Why Leadings?

Not to lead, but to be led            -- by the Holy Spirit.

See Leader, Servant, or Slave? in the section below, "Walking the Walk".

Jack in Denali National Park, 2012.

God's Wrath

Why was Sodom destroyed? Ezekiel tells us in chapter 16, verse 49: "This was the sin of your sister, Sodom: Pride, full-ness of bread, and abundance of idleness. Neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy."

That's also why Jerusalem was destroyed.

And now, with greed as our national virtue, what hope is there for the United States of America? We are afflicted by imperialistic pride, obesity, and entertainment addiction, and we are all called to do our part to "strengthen the hand of the poor and needy".

"Strengthen the hand" is the King James wording. Modern translations say "help the poor and needy." And there's a world of difference between the two. Helping the poor = as little as throwing some cash in the Salvation Army bucket at Christmas time. That's charity. It's doing for, not doing with.

My Grandmother was right about charity. On a below-zero day, she went out on the back porch with a skillet to throw hot grease on the back-yard snow. She shivered as she re-entered the kitchen and said, "Wooooh, colder than charity."

Strengthening the hand is much different. We get personally involved with another person who needs help, and we work with her or him to get the needed help. That's risky. You're vulnerable. It takes prayer, time and patience. You need knowledge and wisdom from the LORD. There are great rewards, however. You get a brother or sister.

Strengthening the hand is great work for our churches -- which we ignore far more often than we perform. Why? Because we're afflicted with the Ameri-can curse of individualism. Christians are to be a tribe -- a tribe that takes care of each other. In Galatians 6:16, Paul calls us "the Israel of God" -- the new 13th tribe.

Jesus said, "The poor you shall always have with you." He didn't mean that as a curse -- the notion that the poor are an inevi-table nuisance and expense, to be hidden in the slums. Rather, He was saying, "You shall always be among the poor."

When you strengthen hands, you fulfill Deuteronomy 15:4-5: "However, there need be no poor people among you, for in the land the LORD your God is giving you to possess as your inheritance, he will richly bless you, if only you fully obey the LORD your God . . ." It's a glorious responsibility and promise.

And how do prosperous Americans fulfill that promise? Generally, by making sure they have no contact with people who are poor -- and we have been that way from our beginnings in the 17th century. Early villages in Massachusetts solved the problem by out-lawing poor people. Today, we deal with the same problem by confining the poor in urban reservations, our slums.

As the Supreme Court Bailiff says at the beginning of each session, "God save the United States of America..." 

Tuesday
Jan032012

GUIDELINES FOR IMPROV  

Few of these tips are mine.  I gleaned freely from Keith Johnstone – except the first quote.

1.            “. . . whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”   I Corinthians 10:3

2.            Improv is group storytelling.  Do the story.  Leave everything else out.

3.           To start a scene:  Empty yourself and begin the action.  Put all of yourself into the action, including your whole brain.  Do it on impulse.  Check your impulses – get rid of impulses that won’t work or are in bad taste.  AND DO ALL THIS AT THE SAME TIME.

4.            Begin your story with a platform:  Show where, when, who, what and why in opening lines.

5.            You own the stage:  Be bold, be confident, be free, be joyful.

6.            Go over the top in rehearsal.  It’s easier for the director to slow you down than rev you up.

7.            With improv, rhythm matters.  Keep the pace going.

8.            With improv, relationships matter.  Show your relationships with eyes, body, gestures.

9.            At best, improv is learning about personal relationships.

10.            Trust each other; support each other.  Each of you is a supporting player.

11.            LISTEN.  And respond.  Or, stated another way, DON’T ACT, REACT.

12.            Focus on your feelings, not your lines.  Be in the moment.  React out of real emotions.

13.            Use your whole body; use your whole mind.  FOCUS.

14.            Make action choices to advance the story.  Story changes are “tilts”.  When in doubt, tilt.

15.            Respond to a tilt with “Yes, and . . . “  Don’t block tilts.  Use them.

16.            When another player brings something new to the scene, build on it.  Let tilts change you.

17.            Don’t chatter or ask questions.  Make the story happen.  Use the script if it helps.

18.            What is funny?  In improv, the ordinary, the expectable is funny.

19.            Keep a scene within the audience’s circle of expectation. Squelch impulses to do exotic tilts.

20.            Focus on the story; the laughs will come.  If you go after laughs, the story will suffer.

21.            Make a joke only if you cue the audience that it is a joke.

22.            You succeed in improv if other players want to work with you.

23.            Only enter a scene if you are NEEDED.

24.            You can enter a scene by --

                 going on stage                                               

                 shouting encouragement

                 bringing a new idea to the story line                       

                 carrying on a prop

                 making suggestions                                               

                 changing the lighting,

                 or anything that adds to and changes the situation.

25.            Don’t try to star; but if another has a great story and does it alone, watch and approve.

26.            Great dramatic scenes are between two people.  Become the third only when help is needed.

27.            When a scene isn’t working and you are ejected, grin, because it doesn’t matter anyway.

28.            The audience adores improvisers who can be thrown offstage and yet stay happy.

29.            The best way to help:  End a scene when it is at its peak.

30.            If you get a tidal-wave laugh, quit.  The audience doesn't care about the rest of the script.

 

TIPS  FOR  DIRECTORS

Don’t over-rehearse.  Keep the sketches edgy, loose, spontaneous, with an improv feel.

In rehearsals, encourage –

     Over-the-top behavior.

     Experimenting with changes in characters, relationships, status, and plot.

For players who don’t have parts in the rehearsed sketch, utilize them as assistant directors.  Have them take notes.  They can use their notes as reminders for positive comments.  They help the group by telling each other how we can improve our performance.

With experienced improv players, I use the following rehearsal sequence:

1.  Pray together.  I use the basketball huddle, with our hands piled on each other.

2.  A warm-up drill, such as telling a story one word at a time.  Going around the circle, each person adds only one word.  It’s training in reacting rather than thinking.  And it focuses on the most important element in improv – rhythm.

3.  Introduce the sketch to be rehearsed.

4.  Distribute the roles. 

5.  Each player reads his or her cards.

6.  Do a refreshing Bible study on the relevant Scripture.

7.  Run through the sketch.

8.  Critique the performance: 

9.  Praise all that you can:  Creativity, funny bits, insights, good lines, etc.

10.  Correct what you must:  Blocking (refusing to work with others’ tilts), breaking the rhythm, boring the audience, inappropriate or irrelevant bits, etc.

11.  Raise questions:  New tilts, different characterizations, deeper relationships, etc.

12.  Remind the players to remember their surprises from the first run-through.  Keep that sense of surprise – and build on it.

13.  Rehearse the scene again.  [If you are working with experienced players, they may be ready for performance.  If not, rehearse again.]

14.  Interview each player in role.  Be sure of a solid backstory for each character, so each player can respond  well in any situation.

15.  When you can take the time, other actions are productive:

     Have a testifying meeting:  Listen to how each of you met Jesus.

     Hold a script conference:  Brainstorm the sketch line by line. 

     Hold a free-for-all where everyone can toss out ideas.  Keep the effective bits.

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Purpose of this blog is to compile a book for my grandchildren to read in 25 years.

Copyright © 2011 by Jack Towe

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