I wrote new children’s book. This one is about and for my grandson, Jude. Hope you enjoy my reading of the book.
You can order a copy on Amazon here: Hey JudePosted 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
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
Ah, yes the actor’s dream. “The smell of the greasepaint, the roar of the crowd.” I’m sure every actor has that dream. Standing ovations, the crowds going wild, and great reviews (although I must admit, I really don’t care much for the smell of greasepaint).
But engage an actor in conversation about their real dreams—the kind they have when their head hits the pillow at night—and it’s more likely they will tell you about their nightmares. Common ones include forgetting lines, missing an entrance, or the most common of terrors—finding yourself on stage in a production you know nothing about and trying to bluff your way through the show. I have had those nightmares, and had a few of them actually come true.
Last weekend I had another of my nightmares come true. I have literally had dreams about traveling to a performance to discover, at the last minute, that I left all my costumes and props at home. Well, it happened for real last weekend. I think I am so accustomed to flying to performances that I become a little too relaxed in preparation for travel when I have to drive to show. This time I was so relaxed about my travel that I completely forgot to pack my suitcase that has all my performance stuff in it—all my props, costume pieces, display items, and media for sound cues—packed and ready to go, sitting in my office at home. I was about 3 hours into my 5-hour drive to Marysville, WA when I realized my blunder.
(While I say I simply forgot these things…my wife had a different take on it. She called it a “senior moment.” I have no clue what she means by this…I haven’t been called a senior since I graduated High School.)
What to do! I did have the time to turn around and go back to Salem and pick up the suitcase…the time, but I wasn’t sure I had the energy. I pulled over at the next exit on I-5 and got out of my car to go double check the trunk—yep, no suitcase. Breathe, Chuck, breathe!
I started making a list of the essential things I needed for this performance. Fortunately, I am doing one of my personal storytelling pieces, Go Ask Your Mother…a Father’s Story. After taking a moment to think through the show, I realized that most of the props, while great to have, were not essential. I could do this without the props, if necessary. At least I knew my lines.
At least I knew my lines.
The text. That’s what was essential! The actor, the director, the speaker all know your job is to serve the text. You know exactly what I am talking about if you have ever watched what is supposed to be a blockbuster movie and are totally underwelmed by a weak storyline and poor writing or conversely if you have ever watched a low budget film and been blow away by the great story that was told.
I would focus on the text! I ran them during the drive—alas no “senior moments!” All the lines were there!
Modern technology can be a wonderful thing. Some of the missing items from my suitcase could simply be printed at the local Kinkos. A quick call to my wife and the wonder of “the cloud,” and those things are easily duplicated. A stop at a local store and a call to the pastor to see if they can locate a couple of items for me to use, and by showtime on Sunday morning I had almost everything replaced. Nightmare averted.
I recalled the text of the motto from my days as a Boy Scout: “Be Prepared.”
Senior moments… pftttt!Posted by Chuck Neighbors | 0 comments
I was excited to hear a well-known author and speaker address a conference I was attending. I’d read this man’s books and had always been impressed with his stories and his ability to craft words in ways that move and inspire people.
As he got up to speak, my expectations fell like a rock. He opened his talk with a joke. A joke I had heard numerous times before. The audience laughed…but it was a “polite” laugh, giving me the impression that I was not the only one who had heard that joke before. He went on with his talk, and it was a good talk, but couldn’t get past the fact that this renowned speaker and master wordsmith would open with a joke.
A few weeks ago I was privileged to share a meal with another author and speaker. In the course of our conversation we were both laughing almost constantly with funny stories about our lives, travels, and families. At one point in the conversation he said, “I got rid of all my sermon illustration books. I discovered that I had more illustrations from my own life that were infinitely better than the ones in those books.”
It is not that those other illustrations were bad, and perhaps some were more dramatic or funny than his own stories, but they were not “his” stories. He discovered that his personal stories had more impact, humor and relevance than another person’s stories. When he told his stories there was a ring of authenticity that made the listener connect and want to hear more.
As I have watched the really good comedians over the years, my favorites are always the ones that focus on telling their own stories or observations, not telling jokes.
It is not that I don’t enjoy a good joke; in fact telling jokes was one of the ways I discovered my talent and ability as a performer. But I have learned, like my author/speaker friend has learned, that there is great power in telling your own stories.
So the next time you are preparing a speech, sermon, or emcee, don’t go digging through illustration books. Just spend a bit of time looking at a diary, photo album, old Facebook posts or even looking in a mirror. Trust me, there is some great material there!Posted by Chuck Neighbors | 0 comments
When I was a kid I played drums.
Well, actually, a drum would be more accurate.
I signed up for band in school and, much to my parents’ chagrin, chose the drum as my instrument. So I got one of those practice pads—a piece of rubber glued to a piece of wood—and some sticks. It would be a few years before I would get a real drum and then a few more before I would get my first drum set. I loved my drum. My parents loved my practice pad.
When I was a kid I also went to church…a lot. I was involved in youth group and youth choir, and I was in the church for every service—which back then was a minimum of three times a week—Sunday morning, Sunday evening and Wednesday night prayer meetings. I loved my church.
Back in the 1960s music in church was pretty traditional: we had a choir, and a piano and organ accompaniment. On very rare occasions a talented adult or student who played a trumpet, clarinet or flute might be invited to play for “special music,” usually during the offering. Oddly, this invitation was never extended to a drummer. (Although I could play bongo drums at a youth retreat to accompany “Kumbaya My Lord.”)
It was stated unapologetically that drums were not a suitable instrument for church music, and certainly not appropriate for the platform. The platform—that was what non-liturgical churches like mine called the chancel area. While not liturgical, the platform was still considered a “sacred space” and the items on the platform had symbolic significance. There was a communion table, which contained the Welch’s grape juice and saltine crackers on Communion Sunday and a large super-sized Bible on the Sundays when communion was not served. There was a pulpit, where the Word of God would be proclaimed each week, and behind the pulpit was a cross on the center wall. Under that cross was the baptismal (for you non-Baptists, that is a large tub filled with water, big enough for two people.)
There were usually no musical instruments on the platform. The piano and organ flanked each side of the platform and in our church were actually on the floor, not the platform.
I’ll never forget the Sunday night that things changed. I was invited to bring my drum and a cymbal and set it up beside the piano and to play, yes play my drum, to one song. Oh, the thrill I felt. I was going to play my drum in church. It was nothing too jazzy and certainly not rock-n-roll. The song was Onward Christian Soldiers and I would tap out a march to match the military cadence of the song. I felt like the little drummer boy in the Christmas carol: pa rum pum pum pum.
My how times have changed…
Today it is rare to go in to a church and not see a drum set. Even in more liturgical churches. The church has changed, music styles have changed and the platform has changed.
Today the drums in many churches are right in the center of the platform. My theater background has taught me that center stage is the strongest area of the stage. Often the most important moments in a play will take place center stage. Yep, right about where that drum set is located. Of all instruments, drums can be the most difficult to move and reset, so it is not surprising that the drums stay put from week to week. Where it used to be a drummer would cart his drums to church, today the church may actually own the drum set…I am pretty sure this would be considered blasphemy in the church of my youth.
Because drums and drummers can be loud, many churches place the drums in a “drummer’s cage” —it consists of clear Plexiglas walls complete with a roof to muffle the sound of the drums. It is a sort of prison cell for drummers. Drummers have heard it all their lives: “you’re too loud!” The phrase “it is meant to be seen and not heard” was invented for drummers. The drummer’s cage now reinforces that.
Thinking back to the symbolism of the traditional items found on the platform, I can’t help but think there may be symbolism for many in putting the drums in a cage. You have the communion table and the sacraments, the Bible, the pulpit, the baptismal and the cross on the wall.
And under the cross is a cage containing a drum set. With so many symbols of the Christian faith on the platform it is time to complete the picture, to add another
cymbal symbol and show the consequence of our sin.
A caged man, a man in bondage surrounded by drums…obviously for many this must symbolize hell.
Praise him with the clash of cymbals, praise him with resounding cymbals. Psalm 150: 5
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 1 Corinthians 13:1Posted by Chuck Neighbors | 4 comments
Being “your own boss” and working at home does have its perks…and it also has its downside. I have seen the looks of envy from those who think working at home would be the best job in the world and I have seen the knowing looks from those who work at home who would beg to differ…including many of my pastor friends. I started this little list on my Facebook page and was quite surprised at the response:
Pro: Easy commute–you can sleep in longer and work in your pajamas.
Con: There is no Starbucks en-route to the office.
Pro: You can have a messy desk and no one else sees it.
Con: You have a messy desk.
Pro: Clients can meet you in your office at your convenience.
Con: You have a messy desk and work in your pajamas.
Pro: You are in charge…you don’t have to worry about someone else screwing things up.
Con: You are in charge…there is no one to blame when you screw things up.
Pro: No time clock. You can make your own hours, take time off whenever you like.
Con: No time clock. You can make your own hours, and work around the clock forgetting to take time off.
Pro: No more being asked to pick things up at the store on your way home from work.
Con: You have to make a special trip just to pick up something from the store.
Pro: You are your own boss.
Con: Sometimes the boss is a jerk.
So what can you add to the list?Posted by Chuck Neighbors | 0 comments
Have you ever heard two people tell very different versions of the exact same story? Happens in our house all the time. I can recount an event and tell it to someone in less than 30 seconds—a “just the facts, ma’am” approach. My wife’s version of the same story might take a good 5 minutes and she will add details that I never noticed; sometimes I am convinced she is making things up. We remember things differently and when we retell them, our versions are greatly influenced by how the event affected us personally. It might have been no big deal to me but a very significant event for my wife. My version is boring; hers is animated and full of life.
Telling a good story is more than just recounting details and facts. A good story engages the listener in ways they can identify with you and compels them to listen. Here are 5 tips to help you spice up your story:
Adding some spice to your story will turn a good story into a great one. It will make your story more entertaining, and while entertainment may not be your goal, your story won’t make an impact unless you are entertaining in the process!Posted by Chuck Neighbors | 0 comments
Go Ask Your Mother…A Father’s Story is the second presentation of my “life stories.” In this presentation I tackle fatherhood, sharing lessons I learned from my father and some of the joys, humor, and trials of raising three sons of my own. You’ll hear stories of kids embarrassing their parents, stories of rebellion and reconciliation, and unfinished stories of hope rooted in a father’s love for his kids. Much is written today about kids raised in the church, only to abandon the faith when they leave home. I share my own experience with this troublesome issue. Raising kids is not for the faint of heart and you will identify with this father’s confessions of struggles, uncertainty and hope for the future.
If you are reading this you are invited to the premier performance of this presentation.
Date: Friday, October 25th
Time: 7:00 PM
Place: Liberty Christian Church, 4764 Skyline Rd S. Salem, OR 97306
There will be a “talk-back” session after the performance where you can ask questions and give feedback about the performance.
We are also accepting bookings for this production beginning in 2014. Contact us at info.mastersimage.com for details and availability!Posted by Chuck Neighbors | 0 comments
After a long flight I retrieved my rental car and was going through the final checkout before leaving the lot, when the I had the most unusual conversation:
Attendant: So are you here to hire or fire?
Me: Why would you ask me that?
Attendant: You look like you are pretty high up on the corporate ladder.
Me: Sorry, I am just an actor.
Attendant: Well… then… (laughter)
Immediately I am recalling the movie Up In The Air with George Clooney. In the movie, Clooney’s character traveled as the hatchet man for a corporation. He fired people for a living. In addition to his good looks, he dressed and played the part of the corporate executive. If I reminded her of George Clooney… well, I am flattered.
I tried to piece together what would make her jump to this assumption about my being a corporate type. I am a pretty casual dresser. When I travel I rarely check a bag and so if I need a sport coat and a collared shirt, mainly for performance costume, I often wear it rather than pack it. Such was the case on this day. I have the silver hair thing going for me… some say it gives me the “distinguished look” (although I think they are just being polite and “distinguished” sounds better than “old”). And she must have totally ignored that I had rented a Nissan Versa… hardly the vehicle of choice for the corporate elite.
It was a jarring reminder to me of how communication is so much more than words. We are constantly sending out messages—whether we want to or not—by how we look, what we wear and with our body language. As an actor I have to be a student of this; it comes into play for the characters I portray on stage. Actors will tell you that it is often not until they get into full costume and makeup, that they fully become the character. How we see ourselves makes a difference in how we communicate.
Current trends in culture want us to believe that it doesn’t matter what you wear or how you look. Just be yourself. On a certain level I agree, but there is no getting around the fact that we are judging people all the time based on appearances. You can argue that it is not fair… and you are right! But it doesn’t change the reality that we all do it. I do it, you do it. We make assumptions based on surface stuff.
Years ago I toured with a performing ministry. One of the many rules was that we were not allowed to wear blue jeans—couldn’t even have them in our suitcase. This was in the 1970s. We were mostly younger people traveling in a van with California license plates. To the world at large during the 70s that meant one thing—hippies! Banning blue jeans, the ministry felt, was one way we could help to dispel that image. The rationale for this rule was summed up in this philosophical statement: If what I am wearing will stop you from listening to me, then I will change what I am wearing.
I hated the ‘no blue jeans’ rule. But I have to admit, it makes a good point. Sort of reminds me of something the apostle Paul said: “I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.” 1 Corinthians 9: 22 (NIV)
You could argue a variety of styles of dress using this as a guideline. To the performer/speaker that translates into “know your audience.” For some that may mean a suit and tie and to others it may mean a tank top and tattoos.
In the meantime, somebody call central casting and move over George Clooney. I think I can play this corporate type!
Do you consider how others will perceive you when you select your wardrobe for the day?Posted by Chuck Neighbors | 9 comments