The Secret Garden and Kid-Lit’s Golden Age

The Golden Age of British children’s literature refers to a remarkable period during which a vast number of western literature’s best-loved books were written. Consider that between 1900 and 1930:

  • Beatrix Potter wrote and illustrated her many picture books for young children, beginning with The Tale of Peter Rabbit.
  • A.A. Milne created Winnie the Pooh.
  • E. Nesbit wrote her wonderful children’s novels, including The Railway Children, Five Children and It, and The Enchanted Castle.
  • Frances Hodgson Burnett wrote A Little Princess, The Secret Garden and Little Lord Fauntleroy.
  • J.M. Barrie created Peter Pan.

And this list is not exhaustive at all. There was also an explosion of American children’s literature at around the same time: The Wizard of Oz, Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, The Call of the Wild and Pollyanna, to name a few.

The wonderful thing about all these books, to my mind, is that they are not written “down” to children, over-simplified and dripping with moral lessons. Rather, they are strong original stories which are amusing, engaging and often thought-provoking, but which are most appropriate to the genre (fairly new at the time) of children’s literature. Continue reading

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Frances Hodgson Burnett, writer of classics

TSG-web-1-238x300The first in a series of posts on the background of all for One’s The Secret Garden, which opens April 20, 2018. For tickets, call (260) 422-4226.

Who was the woman who gave the world two of its most beloved children’s classics? She was not perhaps quite what you might have expected.

  • Her books were all set in the British Isles, but she left England as a teen and did not return for some years. In fact, the last years of her life were spent on Long Island, where she is buried.
  • She wrote famously of little girls, but she bore only sons.
  • Her books focus on comfortably wealthy families, but she experienced a “riches to rags” life and only regained financial stability by long years of perseverance as a writer.
  • Her stories are full of lively and optimistic characters, but she suffered from depression on and off throughout her life.

Continue reading

DAVID Synopsis, with photos

DAVID posterDAVID: the Giant-Killing, Song- Singing Chosen King  will receive its world premiere on afO’s stage in the ArtsLab theater at 300 E. Main Street, from February 16 through 25, 2018.  Here are some thoughts from playwright/composer/actor Sam Ward on this dynamic one-man show, a combination of theatrical story-telling and high-powered rock concert:

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by Sam Ward

March 10, 2017. The stage and the audience were both small. 60-70 people had gathered for a fundraising event.  all for One‘s artistic director introduced the show there was applause as I walked onstage to begin a 30-minute preview of my original one-man musical, DAVID.  I was a little nervous, but I was prepared and felt called to share this story.

It’s the story of a man who is known both as a singer/songwriter, and as a warrior and king.  It’s the story of a man who was known for his pure heart, and yet committed terrible sin against Uriah, Bathsheba and others.  But mostly, it’s a story of a powerful God and the man who tried to express his love for God in song.

As we move toward a polished production–with five “mighty men” musicians accompanying me–I wanted to share some photos from that first preview performance last year, along with a synopsis of the first half of the show:

At the top of the show, the prophet Samuel anoints David.  The Spirit of God enters David and empowers him for the rest of his life…

 

The Philistines gather their troops and attack Israel…

The Philistine champion, Goliath of Gath, steps out from the frontlines and issues his challenge, “Give me a man and let us fight it out together!”

David hits the giant hard in the head and Goliath falls, facedown in the dirt!

As the Israelite army heads home, the women come out from the villages to welcome King Saul.  For fun they sing, “Saul has killed his thousands, David his tens of thousands.”

Filled with jealousy, Saul tries to kill David.  David sings a song of justice to God.  “O Lord my God, I take refuge in you / Save me and deliver me, from all who would pursue…”

Saul discovers that Michal, his daughter, is in love with David.  Thinking the Philistines will get rid of David for him, Saul challenges David to kill 100 Philistines to get Michal as his wife.  David does it and Saul gives his daughter, Michal, to David in marriage…

Then God sends a dark mood to afflict Saul.  It takes control of him.  He is at home with his spear while David is (again!) playing music.  Saul tries to pin him to the wall…

David escapes and sings to God.  “Deliver me from my enemies, O God / Protect me from those who rise up against me…”

David runs to Nob and talks to Ahimelech the priest.  Ahimelech gives him the holy bread, taken from the presence of God, and also Goliath’s sword.  David escapes to Gath…

David is recognized by the Philistines.  Afraid for his life, David pretends to be insane.  When he escapes he sings his thanks to God, “In God, whose Word I praise / In God I trust, I will not be afraid / What can mortal man do to me?”

This is just the beginning of David’s life and only the first 30 minutes of a show which is now about 80 minutes long.  I’m excited to present these characters, these songs and THIS STORY, because I think it will help all of us see a man who was flawed, but who loved the Lord with his whole heart.

What in the world is “BEND US”??

BEND US image

Introduction:  A musical?  Really?

Things have been hopping at all for One behind the scenes!  We moved to new corporate offices last September, and into a new theater in April. It is long past time to give you all a glimpse of what you will see when we open our 2015-2016 season next month, with our first-ever world premiere musical!

all for One has not been known for producing musicals, although we do often incorporate music into our plays. A Sentimental Journey included vocal music of the 1940s, with live piano. Last year’s A Laura Ingalls Wilder Christmas included folk music from the late 1800s, accompanied by members of the Hearthstone Ensemble. We have included choreography on occasion, whether to interpret a scene emotionally (e.g., Tilly), because a scene takes place at a dance (e.g., Emma) or just because it’s fun (e.g., The Princess and the Goblin)!  Appropriate (recorded) incidental music is a significant feature of all our Home Stage Productions…often the music is original.

But a full-fledged musical is not something we’ve attempted. Broadway-style musicals are costly, and there are other companies locally who already make them a specialty. So producing musicals on a regular basis is not what we are called to.

A unique opportunity

However, in October of 2013, Dave Frincke was introduced to me (Lauren, afO’s Artistic Director), by a trusted mutual friend. Dave is the worship pastor at Heartland Community Church, and had written the score for a local musical (The Twelve) several years ago. This time, however, he had written the book and lyrics as well. I was recommended as the person who would be “brutally honest” with him about the script. I had never heard of the Welsh Revival of 1905, but I was intrigued by Dave’s backstory. My initial reaction ran to three pages, single-spaced.

“Thank you, first of all, for the step of faith of allowing a comparative stranger to read your script, Bend Us: The Story of the Welsh Revival. I began it with great anticipation after hearing the amazing story of how you were compelled to write it.”
(P.S. I hope to get Dave to write a post telling you the story of how he came to write Bend Us.)

The bottom line, for me, was that the music was wonderful, the subject was compelling and important–but he had not found a theatrical way to tell it. Dave–gracious, humble and open-minded throughout the whole of the past two years–asked great questions. And came back a day later with an entirely new script.

The script, in essence, which you will see in September.

Dave took the vast reading he had done, along with interviewing and visits to Wales, and used this to imagine an appropriate historical back story for one central character of the Revival, Florrie Evans, about whom virtually nothing is known beyond her standing up to testify in a chapel meeting. He gave her a mine-worker father, and a spiritually-cold mother.  Dave also found a dramatic way to introduce the dissenting voice of those who opposed Evan Roberts, the most prominent preacher during the Revival.  He wove together historic a capella hymns and his original words and music.

afO onboard!

The result  of all Dave’s effort is a gripping story. In the course of meetings to go over dialogue and scene structure, Dave had invited me to direct the eventual production. I would only be able to do that during the summer, and I tentatively said yes for the summer of 2015. Then in the Spring of 2014, afO was approached by Arts United to consider making the ArtsLab our new home. I felt strongly that Bend Us could be done on this flexible stage. After talking with the afO board and staff, and with Dave, we added his musical to our slate of shows for this season. I am thrilled to be  bringing this project to the afO stage.

Future posts will include more on the historic elements, with links to great further reading, coming in our next post. For now, here is a listing of the cast for our world premiere. You will notice a number of new names.

AWSTIN–Sam Ward
JOHN–Andrew Bower*
RHYS EVANS–Kevin Keats*
ANNE EVANS–Teresa Bower
FLORRIE EVANS–Amanda Gordley
EVAN ROBERTS–Nathan Smith
SIDNEY–Colin Aumiller*
REV. PETER PRICE–Jeff Salisbury
WILLIAM GRIFFITHS–Ron Stauss
ENSEMBLE (all play multiple roles):
Susanne Aschliman*
Bridget Bogdon
John Dunlap*
Richard Halquist*
Ruth Keller
Christine Newman-Aumiller
Tod Mohr*

*Actors making their afO Home Stage debut