Friday, December 16, 2011

Little Miracles

by Lorna Kerin Beall 

In past years one of my favorite things to do was to write a Christmas poem or story, some that have been graciously published. One of my favorites was published in The Lutheran Witness a couple of years ago. It was about my little mentally challenged Sunday school student, Theresa, who tore everything she touched. She tore not only her lesson paper but even the paper on her crayons causing many supposedly black puppy dogs or cows to turn out a surprising purple. At snack time Theresa even tore her paper cup, drizzling colorful (and sticky!) Kool Aid everywhere.

We were doing the Christmas story in flannel graph and each child was to put a beautiful and beloved pastel character on the flannel board. I couldn't help but wonder what I’d do about Theresa. Before long however, I was caught up in this lesson of God’s love, and in the joy of the children as they slapped each picture up with exuberance. But all too soon we were to the most wonderful picture of all, the baby Jesus – and to the last child – Theresa.

I held the fragile picture of the little pink Baby in my hand, imagining the children’s hurt cries if Theresa should tear it. Before I could change my mind, I thrust it towards her. Slowly, wide-eyed with wonder, Theresa took the picture of the Baby. She gently touched Him with her tiny finger. Then she began fingering the edges of the soft velour picture. I knew what would come next: the tearing.

But Theresa drew the baby Jesus to her lips and kissed Him. Then she patted Him gently in place on the flannel-board. I knew I’d witnessed a little Christmas miracle. And since then, I've often been inspired by some child’s simple faith. Like last year during our church Candlelight Service. When the first candles were lit a tiny 2-year-old boy in the congregation burst out singing, “Happy birthday to you, Happy Birthday to you. Happy Birthday Dear Jesus, Happy Birthday to you.”

This Christmastime may we join him, and other sweet children, in singing or saying: “Happy Birthday, Jesus!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

From Pioneer Lady to Whip-lashin' Gunslinger

Jana Segal

The success of my historical reading actually lead to a "paid" gig (Well...$50.) with a Mystery Theater Group - the Candlelight Players. So I went from playing strong pioneer lady, Mary Ringo, to the rough, whip-lashin', gunslinger, Buffalo Lil. It had been 20-some years (about the same amount of time that I was married) since I had been in a play. After hearing about my performance in Tombstone, my friend Andy recommended me for the role (in part to distract me from my impending divorce.)

So while I was trying to develop my character and memorize my lines, my soon-to-be-ex would call several times a  day about the divorce. Sometimes the play was a distraction from the divorce and sometimes the divorce distracted me from the play. I was so tired from dealing with all my ex's crap, that it was like pulling teeth to even read the play before the first read through. But Andy, with his hilarious Speedy Gonzales accent, lightened things up. By the time we got the play on it's feet, there were glimmers of the old passion I had for acting before I got married. I had forgotten how much I loved to act!

I enjoyed discovering my character's voice. When I had problems distinguishing my character from all the other Western characters, the director wisely recommended that I look at Dustin Hoffman's tomboy sister in "Little Big Man." I watched her three scenes over and over until I got a handle on her vernacular and then I transferred her cadences to my lines. Then I recalled a similar character from Deadwood - Calamity Jane. I found her scenes on Youtube and got my character's attitude from her. Finally, I learned how to crack a whip. Now I was having fun!

But the best part was running lines with my two hammy sons. (They had been sorta distant since their father left the house.) Usually I help them learn their lines (which they get a lot easier than I do.) It actually helped me to bond with my 12 year old when he gave me my cues on route to his Live Theater Workshop class. He started hugging me for the first time in this life!

But the day before the performance, when I wanted to put the finishing touches on my lines, my ex tells me he is taking the boys for the weekend to prepare them to live with him every other week. I spiraled into depression. I read the same line over and over - it was meaningless.

I ended up running through my lines on the 45 minute drive to the resort and while we waited to go on. And there was plenty of time waiting around - first, for the audience to eat dinner and then to read the clues and finally to figure out the mystery. Once I got my lines, I had so much DOWN time that I started to get depressed again! I was afraid I wouldn't get it back up for the finale!

But it all turned out fine. I actually helped other people when they forgot their lines. At the climatic moment, when the shot gun sound effect didn't go off,  I was the one to say, "Bang!" and even got a laugh. In fact, I got six big laughs in all. Thanks to my buddy Andy.