Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Quite moving

It's a good thing I can't post to my blog with paper or this would be soaked in tears. I was sobbing after Abigail Breslin's amazing performance as Helen Keller. The whole play was just phenomenal, but Abigail blew me away.

Looking forward to producing the play this summer at MasterWorks: www.RichDrama.com/TheMiracleWorker.

Lots of kids

I'm at Circle in the Square Theatre to see the Broadway production of The Miracle Worker with Abigail Breslin and Matthew Modin. I'm thrilled to see a high percentage of kids. I'm sure they're here to see Abigail, but it's encouraging to know families aren't afraid of bringing kids to experience this remarkable story.

Upper Room Table


This table was in a Biblical Garden just outside of Jerusalem. It is set up the way it might have been for Jesus and his disciples as they celebrated the Passover at the Last Supper.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Miracle Worker

The MasterWorks Festival theatre program will be producing William Gibson's Tony-winning play, The Miracle Worker, this summer, which marks it's 50th anniversary. It tells the true story of Helen Keller, who was left blind and deaf from an illness in infancy, and how her teacher, Annie Sullivan, half blind herself, struggled to break through dark silence to bring language.

Rich Swingle (director of the program, Claud in the upcoming film A Christmas Snow, performs eight one-man plays) and John Kirby (acting coach on The Prisoner, Count of Monte Cristo, Bobby Jones Stroke of Genius and about 20 others) will be co-directing the play. Other faculty will be announced soon. To see our report from last year, visit RichDrama.com/MWF.

We still have availability for students aged 16-26, so please forward this to anyone you know that would benefit from the program.

Students should purchase the Samuel French acting version and upload a monologue for any character/s for which they would like to audition. This can also count as an audition to the program. More instructions may be found at MasterWorksFestival.org on the Theatre Audition Requirements page.

We had originally announced that we would produce The Foreigner, but while preparing we discovered insurmountable problems with making it work for our program.

The early application deadline is March 31.

Hope to see you soon!
Rich

More passionate

As I walked to Grand Central this morning at 4:30 I replayed a conversation long ago at an audition. My character said something I didn't feel comfortable saying. I didn't think of it at the time, but the early morning air brought a clarity to my mind, and I found myself saying, "I'm more passionate about changing society than about advancing my own career."

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Peter Kreeft at King's College

I was able to hear Peter Kreeft speak at The King's College at the Empire State Building. He's a theologian, philosopher, novelist, a professor here and at Boston College, but I attended because he's also a playwright. You'll see below that he clarified that.

These are my notes from his interview with Marvin Olasky, Provost of The King's College, as a part of their Distinguished Visitor's series.

Kreeft said the Bible is more novel than theology. The thelogy is plugged into the narrative, not the the other way around.

He talked about sex: it was the first command. "When God said be fruitful and multiply, He didn't mean grow apples and work your multiplication tables." The loss of the sense of the sacred has lead to abortion, sexual immorality and loss of gender roles (unisex feminism as opposed to justice feminism).

He's written *I Surf, Therfore I Am*. When the 73-year old was asked if he's looking forward to surfing this summer he said, "Does the Pope look forward to writing encyclicals?" Part of the book is dedicated to the theology of the rip tide.

He thinks when we get to heaven and see our lives through God's eyes, we'll see lots of angels.

He was asked if Socrates were in the Senate what might he say? He said the philosopher would discombobulate everyone, and they'd feed him hemlock. Then he improvised a very clever dialogue between Socrotes and President Obama.

In Hitler's concentration camps the most educated officers were the most cruel. The universities will decide the future of society, but with education comes the ability to deceive ourselves more cleverly. He thinks we make democracy a god. We're more polytheistic than Hinduism because we have as many gods as people, which is more than the named gods of Hinduism.

He quotes GK Chesterton in the 20s who said there would be a great attack on our sexuality. The relationships between men and women have changed. Women don't expect to be respected but to be used. Men must become knights of honor and take a stand, showing they can love women for themelves and not just what they can get out of them. They'll start a quiet revolution.

He was asked for dating advice. He said our minds are like ponds. The bottom is filled with silt and trash. As you get closer to the surface there's more purity and light. He said while dating think with the top part of your brain.

We expect our artists to be immoral and even insane. But in ancient Athens the greatest artists were given free rent for life. They saw life as art and the moral hero as the most beautiful work of art.

A culture follows its love. Love has gravity. A society follows heroes because they emulate virtues they love. Look at our heroes to see where we're headed. Create solid heroes with real virtues to change the course of history.

He was asked about his book *Making Sense out of Suffering*. He quoted JRR Tolkein, who, when writing about suffering said the Gospel is the world's greatest fairy story but it's true. Freud said Christianity is so good it can't be true. It has to be man made because the glove fits the hand so well. Kreeft said, what if the hand was built to fit the glove.

I asked him if he has in mind to write any more plays. He said he'd never written any! I told him I'd seen a production of Between Heaven and Hell. He said Tom Key, who's represented by my agent, produced it as a play, and he said many of his dialogue books could work that way, perhaps the best of which would be *Socrotes and Jesus*. In that story Socrates wakes up at Harvard and discovers Christ despite the fact that He's not well represented there. One of my seminary profs gave his life to the Lord at Harvard, so it is possible.

A Vampire is the anti-Christ: he takes your blood instead of giving you his. Kreeft isn't surprised that Anne Rice became a Christian. Rice posted on Facbook on 07/28/10: "My faith in Christ is central to my life. My conversion from a pessimistic atheist lost in a world I didn't understand, to an optimistic believer in a universe created and sustained by a loving God is crucial to me. But following Christ does not mean following His followers. Christ is infinitely more important than Christianity and always will be, no matter what Christianity is, has been, or might become."

When asked why he gets up at 4:30 once a week to come down from Boston to teach here for most of the last ten years he said, "Though I hate the Yankees I love New York, and I love you guys." When pressed he quoted Flannery O'Conner who said Sir Thomas Aquinas loved God so much that she couldn't help but love him. He said King's College students are little Thomas Aquinases.


The podcast of this interview is available by clicking here.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Hockey Dad


During the second week of the Olympics we shared Pacific Theatre with another one-man play: Hockey Dad. Jamie Popoff let us adapt his set (we covered the toilet stall), and we even got one positive response about how ideal our set was!

Hockey Dad is a conversation with a guy who's daughter has talked him into playing in a father-child game, but all his fears of not stacking up to his semi-pro dad cripple him right there in the locker room! The journey he takes as he chats with the audience is profound, exploring the relationship of father and child from numerous angles, and closing with a beautiful reconciliation.

Hockey Dad is available for bookings through www.BurntThicket.com.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Vote for Gifted Hands!

Our friend Dustee Hullinger, featured in this brief documentary, was instrumental in my getting started in NYC. We did some sociodrama with her clients and saw a lot of breakthroughs. I urge you to vote for her video to receive an award. At about 19 seconds a thumbs up button will appear.

All the best Dustee!

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Vancouver 2010


Our play, Beyond the Chariots, was translated into Chinese, Korean and Spanish for the Beijing Olympics, and for Vancouver 2010 we had audience members who benefited from the translations at all but one performance. We had a group of Spanish-speakers who we thought would be attending that day, so we scrambled to integrate the third translation. They didn't end up making it, but there was a family in Seattle that appreciated our efforts at a post-Olympic performance on our way back to New York City.

Our post-performance conversations were also enriching. We chatted with Leslie Lewis Sword, who performed Miracle in Rwanda in the same venue in which we performed Beyond the Chariots at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Ron Reed, the artistic director of Pacific Theatre, hosted a Christians in Theatre Arts Conference in 1993, which confirmed the calling I was sensing to move to New York City. He was able to attend our play, and we grabbed a meal afterward with Wanda Reinholdt, stage manager of Burnt Thicket, the group producing the other play running in Pacific Theatre through the Olympics, Hockey Dad, performed and co-created by James Popoff. Deb Sears was at Pacific Theatre during that 93 conference, and she was able to attend Beyond the Chariots as well. She's now involved with the independent film scene in Vancouver. Numerous More than Gold CaPA artists were able to attend both of our plays. After performing an excerpt from Beyond the Chariots at the senior center, which operates in the same building as Pacific Theatre, several were drawn to the play, including a 93-year old man who recalled a lunch with Harold Abrahams in 1943. Abrahams was the rival of Eric Liddell, featured in Chariots of Fire as well as our play which tells the rest of the story from Liddell's perspective.

We also had English speaking audience members from all over Canada, the US, Brazil, Indonesia and Russia.

Even our encounters with people on the streets of Vancouver were full of surprises: Korean speakers at a sushi restaurant, a professor of theatre in Korea we met in Stanley Park, and some folks near the steam clock that remembered my performance in Beijing! Someone pointed out that all of these Divine appointments should encourage us that we were on the right track.

To see photos from the trip, visit our photo album, "Vancouver 2010" at Facebook.com/RichDrama.

Miracle in Rwanda


Before our performance on Friday, an actor was checking out Pacific Theatre for upcoming performances of her one-woman play. When I heard that she was a solo performer I invited her to see Beyond the Chariots. I try to see as many one-man plays as I can, so I figured she'd want to do the same thing. Indeed, she stayed. When the introductory slides came up and she saw the title of the play she remembered that we'd shared the same theatre for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2007! Her show, Miracle in Rwanda, was sold out before her first performance, so Joyce and I were only able to see it because she added shows to her line-up. It was amazing! As you walk into the theatre space, there is a small square marked on the stage with white tape. As the play progresses, we discover that eight people hid in a bathroom the size of that square during the Rwandan genocide. Leslie's play has a strong message of forgiveness and reconciliation despite the worst of atrocities.

The Olympic Caldron at dusk