Monday, August 3, 2009

Christian Arts News from Chicago Dramatists, MasterWorks Festival

Script Reading
If you're in the Chicago area, drop by Chicago Dramatists on West Chicago Avenue at 2pm this Saturday, Aug. 8, where a script by Michael Leathers, "The One That Got Away," will be one of six featured in a 10-minute play workshop as part of a series of staged readings and discussions.

The script was one of the top 20 scripts in the annual Capistrano playwrighting festival sponsored by Camino Real Playhouse in San Juan Capistrano, Calif. The 10-minute drama is about a college student preparing for a fishing trip to honor the memory of his grandfather and how those plans affect his friend and a young waiter.

Michael's a terrific writer and offers a number of sketches at his website A member of The Dramatists Guild of America, Michael has worked for more than 20 years as a professional writer, journalist and communicator. He is a four-time winner in the Christians in Theatre Arts' annual sketch-writing contest.

MasterWorks Fetsival
(not affiliated with Masterwork Productions, Inc-- this is a performing arts camp for kids. Rich directs the drama portion)

By Rich Swingle
We had an amazing month at the MasterWorks Festival!
Ken Wales (far right), producer of Amazing Grace, Christy, Breakfast at Tiffany's, and the original Pink Panther films, among many others, met with most of our students to help them see how their unique giftings can help them fit into the entertainment industry. This was his fourth year, and the reason he didn't get to every student this year was because he was hard at work on another film he hopes to shoot in Winona Lake, just before MasterWorks.

John Kirby (next to Ken), acting coach on The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Count of Monte Cristo, Déjà Vu and about 20 others, shared about his work as director of The Word of Promise: Next Generation and directed us in Our Town. People were saying our production was better than renditions they'd seen at Notre Dame University, New York and London! One faculty member attended at least two performances and told me that the third act of the play got him thinking about eternity years ago. That was what started him on a journey toward Christ, and we're confident our four performances planted and watered a lot of seeds.

Bev Holloway, casting director for Bobby Jones: Stroke of Genius, The Ultimate Gift, An American Carol, and about 30 others, did a casting session with our students, and some of the roles they read are for two upcoming films! A man who lives in the community came up to me with tears in his eyes and shared that he's always enjoyed MasterWorks, but when he attended Bev's workshop and watched her giving direction and the students taking that direction and instantly making great adjustments, it finally dawned on him: MasterWorks is really training up the next generation of professional artists!

Patricia Mauceri (center), called us the week before she arrived, saying that she'd been given a script she couldn't perform. She made rewrites, but they were refused, and the role was recast. Her bold stance was a great witness to our students.

All four of them participated in one of two panel discussions, set up to answer questions the students had. Both panels were recorded for Romanian radio by one of our students, Krisztina Fekete, far right in the photo below.

This panel featured (from left to right), myself, Kohli Hessler Calhoun (dialect coach at NYU and the Stella Adler Studio, and our first master class instructor who attended the program!), Susan Sommerville Brown, and Harvey Johnson.

I was so thrilled with all that Harvey, Susie and Kohli brought, not only to this session, but to each one-on-one and class session they had with our students. The level of artistic and spiritual growth that was achieved because of their efforts is mind-boggling.

The only master class artist who wasn't around during a panel was Mac Nelson. He shared stories from his work with Liz Taylor and Jerry Lewis, from his most recent book, Memoirs of a Hollywood Adventure. He also shared from his first book, Waiting for my Fingers, about how he was healed from near-paralysis of both arms through surgery and the Lord. After the surgery he only had one note in his vocal register, but during a faculty recital he sang with his full range and tap-danced, swinging both arms with full-strength, to the Glory of God!

One of the spiritual highlights of the festival was when Joyce, my bride, led our students in a foot-washing. After we finished, the presence of the Lord was so palpable that I didn't want to lead them in anything. I just said, "Do whatever you want to do." They chose to wash each other's feet.

By the end of the month, one of our students asked to be baptized. Since Joyce is an ordained minister, we made plans. Another student had been taking baptism classes but had never been able to follow through to actually being baptized. She was delighted to do it with the close friends she'd made over the month. We went down to Winona Lake, the site of our festival, before church on Sunday. Their parents read scripture and prayed over each of them. Joyce baptized them officially, and then I got to dunk them. As we were walking off the dock singing, "Down To The River To Pray," Joyce yelled, "We've got another one!" The friend of one of our students was so moved by the service he asked to be baptized, too.

Photos from top to bottom by Nathan Nesbitt, Rich Swingle, Bernie Bernhardt (last two).

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The Blind Side

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



Read Matt Mungle's review of the movie at

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 ( and is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection. She also is a contributing editor for

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

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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