Had the pleasure of being interviewed by Tracie Arboneaux-Gorham from the FB Group “Therefore, I create!”
We talked about my career as an actor and the recent books I have authored. It was a fun conversation.Posted by Chuck Neighbors | 0 comments
Had the pleasure of being interviewed by Tracie Arboneaux-Gorham from the FB Group “Therefore, I create!”
We talked about my career as an actor and the recent books I have authored. It was a fun conversation.Posted by Chuck Neighbors | 0 comments
I had the pleasure of being featured on The Story Blender, a podcast hosted by critically acclaimed author, Steven James. Some of his previous guests include international bestselling authors George R.R. Martin (Game of Thrones), Candice Fox, Steve Berry, Meg Gardiner, Sue Grafton, MJ Rose, and Robert Dugoni; comedian Bob Stromberg; Emmy-award winning writer John Tinker; and screenwriter Mark Bomback.
We are passionate about well-told, impactful stories. We love to listen to them. Watch them. Create them. So, we decided to talk with premier storytellers from around the country. Hear their stories and get their insights. From novelists to comedians to film makers to artists. Stories are told through a variety of people in a variety of ways. And here they are. The secrets of great storytelling from great storytellers.
I share some of my story and talking about some of the things that make live storytelling effective.
Give it a listen on their website at The Story Blender or on these podcast providers: PodBean, Spotify, or iTunes.Posted by Chuck Neighbors | 0 comments
(Finally, after months of not being on stage in front of an audience, Steve Wilent has been able to perform a couple of times recently. He discovered things are a little different than what he was used to before the pandemic.)
I was standing on stage about to start my one-man show According to John. I have performed this 45-minute version of the Gospel of John for over 30 years but this would be, thanks to COVID-19, the very first time that I have performed it to a congregation of masked people.
It was a bit jarring at first. I was used to seeing full faces out there. Faces that had mouths that would grin if I said something funny or would fully open if I said something really funny or perhaps droop in sadness to a character’s failure or lips that stretched thin during a stressful scene. So many ways to know that the folks out there were connecting with me and in turn I with them.
But that was all gone now. Now, due to the masks, all I had to go on, apart from a bit of body language and the muffled noises they made, was their eyes. The biggest problem with having a sea of eyes to look at is that, regardless of the emotion, everything looks like a squint! Happiness, sadness, stressfulness, nervousness, passion, hatred . . . it all comes across as a squint.
I remember an advanced acting class when I was in college. I was in a short scene with a female classmate. We were portraying two young lovers experiencing their first argument. I don’t remember the script. I don’t even remember my acting partner’s name, but what I do remember is that right at the height of the argument Jim Kirkman, the class instructor, suddenly yelled, “Stop!”
I remember freezing right there on stage and thinking, “What the heck?! We haven’t even got to the good part yet!” Kirkman then hopped up onto the stage and walked briskly past my acting partner and over to me. “Close your eyes,” he commanded. Ever the compliant, affable actor, I did so. Mind you, I didn’t simply allow my eyelids to softly come together; no, I shut them with such force that you might have been able to audibly hear them slam together. There was a sprinkling of suppressed laughter coming from the other students, who in this moment were quite happy not to be the target of Kirkman’s coaching.
I heard him say, “Steve, relax.” Again complying, I relaxed and for some reason decided that to fully relax I must also open my eyes. Kirkman grabbed my shoulders and quickly spun me around so that my back was now to What’sherface. Kirkman gently squeezed my shoulders and said, “What color are her eyes?” Understandably nervous I said, “What color are whose eyes?” I heard titters of laughter coming from the cheap seats. Before Kirkman could say, “What’sherface’s eyes,” What’sherface, sounding annoyed said, “My eyes, you moron.” Calling me a moron, I thought, was just her way of letting me know how attracted to me she was. I thought.
Kirkman, gesturing with his thumb over his shoulder said, “Yes, Steve, what color are her eyes?” Being put on the spot tends to do funny things to people. My usual way of handling this kind of pressure was to try to say something funny. So taking a cue from a popular Elton John song I said, “So . . . excuse me forgetting, but these things I do. You see I’ve forgotten if they’re green or they’re blue . . .” Truthfully, I just wanted to say that, what I actually did say, in a moment of surprising self-awareness was, “I don’t know.”
Kirkman suddenly spun around to face the class and pointing back at me with a bony finger yelled, “Exactly! You don’t know the color of her eyes because you were acting at her and not with her! When you act with a fellow human being you focus on their soul. The eyes are the windows to the soul, people! Use your eyes to see into their eyes!”
Back on stage in front of the masked and socially-distanced congregation, remembering Kirkman’s words helped me to link to a much wiser man’s words, “The eye is the lamp of the body . . .” Jesus said. Suddenly the sea of squints out there became a sea of souls to me. Precious souls, who now more than ever needed the hope and the courage to be able to thrive in this time of pandemic.
I have now made the decision that when things “get back to normal,” I will continue to focus on and minister to people’s souls, through their eyes.
Oh, and in case you were wondering, mine are blue!Posted by Chuck Neighbors | 2 comments
I was teaching a break-out session at a Worship Conference. My topic was about making a living as a Christian artist.
I asked the group: “Name for me some famous Christian bands, go ahead and just call them out”
“Jars of Clay”
“Gaither Vocal Band”
All of these and many more were called out.
Then I asked: “How about some famous Christian singers?”
“Michael W. Smith”
Again just a sampling of some of the many names that were mentioned. (Note: this discussion happened before Kanye West and Lauren Daigle would have made the list)
I try another category: “How about Christian Comedians?” It takes a few seconds but then I hear:
“That lady that sings that thing about what Mom’s say to the tune of the William Tell Overture.” (Anita Renfroe)
“I think Stephen Colbert is a Catholic.”
There were a few other names tossed out but the list was definitely shorter.
“Okay let’s try one more… how about famous Christian actors?”
The silence is deafening. Then someone says.
“Oh that actor who played Doogie Howser… what’s his name?”
“Neil Patrick Harris?”
“No, you’re thinking of the actor from Growing Pains…uh…Kirk Cameron.”
“Oh yeah… he’s in those Christian movies, Left Behind and stuff.”
“That’s it?” I asked. “One actor?”
“Oh wait there is that guy that tour’s around doing C.S Lewis and Screwtape Letters… uh… Don McLean.”
I correct him. “That would Max McLean. Don McLean is the singer who wrote Bye Bye Miss American Pie. Anyone else?
“Denzel Washington? I saw this YouTube video where he talked about praying…”
From the back of the room I hear, “Chuck Neighbors”
I smile… “I said famous actors… and you only said that because the name on the handout for this class says: Chuck Neighbors, Actor”
(It is interesting to note that some of the names—U2 (Bono), Johnny Cash, Stephen Colbert, and Denzel Washington—are celebrities that have identified themselves as Christian, but their art is not typically what most people think of when we think of Christian artists.)
So there you have it, in a nutshell. While there is plenty of name recognition for Christian musicians, there is not much when it comes to being a “Christian actor.” I have often referred to myself as “that Christian actor guy” because for most people, even those who have seen me perform, “that Christian actor guy” is a close as they will get to remembering my name. (Although I have lost count of the number of times I have been introduced as Jim Nabors…aka Gomer Pyle).Posted by Chuck Neighbors | 0 comments
On Palm Sunday it was a privilege to perform to over 5,000 people in three services at a church in the Los Angeles area. It has been a while since I shared with an audience this large and I have to say it was both exhilarating and exhausting. Three in a row of Encounters, with a lot of emotional characters, takes a toll on the body.
After each performance I was happy to hear some great comments from people that sought me out to compliment my performance. One comment came up more than once:
“I have never seen anything like that before.”
It gave me pause and made me ponder what exactly they were referring to. Did they mean they had never seen an actor do a one-man show? Perhaps. Or did they mean they had never seen a dramatic performance in the place of a sermon on a Sunday morning. That seems more likely to me.
Their comments were a blessing and a reminder to me of the great gift the arts can be to the church. These listeners heard familiar stories from the life of Jesus told in new and different ways and it impacted them deeply.
The church continues to struggle—or maybe doesn’t struggle enough would be more accurate—when it comes to making room for the arts in the church. The response this last weekend gives me hope that progress is being made in this struggle.
After such a great weekend I was stopped in my tracks when I returned home. A very different response from another church awaited me. A pastor was hoping to schedule a performance this summer; we had the date penciled on the calendar and I was awaiting the formality of an approval from the church board. Then I received this email:
“It is with deep regret and personal disappointment that the Board decided to decline the opportunity.”
I pushed back. Often these things don’t pass the Board because of budgetary reasons. I asked if it was about the money. His response:
“It had nothing to do with money. There was just an expressed apathy. I showed them the clip you sent which I felt was incredibly powerful but apparently they did not share my perspective. I am both puzzled and frustrated. I am sad and disappointed and believe we have missed a wonderful opportunity.”
I am especially bothered by the word “apathy” as the reason. I would be more understanding if it were about the money, or “not appropriate for worship” or even what is even more typical, “we have never done anything like that before.”
Notice how close the phrases are:
“I have never seen anything like that before”
“We have never done anything like that before”
The first was an open door that brought new insight and spirtual impact to the listener.
The second is a closed door that resists change and settles for the status quo.
One step forward, one step back I suppose. (Uh-oh, was that a subliminal message about dancing in the church?)Posted by Chuck Neighbors | 2 comments
As 2018 draws to a close, I find I am reminded of that old hymn “Count Your Blessings.” Sing with me if you know it:
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
Count your blessings, see what God has done!
Count your blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord has done!”
So here are just a few of the blessings I am counting from the past year.
– 85 Performances were given in 9 states
– Over 180 kids in poverty were sponsored through our partnership with Food for the Hungry
– God’s provision through some challenging times for our team, both financial and on the health front
– Lives impacted through the ministry as reflected in this quote from a recent performance:
“Our church had actor and storyteller Chuck Neighbors come and share his “In His Steps” drama recently and it was fantastic. His acting is second to none and he made us feel like we were transported to a bygone era. The adults and the kids alike were all captivated by his presentation. I would highly recommend any church, large or small, to invite Chuck to come and present this powerful drama and challenge to walk in the steps of Jesus!”
This ministry is now 35 years old and it couldn’t have happened without the prayers and support of people like you. If you are reading this letter, you are one of those who have made this journey possible. That’s hundreds of performances and thousands of lives impacted with the Gospel!
As you look forward to 2019, we would be so very honored if you would remember us by giving a gift to Master’s Image Productions. We would be especially grateful if you could support us on a regular basis with a monthly pledge. You can make a donation online or set up a month gift plan with a credit card here: www.mastersimage.com/donate. Gifts are tax-deductible.
We Wish you a Merry Christmas!
And God’s blessings in the New Year!Posted by Chuck Neighbors | 0 comments
In my world as a itinerant artist, you often wonder if what you are doing really makes a difference. You get a lot of “good job,” “how do you remember all those lines?” and “thanks for sharing” comments. But rarely do you get to hear a real story of a life truly impacted or changed through the ministry/art that you present. But every once in a while you get a glimpse, a story comes back to let you know that something tangible happened. Such was the case at a performance of In His Steps in Arizona earlier this year. Writer, Tarina Lovegrove wrote about a performance she attended that was featured in Hometown Christian Magazine. I have included a portion of the article as a guest blog. Thanks Tarina!
Are we at church or at a grand theater? It was truly hard to tell. I was so blessed the day Chuck Neighbors visited my church and performed a one-man show entitled In His Steps for our small congregation.
For so many of you who were not at the service that day, you really should visit www.mastersimage.com and try to catch the amazing performance that was showcased that fine Sunday morn. If you’re like me, you’ll be blessed beyond measure with his example of the impact of having Jesus in your heart and what it can do for your life, your community and our world.
The first scene opens with Mr. Neighbors singing “I Can Hear My Savior Calling” as he begins his narrative in a role as Pastor Henry Maxwell. Neighbors establishes a solid foundation that sets the scene for the spectacular presentation that followed.
Shortly thereafter, he remarkably remains in character, not missing a beat, adds a wooly red scarf, scruffy jacket and old worn out hat to his wardrobe and literally transforms personas to now represent the second character on set, a homeless man named Jack Manning.
Now, Jack Manning appeared on stage and inherently in front of what was personified as the front of a church, which really hit home for me, as it ironically was exactly where I was seated at the time.
Jack Manning who was poor and quite ill, asked Pastor Maxwell in front of the entire congregation, exactly what did he mean when he said it was important to follow in the steps of Jesus.
The moment was quite fascinating because unbeknownst to me, my attendance at church that day literally transported me to another place and time. I was not only attending church, I actually became part of the cast of the play without even knowing it. It was brilliant!
And then it happened… Jack Manning began speaking to the congregation too. See, his character was a printer by trade who lost his job several months ago and had been brutally struggling ever since. His wife had died, his little girl was living in someone else’s home for survival and very few people cared enough to provide compassion, kindness or understanding toward the matter. Life for them it seemed carried on… business as usual.
The insightful Mr. Manning repeated that he was “just stating facts” when he asks his question about what Christians mean by following Jesus. Through his monologue, Jack Manning revealed there were nearly “500 men, many with families,” in this city in the same situation.
In his heart of hearts, he wasn’t begging for money or support, he was merely trying to understand how Christian people with homes, incomes, money, resources and security could fathom praising the Lord, singing mighty hymns of worship, living lives of luxury and then choosing to turn their heads and hearts when faced with the homelessness and needy population in their very own backyards.
The light bulb illuminated itself even brighter for me when Mr. Manning referenced there might not be as much trouble in our world today if the people who sang these songs also took action to proactively make efforts to eliminate the devastation.
There I sat… dumbfounded, with my heart in my stomach. Guilty as charged.
There are so many great lessons to learn from this astoundingly heartbreaking yet truthful showcase. I just don’t know where to begin.
In retrospect, I look at my life and I see the could-ah, should-ah, would-ahs… but that’s not going to get any of us anywhere. Each of us has the same opportunity, in this very moment, to make a difference. What will you do? Make a change or business as usual?
I know what Pastor Henry Maxwell chose to do in the play. I won’t ruin it for you, I promise. Watch the play… it’s incredible! It’s a drama just exploding with a tremendous message that could lead to fantastic impact across our great country, if truly taken to heart.
I know I was completely touched and will not soon forget Mr. Jack Manning, Mr. Henry Maxwell or the real man who brought them and several other great characters to life that day… Mr. Chuck Neighbors.
For details on upcoming events or how you can book Chuck Neighbors for your church or community event, please visit his website at mastersimage.com. He’s a phenomenal actor, director, storyteller and writer who has traveled across North America as well as 17 other countries around the world, providing thought-provoking material that shares the gospel, touches the heart and with your help, will create a ripple effect of kindness throughout neighboring communities around the world.
Thank you, Chuck Neighbors… for sharing the Word of Jesus Christ! God bless you, your journey and ministry.
You can read the rest of the feature article here: Hometown Christian MagazinePosted by Chuck Neighbors | 0 comments
As you may know, in addition to the stories I share in my travels, we also represent other artists through Master’s Image Productions. Two of our team have added to their lineup recently and I think they are productions you should consider for your church/organization.
If you have experienced Marcia’s presentation You Raise Me Up you know she has a powerful story to tell of her journey to discover life after loss. Her story does what a good story always does—leaves you wanting more. People had so many questions they wanted to explore that she was compelled to create a sequel to address some of the issues left unresolved in You Raise Me Up. Her newest presentation, Broken, does just that. It addresses her continued journey to healing and wholeness, a message of hope that will inspire those who listen. To learn more or schedule Marcia for a presentation: www.marciawhiteheadusa.com
Steve has had a varied career, from cleaning windows to working as an actor in Hollywood, and pastoring a rural church as a young seminary graduate. It is from this experience as a young pastor that he shares his story called Unlikely Prospect. I have had the pleasure of looking over Steve’s shoulder as he wrote out this story and I can tell you it is a story for anyone who has ever wondered about the purpose of the church—a fellowship of believers learning how to live life together as the body of Christ. You will laugh, squirm and be moved to tears in this inspiring true life story of faith. Check out Steve’s presentations at www.stevewilent.net.
While I don’t have a new production waiting in the wings at this point, I am still enjoying sharing my stories and especially those that, like Marcia’s and Steve’s, are based on my real life adventures. So be sure to check out Truth be Told…from a Guy Who Makes Stuff Up and Go Ask Your Mother…a Father’s Story.
It it matters, there’s a story!Posted by Chuck Neighbors | 0 comments
I could tell something was amiss with Mr. Music Director at this church. He didn’t greet me when I arrived early, unlike other members of his team. He was agitated with the sound issues the church was having. And it was clear that his agenda was the only one that mattered, even though I arrived early to do a sound check and rehearse my tech cues. I soon discovered he was not about to relinquish the stage to me before the service.
He first upstaged one of the team members who was speaking to the congregation by going up to each worship team member, checking their microphone and pointing wildly at the sound booth to confirm that each mic was working properly.
He upstaged again when he moved back to the keyboard and refused to start the next song until he was convinced everyone’s mic was working. The pastor prompted verbally from the front pew, “let’s go.” He then said, “I’m sorry but our music is sensitive and I don’t want to play unless it is right. I’m sure you understand.”
Finally it was time for me to take the platform. Things were going along fine until the final moments of my performance, when Mr. Music Director decided to take the stage while I was still speaking. This is a sensitive moment in my performance and Mr. Music Director was upstaging me by moving onto the platform and flipping switches getting ready for his closing song. I could sense my audience moving their focus from me to Mr. Music Director. I wanted to say something to him; to tell him to please go sit down until I was finished. But to do so would have only caused me to totally lose my audience, and possibly turn them against me. I’m sure if you were to ask him, he would tell you he was being professional and preparing for a smooth transition to the closing.
I wish I could say that this was a rare occurrence, but sadly it is not. I share this story with you not as rant but rather to encourage you to understand one of the basic rules of the stage, and that applies to any situation in front of an audience. What Mr. Music Director was doing is called “upstaging.” In theatrical terms it means to draw attention away from where it is supposed to be. Upstaging in the theater is when an actor moves upstage of another actor forcing the other actor to turn their back to the audience in order to interact with them. In theater we tend to think of it as intentional bad behavior, but in truth it can be unintentional and often accidental. Or in the case of Mr. Music Director, it can be due to being oblivious to what you are actually doing.
(I have written about this topic as it relates to church before here: Baby Talk. If you check it out also read the comments that follow—some interesting stuff.)
Here are some examples of upstaging that I observe in churches almost every weekend.
• late arrivals
• people who get up and leave in the middle of the service
• people who return to the service after leaving in the middle of the service
• babies crying or cooing
• cellphones ringing
• texting or using a mobile device during the service—yes other people notice.
• tech issues with microphones not working properly
• team members on the platform who are talking to each other, or moving things around while someone is speaking
• outside interruptions, a clap of thunder or police sirens.
As you can see, some of these things we can’t control but some can be controlled with proper instruction and planning.
So take this challenge. Next time you are in church, make a mental note of anything that causes you to take your focus away from the person you should be giving your attention to. And at all costs, don’t be the one doing the upstaging.Posted by Chuck Neighbors | 2 comments
He was a large man, the man in seat 11A. Large enough to to require that the armrest between the seats be raised in order for him to fit comfortably in his seat on the Southwest Airlines flight.
I am an actor…part of my job is to observe people. It’s something we do as a part of our craft. Observing people is one of the tools we use in creating new characters. Sometimes I do this intentionally and other times…like this one, the opportunity just falls into your lap…so to speak.
My lap tends to feel rather cramped on airlines so I like to take advantage of my A-List status on Southwest Airlines – which allows me to board in the first group. (No assigned seats on Southwest, so getting on early is essential if you hope to have an aisle or a window seat.) I head to the middle of the plane to hopefully snag the aisle seat in the exit row, which has extra leg room. In this case seat 11C is my destination.
I’m in luck as I arrive at row 11 and 11C is available. The man in 11A – the window seat – is already occupied and settled in. The flight attendant announces that this will be a full flight and every seat will be taken. This flight will have a number of “larger people” on board as a college football team has booked about half of the seats. However, the man in 11A is clearly not one of the team, being older and, let’s just say he didn’t have the physique to match the rest of the team.
The first occupant of the middle seat, 11B, is a middle-aged man, and has a look of all business. At first he seems happy to have scored a seat with extra legroom. Then he sits and the look on his face changes as he realizes that the armrest is missing between the seats, forcing body contact between him and the man in 11A. He almost immediately pops up and looks to the back of the plane. Without a word he grabs his bag and squeezes out to move to another seat.
The man in seat 11A seems oblivious to this as he is focused on his iPad. In fact he has not engaged anyone since I have arrived in row 11, looking at the screen the whole time.
The second occupant of seat 11B is a younger man. He also has the look of a business man, although less traditional than the first occupant and thankfully he is skinny, not built like one of the football players, and should be a better fit in the space between me and the man in 11A. However, it doesn’t take long for him to also realize that this seat is going to be less comfortable than he imagined; he fidgets and squirms and he too begins to look back, a bit frantic even, to see if there is another seat. But it appears he is out of luck. All the seats are taken and the flight attendants are starting their routine announcements in preparation for departure.
The flight attendant is required to ask all the occupants of an exit row if they are willing to help and if necessary open the exit door in case of an emergency. I am surprised and amused when 11B says no, he is not willing and will need to be reseated. I see the slightest bit of an incredulous smirk on the face of the man in 11A.
Now what has been an interesting observation taking place in row 11, suddenly becomes public as the flight attendant has to make announcements over the PA looking for a volunteer to replace the man in 11B.
It takes several announcements with no takers before finally a hand shoots up from the front of the plane. The man in 11B quickly gathers his stuff as if he can’t get out of there fast enough. A few seconds later an attractive woman makes her way down the aisle to replace him. I hear the first words from the man in the seat 11A, “Alright!–that’s much better” as the woman finds her way to the seat between us…it was almost as if he had planned it…and I got the feeling that this is not the first time he has experienced this dilemma.
The woman in seat 11B is outgoing. As she gets into her seat she says, “Oh, I get to sit next to “Ralph Lauren,” referring to me. Well that certainly made my day. She immediately engages 11A in conversation. And we are off.
It doesn’t take long for 11B to raise the question, “So what was the deal with the other guy who was sitting here?”
11A replies, “I guess he didn’t want to sit next to me. You’re the third person to have that seat.”
“That’s ridiculous!” says the woman in 11B.
11A and 11B hit it off well and converse while I turn to my iPad and headphones to watch a video. A short time later I unplug and the question is asked by 11B, “What football team is this anyway?”
I happened to have observed their logos and tell them the name of the college.
11A is connected to wifi on his iPad. A few seconds later they have the football team’s webpage up on the screen. Guess who the first occupant of 11B was? The coach of the football team.
The woman in 11B says, “Let’s see if we can find out who that other guy was that I replaced in this seat.”
Anonymous no more.
So as for my acting lessons:
Interesting observations to say the least. I am left to ponder what I would have done, if I had happened to be one of the first occupants of 11B. Of course I could have offered to take 11B right from the start and solved the problem…but…but I was A-List.
Somebody ought to write a script…Posted by Chuck Neighbors | 2 comments