MIRACLES


MIRACLES

By Sharon Stevens

As I am writing this tomorrow will celebrate the 4th of July. Amazing that it comes around every year at the same time of the month, year after year. Each cycle falls on a different day, but the meaning is the same regardless whether it occurs during a week day or weekend. Red, white and blue are the same colors through centuries and generations. Uncle Sam never ages.

I read General Colin Powell’s Fourth of July wish, and was caught by something he wrote. “Wishing you all a safe and happy 4th of July as we once again celebrate the MIRACLE of our democracy, and the WISDOM of our founding fathers.

Miracle…Wisdom…Two words that you wouldn’t associate with fireworks and festivities. But then again these expressions are the perfect reminder of why we celebrate our American Flag and our Freedom. I was rereading the Bill of Rights and Constitution and Declaration of Independence, and by jove, these are miracles. When you think of what it took for a group of men to come together for the Common Good, and then to write the first draft, and the second, and the third until they got it right, you can appreciate what a miracle this truly is. These people left the comforts of their home and the love of their families to travel, and then to argue together to find the wisdom shared together. This must have been monumental even for them. I can’t imagine the fireworks of these spirited souls.

Tomorrow I will watch the parade from the vantage point of our local business, the Buffalo Bookstore, surrounded by friends, neighbors, family, tourists, visitors, WTAMU students, and everyone in the community. There is no doubt in my mind that I will cherish the MIRACLE that is my Freedom, and treasure the memory of the WISDOM of the founding fathers.

As a writer, AND as a citizen, they are NEVER just words to me.

I can’t leave this blog post without celebrating the life of Margaret and Ples Harper, and Margaret and William Moore, the founders of the musical drama TEXAS. Both of these families were veterans of World War II and professors at WTSU, now WTAMU. Margaret Harper read an article about Paul Green in the July 1960 edition of Reader’s Digest. She invited the Moore’s over for supper and they discussed if it would be possible to do an outdoor drama in Palo Duro Canyon. They decided to write to Green and ask him to come to see what he could do. The date of the original letter was July 3rd 1960. I can only imagine the pageantry that they were anticipating as Canyon prepared for the next day festivities. They must have agonized over their correspondence until the mail went out after the fourth. I wonder what date Paul Green received this simple note at his mailbox, and if he knew where Canyon Texas was?

Truly a MIRACLE any way you look at it!

Happy July 4th everyone. Celebrate family and community, please be safe!

EASTER


EASTER

By Sharon Stevens

 

Carla Stewart recently blogged with Susan Reinhardt about writing, and also about her book, “The Moses Conspiracy”. Reinhardt said something that truly touched my heart. Her words… “The novel was born from an experience I had while standing in Gettysburg Square on December 2004. Surrounded by old buildings, I “heard” the forefathers voices, but they were like fading echoes.”

Can you imagine standing in Gettysburg Square? What did Susan feel, sense, smell, hear, or touch with the echoes of the forefathers? Who was there to tug at her thoughts? I am sure she didn’t hear laughter, but then again, what if she sensed the families that strolled through the town at better times.

How many of us stop and actually listen to the voices of our characters? How does the setting change if we turn in this direction? How can we write our stories if we can’t hear what they are saying? So many times we are so afraid of losing the terrific thoughts running through our brain that we forget to forge the story within. We are petrified that if we stop for even just a moment in time, all will be lost and we will have to start all over again. But the opposite is so true. Sometimes, if we breathe with the heart of our character, OUR heart will carry on to complete the scene.

I remember how Natalie Bright told our critique group that her character would wake her up at night urging her to tell the story. Jodi Thomas spent nights at the computer only to hear the alarm go off the next morning just in time to get ready to teach school. Paul Green, who wrote the musical drama TEXAS, said that the panhandle was his thinking day and night.

Without a doubt we need to listen to our characters, but then again, not to forget they also took time out of their busy lives to celebrate life itself.

Someone left behind a desk diary from 2002, “On Writers & Writing” by Helen Sheehy & Leslie Stainton. Each page listed an author and the story of their life. To me, this was a true treasure on every level. The calendar itself had spaces to write thoughts and memories. The birth or death dates of authors were inserted at the bottom of each entry. But it was the stories of all the authors that caused my heart to leap for joy!

The March notation is the life story of Olaudah Equiano who was born sometime in 1745 and died March 31, 1797. Equiano’s life story began when he was kidnapped at age 11 and shipped to America for a life of slavery, “in a state of distraction not to be described.” He wrote an autobiography recounting the violence of being branded and beaten, but also of being taken in by an officer of the Royal Navy who taught him to read. He writes, “I had a great curiosity to talk to the books as I thought they did.” Equiano recalled. “for that purpose I have often taken up a book and have talked to it and then put my ears to it, when in hopes it would answer me.”

As writers, may you always take a moment to listen to your books as they tell their story! And may your books have a story to tell.

Happy Easter!

TEXAS


TEXAS

by Sharon Stevens

While going through used paperbacks at our bookstore I came across a copy of Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” with a bookmark I had tucked between one of the pages long ago. My memories instantly took me back. I remembered watching this version, the production by Franco Zeffirelli’s, at the movies on my fifteen birthday. Something stirred in my tender soul that night and it wasn’t just the scene where a naked Leonard Whiting (Romeo) rises from Juliet’s bed and greets the morning sunlight. I was overwhelmed not only with the words of Shakespeare, but the poetry, the settings, the costumes, and the way the dawn filtered through the sheer curtains of the bedchamber. All of it connecting me from that day to this moment, celebrating cinema and live theatre through the centuries. The story is timeless of two families struggling, torn with their beliefs ripping each other apart while destroying the very heart of the youth until all come together in grief.

The notes in this Scholastic book mentioned that Shakespeare borrowed the plot and characters from a long poem by Arthur Brooke called, “The Tragical Historye of Romeus and Juliet, but the ancient story came from an Italian tale very much older than that.

Jennifer Yirak Ryen directed “Romeo and Juliet” this past year at Shakespeare in the Park at Palo Duro Canyon. I can’t tell you what this meant for me to hear “A curse on both your houses” echo against the canyon walls, and to see the lights glint off the swords as they battled each other to the death. I think this is truly what Shakespeare envisioned as he read the “historye” and set his images to resound through the centuries. He wrote this play to be performed on a bare stage with minimal distractions from the periphery of our vision. In Palo Duro Canyon Jennifer did just that as Paul Green did over fifty years ago with TEXAS and Dave Yirak continues to this day. The play is the thing and the world is our stage.

Shakespeare never wasted a tragedy and as writers neither do we. We collect every thought, every scent, every memory, every pain, and every joy in between. We don’t celebrate misfortune, but we do rejoice in the friends and families that stood beside us as we struggle…those who brought us to the brink as well as those who held us back.

We can never know what someone may glean from something we had written. An image may come to mind that we weren’t anticipating, tugging at our hearts or gnawing at our soul. So many times I burst with excitement over a phrase and burst into tears with the next one. Who are we to judge what stirs a soul or drains a heart?

We can only write and hope that someday our writings will touch either a passion or a nerve and ignite a flame.

The musical drama TEXAS begins their season on June 2, 2012. Much has changed from year to year, but the passions remain the same. Dave Yirak, the artistic director, will again be guiding the cast and crew to perform for millions from around the world. Paul Green’s message as a writer of man against man, man against nature and man against himself has never gotten lost amid the controversies trying to divide the very foundation of our heritage. Even though the names of the actors, hospitality, front of the house and those behind the scenes may be different, Shakespeare will be front and center with the best seats in the house.

Sometime in the past I had tucked a quote in between the pages of “Romeo and Juliet” to hold my place. Where ever that place was I have forgotten long ago.  I wondered why in the world I had marked that certain spot. What did I notice, what caught my eye, what was in my heart? The quote was from “The Lost Colony”, a symphonic drama and the accompanying article written in the July 1960 Reader’s Digest by Alan Rankin about Paul Green.  Margaret Harper was moved by the words and she and her husband Ples visited with Margaret and William Moore about asking Green to come to Palo Duro Canyon to see if he would write a play to be performed with the spirit of our heritage.

Green asked for a packet of material to be sent to him so he could get a feel of the legacy that surrounds us. The Panhandle Plains Historical Museum gathered material from all his sources and sent it on. The museum will be holding their, “Night At The Museum” on June 1 & 2nd from 9:00-10:30pm. All the lights are turned down and everyone brings a flashlight to explore the museum in all its glory.

I treasure TEXAS and all it stands for. I marvel at the majesty of Palo Duro Canyon. I rejoice in the men, women and children that encompass the cast and crew past and future. I know that each time I walk the grounds leading to the entrance to the amphitheater, as God and John Wayne are my witness I know without a doubt that there will be something that will touch my soul and bring back a memory.

Maybe I will use it in a story or maybe I will store it in my heart, and come across it sometime in the future when I open the page of a book and turn to the placed I marked so long ago.

I truly think Shakespeare will be proud.

Sharon Stevens

TEXAS


TEXAS

by Sharon Stevens

While going through used paperbacks at our bookstore I came across a copy of Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” with a bookmark I had tucked between one of the pages long ago. My memories instantly took me back. I remembered watching this version, the production by Franco Zeffirelli’s, at the movies on my fifteen birthday. Something stirred in my tender soul that night and it wasn’t just the scene where a naked Leonard Whiting (Romeo) rises from Juliet’s bed and greets the morning sunlight. I was overwhelmed not only with the words of Shakespeare, but the poetry, the settings, the costumes, and the way the dawn filtered through the sheer curtains of the bedchamber. All of it connecting me from that day to this moment, celebrating cinema and live theatre through the centuries. The story is timeless of two families struggling, torn with their beliefs ripping each other apart while destroying the very heart of the youth until all come together in grief.

The notes in this Scholastic book mentioned that Shakespeare borrowed the plot and characters from a long poem by Arthur Brooke called, “The Tragical Historye of Romeus and Juliet, but the ancient story came from an Italian tale very much older than that.

Jennifer Yirak Ryen directed “Romeo and Juliet” this past year at Shakespeare in the Park at Palo Duro Canyon. I can’t tell you what this meant for me to hear “A curse on both your houses” echo against the canyon walls, and to see the lights glint off the swords as they battled each other to the death. I think this is truly what Shakespeare envisioned as he read the “historye” and set his images to resound through the centuries. He wrote this play to be performed on a bare stage with minimal distractions from the periphery of our vision. In Palo Duro Canyon Jennifer did just that as Paul Green did over fifty years ago with TEXAS and Dave Yirak continues to this day. The play is the thing and the world is our stage.

Shakespeare never wasted a tragedy and as writers neither do we. We collect every thought, every scent, every memory, every pain, and every joy in between. We don’t celebrate misfortune, but we do rejoice in the friends and families that stood beside us as we struggle…those who brought us to the brink as well as those who held us back.

We can never know what someone may glean from something we had written. An image may come to mind that we weren’t anticipating, tugging at our hearts or gnawing at our soul. So many times I burst with excitement over a phrase and burst into tears with the next one. Who are we to judge what stirs a soul or drains a heart?

We can only write and hope that someday our writings will touch either a passion or a nerve and ignite a flame.

The musical drama TEXAS begins their season on June 2, 2012. Much has changed from year to year, but the passions remain the same. Dave Yirak, the artistic director, will again be guiding the cast and crew to perform for millions from around the world. Paul Green’s message as a writer of man against man, man against nature and man against himself has never gotten lost amid the controversies trying to divide the very foundation of our heritage. Even though the names of the actors, hospitality, front of the house and those behind the scenes may be different, Shakespeare will be front and center with the best seats in the house.

Sometime in the past I had tucked a quote in between the pages of “Romeo and Juliet” to hold my place. Where ever that place was I have forgotten long ago.  I wondered why in the world I had marked that certain spot. What did I notice, what caught my eye, what was in my heart? The quote was from “The Lost Colony”, a symphonic drama and the accompanying article written in the July 1960 Reader’s Digest by Alan Rankin about Paul Green.  Margaret Harper was moved by the words and she and her husband Ples visited with Margaret and William Moore about asking Green to come to Palo Duro Canyon to see if he would write a play to be performed with the spirit of our heritage.

Green asked for a packet of material to be sent to him so he could get a feel of the legacy that surrounds us. The Panhandle Plains Historical Museum gathered material from all his sources and sent it on. The museum will be holding their, “Night At The Museum” on June 1 & 2nd from 9:00-10:30pm. All the lights are turned down and everyone brings a flashlight to explore the museum in all its glory.

I treasure TEXAS and all it stands for. I marvel at the majesty of Palo Duro Canyon. I rejoice in the men, women and children that encompass the cast and crew past and future. I know that each time I walk the grounds leading to the entrance to the amphitheater, as God and John Wayne are my witness I know without a doubt that there will be something that will touch my soul and bring back a memory.

Maybe I will use it in a story or maybe I will store it in my heart, and come across it sometime in the future when I open the page of a book and turn to the placed I marked so long ago.

I truly think Shakespeare will be proud.

Sharon Stevens

TEXAS


TEXAS
by Sharon Stevens
by Paul Green
Act I
Scene I
(With Choral Overture)

The evening star hangs like a liquid ball of fire trembling above the canon’s rim in the amethyst summer sky. As the night deepens, it descends and goes on down and out of sight. The amphitheater lights fade into darkness. Far up on the rim of the high canyon wall at the rear a single trumpet sounds a call-The first two phrases of the old cowboy song, “Oh, Bury Me Not on the Lone Prairie”.

A halo of light comes on up there revealing a Texas Ranger seated on his horse with a lifted trumpet to his lips. The call is repeated, then the light dims down on him and his horse somewhat. The rattle of a drum begins as if under the very feet of the horse and comes down the canyon wall toward the audience in a growing avalanche of sound, building with the timpani until the whole amphitheater is enveloped in a thundering turmoil of musical tempest.

The tumult deluges the audience for a moment, then like a great ocean wave begins receding, passing backward and up the canyon side and diminishing as it goes, finally to merge itself into the ranger’s trumpet call again as the light brightens there. This time the call concludes with the last two phrases of the above song, with one repetition only. After an instant of pause, the light dies out from the ranger and his horse.

The above passage comes from the actual script of the musical drama TEXAS. What thoughts must have been running through Paul Greens mind as he contemplated the letter sent by Margaret Harper inviting him here. She had read the article about him in the July 1960 edition of the Readers’s Digest. After an evening shared with her husband Ples, and Margaret and William Moore, professors at WTAMU, they sent the note to invite Green to come to see what he thought about writing a play for Palo Duro Canyon.

Green responded quickly with excitement and to inform them of his expenses, but also asked if they could send him information about the area so he could begin to gather ideas of the struggles and joys of the panhandle settlers.

Of all the plans made from that day forward I am sure the hardest had to be with that first step. The Harpers and the Moores knew not only the Greek philosophers, and Shakespeare but George M. Cohan. They also knew and had read Loula Grace Erdman and J. Evetts Hayley as well as all the other local authors from here to Dallas. Phebe Warner and Laura Hamner, founders of the Panhandle Professional Writers, one of the oldest continuous writing groups in the nation, were established writers in their own right, and probably found their way into the mix.

How do you choose? How do you fathom? How can you condense buffalos, American Indians, faith, cattlemen, farmers, merchants, families, and everyone in between in one package? What do you think will be important in the thoughts of a man a thousand miles away as he begins to form the basis of the heritage and civilization of the panhandle of Texas? What will tell the true story of the ancient understanding of man versus man, man versus nature and man versus himself?

Paul Green was a Pulitzer Prize winning author with several shrine dramas under his belt. “The Common Glory” and, “The Lost Colony,” were just two of the many sagas he had helped bring to the stage. What was important to him as he began to form a picture in his mind of the canyons, the people, and the wind, the ever draining wind?

So many times as I sit down at my computer I am totally overwhelmed with what faces me. I am not afraid of the blank screen. I am petrified of the billions of words that will fill it up. There are so many stories and plots, people and struggles that share white space. How can I tame them down, and share their memories with the respect they truly deserve without getting mired in the rhetoric sure to follow.

There is no magic formula, no book on writing, no critique group that can cure this dilemma. The only relief is to write and read, and read and write again, and again, and then again, always tightening, cutting, adding, and deleting until the words make sense. And this is why we write.

I am sure Paul Green was faced with this insurmountable task when he received the package from Canyon Texas. He knew to fulfill his mission he had to do justice to the characters found within the pages of the mountain of materials from the post office. When he visited Palo Duro Canyon they say he jumped from rock to rock, always with pen in hand, to hear where the echo sounded the best off the canyon walls to complete his manuscript. I am sure he stopped to listen and to see if he could hear the sound of a thundering herd of buffalos, or the yip of a coyote, or the screech of an owl, or a whisper of the wings of a hawk or a field lark, or a mockingbird. No doubt he witnessed the majesty of our sunrises and sunsets painted by The Master himself.

Every year when I am sitting in the audience of the Pioneer Amphitheater and follow the music and hear the overture signaling the opening scene I am reminded of the words condensed and written in the actual script by Paul Greens own hand…”The rattle of a drum begins as if under the very feet of the horse and comes down the canyon wall toward the audience in a growing avalanche of sound, building with the timpani until the whole amphitheater is enveloped in a thundering turmoil of musical tempest.”

If only my words could talk like that!

Sharon Stevens

TEXAS


TEXAS
by Sharon Stevens
by Paul Green
Act I
Scene I
(With Choral Overture)
The evening star hangs like a liquid ball of fire trembling above the canon’s rim in the amethyst summer sky. As the night deepens, it descends and goes on down and out of sight. The amphitheater lights fade into darkness. Far up on the rim of the high canyon wall at the rear a single trumpet sounds a call-The first two phrases of the old cowboy song, “Oh, Bury Me Not on the Lone Prairie”.
A halo of light comes on up there revealing a Texas Ranger seated on his horse with a lifted trumpet to his lips. The call is repeated, then the light dims down on him and his horse somewhat. The rattle of a drum begins as if under the very feet of the horse and comes down the canyon wall toward the audience in a growing avalanche of sound, building with the timpani until the whole amphitheater is enveloped in a thundering turmoil of musical tempest.
The tumult deluges the audience for a moment, then like a great ocean wave begins receding, passing backward and up the canyon side and diminishing as it goes, finally to merge itself into the ranger’s trumpet call again as the light brightens there. This time the call concludes with the last two phrases of the above song, with one repetition only.
After an instant of pause, the light dies out from the ranger and his horse.
The above passage comes from the actual script of the musical drama TEXAS. What thoughts must have been running through Paul Greens mind as he contemplated the letter sent by Margaret Harper inviting him here. She had read the article about him in the July 1960 edition of the Readers’s Digest. After an evening shared with her husband Ples, and Margaret and William Moore, professors at WTAMU, they sent the note to invite Green to come to see what he thought about writing a play for Palo Duro Canyon.
Green responded quickly with excitement and to inform them of his expenses, but also asked if they could send him information about the area so he could begin to gather ideas of the struggles and joys of the panhandle settlers.
Of all the plans made from that day forward I am sure the hardest had to be with that first step. The Harpers and the Moores knew not only the Greek philosophers, and Shakespeare but George M. Cohan. They also knew and had read Loula Grace Erdman and J. Evetts Hayley as well as all the other local authors from here to Dallas. Phebe Warner and Laura Hamner, founders of the Panhandle Professional Writers, one of the oldest continuous writing groups in the nation, were established writers in their own right, and probably found their way into the mix.
How do you choose? How do you fathom? How can you condense buffalos, American Indians, faith, cattlemen, farmers, merchants, families, and everyone in between in one package? What do you think will be important in the thoughts of a man a thousand miles away as he begins to form the basis of the heritage and civilization of the panhandle of Texas? What will tell the true story of the ancient understanding of man versus man, man versus nature and man versus himself?
Paul Green was a Pulitzer Prize winning author with several shrine dramas under his belt. “The Common Glory” and, “The Lost Colony”, were just two of the many sagas he had helped bring to the stage. What was important to him as he began to form a picture in his mind of the canyons, the people, and the wind, the ever draining wind?
 So many times as I sit down at my computer I am totally overwhelmed with what faces me. I am not afraid of the blank screen. I am petrified of the billions of words that will fill it up. There are so many stories and plots, people and struggles that share white space. How can I tame them down, and share their memories with the respect they truly deserve without getting mired in the rhetoric sure to follow.
There is no magic formula, no book on writing, no critique group that can cure this dilemma. The only relief is to write and read, and read and write again, and again, and then again, always tightening, cutting, adding, and deleting until the words make sense.
And this is why we write.
I am sure Paul Green was faced with this insurmountable task when he received the package from Canyon Texas. He knew to fulfill his mission he had to do justice to the characters found within the pages of the mountain of materials from the post office. When he visited Palo Duro Canyon they say he jumped from rock to rock, always with pen in hand, to hear where the echo sounded the best off the canyon walls to complete his manuscript. I am sure he stopped to listen and to see if he could hear the sound of a thundering herd of buffalos, or the yip of a coyote, or the screech of an owl, or a whisper of the wings of a hawk or a field lark, or a mockingbird. No doubt he witnessed the majesty of our sunrises and sunsets painted by The Master himself.
Every year when I am sitting in the audience of the Pioneer Amphitheater and follow the music and hear the overture signaling the opening scene I am reminded of the words condensed and written in the actual script by Paul Greens own hand…The rattle of a drum begins as if under the very feet of the horse and comes down the canyon wall toward the audience in a growing avalanche of sound, building with the timpani until the whole amphitheater is enveloped in a thundering turmoil of musical tempest.
If only my words could talk like that!
Sharon Stevens