The Wizard of Oz Opens May 26, 2012
We’re so glad you joined us today as we journey together down the yellow brick road to Oz!  Whether you’re one of our hundreds of veteran season subscribers, or here for the first time, we’re delighted to welcome you today and we look forward to sharing many memorable experiences with you at LifeHouse. Though the 1939 film was not considered a success in its day, the advent of television and subsequent “Oz” broadcasts propelled it to icon status as the story became a virtual staple of childhood.  The original of this beloved tale is also rooted in childhood - the childhood of the novel’s author, L. (Lyman) Frank Baum (1856-1919). Young Frank grew up in a wealthy home, the privileged son of an oil baron.  The family lived in luxury on a sprawling country estate his mother called “Rose Lawn.”  All seemed perfect until the day Frank wandered into his father’s grain fields and began exploring.  He suddenly bumped into a stranger and looked up to see a frightening figure towering over him, rigid, silent, and leering with a sinister stare.  He ran home and every night for many months, Frank had the same nightmare: the stranger chased him through his father’s fields. Baum eventually outgrew the nightmare and became a father himself.  He was loved by all who knew him and he was especially appreciated by his children because of the amazing stories he invented and masterfully told.  He created a vivid fantasy kingdom for his eager young listeners and told of a happy place engulfed in green as he drew from his memories of Rose Lawn.  The stranger of his youthful nightmares also reappeared in Baum’s stories - tamer and no longer threatening - as Baum realized the figure that once chased him in dreams was in reality nothing more than a scarecrow. And when one of his children asked the name of the wonderful kingdom, Baum’s mind raced and his eyes finally darted toward a file cabinet.  He blurted out what he read on the lowermost file drawer: “O-through-Z.”  And thus OZ was born!  We trust you’ll enjoy returning with us today to this fanciful kingdom of Dorothy’s imagination and discover how the power of faith leads to “that special Home Beyond our hopes and dreams.” Be sure to join us next for the LifeHouse premiere of “The Sound of Music" and "Job - A Modern Man."  A dazzling 19th season begins in October and a terrific value on season passes is available now for a limited time. God bless....[nggallery id=1]
“Without the moral imagination, man would live merely from day to day, or moment to moment, as dogs do.” --Philosopher Russell Kirk A recent national poll conducted by “USA Today” newspaper asked an interesting question:  “If you could ask God just one thing, what would it be?” The number one response, far outweighing any second choice, was: “What is my purpose in life?”  In addition, 70 percent of Americans say they would change their jobs if they could. I think I can see these statistics play out at LifeHouse Theater—among our guests and among our casts of storytellers. With regard to our guests, folks often come wearing the hardened expressions of worry and stress typical for these difficult times.  It may take several songs and scenes before hearts begin to visibly “melt” enough for guests to tune in to the music and message of the story told on stage. I believe part of the draw of LifeHouse is our mission to choose specific kinds of stories.  Over the course of a season, we select titles and create musicals pointedly designed to ask the basic “Who am I? Why am I here? Where am I going?” questions of life. Sometimes audience members are surprisingly and visibly affected by what they see on our stage.  During a performance of “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” two men who broke out in an argument during intermission had an obvious change of heart by the end of the second act.  They were noticed shaking hands and exchanging apologies before leaving the theater. Other productions also evoke definite reactions.  It is not unusual to see people embracing tearfully at their seats just after the curtain call. Some guests form small groups and bow in prayer near the stage.  Yet others whose thoughts have obviously been stimulated want to stay and discuss what they have seen with the cast or with me.  Many are searching for answers to haunting questions or for some kind of closure concerning a personal event or pressing decision that must be made. With regard to our actors, there is no doubt that their experience on stage can be life changing.  Some of the mail that crosses my desk clearly illustrates the impact on them.  A recent sample:
  • “I realize now from my time in several casts that I don’t need to hang around gangs.  That life is so empt y and dead end.  LifeHouse has shown me there is so much more I can do…”
  • “My life was going out of control and I didn’t realize how bad off I was.  Then I met a whole new set of friends at LifeHouse.  All of you have been so supportive and, thanks to you, I was able to get past a drug habit…I thank God for all He has done to turn my life around.”
  • “After my parent’s divorce, I just felt lost…I got to thinking about some of the stuff the show I was acting in said about what we could be doing with our lives.  I also met some people at LifeHouse who really care about me.  Thanks for being so faithful…”
Charles Colson sums up our aim at LifeHouse:  “Art in the service of the moral imagination can ennoble…The rich transmission of ideas through the arts can form a new vision to which people respond.”
Does anything ever go wrong at LifeHouse Theater?  I’ll say! Part of the excitement and terror of live theater is that one never knows what will happen—and we’ve seen plenty of unexpected developments during the course of our seventeen seasons… I’ll never forget the performance in which a large piece of our scenery flew off the stage and into the front row.  Mercifully, the scenic panel was light—and dutifully caught by a gentleman in attendance.  He simply laid it on the floor at his feet and went on enjoying the production!  (Please don’t tell our insurance company). There was also the time our sound equipment failed and a stage full of singers lost their music accompaniment mid-song.  But they kept singing and no one was the wiser.  Several guests later complimented us on our clever use of a cappella vocals. There was no fooling the audience, however, when our air conditioning once gave up the ghost during a hot summer matinee performance of “The Wizard of Oz.”  I nervously noticed the thermostat gauge pushing 90 degrees in our packed house.  The only thing to do was to face the situation squarely and address the audience at intermission.  I told them the cast was willing to continue performing and that we would pass out free cold water bottles.  “After all,” I observed, “watching the cowardly lion perform on stage under the hot lights in a heavy fur costume makes me feel downright cool.”  No one left and, in fact, the musical ended with a standing—albeit sweaty—ovation! On another occasion, an actor’s costume snagged on the lever of our fire alarm—accidentally setting off all kinds of commotion during a performance.   Since we must take all alarms seriously, I immediately directed the audience to the exits.  As everyone began evacuating, we confirmed the alarm was false.   Our guests cheerfully returned to their seats and the performance picked up exactly where we left off as if nothing unusual happened.  The incident confirmed in my mind that our guests are the most gracious in the world. During yet another performance of one of our serious dramas, two actors accidentally stepped on each other’s lines.  This struck both of them funny and they got the giggles.  The actor’s feeble attempts to mask their laughter failed miserably.  Naturally, the audience was convulsed and hilarity ensued for a full five minutes as the actors struggled mightily to regain some sense of drama.  They never did.  And, while nothing particularly dramatic came of the drama, the audience was thoroughly entertained. And then there was the performance in which one of Snow White’s dwarves sneezed—only to have his fake nose fly off.  The audience loved this unscripted flub and cheered when the scene ended When beards fall off chins, when spotlights blow up, when microphones fail and when cues are missed, we still find that God can redeem these frustrating moments.  “The show must go” is not just a theater cliché, it is good biblical practice akin to the encouragement of Ephesians 6:13 and 14—“Having done all to stand, stand.” God can make the most of our perseverance under pressure.   Moses observes in Psalm 90 that God also numbers our days.  He knows them all and they are all in His loving hands.  So even in those moments when everything seems to run amuck, it’s reassuring to know that the Author of creativity is never off script.
“Well, duh!” This just might be your response—as it was mine—when you learn the results of a mega media “study of studies” conducted by the National Institute of Health.  After analyzing 28 years worth of 173 studies, the institute recently reported that overwhelming evidence concludes the following… “Children’s use of media must be limited.  All studies strongly link excessive exposure to media with obesity, smoking, drug and alcohol use, attention problems, underage sex and poor grades.” Any thinking adult with a thimble of sense already knows what this study concluded. (I shall refrain from a digression of yammering about the wasteful millions spent on studies that breathlessly inform us of the obvious). Fortune 500 companies do not spend billions on media ads because such bombardment is ineffective.  On the contrary, the media is profoundly influential and we all know it. The arts are equally influential.  The report cited above, in fact, has a message for Hollywood, technology gurus, creators of media and those who are influential in the arts community.  The message is… “…Create entertainment that is less toxic and more family-friendly.” The inescapable conclusion is that failure to do so will result in dire social problems—worse than the ones we already have.  A co-author releasing the report adds: “Every year we have four million new kids.  How long are we going to wait?” Good point.  We live in a country where students spend an average of 30 hours in school each week—while spending nearly 45 hours a week immersed in some form of media! But here’s something that nags at me:  For many decades a vital national statistic has remained constant to the present day.  That statistic is this… The vast majority of Americans—never less than 90 percent—say they believe in God and rely upon faith to navigate life. This statistic means that if you are reading what I have written here, you are likely among more than 270 million people in our country who are sympathetic to faith, to the divine, to the things of God—and to inspirational theater for that matter.  I believe LifeHouse attracts enthusiastic audiences because we aim to serve an underserved constituency—people who find that the values reflected in media do not reflect their own. What nags at me are a few questions I cannot satisfactorily answer:  If so many Americans hold to a belief in God…
  • Why does the National Institute of Health have to remind us that corrosive media leads to a corrosive society?
  • Why are the Hollywood studios, the purveyors of violent games, the producers of profane music and Hugh Hefner all profitable?
  • Why isn’t our society better?
In short, how is it that so many millions who affirm God seem to be “missing in action?” I don’t know.  Do you? ©Copyright MMXI by W. R. Scott
Latest News In Brief
“THE PRINCESS AND THE PIGS” I have just returned from a rehearsal of our latest new musical, “The Princess and the Pigs.”  What fun! Even the title makes me smile.  This premiere comedy promises to become another LifeHouse favorite thanks to a witty script by Melissa Schwartzkopf and keen direction by Chris and Cathy Flores. Based on a little known tale by the Grimm brothers (“King Thrushbeard’), this delightful musical is our effort to add to the modern library of fantasy stories while celebrating the authors who have enchanted generations.  We also aim to captivate audiences of all ages and all walks of life with an uplifting and hilarious story of selfishness gone “hog wild”—pun intended! Although she is exceedingly beautiful, Princess Mirabel (Kari Kennedy) is also rude, spoiled and self- centered. But her father, the King (Eric Bishop), has a surprising idea that will change Mirabel forever.  And after an amazing encounter with a singing beggar (Jonathan Blair) and a herd of pampered pigs, the Princess will never be the same! Share the in the fun as “The Princess and the Pigs” performances begin February 5 and continue through March 13. “GEORGE WASHINGTON” For the tenth year, we are once again welcoming 2,000 students to LifeHouse during the week of February 7th as our LifeTales musical biography of “George Washington” is presented. The true adventures and accomplishments of our nation’s first president are recounted on stage through drama and music as we spotlight a critical era in history. Teachers appreciate the learning opportunities afforded by this daytime performance field trip—along with the complimentary curriculum guide we provide.  Young people especially enjoy discovering historic events through entertaining stage presentations. Nearly all of the scheduled performances are sold out and, due to demand, we anticipate expanding this program next autumn.  For more information and inclusion on our mailing list, call our box office at (909) 335-3037. “A NIGHT OF WORSHIP” By popular demand, a memorable time of worship returns to LifeHouse on the evening of February 20 at 6 PM.  Join us for an informal hour of praise, prayer and devotion in song as we honor the Author of all creation and creativity.  Our last worship event was an uplifting time of refreshment, reflection and renewal.  We look forward to more and invite you to share in this time with us.
By Wayne Scott My grandfather was dying of cancer, and my family sadly faced death for the first time.  I was only nine years old and now began to wonder what life was all about.  I had no answers, and I felt alone and empty.  The Vietnam War was raging and, though I barely understood it, I knew enough to fear being a part of it one day…What’s a puzzled nine-year-old kid supposed to make of all this depressing stuff?  I looked forward to forgetting these worries when I left for my first summer camp, but found it was tough facing my first time away from home at “Acorn Lodge.” With watery eyes, I watched my parents drive away that first day and I desperately hoped no one would notice my cascading tears.  Not wanting to look childish, I tried to wear a brave façade only to discover I was stuck with a top bunk in the dormitory.  There’s no denying I was a gangly runt at this age and my bed seemed forty miles high.  All my attempts at bizarre acrobatics would not propel me to the top. My feeble efforts became an entertaining show, and soon all the guys gathered around to watch me climb my “Mt. Topbunk.”  Things got worse when my watch—a treasured gift from my grandfather—slipped off my wrist as I struggled to the bunk.  I watched in terror as it hit the floor and broke into a hundred pieces.  I remember thinking that my life was a lot like that watch— broken and in need of fixing. As I gazed at the floor oblivious to the jeers of the fellows standing around, I saw the pieces of my treasured watch darkened by the large shadow of jolly Mr. Peitz, the director of Acorn Lodge.  He specialized in scrawny nine-year-old men-in-the-making.  All became quiet as Mr. Pietz suddenly commanded a respectful silence.  It was as if everyone’s conscience was seared to the quick by the mere presence of this kindly giant.  Without a word, my tormentors hung their heads, and their eyes blinked apologies.  Having quickly sized up my predicament, Mr. Pietz scooped up every last cog, coil and spring of my prized watch with his huge hands, wrapped it all in his polka-dotted handkerchief, and gently led me outside for a talk in the privacy of the friendly forest. I felt as if I could tell Mr. Pietz anything and everything.  And I did.  Finally, he asked, “Young man, do you have any idea why our lives can be so miserable?”  All I knew was that life could be miserable and was at the moment.  I wasn’t sure why.  And then he explained that it was because we expect things in life to go a certain way—usually our way.  More often that not, things don’t go our way, and that is because our ways are not God’s ways. When we are not following God’s ways and are not allowing Him to have complete control of our lives, we are acting as if we know better than God.  I knew I didn’t know better than God!  But, let God control my life?  It sounded a little scary and mysterious until I understood that the God of Psalm 139 and His Son, Jesus, knew me even before I was born.  He’s counted the hairs on my head, and knows me better than I do.  He continues to love me despite knowing all I have done and despite knowing all the terrible things I will think, say, and do in the future.  Jesus loves me so much, Mr. Pietz assured me, that He willingly died for me.  I am His and He is forever mine—a living, loving God with wonderful plans for my life. Praying with Mr. Pietz, I asked Jesus to live in my heart and take complete control of my life.  I must have been floating on air with excitement because I don’t recall having any more trouble getting into my top bunk bed… The next morning, I awoke quite startled to find my watch on the window sill next to my bed, all in one piece—just like me!  How was this possible? I called it “The Miracle of Acorn Lodge.”  Even more miraculous to me was the sense of peace and purpose I felt from asking God to have control of my life.  My excitement quickly spread to my family, and I saw my grandfather entrust his life to Christ just before he died. I have returned to Acorn Lodge many times and, during every visit, my heart fills with joy as I recall the time Mr. Pietz introduced me to God’s love and helped me begin a personal relationship with the Lord.  There have been many trials and troubles along the way, but none has been too big for the God of the universe to handle, and I am able to face difficulties knowing that my life is in His caring hands.  As I read what God has to tell me in His Word, as I have turned my life and my talents over to Him, and as I seek to write and work creatively in a manner reflecting His love, I have found a meaning and purpose for my life I would never have had without God. After several decades of pondering the mystery of that miracle at Acorn Lodge, I discovered the truth about how my watch had been completely restored.  I recently learned that Mr. Pietz, long since home with the Lord, had spent more than thirty years of his life as a watchmaker.  When he scooped up those many broken pieces so long ago, Mr. Pietz stayed up all night summoning the talents of his trade—and gave me the “miracle” of my restored watch.  But this amazing encounter between an old watchmaker and a troubled nine-year old boy could only have been a divine, providential appointment.  And what is more amazing to me is how God used this kindly watchmaker to model His own matchless love for me and graphically demonstrate that in Christ, “behold, all things are become new.”  (II Corinthians 5:17). © Copyright MMX by Wayne R. Scott
Scott’s Thoughts October 2010
“Little Women” launches LifeHouse Theater’s new 17th season!  This heartwarming favorite features a cast of storytellers in top form under the skillful direction of Rick Arias.  Be sure to join us for this award winning family classic, playing October 2 to October 24.  You’ll experience a charming fresh rendition of our musical with a beautiful new set designed by Tim Mahoney.  Amazingly authentic period costuming designed by Samantha Free, clever choreography by Lindsay Kimble and fun new harmonies by assistant director Amy Muthersbaugh are among the many highlights.  The timeless values and virtues woven throughout our “Little Women” production is an inspiring and uplifting antidote to the troubles of today.  Invite family and friends for a memorable time and help give LifeHouse a strong start to our new season! “Revelation” has just begun rehearsals for an exciting engagement on our LifeHouse stage.  Written, directed and choreographed by Dustin Ceithamer, this dynamic musical staging of the biblical book—verbatim—will seize your senses, stimulate insights and bring to life the scriptures as never before.  Please tell everyone you know about this unique theatrical experience, playing November 6 to 21. “LifeHouse Theater On-The-Air” has made its television premiere and is currently broadcasting throughout the week on the SmartLifeStyle Channel (SLS-TV). “Pilgrim’s Progress” is featured the month of October.  Be sure to follow the links from our website for program information and to stream this broadcast live during scheduled air times. “Rikki-Tikki-Tavi” is our latest CD audio drama release and it is stunning—just ask anyone who has heard it!  Rudyard Kipling’s immortal classic springs to life in this faithful, suspenseful and inspiring new addition to the “LifeHouse Theater On-The-Air” audio library.  There is also an encouraging spiritual subtext that is sure to lift your spirit in these challenging times.  Order your CD today and keep in mind our series will make great Christmas gifts this year—the perfect stocking stuffers! “Scrooge”—our award winning musical Season Special for Christmas is gearing up for a spectacular return to Clock Auditorium, Redlands, the second week of December.  A live orchestra and many new surprises await as we celebrate the true Spirit of the season as well as the twenty-fifth anniversary of this favorite Inland Empire attraction.  An all-star veteran cast of storytellers will join with Dustin Ceithamer’s direction and choreography for an unforgettable event.  Please visit our dedicated website page for all the latest details and booking information.
“I saw the angel in the marble and I chiseled until I set him free.” --Michelangelo In the early days of shooting “The Sound of Music,” actor Christopher Plummer (Captain von Trapp) hated the film.  It has been reported that he worried his association with it would be “career suicide.”  In his mind, it was too sweet, too syrupy and too schmaltzy.   Among the cast and crew he referred to the project as “The Sound of Mucus.”  Upon seeing the finished product before its premiere, however, he remarked, “I suddenly realized what a gloriously beautiful production it was.” Like Plummer, I sometimes have difficulty envisioning a triumphant final production in the midst of rigorous rehearsal.  I see no angels in blocks of marble itching to flap their wings on a glorious flight to heaven.  On days when spotlights blow, when costumes rip, when microphones fail and Murphy’s Law runs rampant, I can only envision the big blobs of heavy marble—usually on my foot. It is at those times I sometimes ask myself, “Self—why are you doing what you are doing? Why bother? So what?” And then I take a few moments to recall why we are doing what we do at LifeHouse Productions.  After a bit of reflection, I roll up my sleeves and dig back in.  Why?... By the end of the sixth grade, the average youngster has seen at least 5,000 murders on television.  Teen magazines are saturated with celebrity worship and the latest news about people almost no one will remember next year.  Novels and films aimed at teens are filled with depictions of gang life, drug use, hate crimes, and of course, vampires and other creepy creatures unwilling to die.  Speaking of death, one can see a lot of it in many of the “games” available to play—complete with the latest in virtual guts and gore.  Many of the “superheroes” of film and comic books are not as “super” as they once were, indulging in everything from voyeurism to voodoo.  Television’s “My Three Sons” gave way to “My Two Dads” decades ago and now we have the fantasy worlds of unrealistic “reality” programs. It is probably more than a strange coincidence that every day in America 8,441 teens become sexually active, 2,756 teens become pregnant, and 1,340 babies are born to teenage mothers. Already this year, 47 shootings have occurred in or near schools in New York City alone.  While many factors figure in, the  seeds of negative media have been sown for many years and now we reap a sorry harvest of social ills.  Even the most conscientious parents have daunting challenges helping young people battle unbelievable peer pressures and daily assaults to the senses from “media” and “entertainment” that have all but wiped out the innocence of childhood. Of course, as King Solomon observed many centuries ago, there is “nothing new under the sun.”  Modern scholars tell us that scandalous graffiti can be found on the walls of ancient Egyptian ruins.  So it has been and always will be in this fallen world.  But in these times of the worldwide web, a thousand TV channels, five thousand movie theaters, video on demand, one-hour news cycles, radio shock jocks, racist rap, Jerry Springer and tweets from twits, the onslaught of values contrary to what all societies have traditionally upheld since civilization began has never been greater. We can wring our hands, throw up our hands, or put our hands to work.  Perhaps barbarians in spheres of influence call the shots because people of faith have been missing in action.  Their absence is tragic at a time when our arts/media/entertainment-oriented culture so desperately needs their active involvement. It’s time to recapture creative spheres of influence for the Author of all creativity. That is why I do what I do and why LifeHouse does what it does. We prepare and produce productions aimed at exerting a positive, inspirational influence on children and adults of all ages.  And we’re working to expand this influence by exporting it through cable broadcasts, audio drama on CD and syndicated radio.  We may not change the world, but we can brighten our corner of it.  Our hope is to utilize the dramatic arts in a way that creatively arrests the senses of people who might not ordinarily consider spiritual matters or the “big picture” of life questions such as, “Who am I?  Why am I here?  Where am I going?” We’ve seen what we do make a difference—not only in audiences, but also on stage and behind-the-scenes.  It’s so encouraging to read some of the mail that has recently crossed my desk.  A parent wrote: “Our son and daughter are more confident and outgoing since joining LifeHouse…We’re so excited to      see them growing in such a caring, positive atmosphere.” While I’m pleased to report that letters such as this one from parents are not unusual, it’s even more exciting to receive letters from young people affected by their association with LifeHouse.  Some recent samples:
  • “I realize now from my time in several casts that I don’t need to hang around gangs.  That life is so empty and dead-end.  LifeHouse has shown me there is so much more I can do.”
  • “My life was getting out of control and I didn’t realize how bad off I was.  Then I met a whole new set of friends at LifeHouse.  All of you have been so supportive and, thanks to you, I was able to get past a drug habit…I thank God for all He has done to turn my life around…”
  • “After my parent’s divorce, I just felt lost.  But I’ve met people at LifeHouse who really care about me.  Thanks for being so faithful.”
When fatigue sets in, when lights blow, when microphones fail and when the question arises, “so what?”, it’s helpful to remember the difference we can make in many lives.  It’s the difference between “so what?” and “so what more can we do?”
Scott’s Thoughts Part 3 August 2010
LifeHouse Theater continues to be a hub of activity as we conclude our current season with an amazing premiere musical and prepare for the beginning of our dazzling new 17th season… “PURSUED—A JONAH STORY” OPENS TO ACCLAIM It has been a rich blessing to see “Pursued—A Jonah Story” open to standing ovations issued by audiences profoundly affected by the spiritual odyssey they have witnessed on stage.   This thought provoking new musical never fails to move me, challenge me, encourage me and inspire me.  I have already received several letters from guests expressing similar sentiments.  Many who have seen the production have told me they intend to come back and bring others.  It’s truly that kind of experience.  Please join me in inviting friends and family to share in this new musical adventure, now playing through September 19. “LITTLE WOMEN” IN REHEARSAL TO LAUNCH OUR 17th SEASON What a joy it has been to meet personally with the dozen lead storytellers from the cast of our musical “Little Women.”  We recently spent two hours together analyzing the story and characters that have made this classic novel a favorite for generations of readers.  The new insights of our actors and the thoughtful homework and research they pour into their performances are part of what makes these stage productions so memorable.  Rehearsals have begun in earnest now under the direction of veteran actor Rick Arias, whom many will recall as the man who artfully directed our production of the acclaimed drama “Shadowlands”—the powerful C.S. Lewis stage biography.  In the next few weeks, Rick will spend more than 60 hours in rehearsals working with our dedicated acting team.  Please pray for all involved in this heartwarming story that so movingly portrays the values of loving family relationships, courage in adversity and faith in God—refreshing themes in this troubled time. “LIFEHOUSE THEATER ON THE AIR”  MOVING  AHEAD The SmartLifeStyle TV Channel is preparing for the promotion and premiere of our new weekly broadcast in September.  Our original musical “Pilgrim’s Progress” will launch the series, which will be broadcast to nine million subscribers in the United States as well as Central and South America.  Aired in six parts, the series features my introductions giving historical background for the story, as well as interviews with writer-composer Ken Wright and actor Shane Litchfield, who is featured as the pilgrim Christian.  I’ll be relating much more about our exciting series in coming weeks.  In the meantime, visit and our own websites for the latest developments. “Rikki-Tikki-Tavi” will be our newest audio drama release the second week of September.  It’s an action-packed story from Kipling’s “Jungle Book” that will delight everyone.  It joins “The Count of Monte Cristo,” “The Princess and the Pigs,” “Job—A Modern Man” and “Trapped in Aesop’s Fables” in this dynamic series of imaginative storytelling.  Our hilarious new rendition of “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” is next on our schedule of releases. LIFEHOUSE THEATER OUTREACH  CONTINUES POPULAR TOUR Christ Community Church (Moreno Valley, October 3), The River Church (Redlands, October 17) and San Jacinto First Assembly of God (December 3) are among the upcoming stops for “A Song In My Heart,” the LifeHouse touring production under the direction of Eric Bishop.  This dramatic portrayal of stories behind great hymns has been well received by enthusiastic audiences.   The production comes to LifeHouse Theater for special performances in January.  For the latest information and “behind-the-scenes” insights, be sure to visit our LifeHouse Theater Outreach website.

“Among all great amusements, there is none more to be feared than the theater.”

--Blaise Pascal (1623-1662)

Sir Ralph Richardson once electrified an opening night audience and other members of his cast when he suddenly stepped out of character in mid-scene.  He turned toward the auditorium and shouted, “Is there a doctor in the house?”  When one stood, the acclaimed actor asked, “Doctor, isn’t this play awful?” Like Richardson, we would be wise to bring our judgment along with us when we attend the theater. The great French mathematician and philosopher Pascal knew of what he spoke when he observed that theater is something to be feared.  The power of the pen working from the page to the stage is indisputable.  Shakespeare echoes the idea with his rhetorical question: “Know you how much the people may be moved—by that which is uttered on the stage?” We cannot fear that which has no influence.  And if something has influence, it likely contains meaning—a message.  Francis Schaeffer’s observation that “all art has a message” rings true and the ability of the theater to convey a message makes it a powerful medium.  Thus we may discern that stage entertainment such as “Mary Poppins” contains, among many messages, the ideas that childhood innocence is worth protecting and that parents too busy to raise children ought to pay closer attention to them or suffer the consequences. So if and when we attend “Wicked,”  or  “A Chorus Line” or “Sweeney Todd,” or “Rent,” are we accepting their “entertainment” at face value or are we asking ourselves, “what are the various messages these stage works contain?”  We can be sure that the respective writers and composers want us to contemplate both the messages and the worldviews they have, without question, inserted into their works.  It is then up to us to discern how our viewpoints square with theirs.  Are the messages redemptive? Are they worthy of application to our own lives?  Why or why not? Time magazine reported many years ago that six like-minded businessmen pooled their considerable financial resources to invest in the development of a new stage musical.  That musical went on to become a box office bonanza, a national tour and a movie.  This particular musical contains a number of messages and world views I find abhorrent. If I shared the title with you, I suspect you would find the content and views expressed as reprehensible as I do. (Like the Apostle Paul’s “thorn in the flesh,” however, I will not reveal the specifics in the hope you will think critically about what you yourself have seen presented on stage and in film).  The six businessmen, however, supported these messages and wanted them in the marketplace of ideas that theater provides.  They were so intent on using the shiny bait of “entertainment” to convey their misguided “message” and hook audience members, they were perfectly willing to risk—and lose—hundreds of thousands of dollars in the effort.  And, by the world’s  standards, they were successful. While I disagree wholeheartedly with the aim of these businessmen, I have to grudgingly admire their willingness to risk so much to convey so little that is redemptive.  I would love to open Time magazine one day to read about six businessmen of faith who are joining together to bankroll a substantive,  inspirational production that conveyed values most societies have traditionally upheld. In the meantime, when we consider watching a play or film, may we remember that we are paying to have someone’s point of view pumped into our heads.  We are paying to give someone the keys to our hearts and minds. We are paying to give someone considerable power. If we agree with Schaeffer that “all art has a message,” are we choosing what to absorb wisely?