Tuesday, July 29, 2008

This just in....

In celebration of the one-year anniversary of the release of "A Spy In Tortuga", Jeff Lisenby's jazz accordion CD, Silver Nitrate Music is offering a half price discount on purchases of 2 or more CDs through Jeff's website. Jeff was a painist with Masterwork Production's tour of "Early One Morning."
Go to http://cdbaby.com/cd/lisenbyj to purchase.
Jeff is appearing at various locations including Saturday, Aug.9 at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center gala. For more information, go to Jeff's site at

Summer Reading for Christian Artists

Several books for Christians artists and worship leaders have made their way onto my reading pile.
"Worship Matters" by Bob Kauflin (Sovereign Grace Ministries 2008)
At 300-plus pages, this book by Sovereign's director of worship development and former "GLAD" member seemed a bit cumbersome for a summer read, but I soon discovered that it was well worth the time investment to glean from Kauflin's years of experience in leading worship and training worship leaders.

Kauflin offers insights from his journey in four categories: The Leader, The Task, Healthy Tensions and Right Relationships. He discusses how the Spirit leads, how spoken words and singing compliment each other, how to lead believers to truth and and how to keep the unbeliever in mind among other topics.

It's a thought-provoking and helpful guide whether you've been leading worship for years or whether you're just starting out.

"Quiet Moments for Worship Leaders" by Marty Parks (Beacon Hill Press 2008) is a collection of meditations and prayers on the Psalms. "Does the Christian world really need another devotional book?" asks Parks, artist in residence at Broadmar Baptist Church in Madison, MS. He seems to think so, but I'm not sure that's what he's given us, as most of the entries are first-person thoughts which make the book read more like a personal journal rather than a guide through Psalms to spark our own devotions.

There are a few entries that stand out for worship leaders, however, like "A Word on the Worship Wars" and "Thanksgiving and the Heart of Worship" and at the end of each entry, Sparks includes a prayer and thought for the day that can jumpstart a time of conversation with the Lord.

"Imagine: A Vision for Christians in the Arts" by Steve Turner isn't new (InterVarsity Press 2001)but is a must read for any Christian involved in any art. The book grew out of a lecture given by Turner about serving God with our gifts without being confined in a religious market. A poet and writer, Turner discusses the influence Christians can have on culture and vice versa and what the bible has to say about the arts. He challenges Christians to put their art in perspective to the gospel and Christ's death and resurrection. The book is a prayerful journey for any Christian who's ever struggled with the question of how the be a "Christian artist."

Monday, July 21, 2008

Theater Comes to Life: Literally

Eugene O'Neill describes the setting for "A Long Day's Journey into Night" and suddenly dark wood panelling, a bookshelf under a portrait of William Shakespeare, a round table and chairs with three windows from which you can overlook the water surround me, not because I'm imagining the room as I read, or admiring set work while viewing the play, but because I'm sitting in the room itself, where J Ranelli directs a reading from the classic.
The room, exact in detail as described in the stage directions of the play, is in O'Neill's boyhood home and the reading is the first event in which I'm participating as a fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT.
Ranelli, one of the most skilled directors I've ever worked with, brings O'Neill's words to life as he guides the actors through selected scenes. The idea is for us critics, who review plays, to get a better understand of how a performance comes to be. I get even more than that out of the experience.
Ranelli suggests that the two actors playing Edmund and Jamie go out into the kitchen and enter the room laughing, just as described in the play's stage direction. They do, and the effect is chilling. I feel as though I'm living inside the pages of O'Neill's autobiographical work and expect to hear the melancholic foghorn. I can feel his pain, the frustration of a disfunctional family trying to make it through the day while denying, then trying to deal with the mother's drug addiction.
It's gripping and I realize that this is why I do theater: to move the people watching. To try to touch them with the material in a personal way and, in our case at Masterwork Productions, where our projects carry a message of hope, to offer them something to think about and in some cases, a solution.
The experience leaves me with a strong sense of confirmation and a bag full of directing techniques gleaned from Ranelli's years of experience in theater and television that hopefully will make me a better director, both of theatrical endeavors and of this performing arts organization. He stresses a mentoring relationship between director and actors and I realize that this type of relationship is what brought me here in the first place. Friend and Broadway critic Retta Blaney has encouraged me to pursue writing reviews of Broadway shows from a Christian perspective. A few of those reviews earned me a spot as a follow at the institute and now God has opened the door for mentoring from some of the nation's top critics.
It's amazing how many doors God can open and not surprising that he uses mentors like Retta to turn the door knob.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Yarger Selected for Critics Insitute

Everybody’s a critic, but only the best ones get full ride scholarships to The O’Neill Critics Institute. Lauren Yarger, Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. learned last week that she is one of the best. The prestigious program is the only one of its kind in the country and accepts only a handful of applicants each year. Lauren, who has an extensive journalism background but is new to writing theatre reviews, didn’t think she stood much of a chance of being accepted into the program as it is not for novices, but, when Director Dan Sullivan read a few of her reviews, he asked her if she would like to attend this summer’s Institute – on full scholarship.

The Institute is a boot camp for critics. For two weeks in July it runs concurrently with the national Playwrights Conference and the National Music Theater Conference on the O’Neill grounds in Waterford, CT. Fellows experience an intensive writing workshop and turn out a piece of copy nearly every night: a review of the previous night’s show, a description of an individual actor’s performance, and interview with a director. Then the copy is dissected by the group under the direction of a seasoned theater writer or editor. Sullivan, who reviewed theater for the Los Angeles Times for 20 years, said, “It’s a tough two weeks, not a vacation at the beach…For two weeks we live and breathe theater…There’s no other program like it.”

Lauren has been involved in just about every aspect of theater imaginable from writing scripts to producing shows, but critical review is a new endeavor for her.
“God just keeps opening doors!” she said.

Her reviews can be found at http://masterworkproductions.homestead.com/reviews.html
and http://reflectionsinthelight.blogspot.com/

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

A Spirit of Dependence

In the United States, we celebrate the birth of our nation this week, but among the calls for independence by our Founding Fathers was an understanding that a great country could remain great only with a dependence on God. As God calls us to develop our artistic skills, to learn and experience and to become the person He created us to be, He just as fully calls us to dependence on Him and to our functioning as a part of the greater body of the church. Independence with dependence.
Let's celebrate the freedom we enjoy in a nation where we can worship and serve as as artists without fear of persecution. Let's also celebrate a God in whom we can trust and on whom we can depend for everything. I am "in" dependence.

D elighting in your decrees; I will not neglect your word.
Psalm 119:15-17

Everpraising you Psalm 84:4

Protected forever Psalm 37:28

ternally blessed and made glad with the joy of your presence Psalm 21:6

New-song singing with a hymn of praise in my mouth Psalm 40:3

Dancing instead of crying Psalm 40:3

Enjoying prosperity, a free nation and a royal inheritance Pslam 106:5

Nightly singing His song of prayer Psalm 42:8

Clinging to the Lord whose right hand upholds me Psalm 63:8

Everlasting to everlasting, you are God! Psalm 90:2

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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