Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Deborah Kerr: Thoughts to Share and Remember

Hollywood legend Deborah Kerr passed away last week at the age of 86. What has that got to do with thoughts on being a Christian in the arts? Well, everything, actually. I wouldn't be heading up a Christian performing arts organization or enjoying a ministry with Christians in the arts without the influence Deborah Kerr had on my life.
I "met" her when I was 7. Our elementary school presented "The King & I" as its Spring musical and my second-grade class was cast as the children of the King. It was my first exposure to the world of the theater and I've never been the same since. My enthusiasm must have been noticed by my teacher as I was assigned one of three speaking parts given to the "Siamese" children. Near the end, when Mrs. Anna is preparing to leave Siam, I was to deliver the incredibly moving line, "Please do not go away."
Finally the week of performances arrived and before a packed auditorium, I awaited my cue to get up from my cross-legged sitting position stage right center, walk up to Mrs. Anna, step out from behind her billowing dress, hit my mark and give my heart-wrenching plea for her not to leave us. My moment came and I delivered my line to uproarious laughter from the audience. I returned to my seat bewildered. "I must be a really talented actress." I thought, because I hadn't realized that line was supposed to be funny. Later I was told that my costume, hiked up to my waist to accommodate the cross-legged sitting position, had remained there when I appeared at center stage and that my line was delivered with my underwear displayed for all the audience and the court at Siam to see.
This curbed my enthusiasm for a stage career, but not for the "The King & I" and when I discovered that a movie had been made of the musical, I begged to be able to stay up and watch it when it was shown on television. And there I met Deborah Kerr, who starred as Anna in the film. I was in awe. I never had seen anyone so beautiful. She looked like a Dresden figurine to me and I wanted to be just like her. After that, I watched any movie in which she appeared. Some are among my all-time favorites, like "An Affair to Remember," with Cary Grant. I can't tell you how many times I have seen that movie, but it makes me cry every time.
One year, I found that "An Affair to Remember" was due to air on a Saturday afternoon and I begged my father to let me watch it instead of some sporting event (this was back in the days when households had only one television set and video options hadn’t been invented yet). “Why do you want to watch that again?” he asked. “You become an emotional mess every time.”
“I won’t,“ I declared. “I’ve seen it often enough that I can watch it without crying, now, I promise!”
He relented and we watched happily together—until the part where Cary brings Deborah his grandmother’s shawl.
For some reason, that's the moment that my emotions become unglued. I start to well up. It builds when Cary sees the portrait on the wall (if you don't know what I'm talking about, you obviously are not a fellow "Affair" lover) and the dam bursts when she says, "Don't look at me like that."
Well, there I sat with my father trying to hide the emotional dam that was about to burst. "I can't let a tear fall, " I struggled with myself. "I promised!" When Deborah said, "Don't look at me like that..." suddenly I was struck by a box of tissues my father had tossed across the room. The impact unleashed my emotions in one tremendous cry and I sobbed harder than I've ever sobbed in my life. And I don't remember my father ever laughing harder than while watching this spectacle.
At any rate, Deborah Kerr has been a part of my life for many years. And even though she had no idea who I was, she influenced me and I loved her. Every report I ever read about her was positive, from people in the industry saying she was one of the easiest stars to work with to fans reporting how gracious she was.
Her career sparked in me a love for theater, Rodgers & Hammerstein, great old films, how stars related to their fans, and the performing arts in general. Now those things have come together in a ministry that serves the Kingdom. Over all, she brought many hours of happiness to my life. What a wonderful legacy for Ms. Kerr and an inspiration to those of us in the arts who can be used in the same way to influence people, whether or not we know it.

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Daily Inspiration

The Blind Side

Read about the real life mom from "The Blind Side."

Lifeway: http://www.lifeway.com/article/?id=169816

Guideposts: http://www.guideposts.com/story/sandra-bullock-blind-side-football?page=0,1

Read Matt Mungle's review of the movie at http://www.buddyhollywood.com/.

Lauren Yarger, Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the 2000 Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists.

Yarger trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Three-Day Training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run.

In 2008 she was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She writes reviews of Broadway and off-Broadway theater with a Christian perspective for Reflections in the Light (http://reflectionsinthelight.blogspot.com/) and is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection. She also is a contributing editor for BroadwayWorld.com

She also reviews books for Publisher's Weekly and is a member of the National Book Critics Circle. She formerly was Connecticut theater editor for CurtainUp, a national theater web site bsed in New York and a reviewer for American Theater Web.

She also served as Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. and worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts in Hartford and the Hartford Symphony Orchestra.

She is a freelance writer and member of the Drama Desk, The Outer Critics Circle, The American Theater Critics Association, The League of Professional Theatre Women and The CT Critics Circle.

A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger lives with her husband in West Granby, CT and has two adult children.

Copyright Notice

All contents copyright © Lauren Yarger 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013. All rights reserved. For reprint permission, contact masterworkproductions@yahoo.com.

Scripture from THE MESSAGE Copyright 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.

Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.

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