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade may they keep looking up!

The Helen Hayes Theatre

We're quite grateful for The Helen Hayes, the smallest Broadway theatre, where I've kept an office (a former dressing room) since the late '90's.

We pray for all performing artists on Broadway and around the world, that they will come into a fuller appreciation of their gifts and the Giver of all good gifts.

The Salvation Army

This is the theatre where we had an Off-Broadway run of Beyond the Chariots (http://RichDrama.com/BeyondtheChariots) in 2006

We're grateful for all the Salvation Army has done for bodies and souls all over the world.


We thank the Lord for all the many parks in Manhattan. We pray that Manhattanites, who mostly see works of man all day long will be reminded of the Creator.

Bridges and tunnels

We're grateful for all the many forms of transportation that keep the millions moving.

We pray for safety and efficiency!

Former labyrinth

I saw on an old Google image that this dancing water fountain (closed for the winter) used to be a prayer labyrinth.

We're grateful for the Christian heritage of this city that is now having a huge growth spurt of church plants. May they continue to multiply and flourish!


We're grateful for all the tourists that come to New York from around the world. We pray they will encounter God's great Love here and bring it back to their home countries.

The Hudson

We're grateful for the Hudson River and all those that risk their lives to defend us. We're even grateful for New Jersey. :)

We pray for safety for bodies and souls all across the US.

The Chinese Consulate

This is where we got visas for our trips to China We're grateful that it's steps away from our apt., and Hopeful for all Good Things to flow into that land.

Prayer walk

Joyce and I are starting a prayer walk of gratitude through midtown Manhattan, starting at our own apartment with a view of the Empire State Building.

If you don't know the miraculous story of how we got here, check it out: http://RichDrama.com/MP.

To follow our prayer walk on your Facebook wall sign up here: http://Facebook.com/RichDrama.

Charles Walker

I was grieved to read of the death of Charles Walker. He saw a performance of Beyond the Chariots at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, after which he told us how he found Eric Liddell's grave in Weifang, China, which started the ball rolling on the establishment of a massive monument there in Liddell's honor. That conversation led us to interview him in our documentary, Olympic Hero in China: The Story of Eric Liddell.

Here's Walker's obituary in The Scotsman: A Liddell claim to fame.

The impact of Eric Liddell

I just came across the obituary of a man who entered ministry after an encounter with Eric Liddell: Alexander Holmes. Who knows how many lives have been touched by Liddell's life.

Bring in your gold

When I told my friend Leo I'd be coming to Memphis he set up workshops and performances at the University of Memphis and Second Presbyterian Church. He said, "The preaching is going to cover Revelation 21. Do you happen to have anything that would match the theme?" That night I got to share a section from my play, The Revelation (http://RichDrama.com/Revelation), which draws from that very passage of scripture!

The Blind Side with Sandra Bullock

The Blind Side is really a fabulous film about love in action. I can't recommend it enough!

The film is based on the book of the same name and the true story of Michael Oher, who was a First Round draft pick in the 2009 NFL Draft, selected by the Baltimore Ravens. Sandra Bullock plays Leah Anne Touhy, who took him in as a young boy (a very big young boy) who had been kicked onto the streets of Memphis. The life transformation in his life and that of the Touhy family is profound and far-reaching.

There are some elements parents might need to talk through with younger kids, but, as the rating suggests, this is for kids as young as 13.

The Reason for God

I'm LOVING this book!

Tim Keller addresses the greatest objections to Christianity, and then builds on reasons we all know God exists, even those not ready to admit it. It will increase your faith and make you feel smarter for it!

Skiing without the lift

Mt. Bachelor wasn't scheduled to open its lifts until today, so when I was there last week I hiked up. Didn't make it to the top, but it was a fun, if brief, descent.

Reflections on A Christmas Carol

I have a friend that posted a great review of A Christmas Carol on IMDb...

Begin forwarded message:

Hey, Rich!

When I think of Jim Carrey, I always think of you too, because I think you resemble him. So, anyway... I was just thinking again about the new version of A Christmas Carol that he was in and I thought you might like to read my reflections on it. I saw it a couple weekends ago in 3-D and thought it was excellent. I posted some thoughts on IMDb after I saw the movie, and you can find them here:


Joy Freschly

A clarifying decision

While visiting my family in Oregon I ate at the pizza parlor (mentioned on November 16) where I ate many lunches in high school.

One day I had to leave before my friends, and I was going to ask them to get up so I could squeeze out of the booth, but I realized that I didn't want to grow up entirely, and I crawled under the table. I believe that decision was one of the things that prepped me to be a full-time actor I think I've been a pretty responsible adult, but I hope I never lose the ability to play!

Back in NYC

Landed at Logan

Gorgeous flight to SLC

What are the chances?

We were having lunch in the pizza parlor where I ate many lunches as a student of Phoenix High School, Phoenix, Oregon, a town which had a population of 2,000 when I was a kid. Who should be having lunch there but Jon Davis, the lead elder at the Beijing International Christian Fellowship, who arranged for me to perform an excerpt from Beyond the Chariots there during the Olympics!

Joyce and I went to bed at about 10pm, and just before midnight Joyce asked if I was okay. She thought I was sobbing, but I was laughing my head off thinking about the chances we would have connected with Jon where we did. She woke up thinking of the same thing, just before my uncontainable giggles.

Now us theatre folk aren't known for our mathematical prowess, but if someone were going to calculate the probability of our encounter with Jon they'd have to consider the following:

View Larger Map

*the vast distances between Beijing, Phoenix, Oregon, and New York City
*the relative size and populations of Beijing and New York City
*the fact that, even after doubling in size since my graduation, the population of Phoenix could fit in an average apartment complex in Beijing or New York City
*the distance between Phoenix and the closest city with at least a million people (about 280 miles)
*all the decisions that factored into placing Phoenix, Oregon, on Jon's itinerary at that point in time
*the fact that last May George Fox University chose me, a Nazarene, as one of the featured presenters for their Quaker Heritage Week, which was what brought me out from New York City
*the fact that this was one of a handful of trips to Southern Oregon on which I didn't set up a performance on a Sunday (Since I've never performed in Phoenix since graduating from high school the probability of me eating lunch there before or after a performance would have been minuscule, and I can only remember eating at the pizzeria a handful of times since graduation.)
*the probability that each in our party of eight would contribute to our conversation in such a way that our 8am breakfast would extend until after 11:30
*the fact that Joyce and I didn't hesitate to stay with family past the starting times of every local church we knew about because on Friday afternoon we "happened" to walk into my grandmother's residence at the exact moment they were starting their only weekly church service, which we enjoyed immensely
*the fact that my dad's cousin mentioned the Phoenix Historical Museum and could let us in for a tour
*the duration of each person's time at any given display
*the fact that my dad's cousin recommended Angelo's Pizzeria
*the fact that my dad's cousin recognized the pastor and his wife who were hosting Jon and his wife and mentioned he was hosting people from China (Though we shared two hour-plus services in Beijing Jon and I only spoke for about a minute that day. For the rest of the services I was either watching him interview Olympic champion Madeline Manning Mims from backstage or he was watching my backside as I performed.)

If any of these things hadn't been in place we either wouldn't have been in the pizza parlor at the same time or, if we were, wouldn't have recognized each other.

It's been a long time since I've studied probabilities, but the way I understand it, the probability determined by each factor is multiplied by the next to determine the final probability.

Then multiply that by the possibility of also having sat one row behind a gal who graduated from Phoenix High School three years after me in the Bird's Nest Stadium just over a year earlier during the Olympics: Out of 90,000 Seats. I'd been invited to perform for athletes in the Olympic Village that day, but the night before a dignitary flew to Beijing unexpectedly and needed the pass I was going to be given. 

Early flight

I'm heading out to JFK, then to Minneapolis, then to Portland, OR, then to Redmond, OR, then a drive to Metolius, OR: about 14 hours door to door. Hoping for stamina for tomorrow's performance of Big Fish Little Worm (www.RichDrama.com/BigFishLittleWorm).


This morning we had breakfast with John Kasica.  He and his wife have roomed with us several years at MasterWorks. He was in town to play percussion at Carnegie Hall with the St. Louis Symphony. They were a part of the Asian series on offer at the moment. He played a piece in which he and two other percussionists "played" with water. They were drumming above, below and on the surface of the water, so the first three rows were not sold, so as not to splash patrons. The instruments of the orchestra were protected by plexiglass. John was soaked.

As were we while "having church" in a local cafe and while worshiping, sharing and praying back at his hotel room.

He's starting a church this coming Sunday in St. Louis. It started out as an artists fellowship, and now they're inviting non-artists to receive and share their own giftings.

My Carnegie Hall Debut!

My friend Liz called to see if we could use some complimentary tickets to a concert of the Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra at Carnegie Hall. Joyce couldn't make it, but my friend Fritz was in from Portland to shoot a wedding, for which he used me as his "second shooter." That was great fun!

At any rate, we went to the concert, and upon entering the hall we were given Chinese hand drums with beads on the ends of two strings. They pound each face of the drum simultaneously when you spin it. Everyone was "warming" up before the concert began, which could, at one point, be heard from the lobby according to the NY Times reviewer.

What the reviewer didn't say was that we called for three encores! The first was for the cellist, Trey Lee, the only one to play a Western instrument. There were many erhus (which I reference in Beyond the Chariots) and various other stringed instruments, plus Chinese percussion and wind instruments, all set up in a Western orchestra fashion. Lee's emotional connection to the piece, first performed in Hong Kong by Yo Yo Ma, was exquisite! I recently taught a Graceworks seminar to the music department at the University of Memphis in which I urged them to envision a story as they play a piece. Whatever story Lee was telling was compelling me to the edge of my seat!

Leaf Peeping on the Hudson

I'm checking out the fall foliage this afternoon with Mac Nelson, who was a master class instructor last year at MasterWorks.

Click here to see the album.

Fritz Photo

My friend Fritz Liedtke (FritzPhoto.com just flew out from Portland to photograph a wedding. He asked me if I knew anyone out here that he could hire as a backup photog. I told him I'd love to do, so away we go!

He just published an article in Rangefinder Magazine/Wedding and Portrait Professionals International, which is making me feel the pressure: A Wedding Photographer Must Be Everything A brief defense of the modern wedding photographer’s multifarious talents.

It reminded me of the professional life of someone who performs one-man plays!

Outdoing the leaves

Leaf peepers in MD

The climbing stump

The youth of the church where I'll be performing Beyond the Chariots (www.RichDrama.com) tonight were dismayed to discover that their climbing tree (and some of their parents' climbing tree) had to be taken down because it was dying of disease. It will live on in woodwork.

Tonight's performance will be at 7:30pm: www.WoodsChurch.org.