Melea’s Blog

To blog or not to blog…” that’s always been a question for me. “Do I have something people really want to hear, consider, use in their current writing and storytelling endeavors?” I decided I do!

I’d like to encourage the story you are living out as “a spiritual being having a temporary human experience” on this globe called Earth (the quote is credited to Robert Morris, Gateway Church). Your story matters. My story matters. And God’s magnificent story, that we all have breath and life in, matters.

I hope my blog work brings a smile and some encouragement to your storytelling and writing today…

Melea

 

 

Heading Back to School…and Back to the Classroom!

Posted by on Aug 1, 2013 in Storytelling, Teaching, Theater | 0 comments

I said, “Yes.” Yes, to teaching Drama One to high school people, once again. I am excited about this. I am nervous about this. I am qualified for this. Are teachers better teachers years later? Yes. Why? Because of accumulated knowledge and tons of practical experience. I have never really stopped teaching. I lead workshops, coach and mentor artists, direct and produce shows. Plus, I have raised a teen and I am raising a teen. Teenagers no longer bring fear and dread as they once did when I was about 26 and 38 years old. They bring compassion to my soul. And that compassion makes me want to be a better teacher because they are worth it. Really? Really. I may have more gray hairs and few more laugh lines, but I can improv my way out of a paper bag and out-imagine most teens and young adults I know. So bring it! My goals for them: Drop the phone. Make a friend you’d never have outside of this class. Experience learning by doing, rather than facebooking and instagramming it. Dare yourself to play a character outside your age, your choices, your emotions and first instincts and see what happens. I can promise them they will not be the same people in 8 months. I know I won’t be the same because of them. ********************** When was the last time you went backwards to go forwards in your gift, your calling, your passion? That’s what I am doing. I am brushing off files, pouring through books, preparing lesson plans, a syllabus and curriculum objectives, searching for scenes and monologues, developing lecture notes. And it doesn’t even feel like work! And I am lovin’ it. I will check in with you later about all this. And I will let you know when my students start performing. Once I get them going on Improv, they will likely want to join me in a workshop. Which reminds me, a Fall “Improv a Story” Workshop date will be set very soon! As always, the story you live out today just might change someone… Melea   PROFESSIONAL STORYTELLER Website A Network for People Who Work in the Field of Storytelling http://professionalstoryteller.ning.com/ 24-7 Storytelling Station on-line called “A World of Storytelling” http://www.live365.com/stations/storytellingradio .  They kindly feature some of my stories and hundreds of other famous and nearly-famous storytellers from around the...

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A Better Storyteller in Five Ways

Posted by on Mar 11, 2013 in Gifts of Story, Storytelling | 0 comments

Jesus spoke all these things to the crowd in parables; he did not say anything to them without using a parable. Matthew 13:34 Know Your Audience—Who will I be telling to in this moment? What makes this group unique? How do they hear story? Find out as much as you can about your audience. They will cease to be strangers as you enter into that moment of storytelling. Prepare and Pray—The best storyteller is the one that has prepared. Rehearse with your whole body before a mirror. Believing the story versus knowing a story translates to an audience in any culture. When I believe the story with my whole heart, not just my head, I communicate it differently.  You’ve prepared… now pray and release this story to The Great Storyteller! Show and Tell—Hearing a story dramatically told is amazing!  So what else can we offer our audience that will allow them to see, taste, hear, smell and feel? Sensory memory is powerful and Jesus used it as a storyteller. Try a bag of seeds for The Parable of the Sower, red grapes to eat for The Tenants and the Vineyard, an invitation for each person for The Great Banquet. You think of one! Let them talk and you listen—A storyteller learns a great deal when she/he allows their audience to reflect on the story just told to them.  Directed-reflection respects the listener and echoes back to them the story shared. We can pick up cultural nuances and vital information as we listen to our audience reflect back to us what they heard in the story we told. Bless and Review—As you close a time of story, thank your listeners for their attentiveness and sharing. Afterwards, review your storytelling moment with a trusted listener. Is there something you would modify or change in the next telling? You’ll grow as a storyteller as you allow His shaping of your skills....

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CLEAR THE DESK!

Posted by on Jan 29, 2013 in Imagination, Storytelling, Writing | 0 comments

“Every artist dips his brush into his own soul, and paints his own nature into his pictures.” -Henry Ward Beecher-  What color has your brush dipped into with this new year's beginning? I posted this on my facebook page close to the first day of January 2013.  It spoke to me deeply when I first read it.  I subscribe to the belief that we are all artists.  Some of spend more time in the studio than others, but that does not qualify us as better artists, just more trained, more practiced. There were many “likes” on that fb entry and some fb friends took the time to express the color they were painting with as the new year began for them. I have a confession, lest you think I am just so brilliant and wonderful and successful.   At the present, I feel like the tip of my paintbrush has every color on it, leaving a grayish globby stroke on the page of my life.  It’s like when you take all the beautiful play do colors and mix them together, which is so fun, but eventually the play do turns gray.  And the play do turns hard and cold because there’s not much possibility in that gray play do. Here’s why it’s gray.  I have too many colors to choose from.  I feel pulled and pushed as an artist.  I long to get to a blank canvas with a simple palette of only two colors, three tops. New fresh years have a way of causing an overwhelm.  There is so much we are restarting, plugging into, taking on, hoping in, wanting to do.  I have said too many “yeses” and very few “no’s”. And eve now as I confess, I can hear a kind and wise mentor–“Clear the desk, Melea.”  Which can be quite a literal task for a writer. Take everything off of that desk.  Now evaluate what goes back on. And so right after I finish this blog entry I am going to clear the desk! LITERALLY. By clearing the desk, I will be able to prioritize what goes back onto this space that will prompt my soul as a writer and storyteller.  It will feed me, propel me, speak to me, ground me. Perhaps, there is some place in your life that needs a “clearing of the desk”… I urge you to not be dismayed by the date of January 20-something.  It is still the new year and you are still an artist with the greatest of possibilities set before you in 2013 Oh, and I am going to throw out the play do and get a new fresh squishy set of colors.  There’s nothing better than the feel and the smell of fresh play do! HAPPY NEW YEAR!  And may the story you live out this year change someone because I know it can…  ...

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Re-Story Theater’s Beginning… An intimate look at the writing of “The Green Velvet Christmas Dress”

Posted by on Nov 29, 2012 in Creativity, Storytelling, Theater | 0 comments

Last year, I wrote backwards! I started with a play, not the story first. I write stories all the time. I do my best to write one Christmas story a year and have begun writing one this year in the midst of the busyness of directing and producing “The Green Velvet Christmas Dress”.  It’s called “The Unopened Christmas Gift” and I like where it’s going. After last year’s successful premiere, I began writing the story of “The Green Velvet Christmas Dress” and I had high hopes for it being available for this year’s reprise of the play.  I had no trouble starting the story and then I came to the part in Emma’s life where her family passes (oops, I’ve told you something important if you haven’t seen it yet!). It stopped me cold in my story tracks of writing. I was fine through establishing relationships, setting scenes, describing places, and the seriousness began to set in.  Death was on its way and all I could do to stop it was this—stop writing. So I did. In February the Lord asked me to return to the page.  It was raining outside and cold for California. I stayed in my flannels and wrote and wrote. I finished the most difficult part of the story up until that point.  There was a sense of relief and then the grief began to set in. “They’re gone now…” from the story and now my main character must live in a grief few could survive… and so will I. After dinner that night, “my first audience” as I like to call Grace and David (Tim if he is home), heard all that I had written thus far.  I wasn’t a very good storyteller that night.  In fact, I had to stop several times to let the tears flow.  As I glanced from the page to my audience, they were crying as well.  And then I was done. “That’s all I have so far,” I said with apology.  A flurry of compliments and thoughts tumbled out the mouths of my faithful family listeners.  And they begged me to write some more. The story is unfinished, but I have written more of it! I know the arc, the chapters. I know the look of the packaging I would like to have for the book.  I know to whom I will dedicate the book. And I know I will ask my faithful editors—Marcia and Gary—to do what they do so well.  I would like to record it, too. And so I wait for the next portion of “The Green Velvet Christmas Dress” to pour forth out of me. After this show’s “curtain closes” and all of the play’s set and props are stored away, I will likely return to the story I began this year—“The Unopened Christmas Gift”—and finish it. I am hoping and praying for a special rainy day in January… when I can return to the dress.  One of the dearest compliments from last year’s came to me from someone I admire, knows my work well and what I call the pull and drag of the artist.  There are times, as an artist, that I feel a pushing and a shoving within me or from Someone. Finally, I surrender and pull or drag the weight...

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“Re-Story Theater’s Beginning… (Part 2)

Posted by on Nov 16, 2012 in Creativity, Storytelling, Theater | 0 comments

But first, I must share with you about The Green Dress Velvet Christmas Dress!” I will share with you about “Improv In Our Everyday Living” in a future blog.  I promise.  But for now, I want to share about Re-Story Theater’s upcoming Christmas show December 7th, 8th, and 9th. My beloved theater group, Re-Story, is well into its second season (with one show under its improvisational belt) and has begun rehearsals on the reprise of “The Green Velvet Christmas Dress”.  And we are  loving the momentum from Molly’s Coffee House, passing it on to the two other actors joining us to complete our cast. Re-Story Theater 2012-2013 is a wonderful group of skilled actors, with some seasoned improvisers and some just beginning their journey in improvisation.  With years of teaching theater, I have come to believe the art of improvisation is different from the traditional actor and script.  The improviser-actor needs a comfortable and accepting environment in order to succeed. As we begin each rehearsal, we start with telling a little of our current story, along with coffee and a little bit of something to eat.  Fears and anxious thought dissipate as we sip and chat. “Bearing one another’s burden” is a fairly scriptural thing, but knowing “an actor has your back” on stage is very important.  It involves trust.  I teach my actors that their desire for the success of their scene partner on stage and their partner’s desire for their success on stage is fail proof! That actor is for you and you are for them. Loving improv, I built into “The Green Velvet Christmas Dress” an interactive tea-time with the audience and characters.  The audience is invited to spend their tea-time with characters and ask further details about the character and their story within the play. To prepare for this time my actors develop a lengthier character study than that which I have provided as the author of the play. They get involved with what makes the character live and breathe and their unique part in the play’s story.  Some of our rehearsal is spent in interviewing our characters.  The actors improvise their way through this interview in character.  There is no third-person dialogue, but dialogue with the character and it is equal in importance to the lines they memorize. As a good director, I remind them about their Uncle Harry or their best friend that is likely to come up and try to get them to break character.  My counsel to them is firm: “Don’t break!  Don’t let them steal what you have worked so hard to create.”  And I remind them, “It’s only unscripted conversation and some of the best part of the play happens in this moment.” It was great fun to see the audience interact with the cast last year.  Some of the most thoughtful questions came from the children and teens.  They really absorbed the story and wanted more details! I hope you will join me and Re-Story Theater for a 130 year journey as we ponder the power and hope in our legacy through “The Green Velvet Christmas Dress”!  You can go directly to our store for tickets http://rightsideupstories.com/shop/   Melea...

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“Re-Story Theater’s Beginning… and the Power of Telling The Stories That Matter, Part I”

Posted by on Oct 19, 2012 in Storytelling | 0 comments

  Two years ago, God began speaking to me of my past. In the late 80’s and early 90’s I was a H.S. Theater Arts teacher, at two wonderful schools.   I wrote many of my stories during those years of teaching Theater Arts and Speech. I was a “part-time” (what is that when it comes to theater?) H.S. teacher in the afternoon and the first half of my day was spent in writing and developing my growing storytelling work.  I loved it!   One of the first things I taught those “eager to be famous” acting students was the skill of Improv—the art of developing characters and story lines without a script…right-on-the-spot, in-the-moment. With every class’ beginning of this skill there was. “What Mrs. Brock? Why can’t we have scripts to work with?!”   My answer would be, “In time… but first I want to teach you something that will grow the actor in you and literally save you when your lines are forgotten or someone else on stage forgets theirs. It’s Improv—a skill that will grow your creativity and your ability to imagine characters!”  Not too much enthusiasm followed my mini introduction.  You see, we didn’t have shows on TV called Whose Line is it Anyway? or Improvaganza or places to go watch the fantastic skills at Comedy Sportz.   I took out my well-worn copy of Viola Spolin’s, Theater Games for Rehearsal, and played alongside of some the best student-actors I have ever met, to this day. I saw amazing skills blossom in young adolescents, from the shy to the gregarious. Two dear former students remain in my life to this day and are a part of my Re-Story Theater Players—an improvisationally trained group of actors that have created their own virtual coffee house called Molly’s Coffee House http://rightsideupstories.com/re-story-theater/. Our second Molly’s show goes up on October 26th and 27th Buy tickets here.   It’s been two years since I heard God nudge me (more like a push!)  “to turn around and go back to the former things” of my beginning days as a theater arts teacher and director.   I did.  I began inviting conversation with young and established actors that I knew well or that I had an inkling were willing to take a risk into telling the stories that matter.  And we began, of course, with Improv.   And although some are more skillful and some are beginning to develop those latent skills with great risk, the ground is so level in on our playing field.  We are learning the skills of listening, making the other actor’s success more important than our own, not getting ahead of the story, the art of give and take.   From my director and writer’s point of view, these are life skills! They can be taken into our everyday living, walking and taking, work-a-day world.   I’ll stop here and pick up the next part I’d like to share–Improv In Our Everyday Living.   If you’re in the L.A. area Friday and Saturday, October 26th and 27th, join Re-Story and me for a great evening of Improv! Let me know you’re coming…   Melea...

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Legacy and Character

Posted by on Oct 11, 2012 in Storytelling | 0 comments

“Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.”    What is your Legacy—your Living Legacy—your present story that others know you to be today? I am working on a character that I hope to use in my future work as a storyteller. I am starting with her legacy first—working from the end to the beginning of her life.  This is no small task. And yet, it’s profoundly moving and she’s fictional! The process brought back the memory of listening to a wise woman tell of how she was intently working everyday on “the old woman” she will become. Isn’t that a huge thought?  That statement kind of took my breath away and it was, at the same time, profoundly true.  We are all working on the old man or old woman we will be, whether we are conscious of it or completely unaware of it. This woman was working backwards to forwards on her life, if that makes sense. I have been writing stories for more than 25 years with the intention of prodding my listeners to ponder their every-single-day-living legacy. I want to reflect back to them “…it’s your story that really counts.” There are times when I know I hit the mark as I have with the story, “A Song For The Darkness.” from my book and CD project, “Step Inside… Where Stories Come to Life”.  You can go listen to it here on my website: http://rightsideupstories.com/the-ear/ The character, Aunt Lily, in my story, possessed the quality of a woman with a heart after God.  The story says, “Aunt Lily loved God, people, and her dogs.  It was that simple.” She was grateful for life and breath. She lived in joy. Small things were big things. And she had an “Upstairs Basement”—a place of cataloguing her stories and treasures.  Even in her passing, her profound legacy reached into her niece’s life changing the way she would live her own life. It’s true. Too often we are working on our reputation rather than our character.  We spend too many moments worrying about wrinkles instead of forgiving others.  Or obsessing in our work place instead of playing a game of Uno or tetherball with a child.  Or forwarding on a funny email when a phone call or a letter would make all the difference in a relationship.  Or we let others believe we are super-holy when we are just as needy for God’s love as they are. Today, maybe for a few moments—the moments it takes to listen to a story—ponder your living legacy. I know I will as I am spending the day with my daughter doing something “completely off the page”!  And I know it will be incredible… and a bit of my Old Lady Melea Brock will become more real. Your Story Matters…...

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Living the Artistic and Storied Life

Posted by on Jul 21, 2012 in Creativity, Storytelling, Writing | 0 comments

Living the Artistic and Storied Life

Entry One: Living Creatively in a Dry Season I have been through one of the driest seasons of my life as an artist.  I am not sure many know this… I have kept it to myself, save a few trusted artists experiencing a similar season and a dear husband.  Now, work should not define an artist, but unfortunately it happens to be true with this artist. More recently, though, I have sensed the urge to move forward regardless.  Move forward regardless.  Did you hear that?  Write, tell, memorize, prepare. I have had to stare into the mirror and ask an honest question of myself:  Does my writing and storytelling only make sense if there is someone in the room to applaud or validate it?  Or does my art intrinsically have value because I am called to create in these ways? I believe it has value because dry season or abundant rainy-over-flowing-with-work season, I am called to live creatively. An Audience of One… My audience of one happens to be a relationship I have been in for a very long time. It began when I was 14 and barely knowledgeable of my gifts. The relationship is the one I share with my Creator.  God is my audience of One.  And if I never wrote another story, told one, recorded one, I have lived off of a feast of His goodness in allowing me to use these gifts of storytelling and writing for many years. So… today as I write this post, I know that to tell a story to Him, to write a story for Him is very much like running into the kitchen and showing Him the sculpted piece of clay, the finger painting thick with gloppy paint, the story with the scrawl of child beginning to write out of their imagination. I can see myself holding a paper up high and saying proudly, “Please put it on your refrigerator… I hope you like this one.” And in my mind’s eye, I can see Him throwing his head back with laughter and declaring, “I love it! It’s your best one yet!” I watch as He tapes it on a door filled to capacity with paper after paper. He studies it one more time and I swell with pride. My audience of One is pleased. Now, I might lose a few of my friends of Right-Side-Up Stories as I share from this POV (point of view-vantage), but if that is true, perhaps we weren’t really in a relationship as fellow artists and lovers of story.  I am hoping you’ll stay and hear me out through more entries of how I live creatively as an artist. Hey, I found water today… My highpoint of creativity today was that of being a listener as someone told their story. Of course, they had been kind and listened to mine, but I have to say I loved listening to theirs.  As I listened, our stories overlapped and the edges touched and it was a sacred bit of time. We laughed. We paused at times. We let one another know their story was safe and that it meant a great deal to know more of it. Although we left quickly for other appointments, I felt my life was less parched and dry for having been...

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Gift Seven: Letting a Story Inside

Posted by on Jun 6, 2012 in Gifts of Story, Storytelling | 0 comments

Letting a story inside is one of the most wonderful and dangerous places one can go with storytelling—whether telling or listening. I can remember the stories that I have let inside my heart, mind and soul and to this day I can vividly recall the moment of their telling. Some are from as early as my elementary years with my teacher reading The Five Little Peppers after lunch recess. My young teen years when I heard chapters of “The Diary of Anne Frank” powerfully read aloud. And still others into my early young adulthood when I heard the telling of C. S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters, and the re-telling of the Gospel of John by an actor using only a ladder and a box. Gift 7 As a seasoned performer, the hearing of great storytellers thrills me as a listener. Storytellers like Jackie Torrence, Donald Davis, Bill Harley, Buck (Don) Creacy, Laura Simms, David Novak, Kathryn Tucker Windham, Bill Lepp, Sheila Kay Adams, just to name just a few.  They are all different and incredibly gifted at the craft.  Some use music, some are skilled writers telling their own stories, some are fable-fairy-folk-tellers telling the stories around these here parts, some are dramatic and well-spoken from the first word uttered to the last, and some are as natural a teller as one would be sitting at your dinner table! And as a seasoned listener, there’s nothing better than a child giggling through a story they just have to tell someone! So if someone brings the story worth taking in, letting in, opening the door for… what will happen? Nothing too scary or that dangerous.  I like to use the word “dangerous” because there is a risk involved. When one lets go of their inner critic, the bother of someone sitting close to them, the busyness of the day… when one lets go of all of that and a story is allowed to walk in and sit down in the front living room of your life, well anything can happen. And that’s dangerous, just a little bit.  What if you cry? What if you laugh really loud when no one else does?  What if it takes you to a place of pain or loss or a melancholy time gone by? My advice is simple: if it does, don’t be afraid.  Ask the question: Why was I so moved by that story? What is this story really telling me about my life… life around me? Likely, you know already upon its finish. And if you don’t, give it a day or two.  This story that has reached inside of you will come back around. I know this because it’s happened to me. And it is worth it to know whatever this story has to tell me. Insight is no small thing in a world that is in a hurry to say and do everything there is to say and do. It is a gift in a hurried world. In the last six blog entries, I discussed six other gifts of storytelling: Rest and the Shhh-ing of our Soul Creativity and Imagination Connection and Community Truth and Ah-Hahs! Re-gifted Reading Perspective and Validation of my Story  I am sure there are half dozen more that you would add to the list. The most...

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Gift Six: Perspective and Validation of Our Story

Posted by on Jun 2, 2012 in Gifts of Story, Storytelling | 0 comments

In Dale Carnegie’s book, How To Win Friends and Influence People, he states that one of the greatest needs human beings have is validation—“a feeling of importance”—as Mr. Carnegie describes it. Listen Here A story, in its short moments, can unload a great deal of truth about our value, importance.  The person sitting next to us, during the short moments of its telling, would have no idea that a huge searchlight was shining upon our life.  At the same time, a story can give us a generous pat on the back and a big “Woohoo, way to go!”  We might want to stand on the chair we’re sitting on and say, “That story we just heard was all about me! That heroine—yup, that’s me… That person doing the right and virtuous thing—just exchange my name for theirs! ” It’s one of story’s gifts—the gift of validation. In close kinship with this gift is the how story can help us gain perspective on our own story.  Perspective is when we can back away from a situation, a relationship, and experience, and gain insight into its reality. A dear friend of our family, spent his doctoral thesis on this very subject—perspective-taking—naming it one of the single most important lenses we place on our life and all the living going on around us.  You’ve heard that too-often-repeated police officer line, “Step away from the car,” right?  Well, we would be wise to take this advisement of insight our lives:  “Step away from your life and take a good look at it.” The fresh start of a new year, a new semester, a new season, can bring this act of perspective-taking into full view. Here’s a thought: what if we made it a goal to pursue story for the purpose of taking perspective on our lives, the world we live in?  Key to this would be listening—actively listening—to the stories all around us with this goal in mind—“What can I learn, gain or enter into as I hear this story?” There is a wonderful Jewish folktale called “It Could Always Be Worse” or “The Rabbi’s Gift” as found in Brian Cavanaugh’s book The Sower’s Seeds. It’s very fun tale to tell.  A humble father and husband, has a small home, a small income and to top that off, every relative seems to have found their way to his home during a hard time.  Being a good Jew he goes to his Rabbi for counsel.  The Rabbi’s counsel is to bring his livestock, one at a time, into the home to live with his family.  It seems absurd, but the Rabbi is wise so he does this very thing. Finally, he begs the Rabbi to help him—it’s a smelly, noisy, awful mess in his home.  Then the Rabbi advises him to take them all out, one animal group at a time.  What the man realizes is this: the home is roomy, clean and quiet once again. In other words, it wasn’t so bad after all.  In actuality, the man did some perspective- taking. These two gifts of validation and perspective taking can be given away to others by us as well.  It can happen every time we intentionally pick up a truly good story and read it to another person, retell a meaningful news story, tell something from...

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