A Short Narration #1

RLT  Musical Revue is a special show of musical theatre (May 20th) which highlights the songs and short musicals which I’ve written or co-written over the past eight years. It includes 21 pieces of varying lengths, including 3 short musicals of 10 minutes or less. To tie the show together, I’ve written a few narrative pieces which introduce certain segments of the performance. Here’s a short one entitled Sacrifices & Hope. It introduces one of my favorite pieces, the short musical “A Woman at War” which tells the story of Sarah, who fights World War II in her own way on the home front.

Sacrifices and Hope. Hope is a platitude which means nothing without sacrifice. Hope doesn’t bloom alone in a barren and frozen winter soil. Hope requires sacrifice. For who would trust in a man who isn’t willing to lay does his life for his love? Who would trust in a God who wouldn’t firsthand understand the pain and sorrow holding back the spring’s green growth? Hope grows in the soil of sacrifice, on the distant battlefront, on the lonely home front, in the dead cold mud of the first day of March. As sacrifice is planted, hope grows.

rlt-musical3

Readers’ Theatre: Anne of Green Gables

The main, yearly project for my Intro to Theatre Arts class is our Readers’ Theatre. It’s a performance where the actors keep the scripts in their hands, and they act it out as best as possible with as many props and set pieces as possible. For this project, I make it completely student driven. Inha directed the show this year. Caitlin produced. Each student was assigned to committees such as promotion, props, staging, etc… Caitlin had to learn how to pay royalties. Inha worked daily with the actors on the scenes and their acting skills.

This year we chose to produce “Anne of Green Gables.” I knew this would draw in the female audience of our school. Little girls, eager in anticipation, lined up to watch Anne Shirley walk the ridge pole or coyly brush away Gilbert Blythe. It’s a challenging script for one reason: not much happens in it. It’s really up to the actors to bring the story to life.

And they did it. Just got back from the show and it was a great success. The audience was engaged and receptive and the kids rose to the occasion, and then some. Great performances.

A Readers’ Theatre is a great class project I definitely recommend. Here’s a few photos from dress rehearsal yesterday.

Twenty Shows: A Ten Year Lookback

Go back eleven years and drama wasn’t even in my radar. It may not have been in my galaxy, and if it was, it certainly wasn’t connected with original drama.

Now, in 2017, looking backward I see that I have written (or co-written) and produced 19 original, full-length dramatic productions in the past ten years. Here’s my wall to (kind of) prove it:

dramaboxes

I painted 21 squares on my wall and randomly colored them with whatever colors of paint I had. Now I’m going back and printing out a poster from all of my productions and inviting all my students to sign in any square in which they participated in. It’s a way of recalling what we have accomplished as I head out of Penang for good this coming June.

It’s been a wild and crazy ride. Moments of joy, laughter, tears, and euphoria — some of it even on stage! It’s been so fun to see young actors develop their confidence and soar through a production to impact the audience in unexpected ways. It’s also been rewarding to develop my skills as a playwright. I’m not finished developing, not by a long shot, and in fact I know I will never be finished  growing and experimenting in my craft. I’m in it for the long haul because I thrive on creative ideas and the challenge of bringing them to life. So as I work on completing my drama wall in my classroom, let me list off the original productions I’ve had the privilege of writing and producing at my school. An asterisk* denotes a script I co-wrote with student writers.

2008 What I Wouldn’t Give for a Monkey Love Potion*

2009 A Tad of Trouble*

2010 Take Two*

2011 Spy Blue*

2011 Romans on the Couch

2011 RLT Players present The Road Less Traveled*

2012 Life with Stewart*

2012 RLT Players present Drive All Night (Back into your Arms)

2013 Grandparents’ War*

2013 RLT Players present Captured in Time & Space

2014 Boardwalk Melody: A Musical*

2014 RLT Players present For All Generations

2015 A Tad of Trouble: A Musical (updated and re-written)

2015 RLT Players present Tales of Wonder

2016 Secrets of the Magic Pool

2016 How to Build a Dictator: A Black Box Experimental Piece

2016 RLT Players present Tales of Wonder II

2017 RLT Players: A Collection of Our Best

2017 RLT Musical: A Journey Down the Road Less Traveled

2017 RLT Musical: Tales of Christmas

 

 

Which Half David: A Short Exerpt

In this scene, American mission worker is living on the edge, running away from his marital problems, trying to outrun a police car after he had too much to drink. This excerpt gives you a glimpse of the fictional capital city of Sunay City. 

The car hit its siren and weaved through the cross-traffic in hot pursuit of the brazen fugitive. Tobin felt empowered as he laughed at the image in his side mirrors before turning left into a small alleyway. A hundred meters down, he turned right onto a smaller alley and sped out of sight into the frenzied maze of the Sunay City slum, where the crowds spill onto the streets at every hour of the day. Vendors lined each side yelling at their customers. Children played games with broken remnants of the city. Men sat at hawker stands and chatted about politics. They all were inconvenienced by the man on the motorcycle, who made their already treacherous lives that much more dangerous. The same disarray that hid Tobin in its midst, blocked the police car within the first hundred yards of the first alleyway. A motorcycle carrying twelve crates of chickens slid into the car, knocking several of them to the ground and scattering the chickens in all directions. He cursed at the police car as the officers stepped out, futilely looking for traces of the foreigner. Tobin knew he was free, and he laughed at his cleverness and dumb luck.

 

Which Half David is a modern-day retelling of the historical story of King David set in the fictional Southeast Asian nation of the Sulu Republic.

Available as an Amazon Kindle ebook for $2.99. On Amazon Kindle Here.

Available on paperback from any on-line retailer, including free world-wide shipping from the Book Depository: Paperback here!

 

The Reason is Now Clear

In this article “Mom is Shamed for Cake Slice in Kid’s Lunch,” I have begun to understand why the heavens didn’t want me to raise my kids in the United States. It would not have been pretty.

And unfortunately, this article isn’t an outlier. There are (regrettably) way too many instances of schools telling parents what they can and can’t do that I’m sure I know the reason why I needed to be overseas.

You want other examples?  How about the mother who was chastised for sending her daughter to school with a lunch consisting over a turkey sandwich, chips, a banana, and juice. She was promptly told that her lunch wasn’t healthy enough and was given chicken nuggets to supplement. I wish I was making this up, but I’m not.

Then there was the school which prohibited all students from walking to school, regardless of how close they lived to the school. All students had to be dropped off in a car–even those who lived next door.

And don’t get me started on the “sexual surveys” given out to children as young as six years old in a Los Angeles school district.

It’s articles like these that reinforces why it was I was meant to raise my kids overseas. Because I wouldn’t have been able to take it. I’m a mild-mannered kind of guy, but these …  these are my pet peeves. These I would make a stand against. These I would gladly fight, and like I said, it wouldn’t have been pretty.

I would have sent my kids to school with nothing but chocolate cake for an entire week.

I would have walked my kid to school everyday to force a showdown with the principal.

I  would have left out the banana and sent two bags of chips.

Yes, it’s a good thing for everyone involved that I raised my kids overseas. You know why? Because I got to raise them the way that I saw fit. I got to give them treats when I wanted to. I was able to give them permission to leave the house on their own. Shocking!  Actually, when in Vietnam, our kids used to wake up before us, unlock the front door, and walk down to a little street stall to order breakfast by themselves while their derelict parents slept. It was awesome!  They loved it too. (as did our neighbors)

I  wonder what the school food police would have said about my lunches back in the day. I had two standards: bologna and ketchup on white bread or peanut butter and jelly. My friend brought a PBJ, pringles, and a Twinkie every  day! Every day! I was beyond jealous. He had such good parents.

Maybe I’m old fashioned, but in my mind, parenting belongs in the realm of parents. Let schools actually try to teach them about random things like math, English, history, and science.

I’ve never been threatened with arrest, and it’s probably because I raised my kids overseas. The heavens knew what they were doing.

What’s the Future of Complication Like?

I’ve been thinking about my recent blog post The Good Old Less Complicated Days and started wondering about my kids: will they look back upon the 2010s as the “Good Old Less Complicated Days?”

The premise of my post was this: our modern world has become so complicated that I sometimes wonder if life before gadgets and computers was actually better. At the very least, I wish we could visit the past every once in a while, but honestly, I’m too addicted to my technology. Grrrr. At least I admit it.

What prompted such nostalgia was a weekend of doing taxes, college admission documents, Obamacare health issues, and documents for my new job. It was all overwhelmingly complicated and I started to think if this is the kind of society we really wanted to create.

But what really got my noggin exploding was the possible thought that my kids, some thirty years in the future, might look back at the 2010s and wish for “The Good Old Less Complicated Days?”

Will they wish for the tax code of 2017?  Will they long for the student loan and FAFSA processes of today?  Will they wax fondling about Obamacare’s easy navigation compared to what President 2047 institutes?  Will they harbor longings of love and fond feelings for the bureaucratic red tape of the Obama and Trump years?

Seriously. Computers and gadgets are supposed to make our lives easier, but I’m not sure it’s working out so well.

My solace is that my kids have actually experienced simple life at its finest. They all grew up for a good part of their childhood in Vietnam.  This is the Vietnam before shopping malls and cell phones and Internet. My kids road bikes, played rubber band games with their neighbor friends, played Vietnamese hopscotch, and walked out into the evening street to eat snails with their classmates. They didn’t once post a snail picture for Instagram. The Vietnam they grew up in the 1990s and early 2000s was indeed analogous to my own childhood. Not that anything between the two were remotely alike, but they were simple. And my kids are better for it. I’m sure of it.

But one day I might have grand kids. Oh my, those poor people.

I’ll leave you with a couple photos of my kids in Vietnam. And yes, I get the irony of this post.

neighborhood-kids

My kids with their adorable friends. Life was simpler then.

our-street-with-cows

Need further proof? Our street had water buffalo!  Yes, actual water buffalo! Life was simple. (That was our house on the left.)

The Good Old Less Complicated Days

My brain feels like it just experienced a two hour session as a tackle dummy, and no, it has nothing to do with having just watched the Oscars or network TV. It has to do with modern life. Silly old modern life. The kind of lives we lead in this day and age are insane, are they not? Life continually piles on us a minutia of important “necessities” which eventually buries you in a blanket of wet snow. You don’t even know you have a foot of cold stuff on your shoulders until its too late. Wouldn’t it be nice to go back to the good old less complicated days?

What have I been doing to that makes me scoff at our modern life?  Taxes.

Yes, I just completed my taxes. I even used an online service which charges way too much, but the ease of use makes it too tempting to complete it any other way. And even with the aid of the Internet and an online service that knows all the ins and outs, I still walk away with a brain full of mush. (I realize some of it might have been there before the taxes, but still …)

We all know how complicated the wizards of Washington have made tax filing,  but if that was the extent of the mind-boggling complications of the modern world, then maybe I could accept it. But it’s not even close.

I’m also working with my son this weekend to complete college documents. We’ve already sunk enough time into the FAFSA. Now we have to do something called verification. I guess we seem shady for some reason. Okay, let’s verify these documents. Hmmm, in order to do this, it reverts back to taxes. What do you know?  I need my 2015 tax returns. Okay, they’re on some digital storage that I have. Here they are. Wait. What’s the password?  Oh, if I forget the password, I can make a new one. Delightful. Let’s login to email.

As if taxes and colleges weren’t enough this weekend, I’ll be moving to my new job in 5.5 months, so it’s time to get cracking. Employment documents. Transcripts. Passport numbers. Addresses and phone numbers of every place I’ll be over the next 5 months.

We modern travelers are surrounded by documents, numbers, and complicated tasks, made easier, yet actually more complicated by our computers. They are amazing at complicating simplification.

So on days like this, I long for the good old uncomplicated days. Example: I remember as a boy, putting on my blue jeans and a t-shirt and going over to our friend’s farm. I would run ahead of the wagon and tractor, gathering into stacks newly formed hay balls, and then throwing them on the wagon and stacking them in unique and creative ways. We’d unload them in the barn, and then the farmer’s mother would call us in for a huge spread of meat, potatoes, bread, home-made root beer, and a variety of pies and cakes. Not one of us checked our cell phones all day. Not one of us worried about tax forms or documents or numbers, except for how many slices of pie we would eat.

I sometimes miss the simplicity of old-fashioned hard work out in the sun. You do your job, then it’s done. There aren’t twenty emails to answer when I got home.

Life back then wasn’t perfect. But it was simpler. I think all of us modern folks could use a little simplification in our lives.