Saturday, December 19, 2009

Praise God for a Completed Production

It's hard to believe that Beyond Bethlehem is over. You put your heart and soul into a production... it takes the focus of your time for months... and then it's over. But, all good things must come to an end, and I'm definitely looking forward to the much needed Christmas break.

Of course, my brain is already jumping ahead to what we could do for a summer musical, and foremost, for the May dance recital and all the music, choreography, and costumes... But first, a nice break is ahead.

Both days went really well, praise God! The chairs (around 175 were packed into the fellowship hall) were full to nearly overflowing both Friday and Saturday. The actors did the best ever (as much as I could tell from backstage), and the dancers, I heard, were all smiles, cuteness, and joy. Everyone truly enjoyed their part! Many in the audience commented that it was fun to watch the children have so much fun while performing!

It was a blessing to hear from different parents and guests, as to what touched them in the story. There were some comment things, and other unique points that stuck out for each one. It is fun to be a part of God's work in impacting others.

God is so good. He brought everything together - I couldn't have done it without His grace, strength, peace, and order. That, and many good helpers. I am blessed with great people to work with. Not only do they work hard at their parts and are very respectful and attentive to me as the director, they also pitch into help with whatever can be done! Thanks to everyone who helped, it only took us 1 1/2 hours to take done things that we spent weeks arranging and putting up. There's still work to do in washing costumes and putting things away, but the most crucial stuff is done.


I shall miss working with everyone, but I look forward to what God will bring about in the future.


Photo Credits: Samantha Brooks and Lavonne Hart

Friday, December 18, 2009

Can't Stop Giving Praise

It's late - I should be in bed. And I'm going - truly I am... soon.

But I just can't stop giving praise! The dress rehearsal tonight went so well - things are truly coming together. Of course there were a few mishaps, but on a whole, it went great. And I know that God will do something wonderful these next two nights.

God has given me such peace with this musical. It has been the most difficult by far, but also the least stressful. I have prayed for peace, and I know others have, and God has answered.

With each prior musical I struggled with despair at times, wondering if things would really smooth out. Each time they did as God worked in amazing ways - and each new one gave me greater faith to trust Him for the next one. Beyond Bethlehem has been hard - very hard, taking up hours on end (I spent 1o hours at Fountain of Grace today...), but it has been enjoyable. I've had moments of wavering, but haven't stressed out.

Praise God for His peace! And praise Him for rest. Tomorrow (er, today...) is another full one.

Photo Credit: Samantha Brooks

Amazed

The set for Beyond Bethlehem was pretty minimal. After all, we had many scene changes to depict varying locations. I found curtains to borrow for backdrops and used what we could easily transport on/off stage.

I never imagined it could look as well as it does now, but praise God, someone else did. On Tuesday, a family friend and grandmother of one of my dancers made some suggestions. I wasn't too sure how they would work, but was willing to give them a try. This woman had helped decorate many times before (the heavenly realms of Mary: Chosen by God being a great example), and it always turned out better than I expected.

This wasn't an exception. Mrs. Brenda suggested we enlist the help of Mrs. Susie, the main decorator at our church. Wow. I am amazed at what they came up with!

God is so good to bless me with talented women who help at no cost - simply to bless others! It is amazing to see what they come up with!

Amazing night sky...

Stable nook...

Gate leading out to the countryside of Bethlehem...

Photo Credits: Samantha Brooks

Something Great is in the Air


Photo Credit: Rachel Rendleman

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Little Stars

Coming down from heaven, to bring the good news...

Photo Credit: Samantha Brooks

Lining Up

Things are falling into place...

One more dress rehearsal on Thursday, and then we present on Friday and Saturday!

Photo Credit: Samantha Brooks

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Becoming Anna

How do you portray a woman who has spent years in the presence of God? After spending the majority of her life at the temple, how would she act?

The story of Anna has always fascinated me. Yes, part of it is because I was named for her; as I grew up, my mother would often remind me: "You were named for two women from the Bible - one from the Old Testament, and one from the New..." And the one from the New is the most challenging example.

Anna's life started out in a normal way. She was a little girl, she learned to be a homemaker, she got married, and probably looked forward to doing the things of a typical wife and mother. Yet, the Bible doesn't mention that she had any children; like many other women God worked through, she was probably barren. And, 7 years after she married, her world was turned upside down.

Here's how she is described in Scripture:
"There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying.” - Luke 2:36-37
How did she make the decision to spend her time at the temple? Was an immediate thing? Or did she have to first get over her grief? When did God make clear His call on her life, to prophesy about Him?

She was of a Levitical tribe. Perhaps there were tasks at the temple for the unmarried/widowed women to do. Perhaps through that, she was drawn closer and closer to the Lord. Whatever happened, we know that she was dedicated to the Lord with her whole being.

I pray for that same dedication.

It has been an honor, yet a challenge, to bring her to life. I'm trying to balance her age with grace, to figure out how old she should talk and act while not being inconsistent with her dances. Through makeup, I've added old-age wrinkles to her character, though not nearly enough for a typical 84-year-old woman! I like to think that spending so much time in the presence of the Lord would have kept her young. =)

What would she have felt, spending each day and night at the temple? My mom jokes that I've truly taken on her character, with the amount of time I've spent at the church building these past few months. Teaching, planning, organizing, and rehearsing does take a lot of time. Though I've never been there night and day, I've spent a few days there from morning until after the sun goes down. I'm there for an average of 3-5 hours at a time, but have spent upwards of 7 hours getting things ready. It hasn't been every day, but I have averaged 4 days a week - and a few times every day of the week except Wednesday and Friday!

The majority of time is spent with others, teaching classes or directing rehearsals. But there have been many hours spent alone, organizing costumes in closets, working on my own dances in front of the mirrors, or looking for props through the long, empty hallways. Those times spent alone, as I worked while praying for Beyond Bethlehem, have been tiring, but refreshing. Through them, I've gotten a glimpse of how Anna might have felt, as she worshiped the Lord and interceded for her nation.

The most difficult dance I've choreographed thus far is Anna's beginning solo. When I heard "Hope of Israel" by Michael W. Smith, the instrumental music stirred my soul, and I could just see Anna dancing to it. But when it came down to setting the movements, I kept getting stuck, then going back and changing what I had come up with the day before. It was the last dance to finish choreographing for the muscial, and as the time neared, I wondered if it would come together. But finally, as I danced alone in the church building after Tuesday classes two days before Thanksgiving, God brought it together. As I ended on the ground, panting as my muscles cried in exhaustion, I prayed that God would use it all for His glory.

Beyond Bethlehem isn't about Anna - it's about our Lord Jesus Christ and His descent to earth. But Anna is a part of the story, as she longed for Him to appear, rejoiced at His coming and told others about Him.

I pray that God will use me as His instrument, showing others the example of this woman of His, who has inspired me so greatly.

Photo Credits: Lavonne Hart, Samantha Brooks, JP Lofgren

Monday, December 14, 2009

Tenderness

Because the newborn baby Jesus is onstage for so long, and is even held while dancing, we couldn't use a real baby. Though real babies are always cuter, I couldn't trust one to be on stage that long without crying!

So, we found a realistic-looking baby doll and have been practicing to make it seem real. After all, if you act as if it's a real baby, the audience will see a real baby. If you act like it's just a baby doll, that's what they'll see.

When I saw the below pictures, I knew the actors were truly getting the hang of it. These shots are so sweet and tender!

Joseph gently lays down his adopted son.

Mary cuddles her baby boy.

Photo credit: Samantha Brooks

O Come All Ye Faithful

Yesterday, on Sunday, December 13th, Ballet I presented "O Come All Ye Faithful" at Fountain of Grace for the morning service. One of the girls couldn't come, but the three that could nicely worked through the slight changes, and did a great job!

Dancing turns out blurry in pictures sometimes, but that just makes them look more like angels, right? ;-)

"O Come let us adore Him, Christ the Lord."

"Glory to God, all glory in the highest!"

Photo Credit: JP Lofgren

Friday, December 11, 2009

Sorting Pictures

I've been sorting a lot of pictures today, between yesterday's dance class pictures, presentation at Prattville Health and Rehab, cast pictures, and first dress rehearsal.

My friend Samantha Brooks, kindly took the ones during dress rehearsal, and I'll be uploading more of those as time goes on. The two below I couldn't resist sharing now, however.

It's always neat when you find a picture that has almost everyone in the air!

This one was just so sweet; a Daddy about to pick his daughter up to spin her around.

Photo Credit: Samantha Brooks

Presentation at Prattville Health and Rehab

On the afternoon of Thursday, December 10th, The King's Praise Ballet danced at Prattville Health and Rehab. The residents were truly blessed, and the girls did really well! To see a full album of pictures from this opportunity, please click here.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Coming Together

There's still a lot to do, but things are coming together. Tomorrow afternoon The King's Praise Ballet shares at Prattville Health and Rehab, and that evening will be the first dress rehearsal for the actors.

Exciting things are in store. Though tough at times, I enjoy the adventure as God brings things together.

Photo Credit: Lavonne Hart

Thankful for my Dad

My family always helps a lot with each production. Mom gets to see choreography and read things first, and is one I bounce ideas off of. Jubilee is also great for discussing ideas with - she's not afraid to tell me if something looks or sounds silly. Mom and Jubilee are always willing to help set up/take down things before and after rehearsals. Elijah videotapes if he's available, and Lydia helps in whatever way she can; this time she's running the spotlight!

For "Beyond Bethlehem," my dad has really gone the extra mile. He's always helped and supported each production, from setting things up to running sound, to acting in it if I need him to, although memorization is hard for him. But for this one, he has devoted a lot of time to researching and ordering the right theatre fixtures (lights) and control equipment for me, finding the best deal and lending me the money until I can pay them off (which should be soon!). He designed and built the stands to hang the lights on, since he could get the materials cheaper than we could order them ready-made. But, that meant he had to spend many extras hours buying, building, and testing them.

On Monday, we spent 7 hours at Fountain of Grace together. He set up the stands and hung each of the 8 fixtures as I organized costumes and props. He then tested the lights, focused them, and showed me how to control them, then patiently waited while I figured out the cues. Finally, around 8:45 PM we headed home, still not having eaten supper. Yet, he never complained.

The next day, he drove with me to pick up the backdrops I'm borrowing from a friend. They were dirty from having been stored in a barn, so he helped me wash them, even as it started to rain. After treating me to lunch, he helped me set up the dividers, then programmed the light cues while I hung the curtains. Things always take longer than you'd planned, and 5 hours had passed from the time we started out until the time we got home. After a quick supper (thanks to Jubilee and Mom's preparations) and only around an hour at home, it was back to Fountain of Grace for the evening rehearsal. He ran the light board for two hours, and then helped put things away before heading home.

I truly am blessed with a wonderful father - and a wonderful family. Thank you all for helping so much! These productions could never happen without you.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Come, Oh Redeemer Come

Yesterday, Sunday December 6th, Ballet II had the opportunity to share "Come Oh Redeemer Come" at Fountain of Grace during their morning service. It gave a taste of "Beyond Bethlehem," which I was able to give an invitation to after we danced.

It was hard to dance on the small stage, but the girls did well and it was a blessing to share with the congregation.

"Come, Oh Redeemer Come... Grant us peace."

Photo Credit: JP Lofgren

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Sewing Costumes

Thanks to all of the costumes we sewed last summer, I don't have as many to make this time. However, there are still some extras we needed, and some little details to add for each character. I had to make a few more tunics, and found 7 great sheets and costumes for $9 at Goodwill. You certainly can't beat that price for material!

Two weeks ago I spent around 11 hours over the weekend sewing. Since then, I've worked on bits and pieces here and there, but haven't had as much time to devote to it. This weekend, I'm looking into sewing a lot again, for next week is our first dress rehearsal and ballet presentation at a nursing home! I really enjoy the sewing - it's relaxing and rewarding - but it does take a bit of time. Thankfully, there's not too many things to finish. It will just take some persistence and time.

One fun thing I've enjoyed making for this musical is hats. I feel like quite the milliner. =) A bit of satin, ribbon, and cardboard turns into a kingly turban for a wise man, while some muslin turns into the perfect shepherd's hat. There's also been quite a few sashes and head coverings to craft. For the wise men's "daughters" (dancers for the song), I ordered some beautiful purple, ruffly dresses. However, two of the dresses turned out way too long, so I've had to hem them by hand. One of them is completed, and I have the other to go. It's a challenge, taking up yards and yards of ruffle...

The spot I work often isn't the neatest. Shocking, I know. ;) It gets the job done, though!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009