Are you prepared to go unexpected places?

You know how it goes: “If someone told me 10 years ago that I would be such and such, I wouldn’t have believed them in a million years.”

I know the feeling. Very well. This notion of unexpected outcomes came to the forefront of my mind this week because I found myself saying that above line nearly verbatim. Mine goes like this:

“In 2002, if someone told me that in fifteen years that I would be a drama teacher in Saudi Arabia, I wouldn’t have believed them in a million years. I would have thought they were experiencing severe mental delusions.”

You see, in 2002, I was living in Vietnam, teaching English at the college level to Vietnamese students studying to be English teachers. I was a frustrated, wannabee, writer who never wrote. I was immersed in Vietnamese culture and language, and I had even contemplated (for a few seconds) going on for a PHD in Vietnamese history. I had never acted in my life. I had never been involved in any drama productions. The extent of my dramatic experiences involved writing a play which I read to my mother when I was twelve, and writing a couple small skits which were performed in some low-key settings. Oh, I did act as Forrest Gump in a skit, so I take that acting bit back.

But I had nothing in my background that would have indicated that I was destined to be a drama teacher.

And I had nothing in my background that indicated that I would ever end up in Saudi Arabia.

So therefore, the combination of those two–teaching drama in Saudi Arabia–would have seemed too implausible to even ponder.

However, as I sit in Jeddah on the heels of my first week of teaching theatre at the American school, I am quite taken back at the loops and rabbit-chasing trails my life has gone down in the past fifteen years in order to arrive at this point. And to think it all happened because that frustrated writer sitting in Vietnam became inspired by a group of students in Malaysia.

I’ve told this story before, but I still like it. I moved to Malaysia in 2006 to teach history. (Yes, that’s a whole different story of how I suddenly switched from English to history!) As the drama director at the school was leaving, I volunteered to start a drama-writing group where I would collaborate with a group of students and we would write and produce a play for the next school year.

That was the genesis of it all. The interesting point in my mind is this: what was the impetus for me wanting to write and produce a drama with students? I don’t actually know the answer to this. It’s something that just popped in my mind, and instead of dismissing it, which I can’t believe I didn’t, I embraced and proposed it to the school. That was the crucial moment. For some reason, I stepped in to try something that I had never tried before. If I had not jumped in at that moment, I am fairly certain I wouldn’t be teaching drama in Saudi Arabia. If I had not jumped in, someone else would have eventually filled the drama void at our school and I would have sat in the audience enjoying the shows, never fully understanding how much I loved theatre.

I know now that I wasn’t meant to observe theatre. I was meant to create it, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

The only advice I have as I look back on my journey is that if you get an itch or an urge that you should jump in and try something, don’t delay. You never know where it might lead you. It could make you change careers in mid-stream and send you to far off lands to do things you never would have imagined but now couldn’t ever live without.

Where might you be in 15 years? I hope the answer surprises you.

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Break a Leg: “It’s the End of the World & I Love You”

My short musical, “It’s the End of the World & I Love You” is being performed this week at the Kuala Lumpur Short & Sweet Musical Festival 2017. It’s being directed by fellow writer and director Terence Toh — though he admits this is his first hand at directing a musical. I think he’ll do great.

short and sweet musical 2017

 

I’m so sad that I won’t be able to see it live. But hey, there’s always video. And to commemorate the week, I’d like to leave the lyrics of the entire 10-minute musical below for your perusal. It’s a piece that is a lot of fun. I hope to get to produce it myself again in the future. Here you go. Enjoy!

It’s the End of the World and I Love You

A Short Musical

 

Lyrics by Mark W. Sasse

Music by Mark W. Sasse

 

Synopsis: In the split second before an atomic bomb destroys the world, two lovers sing a 10-minute musical.

Cast of Characters:         Husband & Wife

(optional) Ensemble

 

HUSBAND

Are you ready, dear? Wow, you look fantastic

WIFE

Thank you, dear, I’m nearly ready to go.

BOTH

And you made the reservations, right? I thought …

Now what do you suggest we do? Calm down. Calm down.

I thought I gave that job to you. Calm down. Calm down.

WIFE

I’m all dressed up with nowhere to go.

HUSBAND

Take a deep breath we’ll go with the flow?

Maybe the night will surprise us.

WIFE

I don’t like to be surprised.

(Suddenly an atomic explosion rings out and they witness a mushroom cloud forming in front of them. He is standing in awe, and she in disbelief.)

 

HUSBAND

It’s the end of the world, and I love you!

it’s the end of our life; full payment is due;

It’s the end of the world and I love you

so hold my hand, love

walk to our new life above

 

To the forest’s edge; it’s just a short trip

we’ll have a front row seat at the apocalypse

I’ll wear my best tie; you wear your red dress

cause there’s obviously no way out of this mess

we’ll kiss once more at the fireworks display

a gas mask is the accessory of the day

cause how can we compete with nuclear fission

someone dropped a bomb and completed their mission

I’m just a wishin’

they would have missed

but since they didn’t

why not kiss?

(one last time)

It’s the end of the world, and I love you!

It’s the end of our life; nothing more we can do;

It’s the end of the world and I love you

I’m happy to know, I’m here with you when life is through

 

WIFE

Pause.

There’s so many things that I enjoy about him,

He’s sweet, he’s kind

His kisses are sublime

But I hope you can tell by his latest thought

That at times he can be a complete idiot!

 

I can’t accept this fate

I have 50 years left I will not be moved

Just what is a mushroom cloud?

When I have resolve and rage in my heart.

Rage, rage, rage against the night,

And you could do more than just want to kiss (so typical)

Don’t go without a fight,

We fight for more than a moment left in time

Defiance, Defiance, Defiance, Defiance

Don’t resign to fate

Our more than 50 years still ahead (you listening?)

I want grandchildren

I want to hold them tight, safe secure, first we must endure,

Rage, rage against the night

And wipe that silly expression off your face (so comical)

This song we must re-write

This dress is meant for so much more than just an Ash Wednesday party,

Defiance, defiance, defiance, defiance!

 

HUSBAND

Calm Down Calm down

What is it dear?

WIFE

A thought I cannot bear.

 

You see fireworks I see flames

You see a final kiss, I see pain,

You say chill and I say run

You say stay, but I’m Attila the Hun

 

HUSBAND

You see ending I see your lips

You see crying I see a last kiss

You see heartache but I’ll admit

One moment with you is not so easy to quit

 

This might indeed be what we call the end

So let’s do what we couldn’t if we were just friends?

 

WIFE
You see a requiem, I see escape,

HUSBAND

You see a glimmer, but I see a drape,

WIFE

You see a final kiss, but I’ll admit

BOTH

One moment with you is not so easy to quit

HUSBAND

You should ask her about Y2K.

WIFE
Don’t bring that up.

HUSBAND

She built a bunker where we could stay,

WIFE
Would you shut up?

HUSBAND

And ever since she’s been putting canned beans away,

A case and a half every other day.

WIFE

Nothing wrong with a little foresight,

HUSBAND

You call that little?

WIFE

If we can get there you’d be contrite,

HUSBAND

I’d rather kiss.

WIFE
Would you rather be blown to smithereens,

Or live comfortably underground on 20 years of beans?

HUSBAND

She has 3000 pinto and 2000 black soy

Enough in itself to power fat man and little boy,

she thinks she can stop that from what it will destroy

by merely phoning Olympus like she’s Helen of Troy

WIFE

What do you want from me?

HUSBAND

Look danger in the mouth,

and smile when it’s near,

you’ll always be surprised of how few things that you fear,

if you eat a frog first thing in the morning,

a mushroom cloud will surely seem quite boring,

So purge your thoughts,

forget your past,

release your hopes,

and concentrate on the blast,

its magnificent power,

like the beating of my heart,

grip my hand and we’ll be split apart

WIFE

Just, just a moment ago

I was standing here my future all planned out when this

Cloud shielded my view

Of my futuristic fantasy of

1.7 kids and 2.7 dogs and

Years of PTO and teenager BO

But this big bang nightmare

ruined my eveningwear

HUSBAND

What’s wrong?

WIFE
It’s not the bomb.

HUSBAND

Then what’s wrong.

WIFE

I’m not that strong.

HUSBAND

What’s wrong

WIFE

This little song

HUSBAND

What’s wrong

WIFE

It’s not so long

HUSBAND

What’s wrong

WIFE

We don’t belong,

HUSBAND

What’s wrong

WIFE
Caught in this song

HUSBAND

What’s wrong

WIFE
This great big bomb

HUSBAND

What’s wrong?

WIFE

Does not belong

In our love song

HUSBAND

(speaking) What’s wrong?

WIFE

Tonight of all nights was the night of all nights

When I would tell you you’re having a son.

HUSBAND

A son?

WIFE
It’s okay. We can all go together now

 

To the forest’s edge; it’s just a short trip

To our front row seats at the apocalypse

HUSBAND

I’ll wear my best tie;

WIFE

I’ll wear my red dress

BOTH

cause there’s obviously no way out of this mess

we’ll kiss once more at the fireworks display

a pacifier will be the accessory of the day

cause how can we compete with nuclear fission

someone dropped a bomb and completed their mission

I’m just a wishin’

they would have missed

but since they didn’t

why not kiss?

(one last time)

It’s the end of the world, and I love you!

It’s the end of our life; nothing more we can do; (I finally understand what you’ve been going through.)

It’s the end of the world and I love you

I’m happy to know, we’re a family when our life is through.

Ten Months in the Making: A New Beginning

It was in December 2016 that I accepted an offer to teach drama in Saudi Arabia.

Ten months later, in September of 2017, I am finally set to have my first class. Tomorrow.

This is a huge shift in many ways. I had a terrific position in Malaysia, a position which had few limits on creativity, and that time period fueled my love for writing, my love for drama, my love for all things theatrical.

However, it was time to move on, so when I signed on to this new adventure, I knew there would be a lot of waiting and work in the between time.

Now all of that is over, and like any good thespian, the butterflies are flitting their wings against my insides. Nervousness is a good thing. I teach my students to expect nervousness, to want it, to need it, to embrace it. It signifies change and risk-taking. Before the curtain goes up, you pace around in a death stare, pale-faced, jittery, mumbling lines and vocal exercises in a desperate attempt to keep you focused.

As the moment arises, you step out in character, playing a role, connecting a concept with people. Delving in below the surface and expressing a glimpse of the desires and struggles you went through to get to this point. And the lights crowd the stage, and the magic comes alive.

Acting or teaching acting. There’s not a lot of differences when it comes to preparation and implementation. It’s all smiles from there.

Tomorrow is the day when the curtain rises on my time in Saudi Arabia. I’m ready. Not perfectly prepared. But ready.

And when the students arrive and we start the process of developing our passion for drama, I will finally reach a 10-month goal which, at times, felt like would never come.

I’m excited. On with the show.

Do you really need that?

I’m the atypical American, I suppose you could say. I’ve spent the majority of the last 23 years living and working overseas. It’s had its perks for sure, mixed with a downside, but overall, I wouldn’t have traded all my experiences in Vietnam and Malaysia for anything. By having such a transient lifestyle, our family has purposefully not accumulated a lot of possessions over the years. Oh sure, we have stuff in storage (maybe too much) and we’ve done our fair share of supporting global capitalism through our many purchases and our Amazon Prime membership, but I must say, compared to the average American, we’ve haven’t accumulated much. That is, perhaps, one of the greatest perks of living overseas.

When we moved to Malaysia in 2006, we bought a bunch of furniture on arrival which we used, loved, wore-out, and then sold dirt cheap when we left. We went with little and left with little. I know some folks who move overseas ship their whole household belongings with them in a shipping container–sometimes cars included. Not for us. Maybe an overweight bag or two. There’s a freedom in being light on your feet and debt free.

What made me start thinking about this topic is that we recently moved to Saudi Arabia. In doing so, we shipped (aghast!) some items from Malaysia directly to our new country. Not a lot–two pallets worth including a bicycle, guitar, household items, souvenirs and knickknacks. As each day passes without the shipment arriving, I’m starting to wonder what we actually shipped after all, and what would happen if for some reason our shipment never arrived?

I do know what would happen. Nothing.

Life would continue. We would work, live, laugh, eat, and enjoy our lives just fine–even if I never saw any of those out of sight items ever again.

What does it mean that I have so little regard for the things I currently don’t have? I think it means that we place far too much emphasis and value on the things in our lives, even if we don’t have a lot. But ultimately, I’m not going to cry over a lost crock pot, pizza pan, or painting. In the grand scheme of things, that shipment, which is now in the Persian Gulf, has no bearing on my life.

Now that doesn’t mean I don’t want it to come. Of course not. The practical side of me doesn’t want to have to buy another crock pot. But I’m also not going to fret about the things I do or don’t have. I think it’s a freeing place to live.

Before your next purchase, let me ask you a question: do you really need that?

 

 

Win a $100 Amazon Gift Card. Happy Labor Day!

Hey Friends,

I’ve teamed up with The Kindle Book Review in giving away some Amazon gift cards this Labor Day season. You can sign up to win some great prizes while checking out some great deals on books — including my latest “Which Half David” — only $2.99 on Kindle.

whichhalfdavid snippet

There’s my book on their website. And look, what a convenient yellow arrow pointing exactly in the right direction!

You can enter to win the Labor Day Giveaway HERE!

THE SET-UP: American mission worker Tobin Matthews faces off against two imposing giants: a vicious gang of human traffickers and a corrupt justice system ready to imprison a group of hill tribesmen. But his greatest foe remains within as he finds himself wrestling with a broken marriage and a crippling set of doubts. When his brazen ex-lover shows up with her own agenda, she becomes the greatest temptation of his life, and he must decide how far he is willing to go to have her.

Limited Time Sale: 99 cents “A Love Story for a Nation”

A brutal dictator is no match for a man armed with love.

A Love Story for a Nation is the explosive story of former writer Gerald Sanpatri. He lives a mundane life under a brutal dictatorship in the blissful presence of the woman he loves more than life. But when tragedy strikes and all the blame is pointed back at the overbearing regime, his is convinced he must fight back with the only two tools he still has: the pen in his pocket and the love in his heart.

On sale for a limited time for only ninety-nine cents on Kindle! Pick up your copy now!

Also available in paperback.

Buy on Amazon.com

Amazon UK

Amazon Canada

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