Friday, July 31, 2009

That's all for now

There's lots more to come but for tonight, I'm going to leave and enjoy a 4 day weekend, away from work, away from my computer. So until Wednesday! :)

The one you've all been waiting for...

Sam the Ham. Sam is one of the sweetest, most distracted and narcoleptic little boys I've ever met in my life. Exhibit A- Intermission during our opening night show:To attempt to describe what it was like to work with him or to watch him on stage is impossible. He's HILARIOUS. He wanted to be the lion so bad and nailed his audition for it. But it was very clear that to have him do that big of a part was going to be entertaining at the very least. Half the time he has a very lethargic, dry personality and doesn't say too much. He would walk off stage during rehearsals, never considering that in 3 minutes he was going to have to enter again, and curl up on a table under the piano cover and fall dead asleep in that 3 minutes. It was impressive. I remember during one rehearsal, early on before we had Toto, we're going and going and they're doing so well and I'm thinking, "Wow...they're really in character. They're really feeling it." And Sam stops and raises his hand. "Um...Miss Jen...after the show is over, can I pet the puppy?" What? I said, "Sam, you're going to be on stage with the dog during the entire show." He responded, "Yeah. I know, but when the show is over can I pet it?" And that was just Sam. The other half of the time he was wildly energetic and completely animated and on point.
Oh, and his lion butt was huge. I mean huge on his little self. I will never forget the first rehearsal he had his costume on and for his first entrance he's was supposed to hide behind a bush and jump off one of the upstage platforms. One of the girls said his cue line and he didn't jump out. So she said his cue line again. I knew he was behind the platform somewhere, but he still didn't jump out. I said, "Sam? Are you going to come onstage?" And I heard his cute little voice say, "I can't get my leg up onto the platform. My butt's too big."
The audience loved Sam and Sam loved the audience. I never had any idea what he was going to do when he was on stage but I knew whatever it was, the audience was going to get a kick out of it. No matter how many times I said, "Sam, do not stop in the middle of the show and wave to the audience," he'd do it. And that was eventually okay with me. He started this thing where the first time he goes to see the Wizard and the Wizard tells him to step forward he'd step up and scream like a girl. I have no idea where it came from or what gave him the thought to do it, but I think it got more laughs than anything else in the show.

And quite possibly my favorite story, which I didn't even know about until days after the show is this...

Our yellow brick road was a ramp that came out from the stage and went into the audience. One night during the performance, I remember hearing the four main characters head out on it singing, "We're Off to See the Wizard," then I heard some kind of noise, Sam yelled something, and the audience cracked up. We had already blacked out and I had no idea what had happened or what Sam said, and no one else back stage seemed to have heard him either. So, I just went on about what we were doing and didn't think anything else of it. A few days later, I found out that the Tinman had tripped on the yellow brick road, fallen forward and landed on the Scarecrow and Dorothy, creating a nice little pile that Sam then tripped and fell into. So, we had a little Wizard of Oz wipeout right there on the yellow brick road. What I didn't know is that Sam's parents had apparently gotten on him a little bit about being too silly during the show and told him to reel it in a bit. I guess because of that he was a little nervous when all four of them piled on top of each other on the yellow brick road because he yelled, "WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU!?" at the other three and stomped off.

i love that kid.

Dorothy Gale from Kansas

Alexis was my Sally Brown. She was my risk. She was my little underdog who completely shined. Alexis was in A Christmas Carol here at the Carver this past December and was so sweet, but so quiet and reserved. When she came to audition for The Wizard of Oz, I expected that same quiet spirit. She came in with her short brown hair, cute little glasses and wearing shorts and a t-shirt, looking just like the Alexis we had in A Christmas Carol. But when she read for Dorothy, something came out that I wasn't expecting at all. She got it. She understood the lines. She knew the inflection and the tone of voice in them and regardless of what her face was doing, her precious little voice was just Dorothy. There was no way around it. And then she sang, and I was toast...
But Alexis is 9 and I always go through that "Can this tiny little person really handle that big of a part?" We did what I've done many times before and we talked to her mom about it. I know a lot of theatre type people wouldn't recommend that but in situations like this you have to know that the parents are supportive of it and will help them and encourage them through the stress. When we said, "Um...we didn't know Alexis could sing like that," her mom's response was, "Oh yeah, she can sing!" Alexis was hoping to be Glinda. Apparently her mom said, "Honey what if they give you Dorothy?" And her response was, "Oh I can't be Dorothy. My hair's not long enough." It's things like that that make my heart melt for children's theatre...the opportunity to defy these kids expectations and teach them to defy their own. So we gave her the part and her mom did what any good mom would do with a short-haired Dorothy...put a weave in.
Every day we had cute, fun little Alexis running around, but the night of the dress rehearsal, she came around the corner after getting her makeup done and I had a Dorothy. She couldn't stop looking in the mirror at herself. And I loved it. I'm definitely not in the business of encouraging kids to look any different than they are made to look and I absolutely don't want them to grow up any faster than they need to, but I was really grateful to be standing there to see her in one of, if not the first, moment in her life that she realized she is beautiful...the same kid who had cried in my arms a few days before because someone was picking on her for what she looked like.

Alexis is one of the most affectionate people I've ever known. She just has this kindness about her that is so precious. There are two moments I will always remember from this show.

There was one day after rehearsal that I started to walk away from the theatre and she came running after me and said, "Wait Miss Jen you didn't give me a hug!" I walked back to give her a hug, but before I could she stood on her toes, grabbed my face between her hands and just stared at me for a strangely long time. Eventually she pulled my head in toward hers until our foreheads were touching and she just looked in my eyes for a few seconds, pulled her face away, pulled my head down, kissed it and turned and bounced off. I couldn't help but smile because it was just Alexis being Alexis.

The other moment was opening night Friday. All of the kids had been at the theatre all day and rehearsing really hard all week. They were tired to say the very least and while most of them had taken a nap, Alexis and our Wicked Witch had stayed up being little girls, giggling and talking. But the tired hit Alexis hard and about 2 hours before show time she became a total little girl, rubbing her eyes and crying saying she wanted to go home but insisting that it had nothing to do with being sleepy. We went in the dressing room and I finally got her to lay down on the couch and immediately her eyelids got really heavy. I was sitting next to her and all of a sudden her eyes opened really wide and she said, "When I wake up I want you to be here," and she laid her hed in my lap and curled herself around me. I said okay and it was one of those moments where I thought, "I don't have time for this, but it's the most important thing right now." It was the opportunity to learn from all those other moments that I've let slip by before and not take that one for granted.

Alexis did a fabulous job. I knew the kid had become a star when during the dress rehearsal (with an audience of her peers no less) her skirt fell off, all the way, twice, and she giggled. When I looked out on stage and somehow between two hands was managing to hold Toto, a basket, an oil can and her skirt up, I knew we'd turned her into a performer.

Meet Abe

This is the little man who was responsible for most of the munchkin quotes of the day:

Abe is 7 years old and Ericka had a theory that he knew he was 7 and capitalized on it at every chance he had. When he wasn't thinking about the fact that he was only 7, he was offering up ideas about how people should be blocked into the scenes and when he had his hand raised and you asked him if he had a question he would say things like, "No, but I have a statement." Alright then.

And then he would remember that he is only 7. When he remembered that he is 7 things like this would happen...

Me: Abe, put down your script buddy. I need you to say your lines without looking at them.

Abe: Well, I don't know if I can.

Me: You'll be fine. Just put down your script.

Abe: Well, I don't know...I'm not a very good rememberer.

Randomly running out onto the stage just because he had the whim to do so. Capitalizing on being 7. During rehearsal, yelling from off stage "Hey! Wanna hear me make a really big fart?" Capitalizing on being 7. Sobbing hysterically and telling us he couldn't go on with rehearsal because he was just too hungry. Capitalizing on being 7. Singing "Merry Old Land of Cheese" rather than "Merry Old Land of Oz." Capitalizing on being 7.

One of my favorite moments was after snack one day and one of our counselors comes to me with Abe. She was crying because she had been laughing so hard. I looked down at Abe and his cheeks are completely puffed out, there are crumbs all over his lips and he looks like he's going to throw up. I said, "Buddy, what've you got going on there?" He just stared at me. Cameron, again still cracking up, said, "Well, you told them to come back into the theatre but he wasn't done eating his cheese so he stuffed all the rest of it in his mouth." I looked at Abe and said, "You need to go ahead and chew that up and swallow it." He just stared at me. I said, "Abe, you can't chew that can you?" He shook his head no and then looked at the ground like he was going to cry. I said, "Abe honey, why don't you spit it out?" He looked up at me and his eyes sparkled. I said, "It's really okay, you can go spit it out." He ran over to the trash can, emptied the contents of his mouth and ran into the theatre. I just stood dumbfounded for a moment.

Abe was the mayor of Munchkin City and the "Winkie General" (Winkies are the Witch's guards). Pretty much the only thing the Winkies do is wander around saying "Yo Hee Oh Yo Ho" over and over again. But at one point Abe has to say it by himself since he's the General. I realized in rehearsal that he didn't quite have it right. He was saying "Yo Hee Oh YO YO." Much like Merry Old Land of Cheese, I have no idea if it was because he didn't know the difference or because he woke up every morning saying, "Hey...I'm 7. You get what you get. Take it or leave it."

And the best thing about Abe was that you could never take your eye off him. If you did, one of two things was guaranteed to happen.

1. He would run out on the stage or poke his head out from behind the curtain.
2. He would bust a move at completely random moments, never once noticing that people were watching him.
Sweet little Abe. Oh, and this Pokemon shirt...he wore that probably 3 out of 5 days a week.

Catching up

I have SO much catching up to do which people are quick to remind me of :-P, especially about camp, and every time I try to start I stop for various reasons:

1. It's overwhelming. There so much I could write. So many stories I could tell.
2. I haven't quite processed through most of it in a way that I could write about it well.
3. I'm afraid of not doing any of it justice.
4. I miss it too much...which is why I should have been writing as I went.

But I don't want to let it get far enough away that I forget anything either. So here we go, I'll do what I can.


Saturday, July 18, 2009

This book is messing me up.

Give Gratuitously

Your love, insofar as it is from God, is permanent. You can claim the permanence of your love as a gift from God. And you can give that permanent love to others. When others stop loving you, you do not have to stop loving them. On a human level, changes might be necessary, but on the level of the divine, you can remain faithful to your love.

One day you will be free to give gratuitous love, a love that does not ask for anything in return. One day also you will be free to receive gratuitous love. Often love is offered to you, but you do not recognize it. You discard it because you are fixed on receiving it from the same person to whom you gave it.

The great paradox of love is that precisely when you have claimed yourself as God's beloved child, have set boundaries to your love, and thus contained your needs, you begin to grow into the freedom to give gratuitously.

~The Inner Voice of Love
Henri J. M. Nouwen

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


It's at its most beautiful when your heart is screaming for it and you can't seem to find it anywhere. And just when you're about to give up, it drops in your lap, all packaged and perfect, ready to jump in and start working its magic.

It comes in a way that is crystal clear, convicting and speaking to your shortcomings, but merciful so that you can humbly receive it and let it ultimately bring you peace.

I was especially thankful for it today...

Give Your Agenda to God

"You are very concerned with making the right choices about your work. You have so many options that you are constantly overwhelmed by the question 'What should I do and what should I not do?' You are asked to respond to many concrete needs. There are people to visit, people to receive, people to simply be with. There are issues that beg for attention, books it seems important to read, and works of art to be seen. But what of all this truly deserves your time?

Start by not allowing these people and issues to possess you. As long as you think that you need them to be yourself, you are not really free. Much of their urgency comes from your own need to be accepted and affirmed. You have to keep going back to the source: God's love for you.

In many ways, you still want to set your own agenda. You act as if you have to choose among many things, which all seem equally important. But you have not fully surrendered yourself to God's guidance. You keep fighting with God over who is in control.

Try to give your agenda to God. Keep saying, 'Your will be done, not mine.' Give every part of your heart and your time to God and let God tell you what to do, where to go, when and how to respond. God does not want you to destroy yourself. Exhaustion, burnout, and depression are not signs that you are doing God's will. God is gentle and loving. God desires to give you a deep sense of safety in God's love. Once you have allowed yourself to experience that love fully, you will be better able to discern who you are being sent to in God's name.

It is not easy to give your agenda to God. But the more you do so, the more 'clock time' becomes 'God's time,' and God's time is always the fullness of time."

The Inner Voice of Love
~Henri J. M. Nouwen

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Genesis 22

I recently read Genesis 22, the story of Abraham taking his son Isaac to be sacrificed. For some reason, this story really got to me and a number of things hit me. Obviously, Abraham's faithfulness is almost unbelievable. Lots of people have to suffer through the death of a child. But no one has to have so much strength and faith as to carry that out themselves. Add to that the questions Isaac may have asked as they climbed the mountain, the fear in his eyes as he was laid down on the altar and the judgment and criticism that would be facing Abraham when he came back down the mountain. How did he remain obedient with the thought of all that? Did he even look at Isaac as they walked...or could he not stop looking at him? Was he scared to death...or was he overwhelmed with peace as a blessing for his obedience. Did he ever stop walking or turn back...or was he so strong in his desire to please the Lord that he moved quickly?

God did clearly ask Abraham to do what he was on his way to do. Genesis 22:2 says, "He (God) said, 'Take now your son, your only son, whom you love, Isaac, and go to the land of Moriah and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I will tell you." This was a very clear instruction from the Lord, who acknowledged in that moment how much Abraham loved his only son. But Abraham clearly had an understanding that children belong to the Lord. They are a gift for a time, but ultimately still belong to Him. Confusing as the request may have been, and without any explanation, he headed up the mountain.

But here's where this story catches me. God stopped him. Abraham went to do just as he was clearly told and God stopped him. An angel appeared to Abraham just as he raised his arm, knife in hand, and urgently told him to stop what he was doing. It was a blatant, clear encounter. Abraham didn't have to question or wonder if he was just having an internal emotional struggle or some major discernment issues. God just stopped him.

After that, we find out that what God was calling Abraham to was simply a test of faith. It served no other purpose. It was a test to see what lengths Abraham would go to remain obedient.

I'll just be honest...I usually need more purpose than that. I need some greater outcome than to simply prove to God that I will remain faithful to His call. And maybe it's that I need a more blatant confirmation that God is pleased with what I've done if things didn't turn out the way I had anticipated. Because here's the thing, when God asks me to do something, and I am confident about that, I can be extremely single-minded in my pursuit of that. I will go great lengths to stay on that path which can land my heart in a place of legalism and self-righteousness, a place I don't need to be. If He turns my feet another direction mid-journey, a lot of things can happen. I end up not trusting the original call, convinced that I didn't do something right the first time. I end up ignoring His call to turn a different direction. I get stuck in frustration with Him, saying, "You told me to do this and that's what I'm going to do," but when it gets to that point it's because I have something to prove, either to myself, or to the people around me, or to Him.

But what would happen if I learned to gracefully follow His leading with every twist and every turn, every moment seeking direction. What if I were like Abraham and allowed myself to be stopped sometimes. What if I didn't care what anyone else said or thought, and was willing to say that simply to prove my obedience is worth it. So often I set out on the path that God puts me on and the expectation of my destination is shattered. So often I end up worrying that I think God is calling me to something, but He's not really. I'm just confused.

But here's the thing. If I head out in some direction, whether God tells me to or not, and He needs me to go a different direction, He will stop me. In big ways if need be. I don't have to rely on myself to figure that out, just like Abraham didn't have to rely on himself. He will put His mighty foot down and keep me from going any further.

And when I do hear His call my job is to go, knowing that my destination is in His hands and it may not look like what I think it does. And when those expectations fall apart, I will shift paths, regardless of how I feel or how I perceive others feel, because I can be confident the Holy Spirit inside of me.

This will be my prayer for a time. That I will stop merely seeking the call for a destination but that just for awhile, I won't look any further ahead than as far as my next footstep will take me.

Finally catching up...

Yep. I've got a lot of catching up to do. But I don't know how I'd actually do that. I will say this. I haven't blogged in forever because my blogging time is at work and for the past month and a half, work has kept me BUSY. Like, REAL busy. But happily busy. I've reentered the land of directing children's theatre and no matter how stressful it can be, it is still one of the happiest things in the world to me. One of the coolest things for me has been to think about how I've grown as a person by thinking about the differences in how I direct now. I think the greatest thing that 7 years has taught me since I last directed a show is this...let yourself laugh when it's funny.

There's a moment from the past that I've never forgotten and to this day remains one of my all time favorite memories in life. I was directing "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown" for Summer Theatre Workshop. We had an extremely talented group of kids, an awesome set, precious costumes and a pretty darn good show on our hands. But for some reason we hit a point of unbelievable stress. We were exhausted and frustrated and generally hopeless. I honestly have no idea how we got there. I really don't. I went home in tears many days and didn't handle the kids the way I should have during rehearsals.

As opening night moved painfully close I would sit and watch rehearsals and see nothing but mistakes and things that weren't done. During one of our dress rehearsals, I think it was the Wednesday before our show opened on Friday, I sat in the front row and was just toast. I had scolded the kids over and over again about silly things, but especially about coming down into the audience rather than staying backstage. I constantly told them that the audience cannot at any point see you in costume, especially not during the show. I couldn't figure out why they didn't seem to understand that. I was honestly convinced the show was falling apart before our eyes. My dear friend and costumer Mrs. Schrader plopped down next to me. Her daughter Jordan was playing Sally Brown and to this day remains in my mind one of the riskiest, yet smartest, casting decisions I'd ever made. It was a huge part for a tiny little person. But Jordan was Sally in real life. If she didn't learn her lines, but could respond as Jordan would, we'd still be okay.

As Mrs. Schrader and I sat watching the show, mistake after mistake, I neared tears. All of a sudden, Jordan runs down from backstage into the audience in her little pink polka dot dress, bouncy curls, and mary jane shoes. Just as she flew by me, I snapped. I said, "Jordan what on EARTH are you doing. How many times have I told you that you CANNOT come into the audience during the show!?" (Yes, I had total disregard for the fact that her mom was sitting next to me.) She stopped, turned around, said, "I forgot my jump rope on the other side of the stage," giggled in her little Jordan way, turned around and kept running to the other side.

And then I laughed so hard I cried.

I don't know why that broke me. But that was my first lesson in laughing when it's funny. Because it was. She totally didn't care that I was frustrated. Totally didn't care that she was doing something "wrong." She was a sweet little girl who had never been on stage before and was learning. I think she was actually proud of herself for realizing that she forgot her jump rope before she actually needed it rather than the moment she was supposed to enter with it. She thought she was doing a good thing. And really, she was.

On opening night, I had a little bear that I kept around for good luck. I named it the Jordan bear because she loved it. Just as the cast was circling up backstage to pray, Jordan said, "Oh no! I left the bear out in the audience. I need to give it a hug!" Rather than going to get it myself, I looked at my little Sally who was fully in costume and said, "Go get it. Quick." And she took off in her pink dress and bouncy curls.

That was a summer of learning for me and I've noticed this summer that there are so many days when I don't have time to laugh, but I do it anyway. I'm learning to take time for those moments. I was reminded of it the other day when the kids were off the wall and having fits of uncontrollable laughter. Just as I had gotten them focused again and back into the scene, the scarecrow said one of her lines in some goofy voice, and all the kids started cracking up again. I felt the frustration boiling and I said, "Carina...come on," she looked at me and said, "Miss Jen. My line is funny. And laughter is contagious ya know," and then fell on the floor laughing.

And I laughed too. Because she's absolutely right.

Now when things are funny, I just let them laugh. And more importantly, I let myself laugh.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

oh my

I can't wait to meet this little person.