MasterWits 2014

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We had another stellar MasterWorks Theatre Program, this year producing Much Ado About Nothing in Winona Lake, IN, Bethel Park, PA, and NYC in Theatre 315, an Off-Broadway space pictured above. Susan Somerville Brown choreographed a dance number in our production, and Patricia Mauceri co-directed with me and met with students to talk about the spiritual lives of their characters.

Katie Leigh, who plays Connie Kendall in Adventures in Odyssey, coached our students for voice over work. In this photo she's playing Connie with our students in an Odyssey episode.

Katie and Torry Martin, a writer and performer for Adventures in Odyssey, joined our students performing during our annual Improv Night. Torry preceded the comedy with a very funny talk entitled "Discovering Your Calling/Finding Your Gift." Faculty and students made reference to that talk numerous times throughout the rest of the Festival. In this shot, Torry and student Esh Ryans are laying down a commercial. Torry, who's performed in numerous films, said that he'll recommend Esh to play his son if such roles come his way.

We had a great MasterClass with Bobbie Merritt, a NYC manager, and Laura Bergquist, a Broadway music director. They had such encouraging things to say about our students, confirming what we already knew: The quality of our students keeps rising year after year! Bobbie wrote, "It was a true blessing to be with the kids! They encouraged and edified me and gave me real hope for the future! I truly believe it IS in their hands! And from that group, I am so hopeful that the LORD's name will be high and lifted up, and that there will be revival in the land! (2 Chron. 7:14) Hallelujah! Let the Believers say AMEN and AMEN!"

We also had a breakfast panel with Mastermedia, which included some outstanding influencers in media, including a former writer for Saturday Night Live, a NYC actor/director, a newscaster, the founder of a NYC networking group for Christian actors, a NYC actor/director, and former MasterClass instructor John Forbes, who has produced Off-Broadway and performed and directed around the world.

Ann Van Hine, whose late husband Bruce is one of the characters in my one-man play Five Bells for 9/11, pointed our students toward the source of her Hope and Peace, just before flying to Japan to minister to families of victims of 3/11, which marks the devastating tsunami and earthquake that destroyed much of their island nation.

In the midst of Ann's tour of the 9/11 Memorial Christina Doerr performed a monologue about Hope in the wake of 9/11.

Our students shared their purpose statements as a part of our closing sessions. They were challenged to make observations about how elements of the program will help them in the future. Our MasterWorks instructors were mentioned and quoted, including John and Paula Kasica (both their devotions with theatre and John's campus-wide talk on the orphan spirit and the Father Heart of God), and my bride Joyce, who serves as pastoral care director. 

They also mentioned appreciation for the focus on prayer and keeping the Lord central, lunchtime faculty devotions and worship. 

Here are some quotes: "Expectations were exceeded." "We meet God through fellowship." "That (reconciliation) wouldn't have happened if I hadn't come to MasterWorks." "God's love became overwhelming." "You only have to be loved by God, and I didn't know that until I was here." "It's taught me to trust and be vulnerable." "I've never felt so loved in my life." "I thought you could be an artist or be a Christian. Now I know a revival in the arts world is coming because you guys are going to be in it." "It's made me want to start every day with worship and go deeper in the Word." "The will of God will never take you where the Grace of God will not protect you."

When the exit questionnaires came back they had even more great things to say. I've posted the highlights below.

A theatre program alum said, ""Much Ado About Nothing" was absolutely outstanding! I was very impressed with all that you guys put into it. Every single character was real and well-developed. There were so many really great moments in it!"

One of our student's parents said of the play, "what a great performance last evening! Seamless, fun, dramatic, touching, faith-building."

Patricia Mauceri said, "Oh, how powerfully the Lord is moving at MWF. He is stirring hearts and refining gifts, deepening our understanding of what creative arts look like from a heavenly perspective!! This has been a truly amazing 2014 MWF!!"

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, Academy of Art University's School of Acting, Sight and Sound Theatres Conservatory, Stella Adler Studio (where another alumna teaches), Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, and the list keeps growing. 

We also send out casting calls to Christian films and have seen our students performing speaking roles in feature films such as In His Steps, Christmas Grace, For the Glory, Polycarp, Confessions of a Prodigal Son and Mayflower II.

We're already approved to perform in PA and NYC again next year, so start spreading the word!

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

Soon taking applications for the MasterWorks Festival theatre program: Training and performances in IN, PA and NYC, including an Off-Broadway theatre!


Anonymous said...

We were blessed to see Much Ado About Nothing in Bethel Park, PA. The entire cast did an excellent job. I was pleased with Timothy Bartlett's character development of Claudio. He performed the same role 2-3 summers ago in an off Broadway production. He received excellent direction. The young ladies playing the police officers were very animated and amusing! The dancing added much to the performance and Claudio's song was moving! Hopefully, many of these Christian performers will be performing around the country in the upcoming years. Lord, send these actors open doors.

Rich Swingle said...


Rich Swingle said...

Here are some of the things that were said anonymously by our students on their exit questionnaires:


"MasterWorks has blessed me beyond what I dreamed possible. This is a beautifully annointed place, and I'm so glad to have been able to attend. I have never wanted to come back to a camp before, but I do pray (if it fits in God's plan) that I can come back. I will certainly recommend it..."

"I was encouraged to be around so many Christian artists; especially those with careers further along than my own."

"I learned to trust God more."

"I learned how to read a script for its ministry value; to evaluate every character as a spiritual being, and to be mindful of preparing my spirit for the role."

"I learned a lot about trust and humility."

"I really enjoyed how everything, even our art, was focused on God."

"The quiet time is a habit I had needed to set in my life, and that helped immensely. The quiet time I've had with the Lord has/is/will always be precious."

"I learned to let go and not ever worry about whether you look silly on stage or not."

"I learned to infuse prayer any time it's necessary/whenever I feel led."

"I enjoyed how often we took the time to pray and worship. That helped keep me focused on what's important."

"I loved learning to focus on God in the context of performing."

"I learned the power of prayer and standing up for what you believe."



Rich Swingle said...

Here are photos from one of our NYC performances: Much Ado About Nothing Album.

Bernie Bernhardt said...

Rich, I don't know if I ever officially thanked you for all that you've done! Being able to go to MasterWorks was a dream come true, and it happened only through God's Providence! And MW FAR exceeded any expectations I had! I was floored when I saw all the talent that I was getting a chance to work with. I don't think I've ever felt the presence of the Holy Spirit so poignantly before, and I know that I've never experienced Him so personally before! My life is changed! Not to mention the AMAZING friends I made there, and more than just friends--lifelong brothers and sisters! And I've never felt so completely satisfied and happy with a theatrical production before! MW was a mind-blowing, amazing experience. Praise God! And thank you for allowing HIm to use you! You have no idea what kind of an impact you made on all of us!!! God bless. :)

Rich Swingle said...

"Q: What makes MasterWorks special to you?
A: The "Bubble" element. Nobody is meant to live in a bubble or on a mountaintop, but everyone needs one frequently where they can heal, learn, be nourished, and grow in Christ, and the festival provides this every year."
-Brandon Langeland: Theatre, 2005-2012