Saturday, June 29, 2013

Book Notes: Harvest of Gold by Tessa Afshar

The newest biblical romance from Tessa Afshar, Harvest of Gold (River North, 2013), releases Monday, July 1. The follow up to the story of Sarah and Darius, first introduced in Harvest of Rubies (a finalist for the 2013 ECPA Fiction Book Award) finds the couple on their way with Nehemiah t rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.

From the publisher:
The scribe Sarah married Darius, and at times she feels as if she has married the Persian aristocracy, too. There is another point she did not count on in her marriage-Sarah has grown to love her husband. Sarah has wealth, property, honor, and power, but her husband's love still seems unattainable.

Although his mother was an Israelite, Darius remains skeptical that his Jewish wife is the right choice for him, particularly when she conspires with her cousin Nehemiah to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. Ordered to assist in the effort, the couple begins a journey to the homeland of his mother's people. Will the road filled with danger, conflict, and surprising memories, help Darius to see the hand of God at work in his life-and even in his marriage?

A hidden message, treachery, opposition, and a God-given success, will lead to an unlikely bounty.

The book will be launched Monday evening at the Mark Twain House in Hartford, CT, where Mark Twain lived and wrote. It's a writing center in the state, hosting many bestselling authors (Stephen King will speak at an event to benefit the house and museum in July), but this is the first book launch ever hosted there.

For a feature article on the launch, which appeared in Thursday's Manchester Journal-Inquirer, click here.

To visit the author's blog, visit, where you can read a sample chapter.

To buy the book:

Barnes & Noble:

Christian Book Distributors:

About the author:

Tessa Afshar was voted “New Author of the Year” by the Family Fiction sponsored Reader’s Choice Awards 2011 for her novel Pearl in the Sand. Her book, Harvest of Rubies was nominated for the 2013 ECPA Book Award (formerly known as the Gold Medallion) in the fiction category, received the 2012 Grace Award for Women’s Fiction and was selected as one of four “notable” novels by World Magazine.
Afshar was born in Iran to a nominally Muslim family, and lived there for the first 14 years of her life. She moved to England where she survived boarding school for girls and fell in love with the works of Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte, before moving to the United States permanently. She holds an MDiv degree from Yale University where she served as co-chair of the Evangelical Fellowship at the Divinity School. She has spent the last 14 years in full-time Christian service in New England.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Critic Peter Filichia Shares Personal History of the American Theater

After 25 years as a professional critic, Peter Filichia has seen, heard, and written about it all. In a very personal celebration of his life in the theatre, Filichia will share his most interesting moments, including adventures with nice actors (Jerry Orbach), not-so-nice ones (Mary Tyler Moore), and being face to face with Ben Vereen after giving him a bad review. 

Filichia’s Personal History has been performed in cities across the country. Now, for one night only, he brings it to historic Guild Hall, with all the proceeds benefitting The Episcopal Actors' Guild's Emergency Aid and Relief Program. A wine and cheese reception will follow the performance. 

Filichia also will sell and sign his new book "Strippers, Showgirls, and Sharks: A Very Opinionated History of the Broadway Musicals That Did Not Win the Tony Award."

­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­When: Monday, June 24 at 7:00 pm

Where: Guild Hall at The Little Church Around the Corner – 1 E. 29thSt. – New York, NY 10016 (between 5th Avenue and Madison –R/N @ 28th, 6 @ 28th)

Cost: Suggested: $10 (members) & $15 (non-members)

RSVP:(212) 685-2927 or

Info at and

More on Peter Filichia:
Peter Filichia is the New York-based theater critic emeritus for The Newark (N.J.) Star Ledger newspaper and News 12 television station. He is also the author of "Let's Put on a Musical" (Back Stage Books, 2007), now in its third printing; "Broadway Musicals: The Biggest Hit of the Season/The Biggest Flop of the Season" (Applause Books, 2010); and "Broadway Musical MVPs 1960-2010: The Most Valuable Players of the Last 50 Seasons" (Applause Books, 2011), chosen one of Publishers Weekly’s Top 10 Performing Arts titles of 2011.

Peter has been a columnist for Playbill,, Theatermania and Theater Week. He blogs weekly at; and writes “Filichia Features” for Musical Theatre International’s Web site, The Marquee, and “Filichia on Friday” for Kritzerland Records’ Web site.

Before joining the Theatre World Awards in 1996 as host and head of the selection committee, Peter served four terms as president of the Drama Desk. He has served on an assessment panel for the National Endowment for the Arts, and is currently critic-in-residence for the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music and the musical theater judge for the ASCAP Awards program.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Hildegard of Bingen and the Living Light

By Retta Blaney
Since its 2012 release, the landmark DVD “Hildegard of Bingen and the Living Light” (Paraclete Press) has continued to attract a growing audience captivated by the production’s unique exploration of one of history’s most intriguing saints. This week, in celebration of the first anniversary of Hildegard’s long-awaited canonization by the Vatican, an enhanced version of the DVD is being made available with Spanish and German subtitles to further increase its international appeal.

Produced by critically acclaimed mezzo soprano Linn Maxwell, the production features a powerful film adaptation of Maxwell’s compelling one-woman stage play and more than three hours of supplemental content. Extras include an annotated script and production notes, a two-part seminar for church or academic group discussion, and a variety of topical interviews with many of the world’s leading Hildegard scholars, authors and experts.

“Having the opportunity to invite modern audiences to meet this extraordinary 12th-century nun, writer, composer, healer and prophet continues to be a remarkable privilege,” Maxwell said. “Those who do agree she has many important things to say, and it is not surprising that her voice – impossible to silence in her time – continues to grow in relevance and strength today. The addition of new film subtitles in both Spanish and German will only amplify Hildegard’s international appeal.”

Hildegard has been an admired and controversial figure both inside and outside the Catholic Church for centuries. Beginning in earliest childhood, she experienced powerful, recurring visions that called her to express herself through her many talents and assume a role of unique leadership in the medieval church – one that often challenged the establishment head-on.

International interest in Hildegard has enjoyed a powerful resurgence following her May 10, 2012 canonization and October 2012 naming by Pope Benedict XVI as a “Doctor of the Church.” This rare title, bestowed over nine centuries on individuals of extraordinary importance in the life of the Church, has placed Hildegard in the highly select company of only 35 individuals, only four of whom have been women.

Written and performed by Maxwell, the film adaptation of the play “Hildegard of Bingen and the Living Light” is based on an original production directed by Erv Raible that has won widespread critical acclaim after 80 performances in both North America and Europe. Writing in the New York Theater Review, John Hoglund has said, “Hildegard returns...through the artistry of Linn Maxwell in a commanding performance that is as scholarly as it is relevant today;” according to The Times of London, “Hildegard is reborn as mezzo Linn Maxwell,” with her “hypnotically beautiful song.”

The DVD features Maxwell as Hildegard, performing the mystic’s compositions on authentic medieval instruments and, through Hildegard’s actual writings, reveals the life and passion of an extraordinary woman who lived centuries ahead of her time.

Maxwell has performed on the stages of major orchestras including the Chicago, Cleveland, Seattle and Toronto Symphonies, and the Berlin Radio Orchestra, among others. Her operatic engagements include San Francisco (Placido Domingo conducting), the Cincinnati Opera, Netherlands Opera (with Nicholas Harnancourt), Hungarian State Opera and recital halls across the United States and in 27 countries worldwide. In addition to her extensive performances of the stage version of “Hildegard of Bingen and the Living Light,” Maxwell has also performed cabaret and one-woman shows in New York City and made her European cabaret debut in 2006 at Frankfurt’s International Theater.
Retta Blaney is an award-winning journalist and author of Working on the Inside: The Spiritual Life through the Eyes of Actors. Visit her blog, Life Upon the Sacred Stage at

Daily Inspiration

The Blind Side

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



Read Matt Mungle's review of the movie at

Lauren Yarger, Bio

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright Notice

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

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

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

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