Friday, November 30, 2012

MWF Off-Broadway


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Fifteen MasterWorks Festival students now have their first Off-Broadway credit!

Performing Off-Broadway in
Theatre 315
Our play was The Jeweler’s Shop, written by a young man named Karol Wojtyla, who would eventually become Pope John Paul II. The profound insights into marriage that a celibate man brought to the world are mind-blowing. I watched as couples in our audiences poked each other when the truths of the play hit them. Many told our actors how specifically the play spoke into their relationships.

We were encouraged in our choice of the play, which--as the title suggests--revolves around a jeweler’s shop. Being Polish, the pope set that shop on Krakow’s market square. One of the orchestral faculty at the Festival connected with one of our theatre faculty and one of our students at the South Bend Airport as they were all arriving. The French horn instructor told them how she had just picked out wedding rings for her fiancĂ© and herself at a jeweler’s shop on Krakow’s market square. You can see a readers’ theatre performance that tells the story here:



Because the play called for about half of the number of students we usually have in the theatre program, we cast two students for each of the main roles. We used the setup for a very unique exercise: All the students were on stage for each performance, and a number of times they had no idea whether they would perform the role for which they’d prepared or remain a part of the “wall of humanity” watching the drama unfold and leaping into smaller roles as required. The instant before the play was about to begin I would walk up to the two gentleman who had prepared to play the role of Adam, the narrator of the story, and I would hand one of them a note telling him who was playing all of the roles. He would give the others their assignments during the context of the play, so that they, too, wouldn’t know which part they’d play until the audience saw them cast in that role by Adam. Some of the students were terrified by this approach, but all of them overcame their fears and gave professional-level performances. Because they performed with different actors throughout the month they really had to listen to each other in each moment, and it brought a new level of awareness, concentration, flexibility and connection to their fellow actors.


The MasterWorks students
were so talented! I wish I
wouldn't have come alone.
Next year I'll invite lots of
people!

--Rachel Prozeller
New York City
The exercise paid off, and many, including Dr. Patrick Kavanaugh, the director of the Festival felt they gave the best performances yet for the theatre program. People came up to our actors with tears in their eyes, thanking them for their great work. Jan Fields, a counselor that works with couples, called the production a “jewel.” Elizabeth Pepper said that watching both performances gave her additional insight into the Pope’s words. She spoke to the cast the morning after their second performance in a suburb of Pittsburgh and told them how each cast was totally unique and totally professional in the level of their work.

In all we had a dozen performances: four in Winona Lake, where the main Festival takes place, two near Pittsburgh and six in and near New York City. It was remarkable for the students to get so many performance opportunities because in theatre one of the best teachers is the audience.

One of our students gave me permission to share a very special story: During the first week of the Festival she asked me if she could be the one to share after our performances and invite the audience to give to the Festival. After hearing her story I heartily agreed! She didn’t have any money to attend the program, but received a half-scholarship. Then, when it looked like she’d have to walk away from that scholarship, her university provided a scholarship for the other half! After our final performance she went on to share how we had done an enacted prayer for her friend. She had shared earlier in the Festival how this friend was in a coma. My wife Joyce, the Festival’s Director of Spiritual Care, led a week of devotions with our theatre students. After one of Joyce’s devotions the student said she was afraid that her friend would not survive the coma. We did an enacted prayer, something we do every year on the second Wednesday after an hour of comedy improv. Typically someone portrays the person giving the prayer request so that they can watch it with perspective, but we were having a difficult time finding a young woman to step into her role. One of the women I asked told me that she sensed that the Lord wanted the young woman to portray herself. We followed that impulse. I played a part of the Trinity, and we immediately circled the young woman and comforted her. Then we circled around a young man on the floor who portrayed the young woman’s friend. We “breathed” into him and lifted him to his feet. We led him over to the young woman, and he hugged her. Then we, as the Trinity, circled the two of them with a heavenly hug.

The next morning the young woman reported that her friend had come out of his coma!

The young woman explained how the experience had enriched her faith, and she recently updated us: "He's doing really well, he's back in school and getting healthier by the day. His mother was grateful for all the prayers and support on our end, she said it was such a comfort to know the extent that God was present in their lives."

Every year that we do enacted prayer we have students and faculty tell us similar stories of how the Lord moved after we all saw it happen on stage, agreeing together for the outcome.

The comedy improv was led this year for the first time by MWF alumna Kaelen Carrier.  We had four students in the Long-Form Improv track, but several of the other students would work with them when they were not in rehearsals. Their intensive work also played into the whole group as we worked together to delight through improv. Viola Spolin, considered the mother of American improv, believed that the work done through improvisation is as powerful a learning tool as Stanislavski’s Method. Improv teaches spontaneity and role training, two vital skills for every actor.

Patricia Mauceri blessed our students for the seventh year in a row.

Her insights from her Juilliard training and thirty years of working as a professional in the entertainment industry brought a huge wealth of knowledge to our students, especially as she met with them one-on-one to talk about their characters and their personal lives.

Patricia’s testimony of how she walked away from a fourteen-year role on a television program because they handed her a script she was uncomfortable performing still reverberates through the theatre program and the campus at large.

For eleven years I've coached people in businesses on their presentation skills through Graceworks. The principles which help them make tremendous breakthroughs were taken directly from acting techniques, so it was wonderful to take this fine-tuned workshop I have been presenting all over the world to major firms and bring it to our actors. I’ve long wanted Carol Doscher, founder of Graceworks, to lead a MasterClass, and The Jeweler Shop made this the right year because so much of the play is spoken directly to the audience. The workshop laid the foundation that taught our students to succeed in this element of the production. After the workshop Carol coached some of our students, and that led to major breakthroughs for them in their work.

Philip Telfer, creator of the documentary Captivated: Finding Freedom in a Media Captive Culture, preached one Sunday morning at the Festival, focusing on how media can become an idolatry, and how it effects the way each of us think, even if we don’t plug into media. He referenced a study of media’s impact on a Polynesian island that had never had television before. Soon after it was introduced eating disorders began to appear in a culture that never had them before. They did a followup study ten years later and found that people without television were beginning to fall into eating disorders because the society had become so fixated on body image. Immediately after Philip’s sermon we launched a 24-hour tech fast for our theatre students. They weren’t allowed to use their cell phones, laptops or any other electronic device to access media or the internet. The students’ overwhelmingly resistant response confirmed the need to help them sense when media is becoming an idolatry, especially since they’re considering careers so immersed in media. It gave them a concrete way to pull back from it and lessen its impact on their lives, decisions and goals. The one exception to the tech fast was when we screened Captivated for the whole Festival, after which Philip answered questions. The next morning he debriefed our tech fast with our theatre students and told more of his story. For them to hear from someone who used the gifts and talents that he had to partner with other professionals to bring about a first-rate project was truly inspirational, but the biggest take-away was Philip’s demonstration of how we are part of God’s story, a concept that takes the pressure off of making life about ourselves. I thought it was our best MasterClass to date, and Patricia Mauceri confirmed, saying the very words I’d been thinking.

Steven Arcieri of Arcieri and Associates Talent Agency joined students for an impromptu early morning breakfast. He spoke about his work as a commercial talent agent for voiceovers and celebrity endorsements. He also shared some personal examples of how artists (and agents) in the entertainment industry must often make hard choices to honor their faith.

On our free day in New York some students went to museums and shopping, while I took the others on a tour of the 9/11 Memorial. I told them how I had written and staged my one-man play Five Bells for 9/11 and shared my recollections of what I had heard on the tour previously from Ann Van Hine. Ann is the widow of one of the men whose story is told in my play. She speaks after Five Bells every chance she gets. She wasn’t able to join us on the tour, but she spoke after one of our performances. She shared how our play about marriage had spoken to her. The Jeweler’s Shop features a woman whose husband died in their youth. Ann also shared how the Lord had comforted and healed her and their two daughters after her husband was crushed in the lobby of the South Tower. Next year she plans to give us the tour of Ground Zero herself.

I wanted our students to meet a number of media professionals at a single event, so I arranged to have Euna Lee share about her arrest and imprisonment in North Korea after she and fellow journalist, Laura Ling, were exposing human trafficking between North Korea and China. MasterMedia--a network of Christian media professionals founded by Larry Poland, who spoke at MasterWorks in 2010--also invited their members, and when Megan Alexander, host of Fox News’ Inside Edition, learned of the event she offered to interview Euna Lee for our students and invited guests! The event drew more media professionals than we had hoped. You can see a news piece that was done about the event below. Some of the media professionals joined our students upstairs to talk about their work, and then we went back downstairs to do an enacted prayer for some of their ministries.



We took our students to see Freud’s Last Session, a two-man play that ran for over two years, which is an extremely long run Off-Broadway. The play showed an imagined meeting between Sigmund Freud and C.S. Lewis. One of the reasons the play ran for so long was because Freud’s ideas are given free reign. In a secular city like New York that approach packed in the audiences. But Lewis’ views were also given free reign. His testimony of how he moved from atheism to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ is told in great detail, as are a number of Lewis’s thoughts on life, culture and scripture. We were blessed by a talk-back with the actors after the show. The man who understudies both roles came out first while the other two were getting out of costume and make-up. The three actors entertained questions for the better part of an hour, and several of our students and the parents of one of our students were able to get their queries addressed.

It’s always been part of my vision to let students know about faith-based projects outside of the Festival, and we saw two of this year’s students land roles through casting notices I sent out during the course of the year: Sam Carr performed for In His Steps, a web series in which his portrayal was voted the favorite character, and Brandon Langeland landed a role in the upcoming film Christmas Grace, a movie in which I also have a role.



We’ve been pleased to watch our students get into well-respected acting programs like the American Musical and Dramatic Academy, Biola University, Regent University, Belhaven University, Gordon College, Azusa Pacific University, University of Southern California, the American Shakespeare Center, Media Village in South Africa, Melbourne’s National Institute of Dramatic Arts, and the list keeps growing.

I’m thrilled that we’ll be heading back to New York next summer, and I know that from the planning sessions we’ve already had, that next year will be even more successful!

Find out about next year’s program, and then audition soon.

For a report from last year's program, click here.








Sunday, November 25, 2012

Love Acts

Pastor Linda Warren preaches on John 13:1-17 as a part of a memorial tribute to Radha Nanhoo, one year after her death.

Dramatization by Rich Swingle and Chris L, Radha's nephew. Communion by  Pastor Joyce Swingle. Intro to "Imagine" by Madeline Bedillo. Background guitar by Piero Gorriti.



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Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Have a blessed Thanksgiving!

We hope Thanksgiving festivities are blessing all of our American family and friends, and for those of you reading this in other countries, have some turkey and thank the Lord with us!

This year we’re grateful to have survived Superstorm Sandy without even losing electricity. The worst of it for us was that I was scheduled to land at La Guardia Airport within an hour of Sandy’s arrival. I had four flights canceled, and it was difficult to be in Chicago, away from Joyce while she heard the wind rattle our windows, but I was with great friends that made the waiting more bearable. Then, the night before I was able to get home I had the opportunity to share the Gospel with someone who is exploring Christianity. I’m always in awe when the Lord brings great things from the worst circumstances.

I joined Actors InC (www.ActorsInChrist.com) and the Salvation Army (www.USE.SalvationArmy.org) in the Sandy relief effort on Staten Island. You can see a video about it that I submitted to CNN here...
Watch your inbox for the announcement of a documentary I’m polishing about our trip to Puerto Rico, Transylvania and London during the Summer Olympics, where we reached people from 30 different nations and every continent but Antarctica. We're going to make it available to raise funds for an upcoming trip to Africa. You can order a copy now by making a donation of any kind at RichDrama.com/Africa. For now, you can see an interview I did before the documentary’s premiere for the church where I grew up in Medford, Oregon...


I still have availability for performances of my Christmas play Views of the Manger, and I’d love to bring one of my other plays and/or workshops to your church or school any time of the year: www.RichDrama.com

Here’s a Thanksgiving themed sketch Joyce and I performed at our church a few years back...


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America's first official Thanksgiving

By the President of the United States of America, a Proclamation.
Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor– and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.

Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be– That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks–for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation–for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of his Providence which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war–for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed–for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national One now lately instituted–for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which he hath been pleased to confer upon us.

and also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions– to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually–to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed–to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shewn kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord–To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the encrease of science among them and us–and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.

Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.--George WashingtonAs posted by the Presidential Prayer Team.

Happy Thanksgiving from Graceworks

You'll see a superstorm sequence in this year's Graceworks Thanksgiving card...

Click to enlarge.

I'm thankful for 11 years of helping people find freedom in their public speaking through our work.

This year our founding CEO (Chief Encouragement Officer), Carol Doscher, was a MasterClass instructor at MasterWorks. Since many of our principles are based on acting techniques it was thrilling to take the workshop we've used all over the world in businesses and re-apply it to acting. I've been wanting to bring her out for many years, and this was the perfect season since our play, The Jeweler's Shop, offered our students many opportunities to speak directly to the audience. I was so proud of our cast! They were so connected to each other and to each audience.

I'm thankful, too, that we'll be returning to NYC next summer!


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470 West End Ave. New York, NY 10024
212-724-1541 | info@graceworksinc.com | www.graceworksinc.com
© 2009 - 2012 Graceworks Inc.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Euna Lee spoke to our students about her imprisonment in NK

This summer I wanted our MasterWorks students to meet media professionals, so I asked Euna Lee if she'd share about her imprisonment in North Korea. She set aside a project so that she could do it to meet our students' tight time frame, and Mastermedia brought in a great group of professionals.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Interview on Focus Today

Here's a recent interview on Focus Today on The Dove, in which I talk about our upcoming documentary, Grace to the Nations: 2012. We showed a preview there in Southern Oregon a few weeks ago, and hope to release the final version soon. Sign up at RichDrama.com/Updates to find out details.

Love Is a Blessing

Pastor Joyce Swingle preaches on 1 Peter 2:9-10.

Opening scripture, Psalm 100 (NIV), read by Bill H. Rich Swingle introduced Dr. Patrick Kavanaugh, director of The MasterWorks Festival. Prayer by Pastor Rachel Taylor. Closing benediction from Jude 1:24-25 by Bill H.



To be sure to receive information on the documentary Pastor Joyce mentions about their trip to Romania sign up for emails at RichDrama.com/Updates. The play Pastor Joyce mentions that refers to King Kedorlaomer is Views of the Manger.

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Friday, November 16, 2012

Treasure Givers



Our church hosts a monthly outreach for children ages 5 to 10 called Treasure Seekers. We'll meet this coming Sunday, Nov. 18! Come one, come all to find the Greatest Treasure Ever! At the Crowne Plaza Hotel, 66 Hale in White Plains at 11 a.m.

Monday, November 05, 2012

An Ipoh connection

We were waited on yesterday by two people from Ipoh, Malaysia, where Joyce preached and I performed Beyond the Chariots. One of the women said in 24 years she hadn't run into someone who had been to Ipoh. The other one knows how to make white coffee (a mix of coffee, tea and milk that is just an amazing experience), but she couldn't make it for us because the restaurant didn't have the right machine.

Pray that the Lord works through this experience to draw both of these women to Himself.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Love Is Loyal

Pastor Joyce Swingle preaches on Romans 12:10, Mark 14:32-42, Psalm 51:10-12.

Opening prayer and Psalm 23 by Pastor Linda Warren.

Closing comments and prayer by Bill H.



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