Friday, March 30, 2012

Im Back

At long last, I am back on Think Creative Ministries blog. I had forgotten the password for this blog and had to do some digging to find it. But Here I am and I will be posing things more often. Think Creative Ministries is Back !!!!!!!!!!! :)

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Sunday, December 12, 2010

O Holy Night explored

Well, I’m back here on the Think Creative Ministries blog. This time, we’ll leave the theater thoughts and Drama Ministry tips alone. As we begin to think about and prepare for the Holiday season this year, let’s take a look at how the Christmas Carols and Hymns we know by heart and sing almost without thinking truly do have deep theological meaning. Christmas is more than simply celebrating the birth of a baby. It’s about recognizing why He came and what He would do while He was here on this earth. Jesus left the Manger and headed straight for the Cross. Along the way he taught us what love was and how to follow God and please the Father. Then, He laid his life down so that we too could know the life giving power of his gift of love and salvation and the indwelling of His Holy Spirit.
The Lord has laid this Christmas Carol on my heart this year and I want to share with you some of the deeper meanings of this great hymn.

O Holy Night! The stars are brightly shining, (God makes it obviously clear)

It is the night of the dear Saviour's birth. (The long awaited Messiah has come)

Long lay the world in sin and error pining. (We are helplessly stuck in sin)

Till He appeared and the Spirit felt its worth. (But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.)

A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices, (Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
you may now dismiss your servant in peace.
30 For my eyes have seen your salvation,)

For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn. (The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.)

Fall on your knees! Oh, hear the angel voices! (How often do fall on our knees in the light of the glory of the Lord?)

O night divine, the night when Christ was born;
O night, O Holy Night , O night divine!
O night, O Holy Night , O night divine!

Led by the light of faith serenely beaming, (And we know that faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of we do not see)

With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand. (I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.)

O'er the world a star is sweetly gleaming, (The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!)

Now come the wisemen from out of the Orient land. (Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit

The King of kings lay thus lowly manger; (rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.)

In all our trials born to be our friends. (I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.)

He knows our need, our weakness is no stranger, (For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are- yet without sin)

Behold your King! Before him lowly bend!
Behold your King! Before him lowly bend! (The fear of the Lord is the beginning f wisdom)

Truly He taught us to love one another, (A new command I give you. Love one another as I have Loved you)

His law is love and His gospel is peace. (For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh,)

Chains he shall break, for the slave is our brother. (Christ came to destroy the workings of the devil)

And in his name all oppression shall cease. (There is power in calling on the name of Jesus. All things in heaven and earth and below the earth bow and submit to the name of Jesus)

Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
With all our hearts we praise His holy name.
Christ is the Lord! Then ever, ever praise we, (Sing to the Lord for He is Good, His love endures forever.)

His power and glory ever more proclaim!
His power and glory ever more proclaim! (Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again, Rejoice.)

Thursday, June 3, 2010

What does a Director do?

The job of the director is to effectively communicate the imaginative and creative vision of the script. Many people have the idea that a director is a dissatisfied obsessive-compulsive person who constantly calls “cut” and yells at the actors for missing a mark or line. This is just not the case, especially with Drama Ministry. The director serves, in many ways, as a creative manager who can both motivate the actors as well as create an atmosphere of controlled chaos. The director must tell the actors what to do, but at the same time allow for the actors to offer creative input to the scene. This is why the director must not be married to any one specific idea. The director should place himself as a sort of team leader to the group. The idea is that the scene being created is a group effort with many equally important members. The director is one of the members who drive the creative bandwagon to its desired destination. If the wagon goes off track, it is the job of the director to get everyone back on the same page, sometimes literally. The director is also a sort of cheerleader to the group. If an actor is experiencing difficulty with a scene or line, the director must encourage them to keep at it and give constructive criticism. Many times the director will offer differing ways of playing the scene. The director can also be a source of information for the cast. For example, an actor may have a question regarding some of the material in the script. The director must be able to explain what is intended and how to best achieve the goal.

The first thing the director must do is read the script. If the director is also the writer of the script, they must look at it with a fresh pair of eyes. While writing is the process of creating a scene in ones head, the director must turn what is written on paper and transform it into a reality. The number one question that should be on the mind of every director is, “How can I make this work?” While the director is reading, he must begin to visualize what he wants it to look like on the stage or on camera depending on what sort of media the director is working with. Many times it is helpful to close the eyes and imagine what the scene will look like. What kind of mental pictures pop into your head as you ponder the scene. Do not let limitations such as cost or availability of resources come into play during the brainstorming session. Thinking is free and the resources are limitless in a brainstorming session. Really let your brain go to town while you imagine what the scene will look like. You may want to ask yourself several questions as you brainstorm. The following are only several questions that can be constructive during this time. You may come up with more as you think about turning the written words into a performance that will be seen by an audience. Do I understand the overall themes and message of the script? What is it saying to me? What sort of emotion is the script conveying? How do I translate the feelings and emotion of the script to the stage? What do I want the set to look like? What do I want the actors to wear? Where do I want them to stand? Where do I want them to enter and exit? What kind of characters are these people? How should these people sound? Do they speak with any specific vocal pattern? How do I envision the scene playing out?

The second thing the director does is cast the show. As we have mentioned in earlier articles, Think Creative Ministries does not hold formalized auditions. This can be a blessing and a curse all rolled into one. While it is true that as a ministry we want as many people as possible to try their hand at acting and being involved in ministry, this also allows all levels of experience to be brought into one show. This kind if situation puts much more work on the director than if a traditional audition had taken place. The director must spend time with the less experienced actors to ensure that they grasp what they are to do. This is why the director must be patient at all times.

For many, participating in Drama Ministry will be their first time doing any kind of theater performance. As the director and team leader, you want this to be a positive and encouraging encounter. You want to model the idea that although performing a drama takes work, it is a fun activity and is all for the glory of God.

The fact that Drama Ministry exists for the soul purpose of spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ and giving Him praise must be emphasized at all times. As a director, you should pray with your cast before they go on stage. This will curb any last minute jitters and assure them that no matter what happens on the stage, God is the one who gets the credit.

Now that you have your actors, you must assign roles for them. If you know your actors well and know their level of experience, this can be relatively painless. You simply plug them into roles in the script that best suit their level of skill. For those whose skill level is unknown, you may want to play around with the roles for a bit to see which one best suits them. As a director, you should make this process into a game. Say things like, “Ok. Who would like to read this part? Hmmm, that is very good. Would anyone else like to try reading this part?” What you, as a director, are doing is discovering the skill level of your actors.

Notice that I did not say talent. One of the biggest misconceptions in any creative field is that it is reserved for the so called talented. Skill and talent are two very different animals altogether. Creative arts are skills. Anyone can learn a skill. Talent, on the other hand is the natural ability to do something. Even a very talented actor needs to learn the skills required to become better.

The motif that should be used in Drama Ministry is that skill and talent are arbitrary. If the actor has a genuine desire to learn, they can be taught. In many cases it is up to the director to reach and teach them. Unless the drama team at your church has classes on acting, the only education your actors will receive is on the job training. As the old saying goes, “practice makes perfect.” As the members of the group mature in their craft you will see how they will become better actors. This is why sometimes it can be beneficial to include younger kids into the group. In a few years, these kids will be well-seasoned actors. It is best to have a wide variety of ages in any drama team. This works for several reasons. First, you want to have as many people as possible in the creative environment of praising God through Drama Ministry. Second, a variety of ages and genders can assure that almost any production can be performed. Third, by having a variety of ages in the group, you always have actors coming up as the older ones leave for college, or move away, etc. The idea is to have an ongoing workshop of people.

The next thing you should do is to conduct a read-thru of the script. A read-thru is when the director and cast sit at a table and read the script with each actor reading their own part. Sometimes this is called a table-read. This is a time when many of the questions regarding the script should be asked. The director should make sure that everyone knows what is going on in the script and understand its themes, jokes and message. Some vocal directing can take place here. The director can help the actors find their motivation and character development. Although this is a good time to do such things, the main idea for the read-thru is to get the cast familiar with the

Now that you have read thru the script, you need to block the scene. Blocking is a theater term for the scripted movement on stage. A basic knowledge of stage directions is required. The director must know how to position the actors so that they can be seen and aid the overall storytelling of the scene. It is the director’s decision where to place the actors along with how and where they should move. The director must decide when and actor is to enter or exit the stage and when this is going to take place. This is also where much of the fun of the creative process takes place. The director must be open to slight detours in the rehearsal time. Many times the actors need some time to goof off, improv, and play around in order to tap into their inner actor. Let them play for a bit, but at some point bring them back in to the scene. This is also the tome where many actors will experiment with the scene. They will want to try things to see if they work. You as the director may even want to try things in the scene. You need to be open to all that might occur in this process.

The next step is the rehearsal. Much the rehearsal will go on like this. The actors will want to play and you will want to try out what works. As the rehearsals move on these decisions need to be made and then the group needs to begin getting ready or the performance date. All props and costumes must be arranged for. In Drama Ministry, there is rarely a costume or prop manager, so all props and costumes must be gathered by the cast and director. Another job of the director is to over see who is going to bring what to ensure that all props and costumes will be ready be the time of the performance. At some point, the director will need to let the actors know when it is time to be off book. This means that all lines must be memorized. The blocking is in order, the lines down and the cast is ready for their first performance. Note to all first time directors: Your scene will never seem as though it is ready to be seen by an audience. This is the wonderful blessing in this work. Even though you may think the scene is not quite ready, God has a way of pulling everything together. At the end of the day, we need to know that it is all in his hands anyway.

You are now at your dress rehearsal. The first time many people hear the term dress rehearsal is in relation to a wedding. In my estimation, this is stretching the term to its utter most limit. Wedding dress rehearsals are very scripted and are quite difficult to mess up. A theater dress rehearsal on the other hand is a time when the scene is run from beginning to end with all props and costumes without stopping and is a good look at how the show will appear on stage. Dress rehearsals usually take place a night or two before the show. Some theater companies have multiple dress rehearsals, while others give the night before the show off to the actors. This is your decision as the director. At the end of the run-thru, the director should give notes. (notes should be a part of most rehearsals but mostly when full unstopped run-thus are going on) The director will make notes on a sheet of paper and indicate what he thought was good, bad, needing changing, needs work, etc. Only make notes on the big important things. If an actor is doing fine with their role and needs no note about what they are doing wrong, don’t make a note. The idea is that no note is a good note. Just note the things that need to be changed.

Well, the nigh has arrived. In most theaters, this is the time for the director to sit back and enjoy the show. But sometimes in Drama Ministry, the director may have to act as a stage manager and stage crew. In this case, the director will have to remain back stage and make sure that everyone gets their prop and knows their cue. (the time they go on) If the drama team is large enough, a stage manager can be a part of the team. Many times, just as with professional theater, other actors will help out back stage. Try to build this comradely among those in your team. This will help with the godly principle of bearing others burdens.

Well that’s pretty much it for directing. I have tried to walk you through he process as best I can. But to be quite honest, this has done very little to describe the joys of directing. Much of directing, as well as acting, is an on the job experience. Happy Directing and Goodnight. ☺

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Writing... Now Go!!!

Writing and the creative process can be extremely fun and extremely challenging. Nothing makes the ideas come out faster than having a deadline. The deadline provides the writer with a certain amount of urgency. Otherwise, the writer could brainstorm all day and not produce a thing. The writer brainstorms all the time. Each new experience is fodder for a story or sketch. You will notice I said sketch, this is from my last post on the difference of a skit and a sketch. The deadline is that little voice that tells the writer that they had better use one of these ideas and turn it into something.

The second thing a writer must do is try to think of what it is they want to convey. In Drama Ministry, the point is to convey a scriptural or spiritual truth. There me be something on the writer's heart that they want to illustrate in the form of a sketch. Perhaps the writer has recently read something and they want to write a sketch about it. This should always be simmering on the back burner of any writer. How can a Biblical moral or lesson fit into what I'm doing.

Third, is the kind of story that is to be told. This is the hardest part. Many writers take from genres and apply the point to this specific genre. For example, A writer may do a sketch about the importance of Bible reading and place the story in the Western genre. Or perhaps a writer wants to do a sketch about honesty and place it in the Space Sci-Fi genre. These are all ways of coming up with ideas for a sketch.

Fourth, The writer may have seen a movie or read a book that has elements that has struck a chord with the writer. This may be an inspiration for the writer. The writer will place their point into this idea.

Fifth, and this one is a golden gem, is when the writer already has an idea of what it is they want to write and they develop the idea. This kind of thing happens in a very complex way and is hard to explain,

Sixth, is the brainstorm session. There are two different kinds of brainstorming sessions, the self session and the group session. The first is where the writer uses their imagination and takes all that they have in their tool box, such as movies, books anything they have seen or heard and puts into use to come up with an idea. The second is when 2 or more people come together and bounce ideas off one another. These sessions can work quite well if the the word NO is taken off the table. There are no bad ideas, just ones that may not work in this context. The minute the "N" word is said, a large amount of momentum is gone. When one person has an idea and the other puts their spin in it, it takes on a life and the idea begins to move. This sort of thing can go back and forth, each time putting more flesh on the story.

Once the idea has been decided, ie. (I know what it's going to be about) The writer can begin to put it all together. The writer must decide what kind of and how many characters the sketch will contain. For example, if the writer has decided to do a sketch about a Western with the lesson Bible reading. The writer must decide what kind of characters they want.

Every story must have a protagonist, and antagonist, a conflict, and a moral. The protagonist is the main character and the antagonist is the character that is in direct opposition to the main character. In the little story we're making here, the protagonist could be (and I'm coming up with this as I type) Sticky Fingers Steven, the fastest stealer in the West. The antagonist might be Sheriff Dunlap, the mild mannered Lawman in the town of Shady Falls. The conflict might be that Steven is trying to steal a great treasure. The moral of the story could come when he is caught and learns what a treasure the Bible really is.

Ok, Lets put some meat on these bones. We need a beginning, middle, and an end. The beginning could be that The towns folk have heard that Sticky Fingers Steven is coming to town and they are all afraid of getting robbed. So they hide. The Mayor decides to put the town's greatest treasure in a safety deposit box at the Bank. Sticky Fingers shows up and has heard about the treasure and promptly begins by robbing the Bank in attempts of getting the great treasure. Just at that moment, Sheriff Dunlap bursts in the door and tells Sticky to freeze. The town's people begin to come out from hiding. Sticky tells Dunlap that he plans on stealing the treasure and opens the safety deposit door to discover a Bible. Sticky is very confused that the town's greatest treasure is a Bible and asks why a Bible would be a great treasure. Sheriff Dunlap then goes on to explain why the Bible is such a great treasure. Sticky begins to see the point and asks Sheriff Dunlap to explain the Bible to him. And the last line Would have Dunlap saying that he'll tell him all about it in jail.

Ok, we've put some meat on the bones. The next step is to write dialogue. By taking this skeleton, The writer can construct dialogue as to what the characters might say as this whole story is unfolding. They may ask themselves things like: How would Sticky Fingers Steven Talk? What kinds of things might he say? What does his character look like? How would he respond to Sheriff Dunlap? The idea when writing dialogue is to write the lines as a person would actually sound. You want it to be as conversational and as natural as possible. The writer then follows the basic story plot and constructs the dialogue to fit and help to drive the story.

The next thing to think about, while writing the dialogue, is what kind of jokes, gags, puns, references, and over all silliness will be in the sketch. This part is the most fun because the writer gets to be silly and use all their back knowledge of funny things and put it in the sketch.

Last of all the moral must be stated very clearly. This can be done in the script, or as an explanation after the Sketch, of both. Personally, for children's ministry, I like doing both. The script says the moral and then some one talks to them about it after the sketch is done.

As you have seen, we have taken an idea and fleshed out a sketch with a moral and hope that it works. :)

Friday, April 9, 2010

Skit vs. Sketch

What's the difference between a "skit" and "sketch"? Many people, even those who are involved in Drama Ministry can be hard pressed to make a distinction between the two terms. For many, the terms are synonymous and are used interchangeably. Let's take a closer look at these terms to help clear up any confusion.

First off, the skit.
A skit is generally non scripted and largely improvisational. Skits usually seek to convey a single point and can be taught fairly quickly and require no rehearsal time at all. Most of the time, skits do not have props involved. They generally possess a vague outline indicating what is to happen during the skit. Often times skits are thought up on the spot and then presented to a small group such as with youth and bible studies. While most skits try to be humorous and are often outlets for goofing off. There is very little characterization in skits. Players are more concerned with getting the intended point across to the viewer than portraying a specific character. Some skits attempt to convey some sort of lesson or spiritual truth. Skits often do not have a thematic thru-line and lack a specific beginning, middle, and end.

One great example of a typical youth group skit is one that I call, "The Gift". In this particular skit a person comes into the space and is expressing happiness due to a special "gift" (cupped hands) they have just received. The person's words and actions are largely unimportant as long as the viewer get the idea that this person has been given a gift and they are happy with it. Next, a second person comes into the space and appears to be sad. Person #1 gives person #2 some of the "gift" and both are now happy. The level of happiness can be played however big or small the people involved desire. This is where goofing off and improv comes into play. After 1 has given the gift to 2, 1 leaves the space. Person #3 comes into the space and is expressing some sort of negative emotion (IE. sad, angry, depressed etc.) 2 decides to give 3 some of the "gift". 3 is now happy too. The last person comes into the space and is not given the "gift". 3 simply talks to 4 and 4 soon walks away. After 4 leaves, 3 soon discovers that the "gift" is gone and is wondering where it went. 1 comes back on stage and tells the viewers the point. God's love is a gift that needs to be spread around, if we don't, it loses its power.

As you can see this skit, although very effective and powerful, does not require line memorization, can be taught quickly, has no rehearsal, props, script, and can be as outrageous or serious as the players want it to be.

A sketch on the other hand is a whole different animal altogether.
A sketch follows all the basic elements of a regular stage performance and has a specific beginning, middle, and end. they are, in many aspects, small plays.

First of all, a sketch has a script. Although many of the lines in a sketch can be ad-libbed as the actors see fit, the lines are crucially important to get the story from point A to point B. Also, the lines help to set up thematic elements such as characterization, jokes, and plot direction. Line memorization is always required for the performance of sketches.

Sketches possess a cast of characters who carry out the action. An actor must adopt the persona of their character. The focus of the action is not on the person onstage, rather, it is on the character and what they are doing. Sketches often require props and costumes. This helps to give the sketch more integrity and allows the audience to fully buy what is being presented in front of them.

Sketches need to be rehearsed and require blocking. Blocking, is a theatrical term for the scripted movement onstage and lets the actor know when they are to enter, exit, cross the stage, pick up or use a prop, where to stand, what kind of posture is to be used for a given character, and much more. All these aspects are handled by a director who is in charge of the sketch.

The director schedules rehearsals and gives the actors "notes" on their performance. During a typical rehearsal, the director will help the actors to find motivation for characters, assist with line delivery and vocal tone, help the actors understand both the text of the script and subtext of the jokes and humorous bits to be conveyed.
A sketch must have a point. In Drama Ministry, it should have something to do with the Bible or spiritual principles about how we are to live our lives as Christians. Each sketch must make this moral obvious for the audience.