While recently in Michigan, I went to the campus of Spring Arbor University (SAU) to attend 3-days of entertaining events held by Dale Savidge, executive director of Christians in Theater Arts (CITA). First came contests for high school theatre students vying for honors with their contrasting monologues, Shakespeare sililoquies, duos/ensemble scenes plus Broadway musical solos/scenes.
After Debra Stipe (Full House-TV fame) judged entries, announced winners, and gave a master class in acting, then began college workshops in directing, play writing, auditioning, and character development. Interspersed with these were professional performances to show the students the quality required to make it in the tough business of theatre and films. Several new one-act plays debuted.
Rich Swingle closed the conference with an incredibly athletic yet funny portrayal of Jonah to help kids realize how hard times groom us for greater experiences. He shared news of Olive Tree Productions set to film story of Scottish missionary John Paton who helped convert Tanna, a once cannibalistic South Sea island now tagged the “happiest place on earth.”
With the event being on a Christian college, I was shocked and pleased when leaders and students openly prayed for present and future entertainers to use their faith in discerning what roles to accept or reject. Debra Stipe’s testimony lent credence to that idea. While in Hollywood, she and Patricia Heaton (Everyone Loves Raymond) had a Bible study group in which they grew into two gutsy ladies who supported each other to hang onto their principles and not to worry about naysayers.
Since I’m finding almost everyone knows a teenager or college freshman needing advanced literacy skills to succeed in college, I unexpectedly found folks interested in my educational fiction series, Picaresque of Imagine Purple, an easy way to live out our motto: Have Fun. Get Smarter.
While talking to the head of SAU communications, I was pleasantly surprised by his offer to critique my play about San Lorenzo, the second most beloved Roman saint after St. Peter. When planting seeds, one never knows what will grow.
A post script:
On my way to SAU, I decided to drive through the huge campus of University of Michigan (U of M) at Ann Arbor. I got locked into one way streets for over an hour and wondered if I should apply for a Ph. D program to find the exit.
The difference between a campus with 50,000+ students and one with only 1,500 was palpable. Whereas U of M seemed supercharged, sported legions of bikes, and had its own bus system (hence the need for one-way streets), SAU had a relaxed, friendly atmosphere and a very walkable campus. Admittedly, I loved the feel of both because I’ve lived in Manhattan with its millions of citizens and Jarbidge with its 28 winter residents. Whether in a bustling metropolis or pastoral fields, I’m still at home.