Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Portraits in Faith

This week I'm excited to announce that Masterwork Productions now represents Maggie Wallem Rowe for performances of her three moving portraits of women of faith.
A farmer’s daughter from Illinois, Maggie spent 25 years in ministry in New England with her husband Mike, where she directed women’s ministries for Vision New England. Now a resident of Wheaton, Maggie serves on the staff of a major Christian publishing house as well as a guest communications instructor at Wheaton College.
The performances are original historical reenactments of the lives of great women of the Christian faith including:
Mary, the mother of Jesus
Sarah Pierpont Edwards, wife of preacher Jonathan Edwards
Amy Carmichael, a missionary in India

As a freelance writer, Maggie has contributed to over ten books including What We’ve Learned So Far, the new Zondervan Women’s Devotional Bible, the Thomas Nelson Family Foundations Bible, Chicken Soup for the Christian Woman’s Soul, and Tyndale’s One Year Bible for New Believers.
We're excited to be part of the ministry of this woman of God! To see clips from the performances, visit www.maggierowe.com. To book a performance, contact us at masterworkproductions@yahoo.com.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Worship the Lord in the Splendor of His Holiness

I had the pleasure of worshipping last weekend with Darlene Zschech and the Hillsong Praise Team (from Hillsong Church in Australia) and the only way to describe it was worship with a capital Wow. (Darlene is the author of "Shout to the Lord" and "The Potter's Hand" in case the name isn't ringing a bell.)
How wonderful it is to be part of a worship service where God's presence is so tangible. Each member of the praise team offered his or her voice or instrument in worship to the Lord. Darlene's gifted leadership draws you into his presence, encourages the praise team and offers it all in a shout of praise and thanksgiving to God.
I also attended a concert by the Christian band Delirious? where thousands gathered to sing and worship, praise and be saved. How marvelous to see some 1,700 people give their lives to the Lord (many of them young people -- our next generation of believers) following a message from Joyce Meyer. Praise Him!
And Father, God, I thank you for the hearts of the Christian performers so open to your guidance and filled with love for people. Thank you for the hearts of praise and worship teams all over the world, father. Use them to call us to worship and to use the arts to bring the lost to you.

Sing to the LORD a new song;
sing to the LORD, all the earth.
Sing to the LORD, praise his name;
proclaim his salvation day after day.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Being in the World, But Not of It

This week I began Beth Moore's bible study on the life of Daniel. She is a gifted teacher and has real skill in interpreting scripture and making it come alive for today. We're looking at Babylon, to which Daniel is taken captive, not only as an ancient city, but as a metaphor for the culture in which we live today.
Babylon was the center of everything. Daniel and the other young men brought in captivity from Judah must have been blown away by all that it had to offer. The king of Babylon's plan was to find the most desirable young men, those of royal or noble breeding, good looking and quick to learn (does this remind you, as it does me, of a young actor arriving in New York or Hollywood and of a typical audition process? so that he could indoctrinate them in to the language, ways and religions of Babylon.
Daniel resolved, however, not to be defiled by food from the king's table not prepared in accordance with Jewish requirements and asked the person in charge whether he and a few of his companions may be given vegetables and water instead.
How often, I wonder are we in the performing arts field, tempted with choice foods from the kingdom of Babylon. The answer, I believe, is every day.
How many of us have felt tempted to take a role that might catapult our career,(or just pay the rent) but which calls for us to appear immodestly, or to use unacceptable language, or to appear in sexually immoral scenes? How many of us interact with friends and coworkers who have adopted lifestyles not pleasing to God, but we are afraid to let them know we stand with Christ because we are afraid they will reject us, label us as "judgmental" or cause difficulties for us as we try to further our careers?
Let's try Daniel's approach and resolve not to be defiled. Suggest another way the line or scene might be played. I have heard many Christian performers share that they have done this and that their suggestions have been met with great enthusiasm and incorporated into the production.
Don't be afraid to let people know you love the lord. If you hide that, you keep from them a large part of who you are and perhaps throw away an opportunity the Lord has created for you to be able to share him with them.
By remaining true to who God wanted him to be, Daniel was able to learn about the culture he was in, to understand how it worked and to be a witness for God in it without letting the culture take control of who he was. You can do the same. Remember, we're aliens in a foreign land, just as Daniel was:
"Friends, this world is not your home, so don't make yourselves cozy in it. Don't indulge your ego at the expense of your soul. Live an exemplary life among the natives so that your actions will refute their prejudices. Then they'll be won over to God's side and be there to join in the celebration when he arrives."
1 Peter 2:11-12 (The Message)

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

An Inside Look at the Spiritual Lives of Actors

I have had the pleasure of getting to know talented journalist and theater critic Retta Blaney over the past couple of years. She's worked for a number of publications and now specializes in writing about theater and religion, and whenever she can, the connection between the two.
Retta is the founder and organizer of the annual "Broadway Blessing" in New York City where performers come together each September to offer a variety of musical and dramatic offerings in a service designed to ask God's blessing on the new Broadway theater season.
Over the years, as a fellow journalist, I've come to respect Retta's skill as an interviewer. I can tell from reading her interviews that she doesn't approach a subject with any preconceived notions or with any agenda to get the subject to say something particular or in a certain way. She lets the person speak in his or her own words and the result is that we, the reader, come away feeling like we know the subject very well.
She's found a niche focusing on what's important to performers in their spiritual lives. Her book "Working on the Inside: The Spiritual Life Through the Eyes of Actors" (Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc. 2003) is a window into what some actors define as their spiritual life, how it is influenced by their upbringing, peer groups and other factors and how they draw upon it as a support for their career in the performing arts.
Actors including Kristen Chenoweth, Vanessa Williams, Phylicia Rashad, Liam Neeson, Edward Hermann and many others share their perspectives.
It's a good read and offers a lot of insight into the thinking of these actors. For more information on Retta and for information on how to purchase the book, go to her blog at http://uponthesacredstage.blogspot.com/ (you can find the link under "blog roll" to the right on this page.)

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Unity on the Worship Team

One of the most common problems I hear about from worship team leaders and members is a lack of ability for members to get along and to come together as one unit to lead worship. Someone is feeling upset because she always used to be the lead vocalist and now she has to share the spotlight with others. Another member is upset because he's a great drummer and wants to do a solo, but the leader feels it takes focus away from the worship. A third member is struggling with feeling the leader is not organized enough or picking the right songs and would like to take control.

This is a common scenario for worship teams because they are comprised of humans, and humans, especially those in the performing arts, have healthy egos and desires for personal edification. The problems is that, while these divisive situations are taking place, they often aren't acknowledged. After all, these are the folks who are supposed to be leading the congregation in worship. It isn't easy to admit that we sometimes want to put ourselves in front of God. Instead, frustrations simmer and gossip is given life.

The good news is that God understands all of this. He knows all of our faults and sins and loves us any way. What he wants is for us to confess our sin and put these types of struggles behind. Then we can put each person's needs ahead of our own and turn our focus on Him and be an example of Christ-like behavior to the congregation.

"For even Christ did not please himself but, as it is written: 'The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me. ‘For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus, so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ" Rom. 15:3-6

That says it pretty clearly. Now look at the same verses as translated in The Message:

"That's exactly what Jesus did. He didn't make it easy for himself by avoiding people's troubles, but waded right in and helped out. 'I took on the troubles of the troubled,' is the way Scripture puts it. Even if it was written in Scripture long ago, you can be sure it's written for us. God wants the combination of his steady, constant calling and warm, personal counsel in Scripture to come to characterize us, keeping us alert for whatever he will do next. May our dependably steady and warmly personal God develop maturity in you so that you get along with each other as well as Jesus gets along with us all. Then we'll be a choir—not our voices only, but our very lives singing in harmony in a stunning anthem to the God and Father of our Master Jesus."

May you reflect on coming together as one team led by one spirit to lead your congregation into fellowship and knowledge of the Lord.

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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