My name is Jeff and I'm a pastor of a small, local, Christian fellowship

It's a wonderful thing to love your work; to know that when you do it you are doing something that you were born to do. I am so fortunate to be both. I don't say I am the best at what I do. God knows that are so many others who do it better. But I do feel fairly lucky to be called by such a good God to do work I can only do with his help, to be loved by a beautiful woman, and to have a workshop where I can work my craft. These musings of mine are part of that work.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

In praise of defacing your Bible

Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” Psalm 119:105, KJV

One of the first things I encountered when I left the Lutheran church of my youth and began attending a Pentecostal one was the very fact that people brought their own Bible to worship. I had my own, of course, and with the exception of a vain attempt to read through it from cover to cover when I was 10 or 11, I rarely, if ever, cracked it open. And for sure it never left my bedroom. Now instead of hearing the pastor read his thoughts from a prepared manuscript, the minister opened his Bible and began preaching from it. And usually his weekly message began with, “Turn in your Bible to...” As humorous as that may sound to someone who has always lived in an evangelical/Pentecostal neighborhood, I experienced culture shock on a profound level.

It's good to write in this Book
But there was yet another wrinkle to this shift because as I began to attend this fellowship's Wednesday night gatherings as well I found myself being exhorted to not just read my Bible but write in it as well. And not just now and again but copiously and furiously. In fact, I recall one guy encouraging us to get several different color markers so that we could highlight various passages concerning things like God answering prayer, salvation, assurance, faith and the like. For a guy raised in a traditional mainline Church the idea of taking any kind of writing implement to the leaves with the gilded edge in my Bible was pretty close to sacrilege. I tried – I really did - but every time I marked a passage I experienced a tinge of guilt as if I was doing something verboten, as if some ecclesiastical librarian would suddenly appear at my right elbow and scowl at me for my impertinence. Meanwhile, every Sunday and Wednesday I'd rub shoulders with people whose Bibles were thoroughly marked and underlined in all colors of the rainbow.

All these years later, when I have been in Pentecost way longer than I ever was a Lutheran, I still do not write in my Bible. I just never got the hang of it and while I've never harangued anyone who does, I have continued my non-defacing ways. But something happened to me yesterday that gave me pause to rethink that habit.

I was at the Justice Center for my weekly visit with a few of the inmates when I sat down with “Mike.” He's just a kid, really, who may be facing prison time if the judge decides to charge him that way. It's the kind of possibility that often gets some of these guys thinking about the course their life is taking. A few weeks ago he told me he didn't have a Bible and so I went about seeing that he get one. The person in charge of inmate services got him a Contemporary English Version Bible (soft cover) but the other day when he was in the library he came across a Bible with all kinds of helps and little boxes of background material that he found even better. So he checked it out and has been reading it ever since. It is a Chuck Swindoll Insights for Living Study Bible (NIV) and whoever owned it before it was donated to the Justice Center library, clearly used it frequently. Not only does Chuck provide his own insights, text boxes and (even) underlining of key Scriptures, but this previous owner wrote many of his own little notes and had this Bible marked from cover to cover. In fact, as I was attempting to counsel Mike every Scripture I turned to had been already underlined or highlighted, as if it was just waiting for him to find that Bible in the library and like Augustine in Milan “take up and read.” And then I had a thought: what if a previous inmate had done some of this underlining or that it had passed through several hands before it had come to Mike? That would be like a breadcrumb trail left by beggars for other beggars to follow leading them, ultimately, where the real Meal may be found.

I'm not saying I'm going to turn over a new leaf starting tomorrow. But lucky for Mike some guy actually did because his notes and highlights are like a search light leading him through the labyrinth of fear and anxiety he finds himself in.

Becoming people of the Way

God places lonely people in families. He leads prisoners out of prison into productive lives, but rebellious people must live in an unproductive land.” Psalm 68:6, GOD'S WORD® Translation (©1995)

Some happenings lately in the lives of a few of the folks who make up our fellowship have caused me to think on the meaning of discipleship once again (see “The Essence of Discipleship” 3/9/11). And for that matter, the meaning of “church” altogether. I choose to name them by their real names not because I speak for them but because I am glad they are a part of us and see the character of Jesus being formed in them. If they happen to read this and take offense at the manner in which I describe them, I hope they realize how much we don't see them as problems to be fixed but opportunities for all of us to grow in the grace of God.

Samantha is a 19-year-old girl in our midst who is pregnant. Unexpectedly, her mother died last summer and while she has a relationship with her father, he doesn't live anywhere near here. In some real way, she is an orphan alone in this world. A year ago in June she excitedly headed on down the road to Kansas City with the intent of getting a job and eventually doing an internship at the International House of Prayer there. But life interrupted. Like Abram who found himself in the midst of a famine in the promised land, she took a detour and...well...soon she'll be a mommy. At this point in time, she intends on keeping the baby – a brave choice for one so young and so alone. Sure she gets WIC now and has access to whatever else the State of Wisconsin provides for young women in just her circumstance. But Sam needs way more than social welfare – she needs a family. And Rick and Sandy are just that family. The Lamberts, also members of The Refuge, have graciously opened up their home to Sam so that in the short term she has a safe place to roost. It certainly helps that they love her and that she's best buds with Sarah, their 18-year-old daughter. But key in this move is that Rick and Sandy aren't trying to “fix” Sam – there's just making room for her in their family and giving Sam the opportunity to respond to whatever the Holy Spirit's agenda in her life at the present time may be.

A few years ago, Brianna, a young 20-something blew into our fellowship like a Nor'easter and quickly endeared herself to a lot of us. With her thick New England accent and her straightforward way of dealing with people it was clear she was not from around here. Ostensibly, she came to live with a former childhood friend and her husband, but in reality she was at a point in her life where she didn't know what else to do. Her mother lives in Massachusetts and she has no relationship with her father. When after a few months her friend and her husband decided to move back East, Brianna did not have the inclination to join them. She chose to stay on and for the last year and a half has been sharing a house with yet another young woman from our fellowship. But a few months back she lost her full time job and while soon after found part-time employment as a hostess at a local restaurant it has been difficult to find another gig to supplement her income. And certainly it isn't because she hasn't tried. Since she can no longer afford even the minimal rent she pays for her room at the house down the street from us, what is a girl in her situation to do? If you're from Barron County, the norm seems to be that if you can't find a roomie you “hook up” with some guy for a less than chaste domestic partnership or, in the summer months, you live in your car. But neither of those solutions are viable, especially if, like Brianna, she is a disciple of Jesus. A week or so ago, Linda and I approached Brianna and invited her to live with us until she can get back on her feet. But we made it clear that we didn't want our home to be a flop house; rather, we want her to join our family for a season and enter into the rhythms of our household. She moves in on Friday. We expect it to be a temporary solution until her economic situation improves but we love this girl and at the moment have an open room and a willingness to open our home to her.

The other day, Linda and I were reflecting about how many pseudo-orphans we have collected at Refuge at the present time: Samantha, Brianna, Shelby (her father passed away a few months ago and her mother has been deceased for some time now; she's 21 years old). Pity won't help them. And neither do they want it. Thinking out loud, Linda remarked, “I wish we had a house where they all could live...” But my response is we don't need a home; we just need to open our home and make room in our lives for them to move into. Of course, not everyone is in a place where they can just throw the door open to the stranger in our midst and wisdom would counsel discernment. But real discipleship cannot be accomplished in a classroom through the transference of knowledge alone or in a small group experience in and of itself. Having either participated in or facilitated several Alpha courses in the past I can say with some authority that the teaching, as well presented as it is, doesn't “seal the deal” nor does successfully completing a course make one qualified to be considered a disciple. No, we become people of the Way (as it once was called) through the love and care of others who are willing to get involved in our often messy lives when we are raw and, spiritually speaking, in process. A convert can be made via short wave radio or through the efforts of a televangelist. But disciples are birthed and mentored by caring people who understand that babies do not become adults over the course of a few months but over years of steady love and nurture. Which is why I don't get too excited anymore over an altar full of people responding to a gospel message. Obviously, it's an awesome thing when someone “crosses over” from being a resident of this world to becoming a citizen of heaven. But without nurture, without care – and careful care at that – how apt is that convert to grow up into becoming a servant of Jesus marked with the love of God? My answer is not as many who have gone forward or prayed some kind of sinner's prayer found in a gospel tract.

You paid careful attention to the way we lived among you, and determined to live that way yourselves.” 1 Thessalonians 1:5

We weren't aloof with you. We took you just as you were. We were never patronizing, never condescending, but we cared for you the way a mother cares for her children. We loved you dearly. Not content to just pass on the Message, we wanted to give you our hearts. And we did.”
1 Thessalonians 2:7-8
With each of you we were like a father with his child, holding your hand, whispering encouragement, showing you step-by-step how to live well before God, who called us into his own kingdom, into this delightful life.” 1 Thessalonians 2:11-12

All passages from The Message


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Leaving Ur


The God of glory appeared to our father Abraham while he was still in Mesopotamia, before he lived in Haran. 'Leave your country and your people,' God said, 'and go to the land I will show you.'”

So he left the land of the Chaldeans and settled in Haran...”
Stephen, 1st Century martyr as quoted in Acts 7:2-4

Sometime around the Second Millennium B.C.E., during what archeologists refer to as the Middle Bronze Age, a small clan of Semites begin heading north along the main trade route that leads from their home. In their rear view mirror is Ur, vast cosmopolitan city of the Sumerians, the most centralized bureaucratic state the world has ever known. The last feature of that place to slip beneath the horizon is the towering temple to the moon god, Nanna. Their journey, to quote Roman Catholic scholar Thomas Cahill, is “a migration in the wrong direction” - a turning-away from the modern, the civilized, everything that you and I would call normal. In some real way, Abram, the leader of this small caravan, is stepping off the map into that region that ancient cartographers used to mark with, “Here There Be Dragons.”
Here There Be Dragons
What would provoke someone from New York City to leave it? Economic downturn? Political turmoil? A desire for greener pastures? Of course, those of us who live contentedly in rural areas cannot imagine anyone actually wanting to live in the Big City – be it New York, Chicago or the Twin Cities - with its traffic, crime, pollution and, well, people. We like our “wide open spaces” and from our perspective Abram and his people are wise to “lit out for the territories.” But as far as his peers and contemporaries were concerned, Abram is going the wrong way. The high life is not to be found in the place where he is headed. Rather, he is risking his entire family fortune by moving his people north. This move of his makes no sense whatsoever.

I try and imagine the conversations that might have happened within their small camp as they proceeded up that highway:
“So, where exactly are we going...?”
Abram leaving Ur

“Where is all this leading, Abram?”

“How can you be so sure that you heard right?”

And (who knows?)
“Are we there yet?”
He does not know and he cannot say. All he can say for certain is that he feels compelled to follow the leading of the One who calls him to turn his back on the only life he has ever known. He has no road map to reference. No virtual tour to get a sneak peak of the land they are traveling to. Whatever else this journey may be it is one of blind faith. And those who go with him are just as courageous – or crazy – as he is.

The Great Ziggurat of Ur
Abram's story, while unique in its particulars, is the not the last time that God will ask someone to make a leap into the dark for the benefit of a greater cause. Moses, when he asks God for a sign that he is really hearing right, is told, in so many words, “when you get back here with all the people then you will know that I have sent you” (Exodus 3:12). I can almost hear Moses say, “Uh....yeah...thanks...” under his breath. Or Joshua who is directed to put in the van of the fighting force their most precious commodity – the Ark of the Covenant – and tell the priests to step into the Jordan. The author adds this little tid-bit: “Now, the Jordan is at flood stage all during harvest” (Joshua 3:15). Would you have wanted to be one of the guys pulling “front-duty” on the Ark that day of the Crossing? Or Esther who violates all known protocol by entering the king's chambers uninvited and unannounced, risking everything with the hopes that the king will smile on her. And then there's the story of Peter. As Matthew tells it, Peter and Andrew were in the middle of an otherwise ordinary work day when the Rabbi comes walking along the shore of the sea and offers an invitation to them that is very similar to the one offered to Father Abraham a couple of ages ago: leave what you know and follow me into a life you know nothing about. “Join me in this great work of the Kingdom,” Jesus invites them.

As I read Abram's and Peter's stories again I ask myself, “Would I do it?” Would I just walk off in the middle of my work day and step off into the unknown because I felt God was leading me to do so? Frankly, the very phrase - “God is leading me” - used to make me cringe because it conjured up faces of those I have known who have said the very thing to do what seemed to me the craziest of things. But nearly twenty years into my present calling admittedly these days I don't spend a lot of time asking God what he would have me do today. Pray. Serve. Preach. Teach. Plan. Study. Visit. Encourage. Write. While the weeks vary with activity, my life often has a stale sameness to it as if I could do these things by rote. And sometimes I do. It feels nothing like Abram's epic journey across the Fertile Crescent 2000 B.C.E.
The actual Ziggurat of Ur
As usual, the Biblical narrative is a wonder in terseness. In response to Yahweh's invitation to leave his “country, people and father's household” to go “to the land I will show you”, the author tells us this: “So, Abram left, as the LORD had told him and Lot went with him” (Gen 12:4). Says Cahill of this moment,
So, wayyelekh Avram’ (“Avram went”) – two of the boldest words in all literature. They signal a complete departure from everything that has gone before in the long evolution from of culture and sensibility. Out of Sumer, civilized repository of the predictable, comes a man who does not know
where he is going but goes forth into the unknown wilderness under the prompting of his god. Out of Mesopotamia, home of canny, self-serving merchants who use their gods to ensure prosperity and favor, comes a wealthy caravan with no material goal. Out of ancient humanity, which from the dim
beginnings of its consciousness has read its eternal verities in the stars, comes a party traveling by no known compass. Out of the human race, which knows in its bones that all its striving must end in death, comes a leader who says he has been given an impossible promise. Out of mortal imagination comes a dream of something new, something better, something yet to happen, something – in the future.
(The Gift of the Jews: How a Tribe of Desert Nomads Changed the Way Everyone Thinks and Feels, pp. 63-64)
Abram's Journey to Canaan
Matthew's account of this same crossroads in Peter's life is equally terse and (for me) eyebrow-raising:

At once they [Peter and Andrew] left their nets and followed him” (Matthew 4:20, NIV). Which man do you know who would just leave his power tools out in the open and simply walk away from them? And what do you think his wife said when he didn't come home for dinner that night or she learned that her nice, sedate life as a fisherman's wife was suddenly overturned? I'm wondering why Matthew didn't include that conversation in his narrative? I think it would make for some good reading today. But regardless, Peter leaves and nothing can ever be the same. Which gets me to the point of this meditation: salvation is more than just a place – a moment where we prayed “to receive Jesus” - but a journey that if it is real shapes us into people with different values and priorities than those from our native country, people and, even, household. And if I awake from my stupor and find that for all my talk of being a “pilgrim in progress”, I'm still living in Ur what else is there to do but flee like Pilgrim from the City of Destruction and take up the quest for Eternal Life.
"Life...I must have Eternal Life!"

Monday, June 13, 2011

Signs

Two weeks ago, the 50th season of The Hardscrabble Players opened at "The Barn" (otherwise known as The Red Barn Theater http://www.redbarntheatre-ricelake.com/) which has been their home since 1967. As I have noted in a previous blog ("Missing the Barn", 7/16/2010), I have had the pleasure of performing on the stage there since 2003 and was fortunate enough to contribute to the 50th year by playing "Charlie" in the touching Ernest Thompson play, "On Golden Pond."

One of the traditions of those who perform at The Barn is for the cast of each show to sign either a section of one of the back stage walls, a ceiling truss, a door or even a cupboard door will do. Customarily, the cast signs on the last night of the run and it becomes part of the legacy of the place, sort of a fossilized footprint of those who have performed and danced their way across that small stage over the years.

For example...
Our kids' first time to the Barn
I wasn't in You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown (2000) but I do remember bringing our family to see it. In fact, it was Ed and Emma's first time to the Barn and they enjoyed seeing a few kids they knew from youth group or school in it, namely Luke Fritz and Tzeitel Dutmer who would later be Emma's dance instructor for many years running. 




Sound of Music
I wasn't in Sound of Music (2000) as well but Linda and I came to the show and delighted to see many of the Fritz kids perform - Erica (as Liesl), Kylene as one of the nuns and Luke as a Nazi (we had a lot of fun with that one at Uhf, the youth group we facilitated on Wednesday nights). Funny, I don't remember who played Maria but I do recall that John Dutmer was Captain Von Trapp. John and I would later perform together in Minnie's Boys (2003) and The Music Man (2009) as well as be directed by him in most of the musicals I have been a part of at The Barn. John has also been Ed and Emma's choir director at C-WHS.





Minnie's Boys
My first show to sign for
 Minnie's Boys was my first show to perform in at The Barn. I was invited to play the role of "Harpo Marx" when the guy they had originally cast backed out. Some of my memories of that show include watching a few Marx Brothers films with my kids to get into character (The Stateroom Scene in Night of the Opera is one of our family's favorite shorts to watch) as well as reading Harpo Speaks, Harpo's autobiography of his life before, on and beyond show business. In fact, it was reading his book that inspired me to use his spoon routine as part of my nightly curtain call. Every night, I got to use Harpo-shticht throwing my leg into the aforementioned John Dutmer's hands and cutting off his tie. We had a lot of laughs leading up to the run and enjoyed both on-stage and back-stage antics with fellow brothers Jeff Hile (Groucho), Rick Snyder (Chico) and Matt Bitz (Zeppo). In fact, by the second week of the run, Jeff Hile would come on stage as Groucho to welcome the audience and then I would come running through (dressed as Harpo) honking my horn and chasing girls, whether members of the cast or, in one instance, the Coke bar girls. It was lots of fun and I ended up being nominated for a Barney award that year for Best Newcomer in a Male Role.

I didn't perform in any shows at the Barn in 2004 but in 2005 I was cast in a role that I simply loved: Sydney Lipton, the irascible angel in Neil Simon's rendition of the Book of Job, God's Favorite. Every night I had the joy  of saying the first and last lines of the show: "Guess who's absolutely crazy about you?" referring to God's amazing love for Joe Benjamin. I sweat like crazy in that oversized trench coach (the same one that I had wore for Harpo two years before, mind you) but to play Sydney was worth it. And for my performance I was blessed with my first Barney - Best Male Actor in a Supporting Role.
God's Favorite

The line says it all

Sweet Charity
In 2006, I was cast in my first "lead" role as Oscar Lindquist in Neil Simon's Sweet Charity. I put "lead" in quotation marks because really the only lead in this movie is Shirley MacLaine's character, Charity, which was played wonderfully by Tzeitel Dutmer (a performance for which she gained her first Barney award). I didn't even have to audition for this show - I was chosen to play Charity's boyfriend, Oscar. Emma thought it weird that for 10 nights I played her dance instructor's fake love interest. Linda thought it funny given that Tzeitel was young enough to be one of my daughters. But I loved doing the "elevator scene" with her. You can't find John McMartin's rendition of it on YouTube but I used it to help get me into character. Every night I would fake a claustrophobic episode and then we'd sing, "I'm the Bravest Individual" together.

The elevator scene
For the "ferris wheel" scene, we would climb on a table and then up a step ladder and crowd into a little window so that only our heads were showing. I then would sing "Sweet Charity" to her. But here's the thing: on those hot nights if it was 80-something degrees on stage, it would be 5-10 degrees hotter in the proscenium. So there I would be singing this love song to my girl (who was wearing a wig) and while she looked lovingly up at me my sweat would pour all over her as I sang. Pretty gross but she never stopped smiling. Now that's acting. I was (and I'm sure Tzeitel was, too) very grateful to her mom for coming up with the idea of pulling some helium balloons in front of our faces to give the impression we were kissing. But by the last night of the run, we only had two balloons left so we had to get very close to "sell" it. Certainly, Tzeitel won every inch of that Barney.
The King and I

The King and I (2007) was the first year that Ed and Emma performed with me on the stage. I had a small role - the Kralahome - and really I think I was cast just so Ed and Emma had a way to the Barn each night. But every night the show would begin with Anna (played artfully by Dolly Neby) and Louis dialoging from the band pit as if they are entering the port of old Siam and me entering shirtless with Tommy Yousten my servant in tow. The night Linda showed up the lights hadn't even come up and as I walked down the aisle bare-chested she started to laugh. I almost broke character and turned to her and said, "Please, I'm acting here..." The first two nights of the run it was warm but for the rest of the show we had a cold front come through so most nights the girls in their thin silk outfits would be huddling backstage under heavy blankets waiting to come on stage.

I think that was the last year Barn shows began at 8 p.m. As we got out by 11 each night. It was fun doing a show with two my kids in it. One of the kids cast as the King's sons was Hispanic and I recall one night while we were both putting our make-up on in the dressing room I did my best Nacho Libre impersonation and said, "Chancho, when you're a man sometimes you were stretchy-pants in your room - for fun." Seven-year-old Hose turned to me and said, "I personally find that movie very offensive." I apologized and never referenced it again - until I was in the van going home as he did resemble Jack Black's little sidekick from the movie.



Barefoot in the Park
That was the first summer I did two shows. I figured since I only had a few scenes in King, I could handle a larger role in Barefoot in the Park. Since it was the next show, many nights during the run I would be next door in the Shed rehearsing with the cast of Barefoot. To me, part of the magic of theater is how the same place can be portrayed in so many different ways. Like all shows of the Barn, King and I ended on a Saturday night. By Monday night, the stage had been transformed from a throne room in old Siam to an apartment on Manhattan's east side. I played the charming ne're-do-well Velasco who was doing his very best to woo Mrs. Banks, played wonderfully by Julie Reid, a pastor's wife herself. But it was also that summer that I developed my little mantra: "One is fun. Two is work." I.e., to do a show at the Barn is fun and a great outlet but to do two - especially two in a row - is to commit nearly two thirds of your summer to driving back and forth to the place, practicing and performing there. I love the Barn but there are limits to my endearment for the place.

Playing Fagin
In 2008, I got a dream role when I was cast as Fagin in Oliver! I watched Ron Moody's portrayal of him in the movie version constantly trying to mimic every facial and hand gesture to get Fagin right. Ed was cast as the Artful Dodger and Emma was one of my gang. You've Got to Pick a Pocket or Two was such a fun song to do and coming into the audience every night as I sang Reviewing the Situation was one of my highlights for each performance. I grew my hair out and had a full beard for over a month. Linda loved it and thought I should get a stud in one of my ears and a tattoo on my neck to go with the beard. But I was so hot in that get-up that as soon as the show was over I shaved the beard and all my hair off and went bisque for the next three years.



"Energy, energy, energy..."
It was a great show and a fun cast. Every night Ed and I would circle up "me gang" and we would get our game face on and energy up for the show. It was also this show that our association with the wonderfully talented Arnold sisters, Jaimie and Amanda, began. I won my second Barney for Best Male Supporting Actor for my portrayal of Fagin and when the final curtain call was made for me it was a melancholy moment.




Oliver!
It really was a dream role
Bawling out Tommy
2009 was a busy summer for the Martins for we were featured in both The Music Man and Aladdin and his Wonderful Lamp. I broke my personal rule of doing two shows a summer for the sake of Charlie who was cast by his former teacher in Aladdin. Music Man was the largest cast to ever perform on the stage at the Barn and I absolutely loved being associated with the show. As Mayor Shinn every night I got to bawl out Ed who was cast as Tommy, Zaneeta (my daughter)'s boyfriend. To help the Mayor I actually got a haircut that perfectly resembled my dad's - much to his delight.




The Music Man











Aladdin and his Wonderful Lamp
Aladdin was a far smaller cast and didn't have the same dynamics of Music Man but we muscled through for the sake of having the pleasure of performing in a show together. But it wasn't all work. Having David Mickelson back stage is always a plus and during the run of this show I got better acquainted with Lee Namtvedt (who played the Jafar-character). I'd like to believe this connection became fortuitous for Lee for the very next year when he was involved in an accident because of being intoxicated. While he was incarcerated locally, we met weekly and now that he is serving a 10-year sentence downstate we correspond regularly. If being in Aladdin made these conversations possible, I'm thankful I said "yes" to Patsy.






On Golden Pond
Due to my sabbatical in 2010, we all committed to doing no shows last summer. But this year I wanted to be a part of the Barn's 50th Season and was cast in a relatively small role of "Charlie Martin" in On Golden Pond. But to share a stage - or, at least part of it, with Bill Koslofsky - is no small thing. Plus I got to rub shoulders with buddies from previous shows - Mary Hankins, Tommy Yousten, Tanner Ritchie and Lee Pisa. For the two nights it was nearly 90 degrees in the Barn, it was nice to be the only guy in the cast in shorts. But when the thermometer went south by 40 degrees there were a few nights I looked like an old man back staged wrapped up in a blanket and winter coat. Several nights, after our make-up was on, Lee and I would contemplate how we might spice up the show and we settled on threatening Heidi, the house manager, that on the last night of the run we were going to kill Norman and Ethel as they went down to Golden Pond to say goodbye. We didn't, of course, but we were back stage with the plastic swords we had used in Aladdin feigning slicing them. It got Meg to break character for a moment which, I guess, was the point.

I started this particular blog the night before the run began never anticipating that it would take me so long to compose. And now the show is over and a new cast is getting ready to perform The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. The cabin on Golden Pond is gone - literally erased - and the stage no doubt is taking shape into something completely different. This cast will probably sign on the new doors where apparently we were supposed to sign but no matter. We've left our mark and like the guy said, "...here's looking at you, kid..."