Tag Archives: Broadway

Hamilton, History, and Me

Asa did what was good and right in the eyes of the Lord his God.
2 Chronicles 14:2 (NIV)

Yesterday Wendy and I  joined our friends in jumping on the Hamilton bandwagon. A regional touring production of the popular Broadway show about one of America’s founding fathers opened in Des Moines yesterday. The bottom line: Yes, it’s as good and amazing as everyone says it is.

Last night in bed Wendy was reading through different blog posts and articles about the places the hip-hop operetta strays from the facts of history. To be honest, I considered most of them to be nothing more than the typical ways writers are required to take license with history in order to tell one man’s life story in less than three hours on stage and to entertain the audience at the same time. I guarantee you that Hamilton has done more to motivate a generation of young people to dig into America’s history than any high school history teacher could do.

This morning as I read today’s chapter, the first of three chapters on the life of Judah’s King Asa, I thought about chroniclers of history whether they be relating stories via papyrus scroll, published novel, text book, research paper, or Broadway musical. The motivations and mediums may differ, but at a basic level the writers are all taking a lifetime of facts and reducing them into their own retelling.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, the books of 1 Chronicles and 2 Chronicles were written at a time when Hebrew exiles had left the land of their captors in Babylon and returned to their homeland to rebuild and restore their country. The people, who’d been living in Babylon for a generation, are now staring at the rubble of Jerusalem and the rubble of Solomon’s Temple and they’re asking themselves all sorts of questions. Are we still connected to our history? Are we still connected to the God of our ancestors? Do we cling to the stories and faith of our ancestors, or do we ignore them and start over?

As I read through the accounts of the Kings of Judah written by the Chronicler I begin to see patterns. As noted in the past couple of weeks, the Chronicler is putting a positive perspective on the historical record. I can almost feel him encouraging his contemporary readers to dig-in, reconnect with their history, and celebrate their heritage just as Hamilton has done for our generation of Americans. He is also presenting a very simple, cause-and-effect story line. The kings who served God succeeded. The kings who abandoned God, worshipped idols, or were otherwise unfaithful experienced disaster and failure.

As I pondered this simple, cause-and-effect pattern I couldn’t help but think of Parson Weems who gave Americans the story of George Washington and the Cherry Tree. The story was less about historical fact and more about teaching a moral lesson. Please don’t read what I’m not writing. The Chronicles are historical retelling (not fables as is Pastor Weems stories), but I can feel in the pattern of the Chronicler’s retelling that there is a moral lesson he wants his readers to catch: Follow God and be blessed. Abandon God and be cursed. It’s a good moral lesson. However, in the quiet this morning I’m looking back and finding that along my Life journey I’ve observed that Life does not always break down into  simplistic, dualistic terms.

This morning I’m thinking about all the lessons that history has to teach us. After the show last night Wendy and I joined our friends for a spirited conversation over dinner about history, stories, and the wide-range of areas into which Hamilton poked and prodded our thoughts. The Chronicles, similarly, provide historical stories and lessons for us to take an apply to our daily journey some 2500 years later; Lessons that, like life itself, can at once be both remarkably simple and amazingly complex.

Me, Wendy and our friends Kev & Beck at the June 28 performance of “Hamilton”

They Say the Neon Lights are Bright…

The Broadway Theatre, showing the musical The ...
The Broadway Theatre],Manhattan, New York City (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Just a quick post this morning. For any who follow my chapter-a-day posts I want to let you know that a rather insane business travel schedule coupled with it being production week for my play Ham Buns and Potato Salad is going to make my posts a bit sporadic this week.

There is, however, a bit of irony in the way things have unfolded which I’d like to share. In all my travels around the country and and around the globe, I’ve never been to New York City. Late last week I found out I had to make a quick business trip to the Big Apple to visit a client. So after a long day of meetings today I’ll fly to New York for a day full of meetings tomorrow at my client’s office…on Broadway.

The day before my play opens in Pella, I’m going to be standing on Broadway for the first time. 🙂

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Praise Him with Show Tunes

2012 12 USP Joseph Backstage Girls Grunge LRLet them praise his name with dancing
    and make music to him with timbrel and harp.

Let his faithful people rejoice in this honor
    and sing for joy on their beds.
Psalm 149:3, 5 (NIV)

The lyricist of Psalm 149, writing some 25 centuries ago, describes corporate worship of God with the combination of dancing and music. Anyone who knows me or has followed this blog for any length of time knows that I’m a theatre guy. I majored in it in college and have been actively involved on the stage for many years. So, when I read dancing and music, forgive if me I immediately think: show tunes.

I know that the music and dancing described by the ancient psalmist is far from a Rogers and Hammerstein production number, but I’m also pretty sure that it’s far from being descriptive of my corporate worship experience in Protestant midwest America.

I love that the image the psalmist gave was that the corporate singing and dancing in the day time gives way to singing for joy on your bed at night. Again, I can’t help but think of my experience of being in musicals over the years: Mame, South Pacific, Annie, and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. When you are part of a large group of people singing amazing, soul stirring songs while dancing to cardio pumping choreography you can’t help but feel a rush of adrenaline that gives way to a generous release of endorphins. Envision the result: you’re so ecstatic that you go home and jump on your bed at night and keep singing and dancing your heart out because you don’t want it to end.

[Cut to image of the same person sitting in church bored out of their skull, nearly asleep, and looking at their watch while wondering when in the world the service is going to end.]

I will confess that the churches where I have attended over the years have come a long way, at least in the music department. My soul is regularly stirred by the music in corporate worship. I think, however, that it will be a while before I see a conga line or jazz square on Sunday morning.

Nevertheless, as the church enters our most important season of the year, which leads to the most exciting, heart stirring, fist pumping reason for celebration, I personally wish there was a big Broadway style production number on the church’s event schedule for Easter morning.

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Purpose in the Pain

Joseph is raised from prison to prominence as the biblical story is retold in “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.”

Chapter-a-Day Psalm 66

You brought us into prison and laid burdens on our backs. You let people ride over our heads; we went through fire and water, but you brought us to a place of abundance.
Psalm 66:11-12 (NIV)

Wendy and I are in production week for Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. The award-winning Broadway musical retells the story of Joseph (Genesis 37-47), the famed little brother who was given a dream that he would rise to greatness and all of his brothers would bow down to him. His older siblings responded to Joseph’s dream in typical fashion by throwing him into a well and then selling him into slavery. Though his father was told he was dead, Joseph was actually taken to Egypt where he was put to work in the house of prominent local official. After a brief stint of success in his job, Joseph was wrongfully accused by his master’s wife and put into prison. Talk about a string of bad fortune.

Through the long weeks of production, Wendy and I have constantly ruminated on the story of Joseph. I can only imagine the cynicism and anger Joseph must have felt rotting in the Egyptian prison. For years and years and years his dreams of greatness had proven to be nothing more than pipe dreams. One bad turn after another appears to lead Joseph further and further away from the dream God gave him as a boy. It seems so unfair for God to give a promise of incredible blessing, then immediately lead Joseph down a marathon road of suffering.

Of course, Joseph’s misfortune proves to be God’s divine providence in the end. In prison, Joseph gains a reputation for having a knack with dreams. Circumstance brings him before Pharaoh who was having some confusing dreams about an upcoming famine. Pharaoh is so impressed with Joseph that he raises him to a place of unparalleled prominence and puts him in charge of getting the nation ready for the upcoming famine. I’ll let you guess or read the rest (or buy a ticket and see the show over the next two weekends). Joseph’s long, hard road was actually preparing him for leadership, honing his character, and putting him in just the right circumstance to save his family.

I was reminded once again of Joseph’s incredible story when I read David’s lyrics from Psalm 66 this morning. Joseph’s biography, along with David’s, remind us that God’s ultimate purpose for us is often at the end of a tough road. Wendy and I can bear witness to this simple spiritual principle as we see it at work in our own lives. The truth is, we want the blessing without the burden. We want the pleasure without the pain. Yet, God’s purpose is for our spiritual maturity and wholeness, and that does not come without a price.

Today, I’m thankful for the hard roads I’ve trekked on this life journey. They haven’t been easy or fun, but they have been both necessary and beneficial. It is what it is.

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:6-7 (NIV)

Striking a Chord: When a Blog Post Goes Viral

I’ve been blogging since March of 2006. I blog because I have a quirky love for it and the discipline of writing is good for me on many different levels. I’ve never blogged to get big stats. I admit that I have pipe dreams (like most bloggers) of having a lot of followers and making my mark in the blogosphere. I find it interesting to look at my meager stats. Nevertheless, I find myself six years and a couple thousand posts in plodding along with about 50 followers and and average of 20 or so views on any given day (thanks mom and dad!).

My School I.D.s from 7th through 12th Grade

Until this week, my biggest blogging day was back in August 2010 when WordPress, my blogging platform, decided to place my post on their “Freshly Pressed” page. I had posted a picture of my middle school and high school ids and they thought it was unique. I had just over 2,000 people stop by and take a gander at my adolescent evolution. I then quickly dropped back down to my 20 or so views a day with the occasional jump up to 40 or 50.

So, I was surprised on Thursday night this past week when I noticed that I had a couple hundred views on a post I wrote a couple of weeks ago called “10 Ways Being a Theatre Major Prepared Me for Success.” I thought it was pretty cool as some comments started getting posted to it. I wondered if I might hit 1,000 views. It was only half the views of my famed school i.d. post, but still pretty respectable without help from the blogging powers in the hallowed halls of WordPress.

Friday morning I was in my home office early, as usual, to tap out my regular morning post. I clicked on my stats. It was then I knew something was going on. While I’d stopped just short of 1,000 views on Thursday, I’d already had 1,000 views early Friday morning. More comments poured in and I spent a good part of Friday afternoon and evening responding to comments and tweets. By Friday night I was wondering if I might hit 20,000 views for the day (I fell just short at 19,226).

Yesterday, the post continued to be viewed at a crazy rate. Saturday morning I received a comment that told me that the post was making the rounds of the Chicago theatre community. Saturday afternoon a different comment said that it was getting passed around Broadway. Another comment from Hollywood. An interview request came in from the Netherlands. More comments from Austria and Australia. Just over 30,000 views on Saturday. More than 50,000 views of the post in two days.

My first blogging coach told me to simply keep writing because you never know what will strike a chord, and you’ll probably be surprised when it happens. I’ve written so many great posts that I felt were well crafted, full of wisdom and should be wildly popular – but they all died on the blogging vine. I hastily jotted “10 Ways” on my iPad on the plane returning from a business trip because I was bored. Who knew it would be the post that went viral.

Obviously, it struck a chord. Doing a little self analysis of the hundreds of comments and tweets I’ve received the past few days I’ve determined that the post resonated with four, make that five, groups of people:

  • People like me who were theatre majors or were active in theatre and who have realized how invaluable the education and experience has been in our eventual careers in business, military, education, parenting, etc., etc., etc.
  • Educators who have long known the truth of what I’ve written, and who’ve tried to ceaselessly tell students and their parents. They seemed grateful to get a witness to what they’ve been preaching all along.
  • Current students or recent graduates who have questioned whether they’d made the right choice, usually based on the snarky comments or questions they’ve received from others. They seem to have been encouraged to know that a fellow theatre major experienced a little success in life and connected the dots back to being a major.
  • Parents whose kids are currently theatre majors or are thinking about being theatre majors. They generally appreciated hearing me give testimony that it wasn’t a waste, and actually set me up for success outside of the business.
  • Finally, there are those courageous members of the “business” who not only studied it, but stayed the course and are making it (or still striving to make it) on stage, in film, or in other areas of the industry. They seemed to appreciate and confirm the truth of the post, even as they are walking in faith on a daily basis.

As of this writing “10 Ways” has received almost 60,000 views in the past three days. I’ve given permission for it to be passed out to classes, to be reprinted in other publications, and Southeast Theatre Conference (SETC) mentioned they’d be passing it out to those who participate in their professional auditions.

Wendy and I have enjoyed sitting here on our couch in Pella reading the comments and watching it happen. In a day or two I’ll be back to typing out my few hundred words each morning for my usual 20-30 views a day. I’m blown away, however, by the power of the blogosphere. A random little post hastily written and posted in the middle of Iowa can “get legs” and end up striking a chord with so many people in so many places.

I guess what I had been told is true. Keep writing. You never know what will strike a chord, and when it does you’ll be surprised by what it was.

Blog on.