Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Give God Glory?

What does it means to give God the glory? Is it something that one needs to "feel"/ "experience" by oneself, something that cannot be explained and one can only know when it somehow happens... when the Spirit moves maybe? Or is there anything else to it?

In most cases when I have heard people talking about giving God glory it often entails singing. Now for the musically gifted I am sure this is amazing. But for those of us who are not, who are therefore subtely coerced by church tradition to somehow experience God through music and give glory, worship and so on, it becomes a little difficult.

Then ofcourse we pray saying "Lord this is for your glory"... or "Let this bring glory to your name"... what does that really mean? I am finding it increasingly difficult to figure.

I feel now that I really need to find Jesus in the raw. Go after him with clenched fist and biting teeth and say "show me who you are ... I don't know!!!!!" Hound him... reverse the roles in the hound of heaven poem and go after God!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Managing Stage at Vision 2020

Wrote this for the Vision 2020 brochure Script Peoples Theatre brought out this year.

If you thought you could figure out what stage management is from a book or a website… ahem! Think again. You could of course read the many manuals, how-to-guides, dos and don’ts available, but unless you took the course in Stage Management (at the Yale School of Drama, or some other such bastion of erudition, (I’m guessing), you’re in for a big surprise!

A stage manager needs to manage all technical aspects of a production, and the people involved in it. Now, managing the technical side is easy. A couple of excel sheets, some basic organizational skills, a phone that can save an additional 100 numbers and you’re set. But people… ah! There in lies a stage manager’s true worth.

Vision 2020 productions normally have a cast anywhere between 75 to 100 college students and working folk, and not all of them are jumping for joy to be part of the rigorous rehearsal schedule the production demands. Getting out of bed to be at rehearsals at 6:30am, or rushing back from class for the 4:30 session does not always appeal. Working people and college students don’t have that kind of time on their hands. If the former are busy putting food on the table, the latter are busy testing out the many stages the college offers for stardom.

Still, after many phone calls, invitations through some theatre enthusiasts, some cajoling from the staff at TIE, they come. Some take the process very seriously, and some are there for the ride. Either way, it’s the stage manager’s job to see that everyone is happy and getting what they are looking for, as much as humanly possible. Names, faces, temperaments, likes and dislikes, abilities and challenges, the stage manager must make mental notes on each cast member, and file it neatly for retrieval when the time calls for it. And the time will come.

One person decides the role they are playing this year is not as important as the one they did last year. Another person believes that bagging a lead role means they are indispensable. Still another simply lives in another time zone and geographic location – at least in his/ her head. People decided to take walks, take a lunch break, have tea, and even go home just before their scene is going to be rehearsed. What does one do?

Have a chat with the actor who believes he should be the star of the production. Give him another responsibility and make him feel important without bringing him centre stage. Drop the star for a day or two, bring in some competition, he’ll be at rehearsal a half hourly the next day. And for the spaced-out ones, well patience is the key, and some gentle reminders… every three hours if necessary! The others, well a firm voice and a few threats sometimes works. If not, you’ll have to find your own magic potion to save the day.

As much as the stage manager may seem the taskmaster, he or she will also need to play nurse, friend, agony aunt, advisor and motivator. Actors, taken up by their characters, can often bang their heads on the stage floor while grieving, or knock the lights out of another actor in a fight scene. A stage manager needs to have ice, a first aid kit, and common sense. All injuries don’t need hospitalization, so treat them in-house. On the other hand, some actors are more delicate than others and they may require special attention.

One can’t always boss the cast around. They will simply stop listening. Theatre is about building relationships, and the stage manger must be friends with the cast, listen to sob stories if need be, share pearls of wisdom now and then, and get people to keep going when they don’t feel like it. She also needs to check if the cast is eating right, sleeping well, and getting enough exercise, and in the case of V2020, keeping their grades up in class.

As production work begins the stage manger needs to be able to pre-empt mishaps, and trouble shoot on her toes. I believe a good stage manager is one step ahead of the director (though he may not be aware of it), and should not leave room for the director to ask for something. If he does, it should already be done.

Additional responsibilities of the stage manger at V2020 are publicity and bringing the audience in for two of the performances. Filling 2000 seats is not easy and one must doggedly invite people and push the press for coverage. Of course, the good thing about V2020 is that one receives a lot of support from the staff and the students. So one needn’t conjure up images of the lone SM putting up posters across town. You really do have a 100 PR people at your disposal!

On the day of the performance, the stage manager must stay extremely calm, at least on the outside, and ensure that everyone is in place for their scenes, costumes are on right, sets and props are in place, makeup done, and cues answered. At the end, it is the satisfaction of a smoothly run performance, a content cast, and a happy audience that make the SM’s toil and sweat worth the while.

Greed and Entitlement

At lunch a colleague was talking about her recent trip home. She met a chief marketing manager or something of that sort of a large corporate company over dinner. The woman talked about how fantastic her company was and how they had to “wipe out” smaller distributors, and glorified their strategy to take over the market. As difficult as this was to work through the woman went on to talk about how when people encroached on land that her family owned, she and her mother went down one night and burned the houses down!

I gasped. And since then have not been able to stomach this. Burned the houses of people who encroached on your land? Like you don’t have enough money and power to reclaim your land through the law? Burn it down yourself? You and your mother? It’s absurd? And she obviously felt no remorse and was talking about it at a dinner party and everyone there didn’t object either! Sure we know these things happen but it’s still horrifying!

How does one deal with something like this? While it isn’t surprising, how do we deal with the blatant insensitivity, selfishness, and greed?

One-line verses

The trouble with learning memory verses I think is that we cling to a line in the Bible while we have no clue what the context of that line is. For the past few weeks I have been reminded of “None of you should think more highly of yourself than you ought” Romans 11. I blamed this verse (among others) for my insecurity and feeling insignificant. However, if one looks at the rest of the passage it’s about something else. Even with years of Sunday school and church and seminary even, I kept thinking that this verse aided my low self-esteem. We are not told to learn and understand entire passages of the Bible; in fact, entire books would make more sense really. How can anyone meditate on one paragraph of a letter? How would you know what the writer is talking about if you only read 14 lines? We can’t break up the books of the Bible and study only chapters. We need to see the chapters in the light of the larger book, and indeed in the light of the larger Book itself!