Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas

We've been on hiatis and will continue to enjoy a little break through New Year's. Meanwhile, wishing you the very best wishes for all the blessings of the season.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Are Churches Serving or Self-Serving?

There's a great conversation taking place over on the Facebook page about the proliferation of churches positioning themselves as businesses and their pastors as CEOs, In the process, business gets done, but often the work of Christ doesn't and it's a shame. The gist of the discussion seems to include a concensus that the best way to overcome this is for individuals to ask how they can make a difference, and that of course, IS the church. Too often, however, people with gifts and talents who want to serve don't get a chance.
Here are some observations I posted. Do you see these things in your church?

Churches stop people who really want to serve and reach out with reasons like:
1) They always do it this way
2) Myrtle is the one who does that
3) We're using our funds for something trendy
4) Other churches are successful ...by doing something else and we want to do that instead
5) You're a woman
6) They don't see a need
7) They don't want to lose control of something
8) The person in charge shouldn't be, but is, and doesn't know how to do it, help you do it or let you do it
9) They need 400 committee meetings and no one offended in any way before ministry can happen
10) A hundred other reasons that keep the business of the church going, but the work of Christ stalled.

Don't get me wrong. There are many wonderful church bodies doing wonderful things, and many wonderful pastors trying to light a fire under church members who need to be more aware of needs in their community. But there also are a growing number of big, "cool" church mega corporations with their cool, fame-seeking pastors who are more concerned with image and numbers than with spreading the word and love of Christ and that makes me sad.
--Lauren Yarger

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Philadelphia's Lantern Theater Company Presents 'Between Heaven and Hell: The Anthony Lawton Festival'

Anthony Lawton
Lantern Theater Company will present Between Heaven and Hell: The Anthony Lawton Festival from Friday, Dec. 3 through Sunday, Dec. 19, offering an alternative to traditional holiday theater with works about spiritual life intended for all audiences – secular or religious.

The three-week festival marks the first time Philadelphia-based actor and playwright Anthony Lawton’s C.S. Lewis and Shel Silverstein adaptations and his original play have been presented in repertory.

The festival will showcase Lawton in solo performances of three plays, opening with the critically acclaimed The Great Divorce (Dec. 3-19), C.S. Lewis' own favorite among his works. The festival continues with The Devil and Billy Markham* (Dec. 8, 11, and 15), written entirely in rhyming couplets by Shel Silverstein, and Lawton’s autobiographical play, Heresy** (Dec. 14, 15, and 18).

The Festival will be held at Lantern Theater Company, located at St. Stephen's Theater at 10th and Ludlow streets in Philadelphia. Tickets are $25-$35; $10 student rush tickets are available 10 minutes before curtain with valid ID; cash only; additional discounts are available for subscribers, seniors, and groups of 10 or more. Tickets are available online at http://www.lanterntheater.org/ or by calling the Lantern Box Office at (215) 829-0395. [A full schedule of festival performances and play descriptions follows below.]

“I first worked with Tony in 1997 on a production of Shakespeare's All's Well the Ends Well, and since that time he has been one of the most important artistic partners for Lantern Theater Company and for me personally,” says the Lantern’s Artistic Director, Charles McMahon. “A big part of what makes theater worthwhile is that we get to discuss very interesting ideas with very interesting people, and then find creative and compelling ways to put those ideas on stage. Tony's whole approach to theater and storytelling is to enliven the mind and heart. The work is sometimes funny and sometimes challenging and it always makes you leave the theater feeling more expansive and alive than you felt when you came in. The Lantern is dedicated to an authentic and intimate exploration of mysteries of the human spirit, and Tony's work is right in line with that.”

Lawton has acted professionally since 1992 and has appeared on many stages throughout the Philadelphia region, including at the Lantern in productions such as The Lonesome West, Othello, and The Screwtape Letters, among others.

In 1998, Lawton founded the Mirror Theatre Company, which performs solo and small-cast plays. The mission of the Mirror is “Spiritual Theatre for a Secular Audience.” Lawton says he sees his plays as “part of an ongoing dialogue with the audience – a dialogue in which we discuss and consider that which is (or isn't!) Eternal in us.”

In discussing his inspiration for this mission, Lawton says, “When I first started studying acting, I realized that the impulse was an entirely selfish one. I was interested in attention and accolades. I wanted to offer something to audiences – to address spiritual concerns, and to foster a dialogue between orthodox and unorthodox audience members.”

Information: (215) 829-0395 or visit http://www.lanterntheater.org/. Running Time: All plays are approximately 90 minutes with no intermission.

Festival Performance Schedule
Friday, Dec. 3 at 8 pm – The Great Divorce, Opening
Saturday, Dec. 4 at 8 pm – The Great Divorce
Sunday, Dec. 5 at 2 pm – The Great Divorce, Post-Show Discussion*
Wednesday, Dec. 8 at 7 pm – The Devil and Billy Markham, Post-Show Discussion*
Thursday, Dec. 9 at 7 pm – The Great Divorce
Friday, Dec. 10 at 8 pm – The Great Divorce
Saturday, Dec. 11 at 8 pm – The Great Divorce
Saturday, Dec. 11 at 10:30 pm – The Devil and Billy Markham
Sunday, Dec. 12 at 2 pm – The Great Divorce
Tuesday, Dec. 14 at 7 pm – Heresy, Post-Show Discussion++
Wednesday, Dec. 15 at 7 pm – Heresy
Wednesday, Dec. 15 at 9:30 pm – The Devil and Billy Markham
Thursday, Dec. 16 at 7 pm – The Great Divorce
Friday, Dec. 17 at 8 pm – The Great Divorce
Saturday, Dec. 18 at 8 pm – The Great Divorce
Saturday, Dec. 18 at 10:30 pm – Heresy
Sunday, Dec. 19 at 2 pm – The Great Divorce, Closing

++Post-Show Discussion with Anthony Lawton, moderated by Lantern Associate Artistic Director Kathryn MacMillan

2010/11 Season
Lantern Theater Company will continue its 2010/11 season with A Skull in Connemara by Martin McDonagh (January 13 – February 6, 2011), A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare (March 10 – April 10, 2011), and Vigil by Morris Panych (May 19 – June 12, 2011).

Lantern Theater Company thanks its 2010/11 season corporate partners at Marathon Grill, La Fourno Ristorante Trattoria, and Dunkin’ Donuts, and its community partners at St. Stephen’s Church.

* This play includes themes of sacrifice and redemption and is unapologetically and joyously profane. Parental guidance advised for audience members under 17.
**This play contains profanity, frank discussions of sex, and ideas that some may consider to be blasphemous. Children under 17 not admitted.

Project Dance World Tour Celebrates 10 Years

We received this information from Cheryl Cutlip, founder of Project Dance and recipient of the 2009 "The Lights Are Bright on Broadway" Award from Masterwork Productions:

Dear Dancers,
More than 10 years ago I felt a call deep in my heart to do something with dance that would change the world. Truthfully, I never imagined that Project Dance would go beyond its first year in New York City. Shortly after the events of 911 we mounted a stage in Times Square and danced for more than 10 hours in the pouring down rain. A few friends joined us and together we believed that hope and healing would refresh those who passed by our stage.

As I look at the calendar of events for 2011 I realize that many of us around the world share the same heartfelt call to impact culture through the language of dance. I'm honored to continue this important work and look forward to meeting you along the way. Our event coordinators in each city will welcome you with open arms and seek to encourage you in your own dance journey.

Sincerely,
Cheryl Cutlip


WHAT IS PROJECT DANCE?
Dance is visual. The best way to learn about the heart and soul of Project Dance is to watch our promo video.

WHO CAN PARTICIPATE IN PROJECT DANCE?
Project Dance has a vision to unite dancers who desire to “PERFORM WITH INTEGRITY TO INSPIRE”. Whether you are a professional dancer, student, teacher or choreographer, a company of dancers, a studio, or college ensemble, Project Dance has a place for you.

WHY SHOULD I ATTEND PROJECT DANCE?
Dancers who attend Project Dance believe that their dance makes a difference. Dance has purpose beyond the steps and is an ever growing and changing form of expression within them. They also desire to network with other dancers who are like-minded and seek to build community among dancers worldwide. These dancers have a strong desire to train their bodies to their fullest potential. One of the other defining characteristics of dancers who attend Project Dance is the hunger to positively impact culture through artistic integrity. This movement of dancers seeks to bring hope and healing to others through the universal language of dance.

If this speaks to your heart…COME TO PROJECT DANCE!!!

HOW DO I REGISTER?
Project Dance will provide a registration form through our website in January. Registrations are due 1 month prior to the event date.

(For example if you are attending the event in London on June 3-5-the registration is due on May 3. If you are attending Penang on Nov. 25-27-the registration is due on Oct. 25.)

While you may register any time before the deadline we do require you to postmark your registration form by the deadline.

You may submit your registration materials via email at info@projectdance.com or mail them to:

PROJECT DANCE, 520 Eighth Ave., Suite 329, New York, NY 10018

WHAT IS THE REGISTRATION FEE?
Houston $199
Orlando $199
New York $209
London $199US
Washington DC $179
Penang, Malaysia $109US
Brisbane, Australia $179US

Registration fee does not include transportation, food, or accommodation. Payment method for London, Penang and Brisbane is credit card only.

WHAT IF I HAVE OTHER QUESTIONS?
Our desire is to assist you with any and all questions regarding a Project Dance event. The best way to reach Project Dance is by email at info@projectdance.com

We will be updating event details on our website as they become available. www.projectdance.com
CALENDAR OF EVENTS
HOUSTON MARCH 4-6
ORLANDO APRIL 1-3
NEW YORK CITY APRIL 15-17
LONDON JUNE 3-5
WASHINGTON DC AUGUST 19-21
PENANG NOVEMBER 25-27
BRISBANE TBA

Erica Lane Rings in the Holidays


Masterworks' Erica Lane has kicke doff her 2010 holiday tour with a new, dazzling Christmas Concert and Laser Light Show

A combination of holiday pop tunes, traditional Christmas songs, multi-media, laser lights, and snow will set the stage for a fun and memorable family-friendly experience.

"This is more than an event or performance. Erica sings from her heart, and her voice takes it to a heavenly level," said Eric Wilson, New York Times best-selling author of "Fireproof." "You'll laugh; you'll get misty-eyed."

Lane has taken her Christmas Tour across the US for the last four holiday seasons. The 2010 tour will include 12 cities in three states: Texas, Arkansas, and Tennessee. For more information about the tour, or to book Erica, visit http://www.masterworkproductions.org/.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

View 'Working with Pinter'

Join The Episcopal Actors' Guild and VOICETheatre for a special screening of "Working with Pinter" 7 pm Thursday, Nov. 18 at the Guild Hall, 1 East 29th St., NYC.

The film is an intimate glimpse of Harold Pinter directing actors, talking about his work, his life in and out of the theatre, and his seminal influences. A talk-back session with Anthony De La Tour and Susan Woolridge will follow.

LaTour is a writer/director whose plays have been performed throughout the UK and elsewhere. He is also an actor and worked closely with Pinter on several occasions. He appeared in the world premiere of Pinter's final play Celebration in London and in the US premiere at the Lincoln Center. He also appeared in No Man's Land at the National Theatre in London in 2002, the last play of his own that Pinter directed.

Wooldridge is best known for her award-winning performance as Daphne Manners in "The Jewel In the Crown." She has worked extensively on stage and screen, garnering critical acclaim including the BAFTA for her role in John Boorman's film "Hope and Glory." She was last seen in New York in Harold Pinter's Celebration at Lincoln Center. Her debut novel "The Hidden Dance" has just come out in paperback.

Only a few seats remain. RSVP to 212-201-9337. A $10 suggested donation will benefit Actors in Need. Wine and refreshments will be served.

Andy Crouch Speaks at Redeemer's Gospel & Culture Series

Andy Crouch will speak Sunday, Nov.21 at 1 pm as part of Redeemer Presbyterian Church's Gospel & Cluture series.

The event will be held at 1 pm at Hunter College Auditorium
695 Park Ave, (entrance on 69th Street. between Park & Lexington, NYC.

Crouch is the author of "Culture Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling," winner of Christianity Today's 2009 Book Award for Christianity and Culture and named one of the best books of 2008 by Publishers Weekly, Relevant, Outreach and Leadership.

A senior editor at Christianity Today International, he has served as executive producer of several documentary films. His writing has appeared in various editions of Best Christian Writing and Best Spiritual Writing. He lives with his family in Swarthmore, PA.

The free lecture will be followed by Q&A. The Gospel & Cluture lectures are part of Redeemer's Gospel & the World focus for the 2010-2011 year.

Visit Jordan, Israel with CITA

An informational webinar about the upcoming Christians in Theatre arts (CITA) tour to Jordan and israel will be held Thursday at 9 pm Eastern. To attend, visit http://attendthisevent.com/?eventID=15762378.

The tour is planned for May 16-25, 2011 (10 days/9 nights. The cost is $1,690 per person, including ground transportation in Jordan and Israel, some meals, accommodations, and entry fees to all sightseeing and performance arrangements. The fee does not include air fare. For more details visit www.HarmonyInternational.com/activetour-Jordan-CITA.htm.

Trip highlights:

Work side-by-side with Jordanian students who share your passion for drama in an effort to share(teaching drama workshops, partnering with local churches, and helping to organize the drama facilities of the Amman Baptist Schools)


Performances (teaching performances in and around Amman, Jordan; possible combined teaching performances with Jordanian students; possible ministry with students from Bethlehem Baptist College)


Planned: Baptismal site of Christ, Mount Nebo, the western wailing Wall, communion at the Garden Tomb.


Click http://cita.org/site/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/HolyLandPoster.pdf to download a poster, and put it up at your church and school.

The tour leaders are Rich Swingle and Kim Messer. Swingle has performed and taught on five continents and 21 nations, including two previous trips to Israel. Messer worked as a product line manager for Lillenas Publishing Company for nine years before becoming a freelance consultant and writer.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Cirque du Soleil Names New Show to Play at Radio City

Cirque du Soleil announced today that its major new acrobatic spectacle, Zarkana, will begin performances at Radio City Music Hall in New York City on June 9, 2011 for a limited engagement through Sept. 4, 2011. Presented by iShares, Zarkana is written and directed by acclaimed film and theatre director Fran├žois Girard ("The Red Violin," "Silk").

Zarkana is a fantastically bizarre world where we follow the adventures of Zark, a magician who has lost his love and, with her, his powers. As he cries and begs for her return he is plunged into a world inhabited by surreal creatures. The diverse cast of 71 international artists transports the audience into a fantastical and suspenseful world, blurring the boundaries between the real and imaginary.

About The Show Title:
The name Zarkana is a fusion of the words “bizarre” and “arcana” (arcana means “mystery” or “secret”). The twisted fictional world of Zarkana is an elusive destination that is fantastic yet bizarre. The name refers to the irresistibly odd and delightfully strange aura of this place and its inhabitants.

Ticket Information:
Starting today, Zarkana tickets are available exclusively to Cirque Club Members. Tickets range from $47 to $130 with a limited number of premium tickets available for all performances.

Cirque Club membership is free and benefits include access to advance tickets, special offers and exclusive behind the scenes information. To join, go to http://www.cirqueclub.com/.

Starting Nov. 22, tickets will be available to the general public at 1- 866-858-0008 or http://www.cirquedusoleil.com/en/shows/zarkana.aspx.

Chuck Colson Will Speak at Socrates in the City's Christmas Gala

Chuck Colson, founder of Prison Fellowship, will be the speaker for the third annual Gala to benfit Socrates in the City, celebrating 10 years in New York City on Friday, Dec. 3.

The VIP Reception will be held at at 6:30 pm followed by a recpetion at 7 and dinner at 7:30 at the Roosevelt Hotel Grand Ballroom, 45 East 45th St. and Madison Avenue. The evening will be hosted by SITC founder and best selling author Eric Metaxas, who used to work for Colson at Prison Fellowship.

Colson will speak who will speak on the topic of his new DVD series: "Doing the Right Thing: A Six-Part Exploration of Ethics."

Admission prices vary. For more information, visit http://www.socratesinthecity.com/civicrm/event/info?reset=1&id=11.

Anita Renfroe Seeks Laughers

If you live in the NYC area (NY, NJ, PA, CT, DC) comedian Anita Renfroe is looking for audience members for an ad shoot Nov. 15, 16, 17, 30 and Dec.1.

The venue can seat 35 each day and they want some good-lookin', fun, superlaffers in the audience. If you wanna be a part contact Anita's people via email at tapingtickets@gmail.com (include name, date(s) you want to attend and number in your party) to get on the list.

Join Erica Lane on Tour in Nairobi

For information on booking Erica Lane, visit http://masterworkproductions.org/.

Swiss Soul Singer, Vlada, Phoebe Lyng Shake the Stoop Nov. 20

The Stoop, a distinctive music venue in the heart of Hell’s Kitchen, NYC, presents a scorching night of soul, rock, and funk featuring international touring artist and Swiss funkmeister Vlada and his band along with Phoebe Lyng and Nik Rael & Headsoup.

The event will be emceed by Chris MacIntosh (aka. Grandfather Rock) of WCWP Radio. Doors open at 7:30 pm, and showtime is at 8. While the concert is free, The Stoop will be accepting suggested donations of $12. Receive a free gift with the full suggested cover. All drinks and concessions are priced under $4.

The Stoop venue and concert series is presented by Music Forum of Church For All Nations, Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod. Music Forum of Church for All Nations is sponsoring the series and providing the landmark venue as a contribution to the cultural and spiritual life of Hell's Kitchen.

Where: The Stoop; 417 West 57th St. between 9th and10th avenues
Subway: 1 A B C D to 59th Street/Columbus Circle

For more information call 212-333-5583 or visit http://www.thestoopny.com.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Ad Deum Dance Company Performances, News

This Houston performance of Ad Deum, a Christian dance compnay, will feature works by four innovative choreographers.

Company member Christina Schanta will debut her work Into The Sun which follows people in different stages of emotion, ranging from apathy to intensity and culminating in exultation. It's about the emotional choices we make in community when walking through life together. Melissa Brading, former dancer of Ad Deum now dancing in New York, will premiere her new work Just Keep Driving which explores the question Why do we keep pushing forward? Is it because of pressure from family, God or just the desire of success? Do we even know why we do what we do? This piece does not look to answer these questions, but asks you to contemplate them.

Steve Rooks, former principal dancer with The Martha Graham Dance Company will present two works, Gomer, a stirring solo for dancer Shizu Yasuda based on the biblical account of a woman’s redemption from the book of Hosea, and Rwandan Cry, dedicated to a young Rwandan woman who witnessed the massacre of her family while literally having to dance for her own life before her killers.

Artistic Director Randall Flinn will bring to the stage his new work Unconfined, a four-part piece that explores the suppression of freedom of a village, nation and culture and the longing of it’s inhabitants to break away from prescription and discover the joy of true liberation.

Ad Deum News: Ad Deum recently returned from Guadalajara, Mexico as one of two international guest companies to be invited by The Ministry of Culture to perform for the 13th Annual Festival Internacional De Danza. The company was overwhelmingly received by both their audiences and the Ministry of Culture represenatives. One incredible testimony from one of our performances was a young man coming up to us in tears and telling us how the beauty and liberty of our dancing made him decide that very evening not to end his life, as he was consideriing suicide due to great unhappiiness. He said the dances we presented and “the spirit upon them” made him realize there was purpose in life and that God gives liberty to the soul. You can only imagine how impacted we were by this. The Ministry of Culture has welcomed us back to perform in their biggest theatre and to also perform in hospitals, orphanages and nursing homes. We are so very humbled and thankful!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Subscribe to Broadway, Theater Reviews Via Email

A note to our subscribers:

On Nov. 1, 2010 we will be switching the way theater review posts are distributed from the Reflections in the Light website. If you receive an email (like this one) each time we post a new review, you'll need to resubscribe, as the old contacts won't switch over to the new system. Subscriptions in blog readers will continue as before.

To subscribe, send an email to reviews@masterworkproductions.org with "reviews" in the subject line. You'll receive an email when there is a post and if we post more than one review in a day, you'll receive just one email containing all of them.

Don't miss out on reviews of all the great Broadway and Off-Broadway shows opening this season. Once the new system goes into effect, you won't receive the emails unless you subscribe at this new address.

For the latest reviews including Edward Albee's Me, Myself & I, Mrs. Warren's Profession starring Cherry Jones and The Pitmen Painters, visit http://reflectionsinthelight.blogspot.com.

Reviews will be up this week for A Life in the Theatre with Patrick Stewart and T.R. Knight, The Language Archive and La Bete with David Hyde Pierce, Joanna Lumley and Mark Rylance.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

How Well Do You Know Your Religion?

Atheists and agnostics, Jews and Mormons are among the highest-scoring groups on a new survey of religious knowledge by the Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion & Public Life, outperforming evangelical Protestants, mainline Protestants and Catholics on questions about the core teachings, history and leading figures of major world religions.

On average, Americans correctly answer 16 of the 32 religious knowledge questions on the survey. Atheists and agnostics average 20.9 correct answers. Jews and Mormons do about as well, averaging 20.5 and 20.3 correct answers, respectively. Protestants as a whole average 16 correct answers; Catholics as a whole, 14.7. Atheists and agnostics, Jews and Mormons perform better than other groups on the survey even after controlling for different levels of education.

On questions about Christianity (including the bible), Mormons and white evangelical Protestants show the highest levels of knowledge. Jews, atheists and agnostics stand out for their knowledge of world religions, including Buddhism, Hinduism and Judaism. Jews, atheists and agnostics also do particularly well on questions about the role of religion in public life, including what the U.S. Constitution says about religion.

While previous surveys by the Pew Research Center have shown that America is among the most religious of the world's developed nations, this survey shows that large numbers of Americans are not well informed about the tenets, practices, history and leading figures of major faith traditions—including their own. Many people also think that the constitutional restrictions on religion in public schools are stricter than they really are.

These are among the key findings of the "U.S. Religious Knowledge Survey," a nationwide poll conducted from May 19 through June 6, 2010, among 3,412 adults.

Additional findings include:

• More than four-in-ten Catholics (45%) do not know that their church teaches that the bread and wine used in Communion do not merely symbolize, but actually become, the body and blood of Christ

• About half of Protestants (53%) cannot correctly identify Martin Luther as the person whose writings and actions inspired the Protestant Reformation, which made their religion a separate branch of Christianity

• Roughly four-in-ten Jews (43%) do not recognize that Maimonides, one of the most venerated rabbis in history, was Jewish

• Fewer than half of Americans (47%) know that the Dalai Lama is Buddhist; fewer than four-in-ten (38%) correctly identify Vishnu and Shiva with Hinduism; and only about a quarter of all Americans (27%) know that most people in Indonesia are Muslims

• There is widespread confusion over the line between teaching and preaching in public schools. Nine-in-ten Americans (89%) know that U.S. Supreme Court rulings do not allow teachers to lead public school classes in prayer. However two-thirds of people surveyed incorrectly say that Supreme Court rulings prevent public school teachers from reading from the Bible as an example of literature, and only 36% know that comparative religion classes may be taught in public schools.

• Most Americans are able to correctly answer at least half of the survey's questions about the Bible. Roughly seven-in-ten (71%) know that, according to the Bible, Jesus was born in Bethlehem. More than six-in-ten (63%) can correctly name Genesis as the first book of the Bible.

Data from the survey indicate that educational attainment—how much schooling an individual has completed—is the single best predictor of religious knowledge. On average, college graduates answered nearly eight more questions correctly than those with a high school education or less. Religious knowledge is also higher among those who have taken a religion course in college. Other factors linked with religious knowledge include reading Scripture at least once a week and talking about religion with friends and family.

For those curious about their own religious knowledge, the online presentation of the "U.S. Religious Knowledge Survey" includes an interactive quiz that allows Web visitors to answer a selection of questions taken from the survey and compare their results to the nation as a whole and with various religious and demographic groups.

In conjunction with the release of the survey, WGBH in Boston will debut "God in America," a six-hour series that interweaves documentary footage, historical dramatization and interviews to explore the historical role of religion in the US, including its impact on society, politics and culture. initially it airs tonight and tomorrow.

The Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion & Public Life conducts surveys, demographic analyses and other social science research on important aspects of religion and public life in the U.S. and around the world. As part of the Washington-based Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan, nonadvocacy organization, the Pew Forum does not take positions on any of the issues it covers or on policy debates.

Doug Berky, Carol Jaudes Will Headline CITA'S Secondary School Theatre Festival

The annual Christians in Theatre Arts (CITA) Secondary School Theatre Festival in scheduled in Greenville, SC, Jan. 14-15, 2011. Special guests leading workshops and performing at the festival include Doug Berky and Carol Dilley Jaudes.

The purpose of the Festival is to give high school theatre students an opportunity to sharpen their skills through competitions, interact with colleges and audition/interview for scholarships and programs at the College Fair, and to be encouraged by Christians working in the theatre. Students in public, private and home school settings are invited to attend.

■Events include: solo and duo monologues, musical and dramatic group scenes, and more.
■Interact with hundreds of other Christian theatre artists and students from around the US and meet college theatre program representatives.
■Teachers/parents: an opportunity to fellowship, workshop and network with your peers.

Berky is a master of mime and improvisation, clowning and suspense. Jaudes appeared for five years on Broadway as Jennyanydots, the tap-dancing Gumbie Cat in the hit musical Cats.

Space is limited – first come, first served. Questions? Contact: Michelle Long, Director of Fine Arts, Charlotte Christian School michelle.long@charchrist.com or (704) 366-5657, ext. 1031 or 1033.

Gordon McDonald Will Speak at Vision New England Dinner

"TRANSITIONS: Merging the Blessings of Change with the Blessings of Heritage in the Local Church" is the topic at Vision New England's annual ministry celebration Thursday, Nov. 4 from 6:30 to 8:30 pm at Wyndham Hotel in Andover, MA. The featured speaker will be Gordon MacDonald.

The gathering of the organization, which helps churches with evangelization in New England, will include:
-- Accounts of what God is doing across New England
-- A View of The Way Forward
-- Musical Selections from Guest Musicians
-- Dinner & Fellowship
-- An offering

To RSVP contact pmcgowan@VisionNewEngland.org.

Opportunities for Artists at Redeemer

Redeemer Presbyterian in New York City offers a number of ongoing ministries and events for artists. This year's theme centers around "what it means to allow the Gospel to change our hearts, our communities and our world."

Coming up:
Beginning Oct. 15 with for the Beauty of the Church with Gordon Fee, quarterly InterArts Fellowship will explore six themes in which
discussions will be rooted

The Artist as Disciple
The Artists as Theologian
The Artist as Creator
The Artist as Servant
The Artist as Cultivator
The Artist and the Glory of God

VOCATION GROUPS
OCT 18 - Actors Group
OCT 27 - Arts Leaders Group
OCT 28 - Dance Industry Group
OCT 29 - Fashion Industry Group
NOV 6 - Filmmakers Group
NOV 11 - Writers Group

PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT WORKSHOP
Thursday, Oct. 28 at 7 pm Legal Issues Artist Face including intellectual property, contracts and business formation.

For information about these and other programs for artists at Redeemer, visit http://www.faithandwork.org/arts.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Service Asks Blessings on Broadway Season, Celebrates 50th Anniversary of 'The Fantasticks'

James Barbour, left, following the service.
Broadway performers and theater lovers came together Monday night for the 14th annual Broadway Blessing service held at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York.

Broadway actors James Barbour, Charles West and Anthony Newfield were among those performing during the interfaith service which also celebrated the 50th anniversary of The Fantasticks. Tom Jones, who wrote the book and lyrics for the show, and who directed and has starred in the acclaimed revival playing Off-Broadway at the Snapple Theater Center, attended the service (the show was one of our picks to see this summer.)

Officiating were the Rev. Canon Thomas Miller, canon for liturgy and the arts at St. John, the Right Rev. Andrew St. John, rector of the Church of the Transfiguration, and Rabbi Jill Hausman of The Actors' Temple, who also performed "A Simple Song" from Leonard Bernstein's Mass.

Actress Catherine Russell gave a reading, Project Dance, recipient of the 2009 "The Lights Are Bright on Broadway" award presented by Masterwork Productions, performed to "His Eye is on the Sparrow." The Broadway Blessing Choir and Bruce Neswick, cathedral organist, offered a number of tunes including medleys from The Fantasticks. West, who has appeared in the 50th anniversary production of the show, sang "Try to Remember."
Newfield performed a scene from To Kill a Mockingbird, and Barbour, accompanied by Jeremy Roberts, sang "The Measure of a Man" from Frank Wildhorn's musical Rudolf. In addition, composer Carol Hall performed a song she had written, inspired in part by speaker Lynn Redgrave's stirring message form last year's Broadway Blessing and to whom this year's service was dedicated.
The evening is produced under the direction of religion and theater writer Retta Blaney (center, above). Her blog, "Life Upon the Sacred Stage," can be found here.
-- Lauren Yarger

Participants mingle at a post-service reception.

Christian Actor Part 2

Chuck Neighbor continues with thoughts about being a Christian actor on his blog Backstage Blog. Access it here.

Erica Lane Featured in Movie Soundtrack


"A Christmas Snow," the Trost Moving Pictures (winner of Best Feature Film at XP Media International Film Festival) starring Muse Watson, Catherine Mary Stewart and Anthony Tyler Quinn, has released its soundtrack featuring Chris Kirkpatrick, Martha Munizzi, Kelly Morrison, Jason Eustice, Casii Stephan, Erica Lane and Alicia Larson. Find out more about the movie here.

The CD release is Oct. 8, but you can here it now at iTunes. Listen to samples, buy the album, or individual songs by clicking here.

Erica will be touring in Nairobi this fall. For bookinig information, visit http://masterworkproductions.org/.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Meet Tessa Afshar, Author of 'Pearl in the Sand'

God Went to Ancient Jericho to Grant the Desires of This Writer’s Heart
By Lauren Yarger
A walk across Florence’s famous Ponte Vecchio with little shops built into its stone walls sparked more than thoughts of the bridge’s more than 700-year-old history. For Tessa Afshar, it brought to mind the story of Rahab, a prostitute mentioned in the bible, who lived in the wall of Jericho.

“What would it be like to live in a wall?” wondered the leader of women’s and prayer ministries at a church in New England. Suddenly, she realized that she and a lot of others already knew.

“Most of us have to contend with walls in the interior places of our souls. Walls built on foundations of pride, fear, rejection, loss; walls that keep others at bay and shield us from drawing close enough to get hurt again,” Tessa said. “Suddenly, I was hooked. I wanted to write about walls, about living in them, about pulling them down. I wanted to write about Rahab.”

The thoughts morphed into “Pearl in the Sand,” (Moody Publishers, 2010) already in its second printing after its release just a few days ago on Sept. 1.

The novel follows Rahab from age 15 when she is sold into prostitution by her father, through the fall of the wall of Jericho and the subsequent settlement of Rahab and her family among the Israelites. There, she marries Salmone, an Israeli soldier and leader, but while the wall of Jericho might have fallen, the fortification of hurt, shame and betrayal that Rahab has built around herself for protection and survival stands tall and impenetrable.

The story plays out against the dry, hot, scented land of Israel, a location not totally unfamiliar to Tessa, who lived in her native Tehran during the last decade of the Shah of Iran’s reign. Her parents were what she terms “nominal” Muslims, trying to be good citizens, but not adhering to the basic tenets of Islam. Her grandmother, however, was a devout Shiite, and it was from her that Tessa learned what she knew about the religion.

When she was almost 14, her parents divorced and she and her sister went to live with their mother in England where Tessa attended boarding school. There, instead of attending mandatory weekly church services, she and the other “foreign” girls were directed to another location where they were supposed to read their own holy books. Since the Koran is best interpreted when read in the original Arabic, which Tessa didn’t read, she spent time instead immersed in her favorite literature – romance novels. She still is a big fan of Charlotte Bronte, Jane Austen and other 19th-century authors.

The self proclaimed “voracious reader” hoped to become a romance novel writer some day. She craved the unconditional love found in the formula of those books. College brought her to the United States where she studied English, biology and health administration before eventually heading to Yale to get a Masters in Divinity degree.

During a difficult period during her 20s, she had a dream (a method God apparently uses to make himself known to many Muslims) where she stood at the sea of Galilee and recognized Jesus (despite never having read the bible). She was touched by his love and power and knew him to be the son of God. When he asked her to follow him she agreed, though it took years of growth and study before she could do so fully.

Though she had lived in western culture for years, she never heard the Gospel until she was 26, when within months of the dream, friends started to share with her. She was led to the verses in 1 Corinthians 13 about love. They were a revelation to her about the nature of God’s love for her and began a process that led her through intellectual and cultural strongholds to a changed heart.

Now a respected ministry leader and sought-after speaker (hearing her heartfelt prayers is a moving experience that brings you closer to God), Tessa has added some other writers to her favorites list, like Francine Rivers, C.S. Lewis and George McDowell. With her flowing, wavy brown hair, the petite beauty looks like she could be cast as the heroine of one of the romance novels she so loved.

Rahab, however, is a product of much research. Bound by biblical truth, historical data and what archaeological evidence is available (mostly from Egypt), Tessa created Rahab’s world and the story of a woman whose “life was a mess” but who found that it was salvageable with God’s love.

“A lot of it is modern ideas of rejection and worth,” she said. She explored what a woman who has been rejected, or whose past mistakes haunt her would do to protect herself to survive. What were her strengths and gifts, Tessa wondered? Rahab might have lived thousands of years ago, but women still grapple with these issues today, and the character and her story began to take shape.

The first part of the book, detailing Rahab’s years of prostitution, was not easy to write, Tessa said, not only because of the difficult subject matter, but because she wanted to get into the meat of Rahab's relationship with her husband. Ultimately, it’s the story of two people trying to figure out how to love each other while loving God and leaving the past behind. It gets the reader to a place of self examination with truths that are ageless.
The story also is a celebration of redemption: this woman, who had been a prostitute, finds favor with God, and goes on to give birth to a son who figures in the genealogy of Christ himself (Matthew 1:5).

When the book was finished, Tessa sent it to three agents, then struggled with self doubt for three months while she waited to hear whether anyone was interested in the manuscript. She attended a writer’s conference and met with one of those agents who signed her on the spot. Publishers were interested and Moody Publishers eventually got the nod. Their belief in the book has been “incredibly encouraging,” Tessa said.

Their belief wasn’t misplaced, it seems, given the need for a second press run.

Next up is a second biblical novel set during the time of Nehemiah in the court of Artaxerxes, the son of Esther’s husband. Tessa’s dream of being a writer has come true.

“The most amazing thing is how much God cared about my heart,” she said of the experience. “He’s willing to go to extraordinary lengths to give us the desires of our hearts.”
Click here for a review of the book. Click here to download two chapters, view the trailer and to find out more about Tessa.

Book Review: 'Pearl in the Sand' by Tessa Afshar

Biblical Story of Finding Worth After Rejection Just as Relevant Today
By Lauren Yarger
Picture a woman who is betrayed by people she trusted, whose whole world falls apart and who builds emotional walls around herself to survive and avoid feeling the pain. Is this the author of a New York Times bestseller or a guest on the latest Oprah? Not exactly.

This woman is Rahab – the prostitute mentioned a few times in the bible – so skillfully brought to life by first-time novelist Tessa Afshar in “Pearl in the Sand” (Moody Publishers, 2010), that the story which takes place during and after the fall of the wall of Jericho transcends time and breathes life into a character full of the same fears, heartbreaks and joys we experience today.

The first reference to Rahab, in the Old Testament book of Joshua, tells how she hides Israelite spies in her house built into the wall of Jericho, brought down by Israel. Later we learn that she and her family, all spared during the siege because of Rahab’s actions, settle permanently in Israel. She’s referenced in other books, but no further clues about her destiny appear again in Scripture until we read in the Gospel of Matthew that she was married to a man named Salmon and had a son named Boaz.

Afshar has merged these few details with historical, biblical and archaeological information to create a sweeping tale of a woman’s life and the complex relationship between her and Salmone (the author chooses an alternate, less “fishy” spelling for the name of her novel’s hero). Just how does a prostitute from Jericho end up married to an important leader of Israel and the mother of Boaz, who was in Jesus’ genealogy? The answers and the details laying their foundation make for excellent historical fiction, wrongly classified by some as romance.

The story involves some romance, of course, but the relationship between Rahab and Salmone hardly follows the formula of a handsome hero rushing in on a white horse to save a beautiful damsel in distress. Rahab has spent her whole life taking care of herself and doesn’t exactly relish the thought of men coming into her life after having been sold into prostitution by her father as a means of providing food for the family. Society and religion brand her worthless and ruined. Salmone agrees, at least at first, until he's rebuked by Joshua.

"Pride is the bane of the righteous," the leader of Israel tells his soldier friend. "On the outside you may seem more upright than a woman with such a past, but God sees us from the inside."

Joshua places Rahab and her family under Salmone's care and he starts to get to know the woman hiding behind a wall of hurt and emotion.

The two marry, but the honeymoon never really begins as the couple can’t figure out how to chip through the bricks of pain and insecurity that Rahab has erected, fortified by Salmone’s judgment. Metaphorically, the fate of Jericho’s and Rahab’s walls are the same when God razes years of history and purges the past. It isn’t until the dust clears that Rahab can see herself as a treasure, just like the pearl in the earrings given to her by her husband – a gem formed by years of protective layers protecting an initial hurt.

“Pearl” is a moving book. These are richly penned characters whom we get to know slowly and very well, much like we get to know people -- by journeying alongside each other through good times and bad. Discovering the depth of Salmone’s feelings speaks to Afshar’s skill in not depending solely on the point of view of the female protagonist.

The novel remains with us because of its relevance in modern times. Rahab’s are lessons we’re still learning today.

“I was really disappointed with God,” yesterday, Rahab reflects, when he fails to answer her prayer request. “Why wouldn’t the Lord answer my cry?”

She later comes to realize, however, that by not answering her prayer, God was able to enact a plan much bigger than the one she envisioned and one which offered an immediate solution to her being ostracized by the women of the village while bringing her faith to the attention of the man who would become her husband.

The story also remains with us because we’ll never read again about the battle of Jericho without remembering there were people on the other side of that wall, or trudge through those long lists of “begats” without realizing that all of those names were real people with real stories just like ours.

Rahab struggles with her father's betrayal, with her self worth, with trying to separate past sexual encounters from the marriage bed and with forgiving herself. At one point she wonders whether she’ll ever be remembered for anything besides her profession. Today we know her as a direct ancestor of the Messiah. That God can use any one of us, despite our pasts and mistakes, just like he did Rahab, isn't a bad lesson to learn in 2010 either.

Likely to be a contender for a 2011 Christy Award, "Pearl" is an oasis in the sometimes rather barren desert of Christian fiction. Readers must agree since the book, just released days ago, already is in its second printing.

For a feature on Tessa Afshar, click here. You can purchase “Pearl in the Sand” here.

Download the first two chapters of the book and view the book trailer at http://www.tessaafshar.com/.

Notes: An electronic advanced reading copy of the book was provided by Moody Publishers. I am honored to call Tessa a personal friend.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

James Barbour Among Those Asking 2010 Broadway Blessing

James Barbour (right), Carol Hall, Anthony Newfield, Catherine Russell, Charles West, The Broadway Blessing Choir, Project Dance and other distinguished guests will be among the performing artists taking part in the 14th annual Broadway Blessing, 7 pm Monday, Sept. 13 at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, NYC.

The interfaith service of song, dance and story has been bringing the theatre community together every September since 1997 to ask God’s blessing on the new season.

This year’s event is dedicated to Lynn Redgrave (1943 – 2010) who delivered a moving theatre reflection at last year’s Blessing, talking about her faith, her career and her battle with breast cancer, and offering a joyous recitation of Psalm 23. This year, the audience will sing that Psalm in her honor.

The evening will celebrate the 50th anniversary of two American classics: The Fantasticks and To Kill A Mockingbird.

The Fantasticks, which opened Off Broadway in 1960, has become the longest-running production in the history of the American stage and one of the most frequently produced musicals in the world. Charles West, a member of the cast, will sing “Try To Remember.” West has appeared on Broadway in The Scarlet Pimpernel, Show Boat and Cyrano The Musical.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, published in 1960, remains as relevant today as it did a half century ago. Broadway Blessing welcomes actor Anthony Newfield, who recently played the role of Atticus Finch at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts in California. Newfield’s recent Broadway credits include The Royal Family and Waiting for Godot.

The Broadway Blessing Choir under the direction of Bruce Neswick, director, cathedral music, will perform a number of hits from Broadway musicals from 1960, in keeping with the 50th anniversary theme, followed by an audience “sing-a-long”. The Very Rev. Dr. James A. Kowalski, Dean and The Rev. Thomas Miller, canon for liturgy & art from the Cathedral will be joined by Rabbi Jill Hausman of The Actors' Temple and The Right Rev. Andrew St. John, rector of the Episcopal Church of the Transfiguration (The Little Church Around the Corner), as officiants in the 75-minute program.

Founded and produced by theater and religion writer Retta Blaney, Broadway Blessing was conceived as a service of song, dance and story to seek God's grace on the new theatre season. Past participants have included Marian Seldes, Frances Sternhagen, Boyd Gaines, Edward Herrmann, Anna Manahan, KT Sullivan, Mary-Mitchell Campbell, J. Mark McVey, Tituss Burgess, Kathleen Chalfant, Billy Porter, Elizabeth Swados, Ken Prymus, Three Mo’ Tenors and Broadway Inspirational Voices.

Broadway Blessing is free; reservations are not needed. For more information visit http://www.stjohndivine.org/.

Broadway Blessing is made possible by the generous support of the Church of the Transfiguration (Little Church Around the Corner) and many wonderful friends. he cathedral is located at 1047 Amsterdam Avenue, at 112ths Street.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Book Note: 'Listen' by Rene Gutteridge

Up front and personal: Rene is a partner on an upcoming book project. When I requested her book for review from the publisher, it was before we were connected. She was a popular author and her latest, "Listen" (Tyndale 2010), sounded pretty interesting, even to me, a really big "non fan" of "Christian" fiction, so I thought, "Why not."

I'm glad I stepped out of my reading comfort zone and am happy to provide some notes, rather than a review. This is a fun book (Rene's got a great sense of humor and one scene in particular, caused me to guffaw, something usually reserved for when I'm enjoying the latest Bill Bryson book). It's also not what I would typically think of when I think "Christian" fiction. There are some faith themes running throughout the story, but they aren't the focus. Instead, there's a really intriguing plot, well developed characters whom we care about and one of the best grab-you-and-make-you-want-to-turn-the-pages prologues I ever have read in any book of any kind,

The premise involves the effects on folks in a small town when their private conversations suddenly go public on a mysterious website. Imagine that you're in your home or some other private setting, talking about a neighbor or about the girls at school, or whether or not you think your boss is competent. Then that conversation is reprinted word for word (expect for any curse words you might have included) on a web site, almost as though an invisible transcriber were present in the room.

Needless to say, it unnerves everyone, and even leads to murder. Who's behind the website and what is his or her motive? Those are the questions that drive the story; the answers make it a fun and thought-provoking novel. Appropriately, discussion questions are included at the end of the book for use in a small group study.

You can purchase "Listen" here. Visit Rene's web site and learn more about her other works at http://www.renegutteridge.com/rene/index.html
-- Lauren Yarger

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Being a Christian Dealing with Same-Sex Attraction


Ron and I at the Broadway Blessing in 2008

My friend, Ron, who led me to the Lord, recently shared his story about walking with God through same-sex attraction as part of a sermon series on hot topics like homosexuality at his church in New Jersey.

Titled FAQ, the excellent sermon series given by Pastor Tim Lucas focuses on what God thinks about homosexuality, alcohol, tattoos, the role of women, why good people suffer and the like. To hear the sermons, visit http://www.liquidchurch.com/. Ron's talk is part of the second sermon in the series.

If you're interested in reading Ron's book about his experiences in the church and caring for his lover who died of AIDS, "Reflections of an American Idiot" is available here: http://www.amazon.com/reflections-American-Idiot-R-F-Koustas/dp/1600343821/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1283027196&sr=8-1
-- Lauren Yarger

Worship with a Harp

We received this note from Andrew Wright Bennett who worships through music and the playing of many instruments he builds, including the harp. We met at the Montrose Christian Writers Conference. He writes:

"My first harp was built using fishing line and weedwacker cord, and tuned with a socket wrench. I’ve made a shofar out of plastic fast-food cups and duct tape which sounds glorious. The PVC pipe flute I’ve made is worth 25 cents but sings as beautifully as my flute which is worth $$$. The five-foot lyre I invented, I played while I sang Scripture on the steps of the US Capitol during the bible reading marathon before the National Day of Prayer."

Learn more about Andrew's ministry at www.andrewtheharpist.ws You can view videos at the following Youtube links:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zdbCAB5EDno
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8EsSUb3NnX8
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J4KvuumhD8o

Chuck Neighbors Offers Thoughts on Being a Christian Actor

Check out our friend Chuck Neighbor's thoughts about being a Christian actor on one of his most recent blog posts at http://mastersimage.com/blog/?p=213.

Chuck, a talented writer and performer, tours the country presenting his one-man shows. For more information about his ministry, Master's Image Productions, visit http://www.mastersimage.com/homepage.php.

Indie Rock Band Entertains on the Stoop

The Stoop, a distinctive music venue in the heart of Hell’s Kitchen in New York, will present a night of exciting indie rock and multi-media featuring five piece band, MEM Saturday, Sept. 18.

Since 2008, MEM has been mesmerizing audiences and listeners alike with their innovative song writing, dazzling sonic experimentation, and multi-sensory live performances. MEM bursts open a wellspring of creative energy on the electro-organic template, employing an artful combination of swirling textures and colors, complementing their undeniable pop sensibility.

Indie pop singer/songwriter/pianist Rachel Zylstra will kick off the evening with her genuinely crafted lyrics and impressive piano stylings. Following her act, Ben Lear, a multi-talented folk rock singer/songwriter/composer will take the stage with various instrumentalists and visual effects enhancing the scene. The event will be emceed by Chris MacIntosh (a.k.a. Grandfather Rock) of WCWP Radio.

Doors open at 7:30 pm, and showtime is at 8. While the concert is free, The Stoop will be accepting suggested donations of $12. Receive a free gift with the full suggested cover. All concessions including snacks, soft drinks, beer, and wine are all under $4.

The Stoop venue and concert series is presented by Music Forum of Church For All Nations, Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod. Music Forum of Church for All Nations is sponsoring the series and providing the landmark venue as a contribution to the cultural and spiritual life of Hell's Kitchen.

The Stoop is located at 417 West 57th St. between 9th and 10th avenues. For more information call 212 333-5583 or visit http://thestoopny.com/

Oikeo Music Launches New Web Site


Oikeo Music, which publishes Front Yard Worship magazine and represents numerous Christian artists, has launched a new web site. Check it out at http://www.wix.com/oikeomusic/official.

Yo! The Episcopal Actors' Guild Wants You!

The Episcopal Actors' Guild is looking for emerging artists (18-45) to perform in its next Yo! Pro Variety Show in October.

The booking committee will be making final decisions soon, so if you would like to perform on the historic Guild Hall stage (1 East 29th St., NYC), send a link where your work can be viewed to matt@actorsguild.org. All acts chosen will get 5 -10 minutes of stage time and a one year membership to EAG!

If you aren't 18-45 but know of a performer who you think will be a good fit for our variety show, don't hesitate to have them contact matt@actorsguild.org.

Maybe you'd prefer to help behind the scenes. The YO PRO Committee would love to see you at its next planning session Monday, Aug. 30 at 6pm in Guild Hall.

Is God the Source of Morality? Join the Debate at Socrates in the City

"Is God the Source of Morality?" will be the question when Socrates in the City offers its first debate 7 pm Monday, Sept. 13 at the New York Society for Ethical Culture, 2 West 64th St. at Central Park West..

NY Times best-selling author Dinesh D'Souza, left, ("What's So Great About Christianity') will go against Peter Singer, below right, professor of bioethics at Princeton University. D'Souza will be taking the pro side of the question; Singer will take the con side.

Tickets are being sold on a first-come, first-served basis. Register at https://www.socratesinthecity.com/gamma/sitc-debate/register.php or call 646-201-3375.

DeSousa's book is a comprehensive answer to a spate of atheist books denouncing theism in general and Christianity in particular. A former policy analyst in the Reagan White House, DeSousa was named by The New York Times Magazine as one of America's most influential conservative thinkers. The World Affairs Council lists him as one of the nation's 500 leading authorities on international issues.

Singer, born in Austrailia, first became well-known internationally after the publication of "Animal Liberation." He is the co-founder, and President, of The Great Ape Project, an international effort to obtain basic rights for chimpanzees, gorillas and orangutans. He is also President of Animal Rights International.

The debate will be moderated by host and SITC founder Eric Metaxas.

Meanwhile, Metaxas, left, will be the speaker at the second SITC event in Chicago 7 pm, Thursday, Sept. 16 at the Union League Club. He'll speak about his latest book: "Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy."

To register, or for more information, visit https://www.socratesinthecity.com/gamma/sitc-chicago/register.php.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

On Vacation

I'll be away from my desk and only posting updates when wireless internet and some free time intersect before then. We'll begin regular poasts again when I get back. Meanwhile, happy summer!

Monday, July 26, 2010

At the Montrose Christian Writers Conference

I'm teaching this week at the Montrose Bible Christian Writers Conference in beautiful Montrose, PA. Will write about the week and update the blog again on Aug. 2.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Video Series on First Responders Targets Faith in the Gulf

New York, NY — They are the first responders to the spiritual crisis wrought by the BP Deepwater Horizon blowout in the Gulf of Mexico—faith leaders in the coastal communities whose task is to minister to the despairing and the desperate.

Odyssey Networks' "Faith at the Gulf" series of exclusive, on-the-ground video reports profiles these men and women and the communities they serve.

The first in this series of five video reports focuses on the historic Back Bay Mission in Biloxi, MS, and its executive director, the Rev. Shari Prestemon. Founded by the United Church of Christ in 1922 as a social justice ministry to serve the local shrimping families, the mission played a significant role in the recovery from Hurricane Katrina.

Now Biloxi and its shrimpers face a new threat to their livelihoods and way of life—oil pollution in the waters of the Gulf. Rev. Prestemon shares Back Bay Mission's commitment to meeting this unprecedented economic and spiritual crisis.

"Nothing is as it was," she told Odyssey, "This is hitting directly the people we serve. We're here to meet their needs but it takes a lot of strength, a lot of heart, a lot of faith. Faith is not a simple thing. It's a complex thing. But it sharpens and crystallizes when it's tested and we've had a lot of tests."

The first of the "Faith at the Gulf" video series can be viewed now at www.odysseynetworks.org. Succeeding video reports will feature The Rev. Dr. Harold F. Roberts of the Episcopal Church of the Redeemer and the Rev. James L. Sturm of Leggett Memorial United Methodist Church, both of Biloxi. In addition to the video reports from Biloxi, Odyssey's website also offers articles about the work of its faith group members in the Gulf, along with prayers for the recovery of the area.

Odyssey Networks is the nation's largest multi-faith coalition dedicated to producing and distributing media that promotes peace and tolerance and addresses issues of social justice. Established in 1987, Odyssey Networks is a service of the National Interfaith Cable Coalition, Inc.

Calling All Mime Artists: Ad Deum Has an Intensive Just for You


Ad Deum Summer Dance & Mime Intensive in Houston is coming Aug. 1-6, and there is still time to register.

Calling all mimes! This year Ad Deum is offering an additional mid aftrenoon mime elective track from Sunday-Friday of the intensive. That would be 10 classes throughout the week to learn mime techniques including illusions, body control, characters, statues, and mimography. Mime students can also participate in the student showcase evenings.

There will be a special arrangement for those just wanting to do the mime elective track each day. The mime classes are open to those that have signed up for the full program.

For the brochure, visit http://danceaddeum.com/sitebuildercontent/sitebuilderfiles/SDMI2010Brochure.doc

Ad Deum Dance Company is a professional contemporary dance company based in Houston, Texas under the direction of Randall Flinn. Ad Deum celebrates the grace of God through our 10 years of growth and future and hope He still holds for our lives and work.

Join Me at the Joyce Meyer Conference in Hershey, PA

Join me for the Joyce Meyer Conference Aug. 19-21 at the Giant Center in Hershey, PA. Israel Houghton will be leading the worship. I always come away with renewed focus and having enjoyed a wonderful time worshipping the Lord. For details, visit http://www.joycemeyer.org/ourministries/conferences/hershey10
--Lauren Yarger

Open Mic Night at the Guild


Dream with me if you will: on a small, 87 year old stage, before a friendly, supportive audience, you sing a tune that brings the crowd to their feet. Too good to be true? Not any more, because on Monday July 26th, the Episcopal Actors' Guild presents Open Mic Night 2010!

The Open Mic Night will be a terrific evening of entertainment, provided by you and all your fellow EAG members and friends. Hosting the event will be Eric Kuzmuk, with the incomparable Woody Regan sitting in as accompanist. For more info, visit below.

And as always, for up to date information on this and all other Guild events, check out our website at http://www.actorsguild.org/.
-- Matt Roberson

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Book Review: The Worrywart’s Prayer Book by Allia Zobel Nolan

Don’t Worry, I’ve Got a Great Book for You
By Lauren Yarger
Are you a worrywart? If so, stop fretting. Have I got a book for you!

It’s “The Worrywart’s Prayer Book: 40 ‘Help-Me-Get-A-Grip God’ Meditations and Prayers" (Faith Communications, 2006) by Alia Zobel Nolan and it’s full of humor and insightful thoughts sure to quell the most worrisome of worrywarts.

Each brief chapter attacks the different things that make us worry, like losing a job, being alone, taking a test, losing a loved one or failure, just to name a few. I suppose I could add “worrying that no one will think I was influenced in writing this review by the fact that I like the author” because in the interest of full disclosure, I should tell you I have had the pleasure of recently getting to know Nolan, a Connecticut resident, at meetings of the CT Press Club, of which we both are members.

Each book chapter starts with quotes from Scripture or famous people, then provides Nolan’s insight into the subject of worry and concludes with a prayer. The format works well for use as a daily devotional, a full read of the book or as a handy reference for when individual worries surface.

Nolan, a self-described worrywart, packs tons of wisdom into the small chapters and at times, you’ll feel like you’re learning at the feet of Jesus. Her practical, down-to-earth, and at times slightly sarcastic advice, like that listed below, will help you follow God more closely whether or not you’re a worrier.

• “Worrywarts soak up other people’s worries like a dry sponge on a wet countertop.”
• Her husband’s philosophy: “Let there be no crisis before its time.”
• “It’s about losing control – the control we think we (not God) have over the events that take place in our lives.”
• “Our goal is to get to the point where ‘Thank you, God!’ not ‘Oh, my God!’ becomes our automatic response to any and every situation that arises, even when we can’t imagine what good can possibly come of it.”

The sections in which Nolan shares her worries over writing a worry book and how worriers would rather “stick a scorpion up their noses” than accept change caused me to laugh out loud, but the book had immediate practical application in my life as well. I read it on the commuter train into New York on a morning when I’d left my son, heavily medicated and recovering from kidney stones at home.

In typical worrywart fashion I had envisioned every possible harm that might befall him until I could return home and attempted to prevent them all with preparations before I’d left. I was half way through the book and reading about how God uses angels to care for us before the irony hit me: I had spent a lot of time worrying and trying to control the situation, but never had actually asked God to take care of my son. Duh! So I prayed and felt a lot less worried as I read the rest of the worry book. In all seriousness, it’s one of the most helpful books I’ve ever come across. It will go on my shelf as a handy reference the next time worry takes over.

You can purchase the book here. You can visit the author's helpful blog at http://theworrywartsprayerbook.wordpress.com/.

Note: A free review copy of this book was provided by the publisher.

Plan to Spend Mondays at the Episcopal Actors' Guild

A series of Monday night activities have been planned by the Episcopal Actors' Guild. All events benefit the organization's programs to help actors in need and will be held at 7 pm, Guild Hall, 1 East 29th St., NYC. there is a suggested donation of $10. Wine and chees will be served.

Monday, July 12 - CHARADES WITH ERIC KUZMUK!
Sounds Like...a heck of a good time! Get ready to play charades with fellow EAG members and their friends, on stage in the beautiful Guild Hall.

Participants will be divided into teams, with the night hosted by the incomparable Eric Kuzmuk.

Monday, July 19 - Improv Night
Monday, July 26 - Open Mic Night

For more info, email Eric at emuk@prodigy.net.

Catch Erica Lane on Tour!

A picture from the music video shot in Tennessee.

Join Christian musician and singer Erica Lane on tour this summer and through 2010. Be on the lookout for her latest CD River Road, soon to be released.
TOUR SCHEDULE
Some dates and locations are subject to change.
Aug 18 2010 7:30P
National House of Hope Orlando, FL

Aug 21 2010 7:00P
National House of Hope Orlando, FL

Nov 17 2010 12:00P
Kenya Crusade KENYA

Dec 3 2010 7:00P
Christmas Stroll Brenham, TX

Dec 4 2010 7:00P
First United Methodist Church Bay City, TX

Dec 8 2010 7:00P
Central Christian Church Weatherford, TX

Dec 10 2010 7:00P
Faith Baptist Church Madisonville, TX

Dec 12 2010 6:00P
Grace Baptist Church Fort Worth, TX

Sharpen Writing Skills at Montrose Conference

I'm getting very excited about what God has in store at this year's Montrose Christian Writers Conference July 25-30 at the Montrose Bible Conference, Pennsylvania.

I'll be on the faculty (along with some really cool people I can't wait to meet -- keep reading) to teach one of the morning tracks, a couple of workshops and to meet with writers about their sketches. I wouldn't be surprised if I have the opportunity to make some wonderful friends too.

If you are a beginning writer looking for inspiration and guidance, this is the the place for you. If you are an established writer and are looking for some support and fellowship, this also is the place for you. I know we're going to see God at work. I'll list some of the offeirngs along with the faculty below, but for miore information, or to register, visit http://www.montrosebible.org/writers.htm
-- Lauren Yarger

MAJOR MORNING CLASSES Monday-Thursday 10:40am-12:10pm
Designed as a continuing track to provide in-depth learning and participation. Most valuable when taken as a series but open to those who cannot attend every day.

1. YOU CAN BE A PUBLISHED WRITER: Joan Esherick

Learn how to successfully write for publication. Discuss writing ethics, professionalism, attitude, office set-up, equipment, research aids, market analysis, query letters, guidelines, manuscript preparation and submission, dangers to avoid, the writing process, the publishing process, record keeping, publication barriers (and how to overcome them), and just about everything else you’ll need to hone your skill, polish your writing, and see your work in print.

Joan returned to full-time freelance writing in 2008 after three years as Senior Writer and Editor for a non-profit organization. Her award-winning blog about Labrador retrievers has garnered an international readership from Australia, Canada, England, Europe, and India. A teacher by background, Joan loves to mentor writers just starting their publishing career.

2. ARTICLES: THE QUICKEST PATH TO PUBLICATION: Holly Miller M-W; Ginger Kolbaba TH

Like it or not, the best way to build a freelance writing career is by starting with magazine articles. Move past the predictable to explore fresh ideas. Examine the kinds of features that editors look for, the calendar-content connection, the wide world of shorts, and copyrights and wrongs. Learn how to market articles at the right time to the right publication and how to write successful online articles. Get answers for your questions with a Q and A session on Thursday.

Holly is an award-winning author or co-author of 14 books and thousands of articles and short stories that have appeared in Today’s Christian Woman, The Saturday Evening Post, Reader’s Digest, Writer’s Digest and The Writer. She is an annual judge for writing competitions sponsored by the Evangelical Press Association (magazines) and the Evangelical Christian Publishing Association (books). Her most recent book is "Feature & Magazine Writing: Action, Angles and Anecdotes."

Ginger is editor and manager of discipleship and women's resources for Christianity Today International which sponsors Kyria.com and award-winning Marriage Partnership.com, each visited by 1 million unique visitors annually. She's also a former editor of Today's Christian Woman and an award-winning author who has written more than 250 articles and written or contributed to more than 16 books, including Surprised by Remarriage and a novel, "Katt's in the Cradle."

3. THE FANTASY TALE - FROM DREAM TO NOVEL: Bryan Davis

Fantasy has become one of the most popular genres. This track opens the doors to learning how to create an idea for a fantasy tale, begin the adventure, and carry it through to the end of the journey—a completed novel. Writers of all ages and all skill levels are welcome. Be ready to dream and imagine as a group. Who knows? Maybe we’ll conjure up the next best-seller!

Bryan is the author of the best-selling "Dragons in Our Midst" and "Oracles of Fire" series, contemporary/fantasy blends. His book, "Eye of the Oracle," hit number one on the January 2007, Young Adult CBA best-seller list. He has also written "Echoes from the Edge," a mystery/suspense trilogy. His newest series, "Dragons of Starlight," is a 2010 release that is geared for both teens and adults.

A seminary graduate who was once a computer professional, Bryan has also written books for children, fathers, and husbands.

4. STRUCTURING YOUR ARTS MINISTRY: Lauren Yarger

Where is the line between artist/Christian? Sometimes there isn't one. Learn how to write in both worlds. How do writing, music, drama, dance, visual art, and the pastor fit together? Pause to look at the big picture. Master the basics of writing . . . and rewriting . . . sketches for church or publication so they have maximum impact. Explore the art of critical writing for theater, book, or movie reviews or when offering edit suggestions on a script. Learn how to receive criticism well.

Lauren, Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, writes, directs, and produces for theater. She produced a three-year tour of a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that ended Off-Broadway. Her adaptation of “A Christmas Carol” won a 2000 VT Bessie Award. She writes Broadway, New York, and Connecticut theater reviews and has a blog for Christian artists at http://christianperformers.blogspot.com. Lauren is a member of The Outer Critics Circle, The Drama Desk, the American Theater Critics Association, and the Society of Professional Journalists.

5. BLOGGING 101-401: WHAT, HOW, and WHY: Jim Willis

Just what is a blog? Why are blogs so important for writers? Learn about personal, professional, and corporate blogging as well as microblogging. Discover how to track, read, and respond to blogs. Learn to design blogs to showcase your talent and capture a publisher. Explore personal brands, author platforms, and online portfolios as well as practical tips for blogging. Examine the blogging marketplace, where to find opportunities, how to make submissions, and how to freelance and get paid.

Jim is vice president of marketing for the A-Team Groups, a British-based publishing company that publishes news and research in the financial services marketplace. Prior to that, he was director of electronic marketing for Knovel Corporation, an e-book publisher. Jim has been blogging since 2007. He has been a freelance reporter, and in his youth, was a staffer in the Ronald Reagan White House. Jim has had a lifelong passion for writing, loves to blog, and loves to read e-books on his Kindle.

Additional 2010 Writers Conference Faculty

Bonnie Calhoun:Director of the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance, a 220+ member organization that conducts weekly blog tours for the latest in Christian fiction from major publishing houses; publisher Christian Fiction Online magazine; and Northeast Zone Director for the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW).

Grace Fabian: Author, speaker, and teacher who served with Wycliffe Bible Translators in Mexico and Papua New Guinea. Her husband was murdered while translating I Corinthians 13 into the Nabak language. Her memoir, Outrageous Grace, tells of her quest with grief, forgiveness, and unimaginable redemption.

Jean Otto Ford: Freelance writer, editor, public speaker, graphic designer, award-winning artist, and marketing-communications generalist who has written 12 published books and countless magazine articles. She currently works as a doctoral dissertation editor, but for fun, enjoys writing and illustrating children’s books.

Mark Hamby: Author, speaker, and Bible teacher whose passion is seeing God use the power of story to transform lives, “one story at a time.” He is the founder and President of Lamplighter Ministries International, publisher of life-changing classic books and producer of world-class audio drama productions heard on radio as Lamplighter Theater.

Vie Herlocker: Editor for Sonfire Media, a Christian partnership publishing house in Galax, Virginia. She is also a writer with articles published in several magazines and collection books. She co-wrote the book, Building Better Schools by Engaging Support Staff, and ghostwrote, Until My Blindfold Comes Off.

Matt Holliday: Editor of Pennsylvania Magazine, launched by his parents 29 years ago, enjoys connecting the stories produced by writers and photographers with readers who enjoy them. A man of broad interests, Matt has served in the military and worked as a cook and real estate agent.

Marsha Hubler: Author and educator who has written poetry, short stories,articles, and 12 books. Books 7 and 8 of her best-selling Keystone Stables series were released by Zonderkidz this year. She has also published two new releases: Rickie Rides To The Rescue and The Secret Of Wolf Canyon.

Kathy Ide: Freelance editor for authors and book publishers and published author of books, articles, play/movie scripts, short stories, devotionals, and curriculum. She is also the founder/coordinator of The Christian PEN: Proofreaders and Editors Network.

Donna and Conrad Kreiger: Worship coordinators for the conference. Donna is a songwriter, soloist, pianist, organist, arranger and recording artist who has been involved in radio drama and taught on the college level. Conrad plays several instruments and has served as Minister of Music in a variety of churches.

Shirley Leonard: Graduate of the Christian Writers guild whose devotionals have appeared in the Secret Place, the Quiet Hour, Devotions, and Penned from the Heart and whose stories and articles have been published in Live, Women Alive, and Pennsylvania. A contributing writer for American Window Cleaner, she loves to see new writers find their niche.

Elaine W. Miller is the author of two books in the Splashes of Serenity Series. Her work is published in Sanctuary: A Devotional Bible for Women as well as several magazines. A featured guest on radio and television broadcasts, Elaine is a member of the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association.

Mary Sue Seymour: Literary agent who founded The Seymour Agency in 1992. Most interested in Christian romance and women’s fiction but also sells a little nonfiction. A member of the AAR, WGA, The Author's Guild and RWA, she represents about fifty clients, many of whom have multibook deals with major publishers.

Carol Wedeven: Teacher, speaker, artist, and musician who has written several picture books, curriculum, articles, short stories, fillers, and poetry. In addition to traveling, she continues to work on a book project and serve as Assistant Director for MCWC.

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/.

There was an error in this gadget

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.

Twitter Updates

    follow me on Twitter

    Subscribe to This Feed