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APPLYING THEATER (TERMS) TO OUR STORIES – Part 2

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I’ve always felt theater is filled with principles that can hold value in other parts of our life. Many of them are like metaphors, analogies, or word pictures that can serve to point the way, give some direction, encourage the things we do in our day-to-day communication. With my history as a theater teacher and experience as an actor and storyteller, I’ve thought about a few of these things and come up with some thoughts concerning our regular living and relationships:   SPEAK UP!   Your audience wants to hear every word from your mouth. It’s all about telling the story in a play. We tell the actor to use their diaphragm as they use their character’s voice, and  to “reach for the back wall”. Long ago this meant an actor(s) needed to speak loudly and clearly so that anyone sitting in the “cheap seats” (last several rows of the theater) could hear their non-amplified voices.   To do this takes practice and it means using your instrument every day, not just at play practice or in performance. When I taught theater arts and directed young people, I would encourage my actors/students to rehearse their lines outside, in the shower above the roar of the waters, or in an empty large bathroom or room. Doors and windows shut, of course.   We tend to not speak up (use volume) anymore. Do you find you have to ask people, “Could you say that again, please?” I don’t think you’re losing your hearing. I think we, culturally, are too busy speaking on our devices and with our fingers, and not with our voice. To use your cell phone to talk with someone (a voice-to-voice call) is a rare thing these days. Even talking without a microphone is rare. And oh no, what do we do if the blessed microphone goes out? We’ll have to actually raise the volume of our voice to be heard. As you know, someone in your audience is going to say: “Speak Up! We can’t hear you back here.”   At a recent theater experience the sound was off. You couldn’t hear the actors’ lines. Poor amplification or an issue with the sound was going on. It was frustrating for the audience. You could see people getting restless and tuning out. The actors were unaware as they assumed, they were being heard. Had they been aware, they could have filled the room with their skillful voices as they were a group of fine actors. Finally, the amplification improved but we had missed out on some great dialogue in the play.   There are some things about our stories and other’s stories where it would be great if we would all just speak up more! We might need to bethe encouragersof others speaking up. When we share first it makes it easier for someone else to then share. Or we might need to say, “Could you say that again, please,… we didn’t catch that back here?” We might...

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APPLYING THEATER (TERMS) TO OUR STORIES

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APPLYING THEATER (TERMS) TO OUR STORIES Part One  I’ve always felt theater is filled with principles that can hold weight in other parts of life and living. Much of it can hold truth and point the way because they are metaphors, analogies or word pictures about us and communication. Having a history in theater as a teacher/producer/director, actor and  storyteller, you can bet I’ve thought about these.  I actually apply many of them, teach them.  They are here for your own ponderings and encouragement. I have broken them up into a Part 1 & 2. I think I may do one on Improvisation, too. Another great love of mine—dialogue without an script. ENTRANCES and EXITS Entrances and Exits are very important in theater, and they are in our story of life, too. When I taught HS Theater Arts or when I have directed shows, I have tried to instill this importance in my actors—your entrance and exit is remembered by your audience. I would tell them, “Start to think about your entrance before you actually enter the scene on stage.” It’s essential that your audience see and begin to perceive your character before you even say a line. And when you exit the scene make sure it is a good exit filled with the intent and physicality of your character. Carry it out the door until you have completely cleared the stage–“Take it all the way to the wings (the backstage area),” as the sating goes. I have often thought about how our exits and entrances translate in real life and our day-to-day living. When we leave a job, a city, a church, a ministry shouldn’t it be a good exit? I believe  “the last and final line that we say” is what they will remember about us. It can say “I care and will continue to care.” It can also say the opposite. If there is no shared goodbye, we have still spoken something. When we introduce ourselves or are getting to know a person initially, these entrancesare called our first impressions.They stay with people for a long time. Fortunately, many times we are given a second, and third chance to make a better impression. Not so in theater. You have to hit the mark on your character’s first entrance. A first entrance of a character sets up an understanding of who that person will be in the rest of the scene, and the play. It applies to all of my comingsand goingsin life too. It can apply to my entrance into or my exit out of a meeting, …or to my appointments with family, friend and client, doctor, teacher, professor, coach,… or to a meeting with someone for a meal or a friendly gathering… or even, a first date! A great entrance and exit might be the deciding factor on further relationship. I have a friend that recently moved from one state to another. She was very good about her “goodbyes” leaving kind words and/or a gift...

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PERSPECTIVE-TAKING…a Key Life-Skill 

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Perspective-taking is the process by which an individual views a situation from another’s point-of-view. In other words, perspective-taking is the process of temporarily suspending one’s own point-of-view in an attempt to view a situation as someone else might be viewing it. I call it—”Walk to the other side of the table/car/room/small group and sit down.” If I understand or simply seek to understand your point of view I will benefit, I will grow, I will learn. There is a great possibility that I will change in an attitude, a misunderstanding, a false thought. There is an even greater possibility that I could change in a falsehood I have developed. A falsehood is believing something that isn’t true about something, a person, a happening or a circumstance. Fiction. Fabrication. Untruth. A lie. We go through everyday life accepting things as truth that is really a falsehood. We can believe something about someone and be completely WRONG! I’ve done it. Haven’t you? Oh, the JOY of being corrected in a falsehood about a person by taking a perspective on someone’s life. That’s what I love about movies, plays, and TV series. Humanity plays out before our eyes in different roles and circumstances. We can vicariously learn by our own perspective-taking of the roles of the hero/heroine, villain/villainess, the supporting roles, the story’s plot and forward movement of the problem, and its resolution. Perspective-taking is key for the writer or the storyteller. You cannot begin to write about something that you have not experienced unless you take some time to hear the storytelling in someone else’s life about that very experience. This will require my ability to listen and truly hear their story. Let it soak in, as in don’t interrupt their storytelling. Don’t place your story on top of their story (another Blog)—”That just reminded me of when…”. Just give the gift that is always in fashion—LISTEN. You can practice perspective-taking every day. Just determine to talk less and listen more to your everyday conversations. OF course, don’t check-out during the conversation, but you remain focused and attentive, listening to the story underneath the story they are sharing. For instance, I can choose to hear my son or daughter share about their day guessing at what they’ll say next, waiting to throw counsel on the situation OR I can choose to listen with my focus being on hearing what kind of day it really was for them. Even after that, if I have gained perspective on their day, I can seek to understand more by asking by way of a question: “Was it like this…? or, Did it feel or seem like this for you…?” That way they can correct my perspective-taking OR add on to what I perceive to understand what they’ve shared. Sound big? Maybe. Experiment with maturing this life-skill of perspective-taking. Walk to the other side of the table/car/room/small group and sit down and listen. See if it doesn’t change some things for you in the way you...

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My Author Unknown Trails… An Issue of Integrity

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  Have you ever heard or read a story on the net and thought, “Now, that’s a great story… I am going to share it on my Facebook page (or on my blog or forward it on to others)?” I’ve seen it done so many times. I’m embarrassed to say, I’ve done it, too. However, anytime I see “Author Unknown,” I am now immediately suspicious, especially when it’s a good story. With a little bit of time and research, I’ve been able to locate the actual writers associated with the admired story by Author Unknown. With their kindness and permission, I was able to use them in performance. Here are some of my research results: “The Cab Ride” by Kent Nerburn, true story “The Gift” by Reverend Nancy L. Dahlberg, true story “Merry Christmas From Heaven” (not “My First Christmas in Heaven”) a poem written by John W. Mooney in 1990 to commemorate his mother’s life and passing in 1989 Website: http://www.christmasinheaven.com  “Three Letters From Teddy” (not “The Story of Teddy Stoddard”) by Elizabeth Silance Ballard. This work of fiction was penned by Elizabeth Silance Ballard (N.C.) in 1974 and printed that year in HomeLife magazine, a Baptist publication where it was clearly labeled as fiction and presented as such, not as an account of a real-life personal experience. (from Snopes) In 1976 the story was reprinted in the Home Life magazine, again, because of numerous requests for the story. This sweet story has been used in radio broadcasts, books (Chicken Soup For The Soul, 2nd Helping), blogs, performances, there’s even a video of the story on youtube. Ms. Ballard said there were parts of the story that she had experienced in her own personal life and that she had woven into the story. Very common for writers to do this. I do this. However, the story was created by her, and out of her imagination. Both versions are available on this website https://www.truthorfiction.com/teddy/ My advice concerning the Author Unknown reality is try to find the real author. If the story sounds too good to be Author Unknown, it probably isn’t an unknown author. Do your research. Find the author and seek permission to use their story. To research ‘Author Unknowns’ start with the title in a Google search. When I hit a dead-end in the search, or want to confirm the author, I will Google a key phrase in the story. In the case of Kent Nerburn and Mary Dahlberg, I sought contact with the authors by googling their names and found email addresses. They were glad to hear from me, and permission was granted to use their story. Nancy Dahlberg sent me a “postscript” to the story that she later used, as she retold the story each Christmas and her son had become older and she felt she should include this, too. She was kind enough to send me this portion with her original story so that I could tell the whole story. Unfortunately, her version had...

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Ralph Twigger, Innkeeper

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  Ralph Twigger had been caring for Debra’s two boys, Josh and Jeremy, since March. He saw them off to school in the morning, helped with homework in the afternoon—all in exchange for a home-cooked meal. There had been a few adventures. A man in his seventies is bound to forget a few lunches. As a result, Ralph had become quite familiar with the school, the office staff and the boys’ teachers. Ralph even subbed for the crossing guard on sick days. And then there was the end of the year party when Ralph served as “Room Mom” for both the boy’s classes. No one would forget Ralph’s peanut butter surprise cookies.   They were ticking off holidays just like a family. The fourth of July was a picnic in the park with fireworks. Halloween was a hoot when all four of them dressed up as crayons (and ghosts). And Thanksgiving was real nice, too, with lots more to be thankful for than just Swanson’s Frozen Dinners.   But right after the Thanksgiving meal the boys pulled out coloring books, crayons, construction paper, glue, and glitter. Ralph soon figured it out. A ritual to usher in the Christmas season had descended upon this home. They’d barely finished the pumpkin pie when the Christmas carols began flowing.   “Help us, Ralph!” Josh, the oldest, was great at getting Ralph to try anything once.   “No thank you. I’m no artist.” Ralph was starting to feel a sad ache in the pit of his stomach that he hadn’t felt for a long time. He did not enjoy Christmas. He had stopped celebrating it when his wife, Rachel died.   “Please, Ralph. Mom got you a Christmas coloring book and crayons too!” Jeremy held them up for display.   “What?!”   Debra giggled as she handed him a cup of eggnog. Ralph hated eggnog, but politely took a sip. “It was the boy’s idea. They said you like to color.”   He swallowed the funny-tasting concoction, trying not to breathe. “Well now, that’s because the boys need some help from time to time with their coloring assignments.” He sounded a bit angry and the boys picked that up in his voice quickly.   “What’s wrong Ralph?”   The clock was sounding the hour of nine and his excuse for leaving this pre-Christmas celebration.   “I think we’ve worn Ralph out, boys.”   “I am a little tired,” he said, relieved that he had an excuse for his premature exit. As he walked over to the door, Debra met him there with an armload of leftovers.   “Here you go.” She hugged him and whispered in his ear, “Thank you Ralph for all you’ve been to me and the boys. We love you.”   His tongue stuck to the roof of his mouth. That sad feeling was there.   “Bye. See you tomorrow, Ralph.” Jeremy and Josh were waving the paper chain.   “Look Ralph, it’s as big as you!”   He knew...

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MOVING THE BOOKMARK FORWARD

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  I was in line at a Barnes and Noble Bookstore the other day and there was a rack of beautiful and elaborate gift-quality bookmarks near the cash registers. I marveled at how bookmarks have changed. Remember how bookmarks were once a common item in our lives? Bookmarks are strips of leather, cardboard, or other material used to mark one’s place in a book. As a kid, I remember the local public library gave you a paper bookmark when you checked out your books. I would take the greatest of care and use my bookmarks to remember my place in the book. Your public library allowed you to check out several books at a certain age, so I could have several bookmarks in use. I’ve collected some bookmarks over the years. I’ve also found them in old books. Right-Side-Up Stories used to have a bookmark with my poem Step Inside on the front of it. I need to bring that bookmark back. I’ve given bookmarks away as gifts, sent them to people in a card, … and I’m certain you have done the same. We don’t use bookmarks as much as we used to, do we? We read online or on a Kindle, Nook, iPad, or laptop that give us access to bookmarking our place.  Sometimes we replace bookmarks with something else when reading a real book. We’ll grab a piece of paper, an envelope, or bend down the corner of a page.  It’s never quite the same as a bookmark. Our lives are full of stories. The relationships in our lives are living stories. If you think about it, we are kind of like books with chapters. As people share their stories with us we would be wise to remember where we left off with them. Almost like a placing a mental bookmark. The hurried effort we live, the overwhelm of life, and work will attempt to crowd out the remembering. It will require us thinking for a second of a way to mentally and emotionally mark the place where we stopped in the conversation with that person. This is always a good idea. If we were to measure our life by the bookmarks we last placed in someone’s life, what page would we be on in their story? I have made a more recent habit of going back and checking in with people who have asked me to pray for them. In some way, the story they’ve been living has always changed. You can get the Facebook version or the intimate how-they-are-really-doing version by asking off the radar through a text, email or a phone call. The cost and effort? Time and intention. The value? Priceless. I encourage you to move the bookmark forward in a relationship today. The best part is that someone else’s amazing life story is being taken into your story as you do this.  While you are at it, turn the page in the storytelling of your life. Maybe they didn’t ask, but tell...

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Tune Into the Beauty

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I believe it has to do with the reality that I am purposefully trying to see things differently, and forging judgement. Be they my January 2017 rose-colored glasses, or my purposeful non-particular viewpoint, I am choosing to call out beauty when I see it. I like the word BEAUTIFUL. Pleasing the mind or senses aesthetically. The word has become my catch-all for many things. I use the word a lot. I am certain I overuse this adjective. Scattering it about like it’s a noun. So many things are beautiful. I have tried to tune my eyes, ears, mind, and heart to the things that are beautiful. Tuning the eyes: We don’t have to go further than our front door for beauty. Right now, things look so green with the constant rain we’ve had here in California.  Green is a color that is psychologically appealing to us. Color psychology tells us green represents renewal and growth… balance, calm and harmony. Tuning the ears: I find listening deeply and purposefully is key for me. Letting people talk without the need to comment, but instead affirm them. It’s what we call active listening. Music helps me tune my ears and my heart. And spoken word tunes my ear, and my heart, and my mind. Being a storyteller and writer, I realize the power of words.  “A word fitly spoken (at the right time) is like apples of gold in settings of silver,” says the Proverbs 25:11. Here are some Spoken Word Pieces that are BEAUTIFUL to the ear, heart, and mind. They tune my eyes, ears, heart, mind and soul like a tuning fork. I hope you enjoy them. Don’t listen to them all at once. Take your time. Tissue may be required for a few of them, and it seems fair to warn you. Taylor Mali, “What Teachers Make” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fuBmSbiVXo0 Jon Jorgensen “Who You Are” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uWi5iXnguTU Jon Jorgensen “The Wall” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nGuO6hzI8Ok Shane Koyczan “To This Day” (for the bullied and beautiful) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sa1iS1MqUy4 Janette Ikz “I Will Wait For You” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=glB3yAFDX-o Brittain Bush “Woman At The Well” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=opZv7lGJDdo Amena Brown Owen “Be Strong and Courageous” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HfgU0RXDw4Y Melissa “Mommy, Can You Hear Me” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QP-PpfIfWzI   Tell me what you think… I am all ears and eyes!...

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Dear Ralphy

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“Dear Ralphy” is like a “Dear Abby” page for you to use on the Ralph Twigger Blog. Ralph would love to communicate with you. If you have a question, or a comment, or some advice for Ralph, feel free to leave it. Ralph will do his best to respond. He’s still learning to use the computer, but he is 70-something! For example: Dear Ralph, what do you do with Josh and Jeremy after their homework is finished? From, Sidney   Dear Sidney, I appreciate your question as it’s a good one. Sometimes we run an errand for Debra, their mom, or we play cards, watch cartoons, make the salad for dinner, or visit Mrs. Batesole’ who broke her hip. How about you, Sidney, what do you do after you finish your homework? Have a great day! Ralph Twigger Read the first story “Ralph Twigger” Read “Ralph Twigger, Ghost Buster” Read “Ralph Twigger, Church Custodian” Read “Ralph Twigger, Bully Buster”       Send him your questions on the “comments” section...

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Ralph Twigger -the first story-

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“Watch and Clock Repair…If your ticker’s not ticking, Ralph Twigger’s your ticket!” Ralph was rather proud of the signs. They were printed in a bright color with a grandfather clock, pocket watch and wrist watch at the bottom. It was his habit, on Mondays, to pick up two bear claws at Dorothy’s Donuts, tape up a few fliers and head back to the apartment. But this Monday when he climbed the stairs, he saw the owner of the building inside the apartment next door to his. There was a young woman with two children in tow. “Great,” Ralph winced, “I knew it was too good to last.” Ralph had had peace and quiet for two months. No one on the other side of #7. And now it looked like two small rockets complete with toys, bicycles, questions and high-pitched voices would be moving next door. “What’s that in your hand?” said a little voice, startling Ralph so that he spilled some of the orange juice he’d just carefully poured. Standing right in the middle of his living room was a little red-haired five-year-old. “What’s a matter? Cat got your tongue?” “How did you get in here?” asked Ralph. “The door.” “Little boy, I think your mommy’s calling you.” “What’s your name?”   -2- “Excuse me, but have you seen a little boy, about this tall, red hair?” “He’s right here, lady.” “Hi, Mommy. This is our neighbor. He eats bear claws too. Look at all his clocks!” Just then, two cuckoo clocks, three Westminster clocks, and a grandfather clock chimed the half hour. The little boy jumped up and down. “Do it again! Do it again!” “Sweetheart, the nice man can’t do it again.” She turned to Ralph and added, “I’m sorry. My son’s very friendly.” Ralph didn’t’ say a word, didn’t have a chance to say a word as the woman scooped up her son and headed out the door. There was no need for formal introductions at this point. Maybe she’d move in, maybe not. In the last week, he’d seen several people go in and out of the apartment next door, but not a family. There was only one other family in the whole building, and they were downstairs. A good place for families—downstairs—not upstairs next to #7. This was going to change everything. For two weeks Ralph wondered if apartment #6 had been rented. Then the weekend of March 4th arrived along with a truck full of furniture, boxes, two bicycles, toys and two high-pitched voices. The racket of furniture scooting, hammering, conversation, laughter, and country western music—which Ralph hated—went on for hours. He didn’t get a thing done that day. There was just no way to concentrate with all that noise. About nine o’clock, though, it stopped. Ralph fell into bed exhausted and worried. This was never going to work. His clock repair business was going to suffer, those two kids -3- would drive him crazy, and this seemingly nice woman would probably have...

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Mentoring Through Story

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People often ask me when I began storytelling. It all started at a small Christian college (Pacific Christian College, now Hope International University) while I was serving as an assistant dean. Whenever I was with students, I reached for a story. I found out that a story was a great way to get inside their story, to teach them, and to lift them up with encouragement. If the teaching material and the story connected to one another, this was a bonus! In fact, it created pictures that helped them remember material for a test, a final, or created the hoped for “ah-hah!”. I also counseled/mentored students with stories. I would be in counseling or mentoring session and ask, “Could I tell you a story that might relate to what you are going through?” The answer was always, “Yes.” After that moment of a story and the processing of its application came the question, “Could I have a copy of that story?” I’d walk over to our large office copier and make one, knowing I’d connected the student with a word picture for their pain, questions, confusion, processing, or personal growth. The first time I told the story of “The King Who Waits,” it was at this small Christian college. I’d been asked to speak at Dorm Devos. It was a weekly student-led time of community and a devotional, with an invited guest speaker. It was a real privilege to be asked to speak as this was usually reserved for pastors and professors. Students on and off-campus—residents from both the men’s and women’s halls—gathered (piled into) into one of the large lobby spaces after evening classes, ready for this “sacred-once-a-week-moment” together. I was asked to address the topic of “How to have an intimate relationship with God.” The more I thought about it, the more I knew it had to be a story that would best explain this relationship. I used the metaphor of a King—a Great King—and a subject coming to visit the King at the end of the day. To my amazement, weeks later the story was still hanging around in students’ lives and affecting their relationship with God. The preservative power of a story! This touched my heart deeply as a young assistant dean and a blossoming storyteller. And it gave me a push to continue writing stories that could serve as metaphors for our lives. It’s a pattern used by great speakers (and comediennes). I’m sure you’ve noticed this. The speaker will start with a story, and usually, it’s a funny story. I think they want to hear us laugh so they can relax a little. Any time this opening story is from their life, they have cleverly hooked us—connected our story to their story. They’ve got us. We’re for them. A good speaker will use story a second time in the body of their material. If they take us back into that first story by connecting the dots to the material we’ve been taught, they’ve...

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