My experiences writing, directing and producing Christian musicals for kids through adults.

Friday, September 3, 2010

You Better Think Twice

Here are Aaron and Maggie singing "Think Twice" from These Are the Voyages. For upload purposes, it's in 3 chunks. Do see all three; it has a great finish. (You'll notice from the beginning and the end that this was a separate take, which we filmed after the show was over. Randy ran out of camcorder video memory just before their song finished!)Monika played Eugenia Friday night and I hope to get video of her as well.

Maggie plays President Eugenia of the planet Abaddon, and Aaron plays her Chief of Staff Quinlan. Somewhat like Sirens, they make their living off of aliens who come to their "pleasure planet" and then never leave. Quinlan wants to let the crew of the Enterprise go because Lt. Joelle is different - "she doesn't want to give in to temptation."

Just before the song, Eugenia says, "When have we ever let anyone go?"

(part 3 temporarily unavailable; will post asap)

Sunday, August 15, 2010


First rehearsal of our two-week long journey into sci-fi parody land begins tomorrow! Don't forget to pray for us. With a thousand and one details, there's a lot that can go wrong, or at least get forgotten.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Shop! Shop!

The people of Abaddon in These Are the Voyages love to shop. We got in some of our own shopping yesterday. So many black ankle boots - but which ones fit? Which ones don't come with 3-inch spiky heels? And can you dance in them?

We took in 6 actors and found 4 pairs that fit. Guys are harder to find black boots for than girls. I will be conducting more tours of the Goodwill shoe department soon.

Meanwhile, I noticed yesterday that our wonderful acting coach and choreographer has also purchased black ankle boots. Hm. I might get myself a pair, just to fit in.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

We're now a two-car family again!

After months of mostly not looking punctuated by spurts of research, and confused by dithering over whether to get a gas-saving sedan or a multiple-teen-carrying second minivan, Randy and I finally bought a second car yesterday!

We also got a lesson in how different we are in our approaches to shopping, especially for big ticket items. In short, Randy goes for the first car that fits all his criteria, while I have a burning need to check out all the other possibilities.

In the end, I may have spent months off and on researching, but when we saw the listing Monday night that fit the bill - the next morning we went in, checked it out, and bought it. By the way, 2005 Hyundai Sonata.

And all this while I'm trying to get publicity going, working on blocking notes, making props, shopping for props and set stuff . . .

But now we have a second car - and this one has air conditioning!!!!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Radio Shack, what happened to you?

We went to Radio Shack today to get some electronic parts for Aaron to make the beacon with. He drew up a design and figured out the lights and all that. When we got to Radio Shack, an employee showed us where the LEDs were and resistors and other little things like that. Aaron examined them all and was figuring out what he needed, but having never designed a multiple-flashing light + moving platform-all controlled by a couple of batteries and wires he was putting together himself . . . he was not quite certain if he had everything needed.

So we asked the nice Radio Shack employee for help. He came over, took one look at Aaron's assortment and froze. When Aaron asked him his question, the employee stammered out, "Uh, I don't really know much about this electronics parts stuff."

So much for the days when Radio Shack was staffed by people who knew about electronics! He'd obviously never even put together one of their kids' snap-on circuits toys. Now, they only know how to sign you up for DISH Network and cell phone plans.

Speaking of DISH Network, the entire time we were there in that parts alcove, 4 TVs featured two perky DISH Network hosts telling us the wonders of DISH Network. It reminded me of the Kurt Vonnegut story (Harrison Bergeron) in which the society tries to make everyone equal, so the smart people have to wear earphone helmets that transmit a constant stream of noise in order to break up their concentration. And Aaron was supposed to figure out electronics circuitry in this environment?!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

How geeky can I get?

Here's how geeky: I have the bridge of the Enterprise in my carport!

I finished building 3 consoles today: one for Uhura, one for Spock and Tiffinee to share, and one for Sulu and Chekov.

These are not the chairs we will be using for the show; they're just place-holders for me. And there's obviously more space on stage than in my carport, so there will be more space between the pieces. A friend is going to build the base and frame for the command chair (currently sitting on a wooden block) and of course it all needs to be painted.

Still, I have my major bit of carpentry work out of the way.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Casting is Completed!

In record time, we figured out who would play which parts in "These Are the Voyages." I have never sent out the cast list the same day as the last audition before.

And while I'm thrilled with the cast and very much looking forward to working with them all to create a great show . . . I'm starting to feel overwhelmed with everything else I have to do: design sets, help build them, work with the costume makers, order wigs and Vulcan ears, build props, work with volunteers on painting and sound and light and concessions and a bunch of other stuff, work with others on getting the word out . . . not to mention blocking scenes and actually directing!

I am very thankful that I have two choreographers, one adult and one student, and an acting coach, plus Randy, to help me out.

We probably had more fun at these auditions than any others I've ever done. A big part of our enjoyment was how talented the kids were. I loved hearing and seeing different interpretations of the characters. As usual, casting is a puzzle - and one in which you're not guaranteed that you have all the right pieces. I take that back: I felt that the Lord had promised the right cast for this show, and He definitely provided. He even provided a couple of innovative solutions to the inevitable casting difficulties.

Some say that casting is 90% of directing; others say it's 60%. I think I go with the latter. While the actors are learning their lines and their songs, I will be working on sets and blocking and directing notes and a myriad other details. And I will also be re-reading the script, because even as its author, I keep finding more things inside it.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Today's craft project: make a Communicator!

This evening I made my first communicator, a prototype and an experiment. I have a few things I'll do differently on the next ones, but I'm still pleased with this first effort.

I started with some brass wire that I bent and straightened into the shape of a communicator. Then I used a special clay sculpting mesh to form the body. Happily, the mesh looks like the mesh screen found on the original communicators, so I left some sticking up for that.

For the body, I used black Sculpey III clay. Once you knead it for 10 minutes, it's pretty supple to work with, and since it's black, I don't have to paint it! I rolled out the sculpey and tucked it around the frame.

I need to keep the brass wire showing, however. That's part of the look.

Here's the finished product.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Hair, hair, hair

One of the things the original show was noted for was the fabulous hairstyles for the women. Here are a few pictures I've gathered.
Yeoman Janice Rand is known for her basketweave hair style. This is definitely a wig. I made one for the show we put on in 2002. I will make a new one for this show.

Here's Uhura.

Uhura Pictures, Images and Photos

And here. Her hairstyle varied a bit from time to time.

uhura Pictures, Images and Photos

Nurse Chapel changed her hair more often than anyone else. This is the soft blonde look, needing just a quarter can of hairspray.

Nurse Chapel Pictures, Images and Photos

There's another Nurse Chapel hairstyle in which her hair is steel bluish grey and looks like it was created in a welding shop instead of a hair salon! I don't think we'll be copying this one.

Nurse Chapel Pictures, Images and Photos
She looks so sad in this picture. But wouldn't you too, if you had to wear that on your head?

Friday, June 25, 2010

Captain's chair

Did you know that the captain's chair was built using this 1960s modern office chair? It's called the Madison chair.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Meet the newest cast member of our summer show!

Trina the Tribble! She worked hard at the Academy and is now a full-fledged member of Star Fleet. Right now she holds the rank of yeoman. Captain Kirk is not quite sure where on the bridge to station her. If she's too close to Uhura, Trina will distract the Communications Officer. On the other hand, he knows definitely to keep her away from the cafeteria and food replicator areas of the Enterprise!

Friday, June 18, 2010

These are the Voyages, these are the voyages . . .

That's the title song of the show we picked for our summer musical theatre workshop. Everyone seems excited so far. I'm busy re-working the script. The original had to be kept to under an hour, but now I'm free to expand it, to have Randy write new songs, to explore new characters, to boldly go where this musical couldn't quite go before. (CUE: rising music.)

One other difference in this show is cast size. The original had about 40 cast members. The challenge then was to create a few extra parts - maybe just a couple of lines or as part of a small ensemble - so that the kids felt they had something to do. Now, with 19 actors, I'm taking some of those extra parts and re-apportioning them to the other characters. We'll also have a fair amount of doubling and even tripling of roles -- which is great fun for the actors, who get to play not one but three roles. Three costumes, three identities.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Failed gunshots and other live theatre mishaps

In the show that Randy is in, And Then There Were None (at Driftwood Players, go see it!), a gun has to fire. I won't say how many times. It's a real gun that uses blanks and they have a gun master to keep watch over it. But if it fails to fire, he can hardly leap onto the stage to fix it. That's up to the actors to deal with - and deal with it they have.

The worst time was Saturday night when it failed to fire each time. When someone is charging at you and you have a gun in your hand and it fails to fire, what do you do? You can't rewrite the play and have the wrong person die. You can't say "bang" -- this is a moment of high tension and drama, not a cartoon. One actor proved resourceful and chose to conk the other person on the head with an ashtray. None of the actors blanked and it worked out.

Ominously enough, in the theatre lobby is a sign that reads, "Warning! There may be gunfire during this performance." For this show, new emphasis on "may".

Addendum note: they have a new gun.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

And the Murderer is . . . .!

We're still settling down after watching Randy's preview performance of Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None. It was fabulous watching Randy act in a full play. He did a great job, although he says he dropped two lines. Hey, it was only the preview and he'd had such a long, busy work day. I've been running lines with him and I didn't notice it.

Tomorrow is opening night. That should be very good.

The show was great. It has mysterious and puzzling parts, comic bits, action, suspicion, and builds to an intense ending. I wish I could write more about it, but it is a mystery and it would spoil the fun if I divulged anything I shouldn't.

If you live in Western Washington, do come. Go to to enquire about tickets. The show runs June 11 to 27.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Preparation is 90% of Creation

I'm sewing a curtain for my daughter's room and it occurs to me that sewing is like painting is like writing.

Before I can actually sew the material in my sewing machine, I need to measure (twice, thrice!), cut it at just the right spot, and iron the hem so that it will be straight. Then I can sew.

Likewise, when I paint a wall or a flat, I have to measure, check for dents and fill them, put down drop cloths, tape the edges, then I can use a brush to cut in, then I can do the big roller painting.

As with writing: I never merely sit down at the computer and the words flow from my fingertips to the screen. Hah. That'll get you if not gibberish, then blather. I research, I figure out my characters - their wants and needs, their obstacles and strengths, their quirks - and I figure out my plot. And, once I've begun to picture it and can hear the characters in my head, then I begin writing.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Raise your hand if you're kinesthetic

. . . and if you're not, you can just sit. I won't make you move.

Randy's show opens in a little over a week (Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None at Driftwood Players in Edmonds; do you have tickets?) and the biggest issue he's having right now is blocking.

Randy is not kinesthetic. A kinesthetic person remembers body movement well. That's not him. He can listen to music and pick out the key and the instruments and all sorts of stuff I can't - but that's not a help in this particular show. So, he's working extra on his blocking, which for those of you who don't know, is an actor's movements during the show. At which lines does one walk upstage right, or sit on the couch, or rush towards the butler downstage left? And if the butler forgot his blocking and is not downstage left, where do you go?

It's made a bit more difficult by the fact that the actors are still in their rehearsal space, which is more cramped and doesn't have stairs . . .

One lesson I learned from helping Randy is that next time I direct, I need to be very specific about where to tell the actors to be. Randy was looking at his notes and saying, "Well, he said to go downstage here, but I think he meant to go to the window since that's where I talk to this other person . . . " It's hard to memorize something that one is vague on in the first place. So, yes, I shall try to be very specific.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Sense of Timing

For the last month, maybe two, our family has been in the midst of scheduling. Registration for next year for our first homeschooling co-op was due April 14. For our newest co-op, registration was due April 17. We registered Aaron for his community college Running Start classes May 27. And registration for classes at the homeschool resource center begins June 7. Coordinating classes and needs and driving schedules has been, well, a giant puzzle. My husband notes that I am good at puzzles; however, this type of puzzle cannot necessarily be solved.

All that is for classes that begin next year. Spring is also the time for many people to schedule their summer activities.

In the process of getting the word out about our Summer Musical Theatre Workshop, I've experienced how different people's sense of timing can be.

The workshop is in August, which is months away, but our deadline is June 7. For some people, when they found out in early May, their inner scheduler said, "Gotta get my whole summer planned right now!" For other people, their inner scheduler thinks, "It's not until August. Why are you telling me now?"

I'm telling you now because last year I waited until mid-June and a bunch of kids couldn't make it because their families had already made plans. The other reason is that it takes time to 1) figure out which script bests suits the group that signed up, 2) adjust the script and send it out for actors to study, 3) hold auditions and work out the complex puzzle of who should play whom, and 4) allow the actors to start memorizing before we begin rehearsals.

When my husband was a music director at a small church, he learned that you plan Christmas music in July. I used to want to just plan my day or my week. Especially when the kids were younger and did not have outside classes, we did lots of spontaneous stuff. However, now that I have to work with other people - the church calendar, my kids' activities, other people's need to know ahead of time - my sense of timing has had to stretch.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Is my Mother-in-Law Insane?

In some cultures, sending someone a picture of a dead pet is a threat. "Ya don't wanna sleep with da fishes, do ya?"

In the world of my husband's mother, it's just a cute way to say, Happy Birthday!

That's right. In today's mail was a birthday card for Randy. On the cover is a picture of a black and white cat, drawn in pastel markers several years ago by Randy's mom. Inside, the inscription reads, "Happy Birthday -- Mona."

Mona is not the name of my MIL. Mona is the name of the cat - who died about 25 years ago.

Maggie complains that the cat's eyes are looking at her -- from beyond the grave.

For the first 4 or 5 years of our marriage, I used to get small Christmas presents from Mona. "Who is Mona?" I asked the first year, wondering if I had overlooked a relative. "Oh, she's our dead cat," the family replied.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Big Props

I just put up instructions about how to make a stela on the website (see left for the link). It's under the Games and Props tab. We used the stela for Louisiana Jane and also as a random prop in last summer's Where Do I Go From Here? There's a great picture of our old stela too.

Our other proposed show for this summer is These Are the Voyages. It also has a big prop: a beacon. I modeled it part on Nomad, from the episode, "The Changeling." Sadly, the beacon was trashed after the original tour of the show, so I can't provide a picture. (It was pretty fragile and someone decided to toss it.)

I will tell you that it involved a lot of hot glue. I think it was my first experience using hot glue. And my beacon was much fancier. It had more color and parts sticking out. If we do These Are the Voyages again, I will create a new beacon. I will build it stronger and better - but I won't spend 6 million dollars.

Friday, May 21, 2010

There are giants in the sky!

. . . and on stage at Shoreline Community College. Jeremy and I saw their production of Into the Woods this evening. It was very, very good. I highly recommend it. There are some wonderful songs in the show. The Princes' Agony has always been one of my favorites. I guess being a sister between two brothers, I just love a good sibling rivalry song: "Agony! Far more painful than yours!"

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Back to Writing

With all the administrative stuff I've had to do lately, and all the talking about sign-ups for the summer workshop, along with the rest of the stuff I have to do in my life, I haven't had much chance to sit down and actually write.

So when I finally get to a time when I can think about characters and what they should say, and do, I breathe a sigh of relief. Oh right, I actually enjoy writing! I enjoy listening to the characters in my head. I enjoy coming up with fun things for them to say. I enjoy fitting together different parts of the plot, even when it's difficult. ('But if A says X, then B has to give the mulligan to C to give to A first . . . ')

I'm working on my expanded version of Louisiana Jane right now. When that's done, I'll work on an expanded version of These Are the Voyages. Both these shows had to be kept to 50-55 minutes before, which meant that I couldn't develop some characters or parts of the plot as well as I would have wanted. Now that I can produce longer versions, I can develop those characters and put in the songs that Randy had written but would have made the show too long.

So what have I been adding?

I always liked the three professors in Louisiana Jane. They're experts in antiquities who can't agree on anything. Haley is a cheery chap. Lahr suspects everything of being a fake. Before we developed this through the song, "What Have We Here?" Now, I was able to add a scene in which they argue over the hors d'oeuvres. It was fun writing it. I'll also be adding the professors to later in the show. They're fun characters to play.

By the way, the three professors are named Bolger, Haley and Lahr. Anyone have any idea who they are named after? (Not that their characters resemble these people.)

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Five-hour recording session!

I picked up two of our favorite singers this morning and brought them to our house to record some songs for Louisiana Jane. We need a better rehearsal recording of it, since the sound booth mix we have from the show in 2004 has some crackling on it that we could not get rid of. M and A joined Maggie, Aaron, Randy, and Jeremy and me to sing the ensemble numbers. Jeremy had a rehearsal for a play that he is appearing in next week, so he had to leave, but there's no part for him in "Miss Compton's Finishing School" anyway.

I was hoping for 3, maybe 4 songs, but we managed to record SIX songs! And that was with technical difficulties -- such as Finale getting hung up or quitting a few times -- and Randy needing to transfer the last two songs stave by stave from Finale 2004/2006 into 2010. (He found out he has to transfer it like that if we're going to record vocals; otherwise, no vocal track. Go figure.)

In between takes, the girls and Aaron read through my script for These Are the Voyages (the Star Trek show) on my laptop. That was written back in 2002, when Aaron was the youngest person in the cast at only 9 years old, and it was gratifying to hear the girls frequently erupting in laughter.

By the end, we were all pretty tired and it took us three takes to get the final number right, or good enough. But it's done. Now Randy just has to convert the music files to a different format, equalize, and put in the right order with the other music, and they're ready to go.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Why do we put on these shows?

Usually I ask myself that question when we're a few days away from performance and I wonder if it will ever turn out right and some disaster has just befallen us and I tell myself, 'never again.' But today, in a calm mood, I ask, Why the arts?

I think it has to do with two things: our hard-wired desire for narrative and our innate desire to create.

I read last year that some neuroscientists had discovered that our brains our hard-wired for narrative. That means we like to take in information through stories. When you read an article, which do you remember the most, the facts or the anecdotes? God knows this, of course, and that's why the Bible contains more narrative than exposition, and why Jesus taught so much through stories. Stories reach us through our hearts as well as through our heads, and can touch us in ways that a simple lecture or sermon cannot.

If we are made in God's image and if God is the Creator, then He must have given us the ability, and the desire, to be creative. People create in all sorts of ways, through the arts and through technology (think of Edison and how his creativity led to electricity in all our homes), even through how we teach and communicate. Musical theatre is an art form that combines several of the arts: acting, singing, storytelling and writing, music and song-writing, dancing, set design and costumes, lighting, even joke-telling . . .

Our desire is to use this wonderful, exciting, narrative, and collaborative art form to tell stories that not simply entertain, but that enlighten and encourage, and that give honor to the Creator and Redeemer of us all. That's what the arts are for: to draw us toward God and to give glory to God.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

"Thinks" on Seussical!

Saturday night we saw a production of Seussical!, a short 3 months after we saw Maggie perform in Seussical!. It's always interesting to see how two different directors and companies interepret the same show.

I particularly noticed the costumes. One difficulty is how to costume Horton the Elephant. Do you go for the minimalist approach of plain gray clothes? Or do you put on elephant ears, or, as I saw in a photo of a third production, an elephant trunk as well? I argue against the trunk -- it's important for the audience to be able to see the actor's face. And, after all, these are anthropomorphic characters, so it's more important for the audience to identify with the character's emotions than to think every time we see him, "He's an elephant." Both actors who played Horton in the two productions were excellent, by the way.

The character of the Cat in the Hat is particularly difficult. Frankly, he's a trouble-maker. Although he encourages JoJo to be imaginative, the "thinks" JoJo is lead into usually get him into trouble. But the Cat has to be charming enough that we don't mind the trouble, or we have to trust that the Cat will help JoJo through the trouble to a happy ending. The Cat in the Hat in the production Maggie was in was particularly excellent. Jenny was so cheerful and full of life that we didn't mind her mischievious nature.

My favorite role in the show is probably Gertrude McFuzz. What a great role for a comedic actress and singer! And both girls who played Gertrude in the two productions I've seen were excellent in their own ways.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Doin' the Sentimental

I pulled out my old files for two of the shows we're planning on performing for the Summer Musical Theatre Workshop (ahem, have you registered yet?) in preparation for revising and adding to the scripts. However, instead of working, I, and Aaron and Maggie, got caught up in looking at the cast photo for These are the Voyages and we all read through the cast party skit that the leaders put on at the cast party after tour.

It was wonderful fun to look at the photo and remember names and remark on how young and short everyone was compared to today. And the cast party skit -- I remember writing it on tour with some of the other leaders, but I don't remember a whole lot of the actual performance of it. Maggie did. At 6, she was too young to be in the show, but she got to come to the cast party and she remembers the skit very well.

The skit played off of all the mishaps during the tour: such as when Spock's ear fell off during his scene with McCoy and he stood there stroking it like a little mouse and ad-libbed something about falling apart; mapquest directions that got us lost a few times; hairspray-filled rooms that left us gasping (hey, it was a 60s show); the truck's loading ramp that kept getting stuck; and most of all, sunburned actors. (From this we learned to put any trips to a water park at the END of the tour! Otherwise, you might find yourselves nursing near-heatstroke victims shortly before a performance.)

It was wonderful fun, and while one might say we're just being sentimental, I do enjoy creating memories for lots of young people and their families, on an ongoing basis.

Looking forward to all the memories we'll be creating this summer.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Beam us up, Scotty!

Back in 2002, at the suggestion of a good friend of mine, we wrote a parody musical based on Star Trek. A group of us got together to discuss story lines and characters, situations and lines we had to include (such as Bones has to say, "I'm a doctor, not a ______"). Then I went to my lonely old PC, which my kids remind me was utterly devoid of games except for "line draw". It was so old, it was a monochrome screen! Well, Star Trek is an old show too.

The SciFi channel was running a series at the time in which they showed Star Trek episodes in their entirety. (Syndication markets always cut out extra bits for the added commercials.) In addition to showing them in their entirety, SciFi added commentary, from Leonard Nimoy, James Doohan . . . This time marked the transformation of my cute little 6-year-old Maggie into the Trekkie she is today.

We wrote a great musical, which we took on tour. It had great songs written by Randy, all the in-jokes and fun costumes and other stuff that makes a parody fun, a good tie-in spiritually, and a fight scene! The show is so beloved that when I've mentioned to people that I wanted to expand one of our older shows for the Summer Musical Theatre Workshop, many of them immediately suggested These Are the Voyages.

So, yesterday, after Maggie and I went to our old church to give them flyers for the summer workshop, we got a bonus: we got to search through the old costume bins for our old costumes. Modern Trekkie that she is, Maggie wore Sulu's old shirt to youth group last night. Aaron squeezed himself into Scotty's shirt. If we do put on Voyages, we're still going to have to sew some new costumes!

As for Yeoman Rand's wig. That is long gone. I'm going to have to create a new one.

Monday, April 19, 2010

And Then There . . . was Randy on stage!

Most people with a somewhat hectic schedule look forward to times when they can relax. Randy, my husband and lyricist/songwriter, looked at his calendar, saw a relatively blank time between putting on the Easter show and gearing up for the Summer Musical Theatre Workshop and said to himself, "Why don't I audition for a part in a community theatre production?"

I was proud of him just for deciding to audition. He's been co-writing with me, and editing me, and helping me as I direct, for years, but the last time he acted was when we were performing skits for the kids Sunday school a few years ago. Hardly the resume for an actor.

But he typed up a resume anyway, Maggie took pictures of him for his 8x10 headshot, and he practiced his British-accented monologue for me.

He auditioned on a Saturday, but received merely a polite "thank you," so we were quite excited when he got a call-back. After the call-back, in which they asked him to run through a bunch of accents as he read all sorts of parts, we just waited. Randy was thinking maybe he'd get the boatman, a minor character in the first act.

Friday night, the director called to offer him a part! It is a wonderful part but I can't tell you much more or it may give away the plot.

The show is Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None (Ten Little Indians). It runs June 11 to 27 at the Driftwood Players theatre in Edmonds. Here's a link to their site. Okay. The link isn't working, but you can copy this URL into your browser:

If you live in the area, please think about coming to see the show. Randy will play the part of the judge. Meanwhile at home, I will play the part of the patient wife holding down the homestead while he spends every evening in rehearsal.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Thor Speaks!

This is Thor. He was one of our featured performers for The Saga of Saewyn. I thought about giving Thor something to say, such as, "Put the Summer Theatre Workshop dates on your calendar."

But I think you all can come up with more amusing quotes than that. What would you like Thor to say?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


Last summer, we put on our first ever Summer Theatre Workshop. Not sure how many people would sign up, we wrote a revue using songs from previous shows, plus two more that Randy wrote just for the revue. It was a fun show, with a cast of 14 performing 46 different parts! Each actor also performed some backstage function: sound, prop management, ironing, even taking headshot photographs. They did a great job and we all had a lot of fun - in spite of the record-breaking heatwave!

Now, it's time for a full show. We've been working on scheduling, and other preparation. If you go to our website (linked on your left), you will see more information about this exciting opportunity.

Sunday, April 4, 2010


The show was a great success! Everyone showed up on time, the sound worked well, costumes looked great, kids sang and danced and acted very well.

And people responded: they laughed at the jokes and were engaged throughout the show. Even better, Pastor John, who had asked me for a summary a few weeks ago and who had a copy of the script, used the characters and situations in the show for his sermon. Best of all, several people responded to John's altar call and gave their lives to Jesus Christ this morning!

That's one of the biggest reasons I write these shows. I know that a lot of people who would never come to church normally will come if a friend or relative's child is in a show. I also know that if they are going to pay any attention to the message in the show, the show must be entertaining, it must be well written and make sense, with engaging characters and plot lines, and it must be performed well. All that can help people be receptive to what God wants to say to them, but even if the bases are loaded, you still need one more batter to hit a homerun for all the players to come home. That's what John's sermon did today. Thanks, John.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Polishing Swords

You've seen it in a ton of movies: before the big climax at the end there's the quiet scene of preparation. WWII soldiers are reading letters from home before D-Day; Lighting McQueen gets new tires and a paint job before the big race; the baseball pitcher massages his arm; Greek soldiers polish their swords before the final battle. . .

I have no swords to polish (our swords are fine the way they are, but I do have some costume fixes to perform. Meanwhile, hopefully, the kids in the show have gone over their lines again and their lyrics, and their dance steps, and will get a good night's sleep and eat a good breakfast tomorrows, because tomorrow at 10:30 a.m., it's SHOW TIME!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Sponge-painting Fun

Here's a shot of Maggie sponge-painting our giant rock. We needed something large (over 5 feet in diameter) but very light since we'll have 4-foot angels moving it with just their fingers. It's stiff foam insulation, one of my favorite set design materials.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

I love people who can sew!

I own a sewing machine, and I can take two pieces of material and run them under the needle and sew them together . . . but that doesn't mean I can sew. Therefore, when I have a show requiring 20 costumes to be made from scratch, or even sheets bought at Goodwill, I really, really appreciate my team of seamstresses! We had the kids try on all the costumes tonight and only 3 or 4 needed any adjustments, and minor ones at that. So, thank you to Dina, Jomo, Sharry and Melissa! You are awesome!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Getting Close

Today was Sunday, March 21, and the show is in two weeks.
Only two more weeks.

Costumes, sets, props, media, and the kids all have to come together to put this on. Costumes and props are due this Wednesday. Hopefully next Wednesday we'll have the sets painted, especially since the soldiers and the angels need practice moving the stone around.

Two more weeks.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Finale is Fini!

Maggie finished teaching the choreography of the final song last night. She and Megan did a great job coming up with moves for a cast of 19 kids to all dance together. They even had the kids do a move in three groups, like a wave going across the stage. And by total chance (or God's design), last night before the dancing I gave the guys, who were all in the back row, one line to sing together: "No one can hide it." That turned out to be the line on which the back row comes out to the front! How appropriate!

Swords made out of Shims? What a Sham!

I finished making the swords for the Easter show yesterday. They're Roman short swords, needing to be extra short because the tallest soldier we have is still under 5 feet tall. So, what wood should I use? I didn't want to take a 4-inch width piece of wood and cut it down, like I have before. My friend with the table saw is awfully busy these days. Looking around Home Depot, my eyes lit upon a package of shims. Yes, shims, those wedge-shaped pieces of wood used to adjust window and door frames. At 15 inches long, they are the perfect length, and hey, they already taper! I picked out the best shims (a few had holes), and glued two together for each sword.

After the glue had dried, I sanded them, then I cut the tips into a dull point. Now they were just pointy sticks. I experimented with both silver spray paint and chrome duct tape, finally deciding on the spray paint partly because their armor will have the same coating. Now it was time for the handle. If you look up images of Roman short swords online, you'll find two basic images: one with a hilt that looks like a cross between a T and a handlebar mustache; the other with a hilt that doesn't stick out much and is round like a collar. The first one is usually found at costume shops and toy places; the second is found at authentic Roman gear places. So that's the one I went for.

I used brown duct tape for the handle part, then black braid wrapped around multiple times for the hilt. They look pretty good. Now if I can only get the boys not to swordfight with them during the last few rehearsals!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

I am a Rock - or I Made a Rock, and Blizzard Descends!

I spent my Saturday evening playing Scrabble and when it wasn't my turn, creating a 5-foot diameter rock.

It's a flat rock, and circular, as befitting the stone that rolled in front Jesus' grave -- and that the angels rolled away. Our angels are all under 5 feet high and the oldest is in 4th grade, so the rock has to be very light. Can't have angels straining at moving a mere 2-ton rock, right?

So the rock is made of flat styrofoam insulation, the kind you can buy at Home Depot for $8-12. I bought a sheet 8 foot by 4, drew a 5'4" circle on it, and started cutting with a long carving knife. What can I say, but it was the only snowstorm we've seen in Edmonds all year! Our living room carpet was covered in the static-clinging stuff, but thankfully I have a very good vacuum cleaner. (I figured better to do it inside where I can vacuum it all safely into a bag, than outside where it would float around our yard and the yards of our neighbors for months. Sure, we all like snow, but snow that melts is preferably to permanent 'snow'.)

The stone has a wider diameter than the width of the panel, so we used the ends to create flaps that are now duct-taped on. Hey, it actually rolls! Next job: to paint it.

Did I say before that we have very few props for this play? This stone is either a set piece or a very large prop. A snowy prop.

Sunday, February 28, 2010


After the surprise of losing one of the girls playing a major role in the Easter show (to vacation), I set about prayerfully re-arranging, with a bit of re-writing. Of course, one doesn't want to do a huge re-write with young people involved. That simply confuses them. I ended up changing the parts for four girls. The girl leaving was the senior of three angels. I gave her first scene to the junior-most angel, and a follow-up scene minus one line to another girl. That girl's lines I gave to a member of the chorus, who now gets to speak! And the second angel picked up a few more lines as well. Sound confusing? Well, all I can say is, it's more confusing to figure it out than to explain it!

Pertinent verse of the week: "The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps." Proverbs 16:9.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Scheduling Shmeduling

Sometimes it seems like scheduling is the hardest part of this ministry.

Hey, it's often the hardest part of my life. Now that homeschooled high school junior Aaron is taking classes in three non-home locations -- community college, private homeschool co-op in Kirkland, and the homeschool co-op in Edmonds --figuring out which quarterly classes he can take, plus a new driving schedule every quarter, is very challenging.

That's nothing compared to scheduling a summer theatre camp. One would think finding two weeks during the summer would be easy . . . until you factor in SATs in June, holidays, high school missions trips, junior high events, weddings, and the other theatre camp Maggie and Jeremy attend. And suddenly two little weeks becomes this great behemoth one is trying to wedge into a very tiny calendar page.

I'm not the only one to experience scheduling woes. Tonight, with only 5-1/2 weeks to performance, one of the parents suddenly realized that her child, who has a major role, will be in Mexico the day of the performance. I repeat: in Mexico the day of the performance. With all the other things happening in her life and that of her family, she forgot when Easter was. We'll find a way around it, but this is why the first thing I ask parents to do when signing up for a show is CHECK YOUR CALENDAR!

Here are two questions for you. Are you double-booked on anything? How big a role does God play in your scheduling?

Broadway Sing-Along!

Sunday afternoon, Randy, Maggie and I went to a Broadway Sing-Along fundraiser put on by the Everett Chorale. The concept is simple: have a piano player to play the songs, a big screen for people to read the lyrics, and a supporting choir to help get people on tune and to perform, plus the conductor. For added fun, the conductor interspersed the songs with trivia questions. Maggie answered Ethel Merman to the question, Who originated the role of Annie Oakley in Annie Get Your Gun? Randy and I got many correct as well.

The Sing-along was lots of fun. There was a substantial crowd and we sang songs from South Pacific, The King and I, Fiddler on the Roof, Kiss me, Kate . . . People sang pretty much in unison, although the conductor did suggest that one song be sung by just the women. I would have preferred to have sung "L'Chaim" from Fiddler, which is sung by Tevye and Lazar Wolf and others, in parts, rather than in unison, but it's still fun to sing those songs - and not just in one's own home.

One thing we noticed in looking over the shows represented, was that none of them opened after 1965!! So, if we were to hold our own Broadway Sing-Along fundraiser, what songs or shows would you like to have included? Please add your suggestions in the comments below.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Costume Update!......and stuff....from Maggie!

Hi all from Maggie!
Well, the other day Mom and I went out and bought costume material! We got some awesome sparkly see-through material for our angels. They're going to wear white robes with the sparkly material over their tops and shoulders like a Roman chiton. And red fabric for our Roman soldiers. One month until performance and we still have a lot of blocking to do. Megan and I have choreographed a whole song and just need to teach it to the kids. Yay!
That's, like, all for now!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

A Bus Trip from Hell . . . literarily

Yes, I wrote "literarily" and not "literally".

We attended Taproot Theatre's production of The Great Divorce last night. It's based on a book by C.S. Lewis, and no, it has nothing to do with divorce and marriage. [The 'divorce' reference is in response to William Blake's work The Marriage of Heaven and Hell. Heaven and Hell do not join; they are eternally and even increasingly separate. Thus, the "great divorce".]

Instead, the story is about a man who finds himself on a bus ride from a horrible dreary place of angry and other dysfunctional people to a glorious, beautiful place. But it's not as easy as that. The travelers find upon arrival that they are too insubstantial to survive in this beautiful place; the very grass pokes into their ghostly feet. Inhabiting this beautiful place are beautiful, joyful people. They invite the ghosts to stay and grow more substantial; all they need do is give up their selfishness, let their egos die, and worship God instead of themselves.

Few do so. Many choose to go back to hell. George MacDonald guides C.S. Lewis through this journey - which, of course, is a dream, for once dead, people cannot really choose to leave Hell for Heaven. However, the play depicts the choices we make in everyday life in eternal terms.

Taproot Theatre (found at ) does a WONDERFUL job with this show. The acting is excellent. With the exception of C.S. Lewis, all the actors play multiple parts, and play them astonishingly well. It's amazing to see, for instance, Sam Vance go from angry Bilker, to joyful, welcoming Dick, to cringing and manipulative Frank; or for Pam Nolte, wife of director Scott Nolte and co-founder of Taproot, to go from a fearful and prideful woman in one scene, to an impressive Fire Angel in another.

The entire cast was awesome, but I have to also mention Nathan Jeffrey who impressed us greatly with his Tragedian character, and Faith Russell. Faith played three hugely disparate roles: a woman so obsessed with wanting to control and "improve" her husband even after death that she literally combusts; a joyful, majestic Waterfall Angel; and Sarah, a woman of great love and joy and humility.

While Taproot has always excelled in actors playing multiple parts (they put on Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat with a mere TEN actors!), this is the first time I've ever seen Taproot use puppetry - the sophisticated sort - in a production. We were blown away.

If you can, call the box office at 206.781.9707 to see if there are any tickets left.

Monday, February 8, 2010

A live band is great - but they won't fit in my kitchen

We're recording a few songs for the Easter show tonight. Our set-up consists of a PC loaded with Finale, a microphone, and our voices. Finale is a music-writing program than enables you to not only write sheet music, but have your computer play it for you! The harp sounds beautiful. Randy can choose from about 300 instruments and could arrange pieces with enough parts for a complete symphony orchestra!

About 3 years ago, Finale added the ability to record voices to add to the music and then burn it to CD. Voila! A great rehearsal CD!

So, here we are, standing in our kitchen's computer nook, singing into a mic. (I'm blogging in between takes.) It takes us a lot less time than it used to; we make fewer mistakes and like studio musicians, we can read music pretty well.

Who Hair

No, that's not a question, or anything to do with Roger Daltrey.

Maggie was in a production of Seussical this last weekend, and had fun designing her Who's hairdo. Her regular hair is currently 35 inches long - almost a yard! She created this by twisting her hair and clipping it in back, and then she used bands to raise up the ends in little branches. We think it looks very Seuss-like.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

A Play without Props is a Day without . . .

My husband says he thinks the real reason I write musicals is so that I have an excuse to make props.

Every one of the 15 or so musicals I have written has used lots of props -- until this Easter show. As I was re-reading it, I realized, I have no props mentioned in the script! Not that I'm looking to include them. Despite what my husband says, I don't feel compelled to make props for every show . . . it just usually happens that they need them.

As I sit in my living room, I can see three of our old props hanging out as knick-knacks. There's the fake videocamera I made for Flight 714 to Wimbleyvale on a shelf with musical scores, and the Pictish cross for The Saga of Saewyn on our mantlepiece, and finally, the 10-inch star made out of York peppermint patty wrappers. That prop is from our first show in 1999, and we bring it out every Christmas. (Somehow it didn't make it back into the box yet.)

But this Easter show will have none of that. No fake portrait of an explorer with a hamster on his shoulder, no statue of Thor, no giant 'take a number' device, no ancient stone stela, no intergalactic beacon . . .

Just a 5-foot diameter 'stone' for the angels to roll away.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Comments fixed

I found out from my son that comments were open to only certain accounts. So, I have changed that. If you're not a gmail person, or any of the other things they list, you can click on "anonymous". But you can also sign your post with a name, or pseudonym!


I've been posting sotto voce, so to speak, while I was getting used to doing this. But as of today, I've launched this blog on the internet ether, or to put it in theatre terms, rehearsal's over and the curtain is up.

One of the neatest things God has done in my life is to bring me into a ministry in which I can write and see my writing take shape on the stage, and in which I can work with teens, tweens, kids and adults. I love writing, but I also love the process of putting on a show. Writing a show and seeing it through to completion can be exciting, frustrating, enlightening, aggravating, exhausting, and joyful. I hope to share some of that with you.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

How Delays Can Be Part of God's Plan

I usually have my shows written before we have our first rehearsal/ orientation. I may after auditions make some changes - add a character or two here, change the gender there, trim that part - and that's a great benefit of writing the shows I direct. I know I can always change it to suit the cast.

However, for this show, things kept coming up that slowed me down. Another commission, the printer problem, just the busyness of life driving three teen/tween homeschoolers to their not-at-home classes . . . But it was okay that I wasn't totally done, because it's a younger cast and mostly newbies, so I felt they needed time, and I needed to get to know them. Well, tonight, at the end of my second rehearsal, less than 5 minutes after I told the cast I would give them their parts next week, I got two new members of the cast. Yes, I could have said No. But I said Yes. We ran them through quick mini-audition and will see them next week.

The biggest reason I could say Yes was because frankly it's not totally done yet. I was already thinking of how to give a few lines to these two cute 2nd grade girls who are loud and can act, and one can sing as well. Since the show wasn't cemented in my head, I can still add a few small parts.

If the show had been really set in my mind, or if this had been any other bigger show, I would have had to say No, but because of the delays, God enabled me to say Yes, and two more kids get to participate in theatre ministry.

The theme of my last show was, "God causes all things to work together for good for those that love Him," and here it is in practice.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Experience is a great teacher

I sang back-up vocals during worship at church on Sunday, and found myself thinking through some of the advice I've given over the years to kids in my shows. Stand up straight to give your lungs room. Smile, to brighten the tone. Use your abdominal muscles to push that air out for long notes. Oh, and listen to the music and yourself to make sure you sound good. Of course, I warmed up first, both vocal chords and mouth.

All that, and remembering the words, the repeats and loops, the dynamics. It's good as a director to have experiences actually doing what I tell my actors to do. That way, I know if my advice works. Plus, I have more empathy for them!

Close to becoming a Luddite!

Wireless printing sounds so simple. I pictured Maggie working on my laptop in her room, and Aaron working on his laptop in his room or up in the living room, and they can both send their documents to the beautiful new Photosmart printer downstairs. Ha. I've set up lots of technology in the house, including other printers and wireless. They were all relatively simple. This was supposed to be simple. "Push the WPS button on your router and push this button on your Photosmart printer," the directions say. But no. Instead, I have spent hours troubleshooting, researching unhelpful Q&A sites on the web, inputting various codes. I did find out how to access my router - big problem there was the Norton firewall, as opposed to the IE firewall, and now the router recognizes the printer but that's still not enough. What happened to technology making life easier?

And that's what I was doing yesterday instead of writing.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

What's the show about?

This is the first time I'm producing a show specifically about the Resurrection of Jesus. It's exciting in that this is the most important event in all of human history, but, well, that makes it pretty daunting as well. How do you write a 20-minute show (my shortest show ever) to be played by a cast of elementary kids that is both interesting to watch and honoring to the Lord?

We shall see . . . as this is still in process.

Maggie's observations

Hey to the world!
So last night was the first rehearsal for the little peoples and it went pretty well. I am the Stage Manager/Choreographer for the show, which means that I get to set all the props, move set pieces, and teach the young'uns how to all do the same dance at the same time! *gasp!*
But seriously, I think that there are some kids in the cast that are capable of learning their parts and getting some good feeling into the lines.
Despite the insistances of a few of the kids that they didn't want to dance or sing, and the fact that they don't know how to stay on topic, I think that the show will be a good one.

First rehearsal for Easter show!

Last night we held the first rehearsal for our first younger kids show at City Calvary. The last few years, I've worked mostly with junior high and senior high aged actors, plus some 4th and 5th graders. This show is for 2nd to 6th grade.

I'm calling it my Newbie Show, since of the 16 kids, only 4 have been in shows with us previously!

Running the first rehearsal for newbies adds a different element of fun than usual rehearsals, because I had to explain what a musical is. One of the youngest girls kept insisting that she did NOT want to sing. I assured her that it's possible to be in a musical and not have to sing.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

January 19. Rehearsals for Easter Show begin January 20
We're beginning rehearsals for our Easter show this Wednesday. Daughter Maggie is going to be my Stage Manager, a first for her. She will also help choreograph. This will be a shorter show than most - only about 20 minutes long - but a great start for our mostly newbie cast.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

My First Play Without Music

My First Play Without Music
I was asked by a friend of mine to write a show for her junior high acting class. Carie Fagan is an experienced actress who teaches acting to a group of homeschool students. My only specifications were to write a show without songs for 7 male and 7 female. That blank slate allowed me to have some fun with a genres my own kids enjoy -- adolescent mystery adventure. It's called The Seven Keys of Arabella. Carie begins production soon.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Wise Men Worship Him - by Commission

The Christmas kids show I wrote for Calvary Fellowship in Mountlake Terrace, WA, called Wise Men Worship Him, was a great success. Debbie Oglesby, the director and producer, asked me to write a show using some songs of Annette Oden. I was happy to do so, since I loved her songs, "Joy Joy Joy" and "Glorious!" and "I Will Bow to You." You can click on Musicals above to read about the show. Because Debbie mentored me in running musicals, I was happy to not only write the show for her, but to be there for auditions. And one night, she asked me to guest-direct for her. Getting to know the kids a little made me all the more excited to see the show. There were some great kids involved and they did a wonderful job. One other fun aspect of the show for me was that this was the first time my 14 year-old daughter Maggie teched a show. She was assistant choreographer and did a lot of other stuff as well.