Dramatizing Your Story
Most of the dramas I write are written as one-man shows or monologues. Some of these have an on-stage focus as if the character is speaking to one or more other characters on stage. Other times, the text is delivered directly to the audience. Still other times, the character is talking to himself. Several of my dramas change between two or even all three of these throughout the performance. But the question sometimes comes up: “how do you come up with your scripts?”
My scripts fall into two broad categories: Scripture and personal.
For the scripture-based dramas, I start with the scriptural story I want to convey and then complete the script from there. Sometimes the script will include direct scriptural quotes. Other times, I wonder “what if” with the characters. For instance, what would a conversation between Peter and John have looked like on Resurrection morning before Mary came back to tell them that the grave is empty? I’m always careful in these cases to do the necessary research to guarantee that nothing that is in the script is contrary to what is in scripture.
For personal dramas, I find it best to start with my own experience or experiences of those close to me. While very few of my personal dramas are 100% factual from my own life, they will all include snippets from my life or those close to me. They are the stories of life. As with scripture-based dramas, I’m also careful to be sure any facts or statistics in the dramas are true.
So what’s your story? It may seem bland to you but it could also make for a great story on stage!
How’d I get Started?
A few weeks ago, I posted a plea for questions (here). I haven’t received any yet but I thought I start by tackling one that I included as an example. How did I get started in theatre?
One of the earliest pictures of me in a costume is from 2nd grade.
For those of you who don’t remember the show, I was dressed up like Papa Smurf. My classroom (you can see some of my classmates behind me in the picture) did the play Bambi for a special show. I was cast as the narrator. Now, I’m sure most of you don’t remember the crossover episode between The Smurfs and Bambi (I don’t either but I didn’t watch The Smurfs very often)…but, in fact, that has nothing to do with it so I don’t know if it ever happened. Our 2nd grade class (under the tutelage of Ms. Gist) took on the identity of the Smurfs. This was especially helpful (I know now looking back) for when we were in the hallway as our principal, according to our teacher, was Gargamel. This helped to keep us quiet in the hallway.
During my elementary and middle school years, I was also heavily involved in dramas and musicals at my church.
Fast forward to my freshman year in high school. For the musical production of The Music Man, I was cast in the role of Winthrop. To say “I was cast” may be a bit of a stretch…I kind of cast myself. I had never really auditioned before so, rather than just look at the scenes that we were supposed to have ready, I took it on myself (with my sister’s help) to memorize the entire role before auditions. I got the role.
My junior year in high school, at Central Assembly in Springfield, MO, I was cast as Ebenezer Scrooge in their youth production of The Gospel According to Scrooge.
For my senior year, my school (Hillcrest High School) did The Sound of Music. I was cast as Admiral von Schrieber. Later that year, we did You Can’t Take It With You. I was the student director and Mr. Anthony Kirby.
Once I got into college, I originally went in as a math major. My freshman year, I was involved back stage for The Lion in Winter, onstage as Mendel (the Rabbi’s son) in Fiddler on the Roof, and as Andrew, age 64 in Why Do We Laugh. I was also involved with a mime ministry team called Voices. After that year, I felt a strong call into drama teaching and ministry. I changed to a Speech/Drama education major.
Throughout college, I worked backstage on She Stoops to Conquer, A View from the Bridge, A Doll’s House and several other productions and appeared onstage as Gonzalo in The Tempest.
Since college, I’ve taught 18 years (13 in public schools, 5 in private) in speech, drama, math, physics, computer applications and have worked some of those years as the technical liaison for the school as well.
I’ve also worked on many different drama productions, large and small, in churches with casts of all ages from preschool to adults. I’ve also started and run a community theatre company and written many one-man shows and productions.
So, there you go…a peak into what has brought me to where I am today. Other questions? Feel free to ask either on this post or the original post so I can get them answered!
I want you!
I’m embarking on a new goal. I want to 1) add posts here more frequently; and 2) answer questions you may have.
Now, this site is devoted to a few things…drama (meaning live theatre), ministry, live sound and other technology. So, please try to limit the questions to the topics appearing elsewhere on the site. I can also answer questions about me.
So, what’s it gonna be? Always wondered about how we accomplish a certain bit of “magic” in live theatre? Have questions about technical theatre–lights, sound, makeup, set design/build (sorry, costumes are not my forte)? Have questions about something pertaining to acting–memorizing lines, getting into character, blocking a monologue, directing a scene, stage combat? Wanna know how to start writing your own scripts? Do you just want to know more about my story–how I got started in drama?
It’s up to you. I want to answer your questions! But I have to know what they are. Comment below (click the name of the entry above to get to the individual post page to add comments) with your question and I’ll do my best to answer them over the coming weeks.
A New Beginning
When my wife, Kristy, tells the story about how we started dating, she will typically start off with the story of the weekend before our first date. She had been engaged before we met and had been on a couple blind dates since her engagement was broken off. Her mom had come down for the weekend and they went to Branson, MO to White Water water park. As they sat in the wave pool, Kristy lamented “being done with guys” and that she was going to focus on college and not concern herself with guys at all. That was Saturday. Fast-forward to Monday (two days later). Through a series of funny events (which would be too long for this entry…especially since it’s not exactly what the entry is about), by the end of the day, I had asked her for a date and she had accepted. She and her mom now warn that you should be careful about “swearing” off of things as it’s when you’re not looking that God will drop it in your lap.
My undergraduate major was in Theatre Education. I taught theatre for about 6 years and ran a non-profit theatre company for about 6 years (they overlapped). The theatre company was when my three kids were very young (we celebrated my youngest’s first birthday during rehearsals for our first production). As productions became larger and more frequent, the strain on the family get to be way too much and we decided to close the company and move on. Over the subsequent years, we did smaller, mostly holiday, plays at our church and I did some one-man shows there too. I moved from teaching drama to teaching math and computer applications. Slowly, most of the production time was taken out. During the summer of 2015, I started looking to get involved in productions again. I found a local production of West Side Story that I auditioned for and was cast as Officer Krupke. I auditioned for a few other shows after that including You Can’t Take It With You last summmer where I was cast as Mr. Anthony Kirby. Through that production, I was offered the opportunity to get back into directing which brings me to the productions I’m doing this fall, next spring and likely next summer. I wasn’t looking for a directing position when I auditioned last summer but through the series of events the opportunity presented itself.
Had to be a God thing.
A lot of times, you will find your desires when you stop actively looking for them.
Performance or Worship
I recently found an article entitled “Is Performance a Dirty Word?” (Originally posted here). It deals with the ever-present comment, especially about church worship teams but also applied to just about any type of performance art used in the course of a service, “This is not a performance, it’s worship.” As a practitioner of performing arts (both music and drama), I believe that the two words are not mutually exclusive…at least they shouldn’t need to be.
I had an interesting conversation with my pastor last night. At one point, he mentioned that someone had a spiritual gift of fun. I joked that I didn’t remember that as being one of the gifts in any of the lists I had read. He continued that some people now believe that there are really an infinite number of gifts available and that they can be made to include any number of things that can be used to minister to and edify members of the congregations. He likened it to the fact that there is a list of qualifications for deacons (I Timothy 3:8-12) but only one sentence of job description (Acts 6). He said that a pastor he once worked for summed it up like this: God knew that the job description for deacons would change with the changing of times so he left the job description vague so that it could adapt as needed.
Gifts in worship can take on many forms. Yes, there are gifts given in scripture in several places…evangelism, preaching, teaching, hospitality, etc. However, like the job for deacons, the areas for gifting has also changed and expanded with the times. Music has changed. Theatre has changed. Visual Art has changed. All of these areas of the arts have changed over the years, decades and centuries since the Bible was written.
Yes. I am a performer. By that I mean that I complete all of the tasks in writing, rehearsing, preparing and presenting a drama or musical piece that any other performer in those areas would complete. Yes. I am a minister. By that I mean that I complete all of the tasks that a minister would complete in order to hopefully draw the members of the audience or congregation into a closer walk with Jesus through the drama or musical piece that I present. These are not mutually exclusive terms. It’s time (actually, long past time) for those in the church with talents in the performing arts to accept them for what they are and put as much effort into creating high-quality, God-pleasing presentations as they would to present something to a secular, school or other crowd. If it’s not worth doing well, it’s not worth doing it in church has long been my anthem.
The End of Two Chapters
Over the last weekend, I finished up a rehearsal/performance process for West Side Story with the Next Generation Theatre Company in St. Louis. I played the part of Officer Krupke and also designed the sound (which my wife ran for the performances). It was the first production since college that I’ve acted in that I neither directed nor produced. In short, I had a blast! It was fun from auditions to final curtain call. I made friends with the cast members and re-acquainted myself with some old friends too. The director (Janelle Wilger) was great to work with!
This week, also marks the end of another chapter in my life. As of Thursday, September 1st, I will no longer be working for The Christian Activity Center in East St. Louis. I’ve worked for them since January 2014 as computer teacher, website designer and “data daddy”. I’ve also made a lot of friends here that I will remain in contact with throughout my life. However, it’s been made clear to me over the past several months that it is time for me to re-focus on my talent the drama and step out in faith to further pursue that calling. I look forward to the excitement that lies ahead in my life as I do that as well as continuing to teach at DaySpring School of the Arts in Maryland Heights and begin homeschooling my daughter, Rebekah, as she enters high school.
My Latest Adventures
Tomorrow (January 27), I will go audition for my first professional production. I’ll be auditioning for the St. Louis Muny’s summer season–specifically The Wizard of Oz and The Music Man (as those are the shows that my summer schedule will allow). Not only is it my first professional audition, it is only my second audition (as an actor) since I was in college and my first since 2004. While I’ve run dozens of auditions in that time, it’s been a long time since I’ve been on the other side of the table. It’s also, of course, been a long time since I’ve acted in a production that I was not either directing or mentoring the director.
I’ll be sure to post about my adventures (and whether I got a part) after they are over…
Sacrifice vs Obedience
God’s Word is filled with God telling people to make some extraordinary sacrifices. Abraham was asked to sacrifice his only promised son. Does God make this request of us? While it is certainly possible for God to ask someone to sacrifice a family member, I don’t think that it is his will for the majority of people (and if you think he’s calling you to do that, please be ABSOLUTELY sure you know it’s God giving the direction…but that’s a topic for another day).
In 1st Samuel chapter 15, King Saul led Israel into battle against the Nation of Amalek. In verse 3, God’s instructions are clear:
Now go and completely destroy the entire Amalekite nation—men, women, children, babies, cattle, sheep, goats, camels, and donkeys. (NLT)
So, Saul led the army into battle. They wiped out the nation. The only person left alive was the King Agag (verse 8) and all of the best sheep, goats, cattle, and lambs which were brought back as plunder (verse 9). The next section after Israel defeated the nation of Amalek? God is upset with Saul and says to Samuel:
I am sorry that I ever made Saul king, for he has not been loyal to me and has refused to obey my command. (verse 11)
When Samuel went the next day to find Saul, Saul’s reason for bringing back the plunder were noble…he was having the warriors sacrifice them to God (verse 21). Saul even had the nerve to, in response to Samuel’s repeat of God’s instructions, say that he did in fact obey God, except…(verse 20). It is then that Samuel gives the great instruction about obedience vs. sacrifice (which was also turned into a great lyric by Keith Green).
“What is more pleasing to the Lord:
your burnt offerings and sacrifices
or your obedience to his voice?
Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice,
and submission is better than offering the fat of rams.
Rebellion is as sinful as witchcraft,
and stubbornness as bad as worshiping idols.
So because you have rejected the command of the Lord,
he has rejected you as king.” (vv 22 and 23)
Does God want your sacrifices? Of course, if he’s asked you to make them. Does God desire everyone to be poor and destitute? Despite the teachings of some, there is nothing in the Bible which indicates that is in any way his desire for all of us. What God desires more than anything is your obedience to His instructions.
Lead a life worthy of your calling
Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God.–Ephesians 4:1 (NLT)
You have been called….for right now. A good number of people think that callings are far off things. Or maybe you think callings are only for people going into full-time ministry. That is simply not the case. Callings are for everyone. Callings are for right now. Paul does not say, “I beg you to look forward to leading a life worthy of your calling.” He also does not say, “I beg you pastors to lead a life worthy of your calling.” There is no specificity as to who he is addressing. In fact, this starts a section on Unity in the Body.
Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God. 2 Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. 3 Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace. 4 For there is one body and one Spirit, just as you have been called to one glorious hope for the future.
Would you say the rest of that paragraph only applies to pastors or for some distant future date? No! It is for now. It is for everyone! You have a calling. You have been called. A calling is not something you create, it is something you discover and pursue.
Do you know what your calling is? Are you living a life worthy of your calling? You are the only person perfectly equipped to fulfill your God-given calling.
Some of my Favorite Sound Videos
I deal a lot with running sound. Whether it’s at church or in my other endeavors. I’ve taken a lot of time to get training on general concepts and also to learn some of the tricks for creating great live sound.
Here are some of my favorite videos.