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The Milk House

Just dropping by... Ask and ye shall receive

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Columns - Yevet Tenney
Friday, 05 June 2009 03:47

“Ask and ye shall receive; knock and it shall be opened unto you.”

Some folks may take that as an old, worn-out adage from the scriptures, but I take it as law and gospel. I have proven it many times. I was just reading my life history and realized that the pattern of answers to prayer is a reoccurring theme. I thought I might share a few experiences that I had fun reading again.

The summer after my second year of teaching, I decided to go to school to get some more hours towards my master’s degree in education. I pondered whether I should even go to school that summer because I was recovering from a tonsillectomy. I prayed about it, and the Lord told me with a scripture that I should go.

I’m glad I listened to the Spirit because it was a life-changing experience. I went to the university and started to go to my first class. I opened the door. The class was watching an old black and white movie on education.

As I stood there for a moment, I got sick inside. “I just can’t do this!” I closed the door and left. I didn’t know what I was going to do, but I knew I was not supposed to do education classes. I thought, well maybe I’ll have another opportunity to direct another play. I guess I should take a directing class.

I went to the drama department and asked about the director’s class. The department informed me that I had to take a basic acting class before I could take the directing class. I felt impressed to take the acting class. Wow! What a wonderful experience! We hit every level of acting, emotional and sensory awareness.

I knew I had found my niche. After another year of teaching, I fasted and prayed about leaving Taylor, Arizona, to get a Master of Fine Arts in playwriting. I felt good about the decision, so I sold my mobile home and went to the University of Utah, fully expecting to be accepted to the masters program.

I was shocked to receive a letter of rejection. The department said my writing skills were not good enough to meet the standard. I knew I could pine and worry or I could solve the problem. I decided to solve the problem. I started taking all the English and theatre classes I could.

As time went by, I kept hoping to get into the playwriting program. The Lord didn’t let me down. I took an English class from David Karnes. I wrote a monologue for his class, and he said, “Yevet, I think there is a larger work here. Have you ever thought about going into playwriting?”

I told him that the department had rejected me. He said, “Apply again, I’ll write you a letter of recommendation.” I didn’t know at the time he was the English chair that sat on the masters selection committee. He was a playwright and the guru of playwriting at the university.

He wrote a glowing letter to the department and became my mentor and my adviser when they accepted me. What a wonderful man! The Lord opened the door wide for me.

During that time, I took a class in children’s theatre from Xan Johnson, the head of the Child Drama Department. He was a tall, lean man with a flair for perfection. I didn’t hit it off with him too well. He made me feel that I could never measure up to his prowess.

But despite my feelings about him, or maybe because of my feelings about him and to prove to him that I could be a successful playwright, I decided to get a masters in both child drama and playwriting. I liked the idea of using drama in the classroom. Xan was short on students so he accepted me to his program.

Ken Washington, the head of the acting department, allowed me, with special permission, to take some of his acting classes that were designed for majors only. It was a wonderful experience to be challenged beyond my capacity.

Bob and Dorothy Antrim were a couple that worked in the Theatre Department in the evenings. Bob taught screen writing and Dorothy taught improvisation. I took Dorothy’s class three semesters. Improvisation is where you are given an idea to act out with other actors/actresses. You don’t have a script or even a character most of the time. You create a play with the other actors. It was great fun.

We performed in class, but we also went on the road a couple of times. We performed at Trolley Square for the passersby there. I loved working in theatre. In the improvisation class, I learned to write real dialogue that was packed with conflict and to carry a story line to the finish in a very short time, cutting out all the fluff.

There were other teachers who influenced me in theatre, but there is only one more that I will mention. Dr. David Jones. He taught theatre history to the master’s students. I took his class and I learned that he taught a Shakespeare acting class for acting majors. He allowed me to take his class. I loved it, to say the least.

The Lord blessed me with every desire of my heart. He opened doors and worked miracles to give me the best education I could possibly have. As an example of some other miracles that opened doors, I’ll tell you about my Master of Fine Arts projects.

At the Lab Theatre, they had a policy that a playwright could only have two slots to present their plays. After the department saw my first play, “The Way to a Man’s Heart” they gave me five slots. The school paid for the props, set, costumes and advertisements. What a blessing!

Another miracle was my play, “Wingless Butterfly”. The Lab Theatre had given me a slot for a play to be presented Oct. 31 in August. I didn’t have a play written at the time so I put down the title “Wingless Butterfly” because I was working on another idea for a play with that title. I figured I’d have it finished by then. That play never came together.

I was frustrated in September. I didn’t want to give up the slot at the Lab Theatre that they had generously offered, so I prayed. I went to a young actors conference with the Theatre School for youth directed by Xan Johnson.

While there, as I watched the young high school students, I started to remember how social pressure works in high school and I started writing the “Wingless Butterfly.” It was a play about a young man who stutters. I wrote the hour-long play in one evening.

Rick Kershner, a child drama student, read my play and decided he’d direct it. He coached me on some of the dialog that didn’t quite work and helped me make a few minor changes. With his prowess as a director and the Lord’s help, we made the show a tremendous hit.

Xan Johnson raved about the play and decided he wanted to take it to Chicago for the theatre convention as a showcase piece. What a shock! Xan wanted to take my show to Chicago. Not only that, he wanted to direct it.

I had written another play during that time called “Run Away Red.” It opened in the Lab Theatre before the Chicago conference. Xan liked that play too, so he said, “Let’s take both of them.”

Rick directed “Run Away Red” and Xan directed “Wingless Butterfly.”

Miracles happened again when we were able to raise $10,000 to take my shows to Chicago. Many directors saw Wingless and called, asking me if they could produce my play. I have traveled to different states as a playwright in residence and worked with young actors who produced my play. It was a thrilling time for me.

I had students in tears touched by the character of Andy in “Wingless Butterfly.” So many students have written me letters of appreciation.

One girl, who played the leading lady, said, “But for your play I would have committed suicide. I was contemplating it until I acted in your play.”

I could take the credit for the miracles in the play, but I know where my source of power comes from. I fasted and prayed before I wrote that play, and the Lord gave me the words and images. I just wrote them on the page.

In case you are ever in doubt if there is a God, I want to tell you I know that He lives and He is mindful of every single person on the face of the earth. He will answer every prayer you send His way.  PD

 

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