Character Tearsheets: An Introduction

Character tearsheets are something that is common in the Theatre (possibly Film and television) world for Designers. Particularly Costume Designers, though I am certain Hair & Makeup Designers use them as well (in Theatre, Hair & Makeup tend to fall under the domain of the Costume Designer while in Film and Television, that’s an entirely different department). The easiest way of explaining it is a typical tearsheet is a word document (or similar program) of one page where you have pictures/images of a character for design purposes. It’s a way of visually assisting you in coming up with a design for a show. Sort of like a quick visual scan. Most costume students end up doing this in programs as we generally don’t have time to render (fancy term meaning draw and paint/maker/etc) in the short amount of time we are given for the assignment. Sometimes we are given mere days, so doing tearsheets is a quick way of designing a show for an assignment.

An example of a grad student’s tearsheet for Midsummer Night’s Dream on their online portfolio (courtesy of Kristalduke.com)

What you can see from the above example, is the “actor” she has chosen for the role. The jacket style she is considering and possible colors. I also see pants, vests, shoes with spats, a top hat, a cane (in one image, but that just me coincidence), and a fob watch. So, one gets the general idea of where she is going with that design. And you may be wondering, how does this relate to writing?

A writer’s board (courtesy of screencraft.org)

Places like Screencraft and other writer’s resources always recommend a corkbaord or whiteboard to jot down ideas and help build your novel or screen play, etc. And if that works for you, fantastic! My mind doesn’t work that way. Maybe because I come from an English & Theatre background that’s more academic or because I’ve never found those tools helpful other than posting notices, who knows. All I know is I grew frustrated trying those routes in trying to organize my novel and my thoughts because it didn’t work for me. So I turned to ways that I knew worked and they helped me a lot, so I hope that somewhere, they may help someone else. Instead of designing a character for a show, I used a word document (some ran to two pages instead of one) to help me visualize each of the main characters and a few of the secondary ones as well. I pulled images such as celebrities that I thought had the color hair that I liked. Period portraits that showed the outfits or poses I thought fit that character. To putting images of books they read, furniture they used. Even they’re favorite kind of tea or flowers. Anything and everything that would help me “see” that character and create them (especially their moods, and dialogue) in the novel. And I did make notes on the sheets, especially if I couldn’t recall why I picked an image. For instance, I used an image of Cary Grant and specifically chose it because I loved the smile in it. That smile, to me, was the smile I saw my character having. So I made a note of it on the tearsheet that said “Cary Grant Smile.”

This is the picture of Cary Grant smiling that I liked. (Getty Images)

It doesn’t have to be that complicated and it doesn’t have to have a lot of images. If there’s a landscape of a picture of a tree that to you, screams a certain character, put it on your sheet. Something about it is speaking to you, so use it. And if it’s a certain color (like a paint swatch or just the color of a jacket), then yes, make a note that it’s that color you are associating with that character. It could inspire a scene in the novel, you never know. This doesn’t have to be a hard process or a long one. I only have tearsheets for 8 characters for my first novel and I have more than 8 characters. I really only focused on the main ones and the ones I was struggling with in terms of trying to write dialogue for (they were secondary ones). Most don’t get this kind of attention so don’t feel you have to do one for each and every single character. If you have 4 main characters, do one for each of them. Then if you find you are struggling later one for one or two others, then go back and do a tearsheet for each of those characters. I found it really helped me focus on those problem characters and scenes that I struggled with because it helped me focus.

Lyme Cobb (antonyspencer.com)

Another use for them that I did that I had never done before was use them for images of places that the characters travel to. Of course, if it’s a fantasy world, that may be difficult, but if you know the world contains mountains, why not have a tearsheet of different mountain ranges for inspiration? How about different sunsets or forests? Or carriages or carts if that’s how they are traveling? It does help you focus on your novel because it’s a great little visual aide in narrowing down all those images you may have been collecting on Pinterest. And I even have a tearsheet for a cat because it’s a character in the novel. Grey cats are not all the same I will state in my defense and grey kittens in particular vary. Will nay of this information make it’s way into the novel? No. But it’s good to have it available in case anyone who ends up reading the book asks. think of it as your own personal background information that you can share or not with your fans in the future. And hopefully, you will share.

1995’s Persuasion at Lyme (janeausten.co.uk)

I hope this has been insightful, helpful, but most of all, inspirational. I want people to learn from my mistakes (as in listening to experts who say to only do things a certain way) and realize that there are many ways to go about the writing process. I’ve found a method that works for me. And it works well because it’s familiar, it’s easy, and it’s simple to do. Will it work for everyone? No and I don’t expect it to. But is it something I hope people will try? Yes, I do hope those of you who are writing will try this method and see if it’s helpful for you. And I hope it is. There is no right or wrong way here. We are all learning together.

The Greatest Showman: Or what in the Humbugery is all this Nonsense?

Firstly, I’ve had a bit of a inner struggle recently on whether to consider myself a 19th Century Historian or not based on the simple fact that I do not have a degree in History. I do, however, have a Masters in Theatre in the realm of Costume Design and over 32+ hours of graduate hours in History courses (from two well-respected Universities) which is sort of the equivalent of a Masters degree in of itself. I don’t take such a designation lightly, but I did reach out (quietly) to people with Masters and Doctorates and asked them their opinions. All ten assured me that I had all the qualifications of being considered a Historian because I met a few simple guidelines being I had spent hundreds, if not thousands of hours studying my specific area of expertise. That I could, without much hesitation, answer their questions in a timely manner (up to ten minutes) via Skype and not needing to resort to Google but only using my personal notes meant I would be able to pass an oral exam if I had been given the chance. Many stated I did not need a piece of paper to do what I was doing because I had already proven myself and needed nothing else. So, I am very pleased with that knowledge. But understand that I will always use published and verified resources to back up my statements whenever I can.

Now that I have gotten that out of the way, I can now turn your attention to the purpose of this entry, which is ‘The Greatest Showman”, or what I would like to refer to as “The Greatest Bit of Humbug I’ve Ever Seen Grace the Silver Screen.” If you’ve not seen this film, I will not apologize for spoiling it for you. If you have seen it, I will not apologize for tearing it to shreds. The film stars Hugh Jackman and he is superbly cast (per usual) in a role that utilizes his theatrical gifts of the stage; singing, acting, and dancing are clearly his forté. I do not fault Mr. Jackman for taking such a role, as it must have been lovely to be presented one which was vastly different from his role in Les Miserables. Even so, I do find issue with casting a man with the looks of Adonis to portray P.T. Barnum, who in reality resembled the offspring of a gremlin and a lump of clay (and I do most heartily apologize to all lumps of clay reading this currently). Of course, this is Hollywood and we most assuredly cannot ever cast average looking people to portray average historical figures! Heavens no! Imagine the horror!

Casting concerns aside, I have an issue with the lack of historical accuracy in the film overall. The film tries to portray Barnum as this poor, unfortunate street urchin in love with a wealthy girl and somehow is able to marry her within the first ten minutes of the film. This is complete bullshit right from the start and should infuriate any historian. Barnum’s father was a tailor, innkeeper and store owner. His grandfather was a landowner in Connecticut (meaning the family had wealth at some point, who had been in the legislator and a justice of the peace. Barnum was also born from his father’s second marriage, indicating his father had been well off financially to marry a second time. Barnum’s grandfather, Phineas, was known to run a lottery scam. This is important because P.T. had to learn the basics of running a scam from someone. He owned and ran several business before owning the museum in New York; one of which is a newspaper (The Herald of Freedom) and, most shockingly of all, a lottery scam in 1829. By 1834, Barnum had to move to New York because lotteries were declared illegal in Connecticut and his money making scheme was coming to an end.

Now, had any of this been shown in the film? Absolutely not. Jackman’s character is seen as a poor street urchin who sees a train, then is magically transformed in Hugh Jackman, marries his childhood sweetheart and moves to New York so he can make good on his promise to shower his young wife with riches. Now, he did marry Charity in 1829, but they didn’t move to New York until 1834 after the whole lottery thing. And did I mention he slandered some Churches with his newspaper, did jail time, and had to sell his store that also sold books? His life is vastly more interesting than the little song and dance routine Jackman did with Michelle Williams depicting their love. Still, the film is called “The Greatest Showman” which implies it is about how Barnum became synonymous with the circus. The film woefully fails at this.

Barnum was 25 in 1835 when he leased for $1000, not owned because slavery was outlawed in New York at this time, a paralyzed and almost completely blind black woman named Joice Heath. He leased her for a year from a friend, who had been exhibiting her in Philadelphia, claiming she was 161 years old and George Washington’s nurse. Barnum worked her to her death; she was put on display a minimum of 12 hours a day and died in February. She was no more than 80 years old. But Barnum would not allow Joice Heath the dignity of a grave and would find a way to make money off of her even in death; he exhibited her corpse and had a live viewing of her autopsy done to prove to onlookers she could not possibly be 161 years old. Barnum excelled at making money from hate, which is what the film makers never show you. The price to see Joice cut up was fifty cents per person; Barnum never revealed how much money he made off of her corpse and I could not find any source only that many did go and the autopsy lasted days. I have to admit even now, while it’s been well over a century, when I first read about Joice Heath, I cried. It still upsets me to know this woman is largely forgotten and considered insignificant. She should have been mentioned in the film. But maybe I am being selfish. Such a scene would not have tested well with audiences, I dare say. No, they’d rather believe Barnum cared for the misfits, the rejects. Sorry to say, but the filmmakers lied.

Take for instance, Tom Thumb. The film depicts accurately that such a person existed in Barnum’s sphere. However, there were two such person’s with that same name. The first was a child of four, but said to be eleven, who was put on display, made to drink alcohol and smoke cigars so he would appear older. It would be a way to make the child look like a little man instead of a small child. A bit of trickery. The second Tom Thumb was, of course, an actual little person. That Tom did meet Queen Victoria (who was already a Widow at that time, not young per the film) and ended up marrying Thumbelina, the smallest lady in the world.

The film never mentions the Fiji Mermaid. They hint at it, of course, but never show it nor mention it. This is and was the most famous of all of Barnum’s humbugs and was the collaboration between Barnum and his friend Moses Kimball. It is never seen on film. This is a travesty of historical proportions for a film to consider itself to be a biopic of Barnum and never once show the infamous Fiji Mermaid. Not even a poster did appear. Shameful. Utterly shameful.

Other historical events which are never mentioned in the film, which shockingly did occur are the panic of 1837. Whole not well know, it did hurt his finances for a time. The Civil War is never mentioned, which astonished me to no end. The man lived during this time and not once did any part of the war between the states ever grace the screen. I understand the purpose of the film is to be entertaining and filled with merriment, but to completely forgo a major significant part of United States history smacks of revisionist history of the likes of Dineish D’Szousa and is in no way honest to the life of P.T. Barnum not the people who worked for him.

Barnum was known for being a humbug, meaning he was known for being dishonest. He made his living of of exploitation of others. It’s not a pleasant thing to research because no one likes to become confronted with the knowledge that the man everyone associates with the circus and happiness was, in fact, a hard core racist who believed in slavery even after it was outlawed everywhere. He helped popularize minstrelsy shows, he perpetrated a hoax stating weed (or a weed, it depends on the source) would black people white. He willingly told people the reason he left the Democratic Party was because they would not uphold the right to own slaves (this was in 1854; suck it Dinesh). He claimed to hate politics, yet served in the legislator himself. He spoke against the evils of alcohol, but willingly supplied such things to Native Americans. He did not always believe non-whites had the capacity to even contain souls yet donated a fortune to Tufts University. He was a man full of contradictions. This was the man I wanted to see on screen and this was the man I expected to see in some manner.

Instead, I saw a very white-washed, sterilized, rose-colored glasses version of P.T. Barnum. The same can be said for the people of the circus and the people of the era. Never have I seen such clean streets. Seriously. The Musuem had historically been located near brothels and tenants which had no indoor plumbing. Nary did I spy any shit nor rubbish in the streets. Those were the cleanest Victorian streets I’ve ever seen. Contrast them with the streets in “Gangs of New York” and you’ll appreciate what I mean. I do understand the appeal of the whole “us versus them” mentality the filmmakers gave the circus workers. And I sympathize because it does make for a more compelling film. Be that as it may, it is entirely inaccurate and dishonest. Most were sold by their parents or worked for room & board. They worked 10-12 hour days and it was degrading work. Many of the women would have prostituted themselves for extra money (yes, that did happen). Barnum excelled at making money at selling nothing. There was never an “us versus them” for him because he owned the “us” via contracts.

As for the costumes, I can only say they were very theatrical, as they were no doubt meant to be. Doesn’t mean they were accurate. They were very old timey sort of generic quasi Victorian looking enough to resemble something old without having to be historically true. Not one woman was wearing a corset and yes, you can tell. Many appeared to be wearing padded or push up bras, a big no-no. Shaved legs and arm pits didn’t exist in those days and neither did smooth chests for men. Not enough facial hair for men either, which is strangely weird. Visible zippers. I had an attack of the vapors on that one. Michelle Williams also resembled an advert for Target or Macy’s at some point (pick one). Evening wear styles for men-also, pick one. Either they are wearing tails, cut aways or frock coats, not all three in one scene (sweet lord, do they not know how to dress extras). I shall not discuss hair, hair products, nor makeup because it just is not worth my time.

Basically, the point of the matter is the film is vastly inaccurate. It kills me, not only as a 19th Century Historian, but as a Theatre person, to hear people praising it for it’s realism, attention to detail, and how it really told the true story of P.T. Barnum. It didn’t-not even remotely close. It’s a musical loosely, and I do mean loosely, based on the life of Barnum. The film is 20% Barnum and 80% Humbug, with me being overly generous in that regard. As a piece of musical theatre it is vastly entertaining and for that alone, I can enjoy it. I must disassociate any attempts to connect it with history and reality to do so, which puts this in the realm of a fantasy film for me or a fairy tale. However, anyone out there trying to think this film has any connection with the real and historical figure needs to go to their local library forthwith for I don’t have the strength to deal with such nonsense.

Sources

Barnum, P.T. Struggles and Triumphs; Or, Forty Years’ Recollections of P.T. Barnum. Buffalo, N.Y.: The Courier Company, 1883

Adams, Bluford. E Pluribus Barnum: The Great Showman and the Making of U.S. Popular Culture. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1997.

Cook, James W. The Arts of Deception: Playing with Fraud in the Age of Barnum. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2001.

Reiss, Benjamin. The Showman and the Slave: Race, Death, and Memory in Barnum’s America. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2001.

Lott, Eric. Love and Theft: Blackface Minstrelsy and the American Working Class. New York: Oxford University Press, 1993

My #MeToo Tale & An Apology

“scream

so that one day

a hundred years from now

another sister will not have to

dry her tears wondering

where in history

she lost her voice”~Jasmin Kaur

Evangelical (adjective): a person who claims to be a Christian but whose actions are the complete opposite of Christ; a hypocrite; a person full of false piety. See also John Ortberg, Franklin Graham, the RNC, Ted Haggerty, Joel Olsteen. Tweeted by @austenlied on 4/19/2018 (I am @austenlied and that is my definition).

I must first and foremost apologize for my absence from my blog. While I do wish to focus on historical and writing issues, the #MeToo movement (and Trump overall) brought up many memories that I for so long repressed. Memories that I never wanted to deal with but have come to realize that as a person, I needed to excise them-sanitize them by thrusting them into the light and let the chips fall where they may. One particular tale that I was truly reluctant to share until the utter hypocrisy that is John Ortberg and Nancy Beach passing judgment on Bill Hybels (because it clearly says to judge your fellow man in the Bible even though I do recall “Judge Not least Ye Be Judged” & “Let He who is WITHOUT sin cast the first Stone” being very prominent in the Bible). I know that my time has come to tell my tale.

My first true memory is that of my father breaking glass in a china cabinet because my mother, who was pregnant with my brother at the time, had asked my father’s brother to move out so she could prepare a room for the baby. I was 2 at the time and it was 1983. I next recall seeing my brother in the hospital after he was born and receiving a toy spaceship made of metal. I also threw down his picture when my father showed it to me. I still have this toy and I had just turned three. Now, you may wonder, why is this significant? Firstly, because these memories can be verified by my mother, my father and I can produce the toy spaceship, which means these memories are not false, but true memories. Secondly, it shows that I have a pretty damn good memory and this will become an issue when certain names and situations are mentioned.

My first experience with abuse came at the hands of the mother of my brother’s friend, “Bert.” Bert, as I am calling him, does have some metal deficiencies and did at the time. This does not in any way excuse the behavior of him nor of his family. My brother is still in contact with Bert and considers him a friend. I was invited, along with my brother, to spend the night. My mother had to work a night shift and my stepfather (or soon to be stepfather) had to work an overnight at the Armory (he was in the National Guard), so it was a good thing for them that I was invited. While my brother was outside being entertained by Bert’s older brother (I believe small explosives or fireworks were involved which for a small child are always fascinating), Bert’s mother forced me to strip and stand still while Bert was allowed to run his hands all over me. For clarification, I was 8-9 years old. Bert was a year or two older and my brother was 4-5. His mother then informed Bert and myself that we were now engaged and Bert now “owned” me. Bert was told that I was to be his-always. Implying that I would marry him when I was older. I was then forced to take a bath with his sister, who I believe was in Middle School or High School, and then decided it would be fun to “bond” with me by fondling me in the tub. I was slapped by the mother because she stood there watching us as did her husband. I still get sick to the stomach and still cannot take baths because of them (even though I used to love them). I cannot shake this image of Bert’s dad jerking off while his daughter made me stand up and was washing me. Everytime I looked away from her husband, she spanked me. I was then forced to sleep naked in a bed with both of the other siblings who were also nude. I barely slept that night and I never told my mother. I only told my therapist and one other person. My brother has never understood why I hate Bert so much. Why I despise his family. Bert’s mother died and I couldn’t give two fucks. My brother expects me to feel sorry and I can’t. Who knows how many other girls they did that to? I was sick to my stomach everytime Bert came over. I hated it every fucking time my brother had Bert stay the night because that asshole would always, some time in the night, sneak into my bed and molest me. And I kept telling my brother that he needed to keep his friends in his room. Period. When I got my dog, Julian, Bert couldn’t do that anymore. Julian always slept on the bed with me. The one time Bert tried to come into my room, Julian growled at him. Julian never growled at anyone. He was the sweetest, most laid back dog-ever. But there were two people he did not like-Bert and “Mike.” Mike was another of my brother’s friends (and also Bert’s). Mike I also hated. My brother refuses to believe that a few times, in High School, they both followed me into the girl’s bathroom. Mike also tried coming into the Girl’s Locker room a few times as well. My brother, since his teen years, has decided that I am a liar even though throughout my college & graduate academic career, I have often been isolated from my peers because they have found me to be too honest and I cannot lie to save my own life. But this is a digression.

The next instance of abuse occurred with I was 11-12 years old. I was molested by my next door neighbor. In this instance, I did tell my mom, my stepdad, and the police were called. It did go to court and the man was found guilty, He did very little (practically nothing) in terms of jail time and was on probation. Basically a slap on the wrist because I was the only one that came forward and the other girls didn’t want to testify (mainly because their parents didn’t want them to). This man admitted that his fantasy was to be in a locked room full of underage girls. And he never had to register as a sex offender. Underage girls were still seen going in and out of his house. The cops did nothing because he wasn’t on a list. My depression and anxiety developed because of him. I had severe paranoia and I couldn’t be outside on my own unless someone was with me. I was afraid of people looking at me-literally afraid. I started pulling my hair out of my head. I gained weight. I tried my best to just disappear. I covered my windows so my room was just dark all the time. Because he was literally next door, I changed in my closet, or under the covers, in the bathroom. Sometimes I was so paranoid of him looking at me, I would sleep in the hallway because there were no windows. I couldn’t garden (which I loved) unless my mom was outside. I couldn’t be in the backyard without someone present. He died about 5-6 years ago and I felt relieved. I finally was able to mow the front yard by myself. I could pull weeds by myself. I could plant flowers by myself. Yet all I hear from my neighbors is that I am a cruel, mean, bitch because I don’t feel sorry that he died. Yes, I am the bitch because I don’t feel sorry that a man who molested me is no longer breathing on this planet.

Roughly around the same time (about the same age), my mom was getting a divorce from my stepfather. Marriages don’t always work out. We were attending this small community church in Barrington. I was in Middle School and an older kid, by about a year or two, Dan (actual name), always corned me in empty rooms at the Church, pressing himself against me. I didn’t understand what he was doing at the time, but later on I figured out (by reading online because I didn’t know) that he was dry humping me. That still makes it a violation of my person. I didn’t give him permission and I didn’t want this attention from him. I didn’t like him at all. He pursued me all the time. He would constantly grab my wrist and tell me that I was his girlfriend and that there was nothing I could do about it. Dan would always try to kiss me by force and would end up slobbering on my cheek or neck. Not pleasant things to remember. He’d pinch me hard enough to leave bruises and my breasts were full of them. His parents didn’t want to hear about it. They told me that he was just being playful. His friends, well, the other kids that were around the same age group that attended the church, saw me as the outsider and offered no help. After all, I was the colored girl in their all-white ensemble. I didn’t belong nor did they wish me to. The pastor only got involved after another adult informed him that Dan was trying to force me into his sleeping bag and trying to remove my pajamas on a mission trip we were all on in Chicago. The pastor talked to me alone about the incident and told me, in no uncertain terms, that this was clearly all my fault. It was all my fault because my mother had married outside her faith. Because she had birthed two unnatural creatures with a Muslim (my father), and not to mention she was getting yet another divorce (which the pastor said was clear indication that my mother was a whore), meant I was sinful from the moment of conception and because of my sinful nature, men couldn’t but be tempted by my mere presence. In other words, I was a whore because I wasn’t born white and Christian like the others in the Church and men like Dan were allowed to treat me the way they did because I deserved it. He said I was born to be a temptress and that’s why he encouraged his son and the others to not associate with me because I would taint them with my very essence. He said people like me should either be aborted or become prostitutes because that was God’s plan. I was not to associated with his son or his friends. He already informed me that he spoke to the Theatre teacher (Jon Lynn) at the High School and that man promised that he would never put me on stage with his son-no matter how talented I was because I was a whore. I never told my mother because the pastor informed me if I did, he’d tell the police that I was lying and just trying to get attention since I clearly came from a broken home and my mom was such an awful parent who was raising heathens. I know from talking to my mom, the pastor offered no support for her regarding her divorce, thus making her feel wholly unwelcomed in that church.  I am still in contact with the pastor’s son. He’s actually a nice person, but I’ve never told him the damage his father caused me. I hope he reads this only to understand that I bear him no ill will. But his father did do great harm to me and I don’t understand why a grown man would do that to a child.

Now I come to the part that involves Willow Creek Church. My mother, now divorced, joined Single Parents Ministry. I was about 15-16 at this time and most children of these parents were 8 or younger, so meetings were quite dull for me and I ended up drawing or reading. I was approached by Nancy Beach and after speaking to her, she was able to glean that I had suffered sexual abuse and she really thought some counseling with one of the pastors would be really beneficial for me since I was at that age when most girls were dating, not hanging out with their parents and children. I could see her point-I really could. I had friends who were guys and while friendly with them, I had no feelings other than friendship towards them. While most girls my age talked about boys, makeup, upcoming school dances, etc, I was rereading Lord of the Rings, The Tempest, John Donne, The Odyssey, etc for fun. Nothing screams lonely and pathetic like Nancy Beach walking up to you as you’re reading the Homeric Hymns (English translation in case you are wondering). She then scheduled a one-on-one meeting with John Ortberg that would take place at the same time as the next Single Parent’s meeting so I could come with my mom, but not be stuck in the room with all the children.

That first “Session” started off pretty normal. I told John everything. About Bert and his abusive family. the neighbor, Dan and the pastor who told me I was a whore. About boys who teased me in school by leaving me fake love notes in my locker, which made me uncomfortable. He promised me that he could help me get over my fears of intimacy but I had to trust him. This trust consisted of him sitting behind me and running his hands over my breasts and hips because per John, I needed to get over my “fear” of being touched if I was ever to learn how to please a man. It didn’t feel right. It felt wrong. It felt like my neighbor all over again. I told Nancy right away. She told me that I needed to trust John because he was a “Godly” man. That his methods had worked with other girls just like me and they had gone on to have boyfriends. Some even were dating fellow Creekers. I then asked if I could speak to Bill Hybels. Nancy informed me that Hybels would only direct me back to John because Bill was too busy to do counseling. I did not tell my mother.

The second “session” included similar touching. But now on my actual skin and in my pants (though my underwear was still on). I vividly remember crying and feeling very dirty. John was moaning behind me and I could feel him. He was grinding into my backside. I don’t know how long it lasted because every second feels like an eternity. I didn’t cry out because John told me if I cried out, I was going to Hell.  All I recall is that when he was done, he was still very visibly aroused. John told me that I was “very blessed” by his touches and doing “God’s Will” by participating to these “sessions.” I remember scrambling to get my clothes on and straightened and just rushing as quickly as possible into the hall outside his office before crying. I remember just crumbling, crying as I struggles to put shoes on and tie laces, trying my best to straighten my clothes and wiping the tears away when a woman, heading towards me, going into John’s office, told me to “Shut up.” I later found out, when I saw her again and pointed her out to someone, that the lady in question was Betty Schmidt. Did Betty know what John had just done with me? Did she know there were possibly others as Nancy clearly indicated? I don’t know. But one does question why the longest serving elder, and a woman, seeing a child crying and clearly upset outside of John Ortberg’s office, clothes clearly is disarray, and showing no compassion towards the child. Instead, tells the child to “shut up” and heads into the office when it’s obvious that’s where the child emerged from. Now, I’ve never dealt with Betty Schmidt personally and that was the only time I’ve ever encountered her. I have just always wanted to know if she knew. And if she did, why didn’t she stop it?

The third “session” was the worst and the last one I attended. I don’t know if one would consider it rape, but it felt like it to me. He had me remove all clothing. And I didn’t want to. He called Nancy in and she forcibly removed the clothes from me before leaving. My socks she allowed to stay on as a kindness. That’s when I knew she was fully aware of what John was doing to me and didn’t care. John was again behind me. Again, I could feel him. He used his fingers on me. It was painful and it hurt. I cried a lot and he covered me mouth with his other hand. He rubbed himself against me. He kept going until he was done. At one point he had bitten down on my shoulder, but there is no bite mark now and I never took a picture. I was bruised, sore and I felt like I was a fault because the pastor at the community church had instilled in me the belief that I was a temptress and  my lot in life was to be a whore. I remember not even fully getting dressed before running into the nearest bathroom and vomiting. Nancy Beach came in because it was obvious John had called her as I had not grabbed all my clothes when I fled. She then proceeded to slap me and yell at me as I continued to dress. She told me I was an ungrateful colored whore. that I should be thankful that a man as holy and as pure as John Ortberg was willing to sully himself, was willing to demean himself to try to cleanse me of my sins for tempting good Christian men with my body. She then forced my face in a sink basin she filled with cold water because my eyes were red from crying and red from her slapping me. Nancy then made me eat a brownie. Which I guess she thought since I was young, I needed to be bribed. I also think she thought by giving me a sweet, she could then bribe me into attending another “session” with John. I let her set it up. I just stayed home whenever my mom went to a single parent’s meeting. If a meeting was held at someone’s house, I went because I didn’t mind watching the kids. But if it was at Church, I never left the house. I fully believed the next “session” would have involved physical sex. Because Nancy had known what was going on and I think Betty Schmidt did too, I never told my mother. And why would I? My only experience in telling the authorities ended up with a man who got off on probation. There was no justice for me with what happened.

Also, telling people in charge, people in positions of power, up to that point hadn’t helped either. Dan’s parents thought he was just “playing” with me even though he was still pinching my breasts in High School, cornered me a few times and then forcibly dry humped me in High School while he was dating my best friend at the time. The pastor of the small church knew and told me it was my fault. Nancy Beach not only knew, she procured me for John Ortberg. I wonder how many others she procured for him during his tenure at Willow Creek and who does his procuring now at Menlo Church?

The hypocrisy is that the pastor who was the first to inform me that I was a whore for being molested and having a mother who was divorced is now himself a divorced man. Dan bullied me throughout High School and on Facebook. He reveled in it. He sent me suggestive messages all the time. Even sent me pictures of his “junk” because he is that sick. He then pursued my then best friend to spite me and slept with her. She is his obsession because I refused him (which he informed me at her wedding). He crashed her wedding too. He married a woman who looks more like me than anyone else. Brunette, not thin, artsy. I ended up not being friends anymore with my best friend because she decided that Dan was more important than me. Plus I found out that she helped him bully me. She was his lookout when he was abusing me (according to him). Apparently she knew and thought it was funny. I don’t necessarily mourn the loss. I mourn her family more as I was closer to them than I was to her.

Bert & Mike are still friends with my brother. He has a daughter who is almost a year old. I wake up terrified and crying with the thought of them being anywhere near her. And I have no idea how to make my brother believe me.

Before leaving Willow Creek Church, John Ortberg tried on quite a few occasions to get me to resume our “sessions.” When I was 19, he flat out asked me to be his mistress because he informed me that he was sexually unsatisfied with his wife, Nancy Ortberg, and knew from our previous encounters that I pleased him. I declined because he disgusted me. He was the reason that in 1995-1996, I started plucking out my hair below my waist. That’s how much I hated what he did to me. And it took me years-years to stop that. He asked two more times before he left in 2003. Ortberg has conveniently also rejected the non-denominational teachings he so fervently clung to at Willow Creek as he now has whole heartedly thrown his lot in with the Evangelicals such as Franklin Graham, Ted Haggerty and their Holy Trinity-The White Father, The White Savior, and the Holy Bankroll.

Nancy L. Beach has always hated Bill Hybels. She told me so. Nancy has lusted enviously after the position of Senior Pastor for over 20 years. She wants to be worshiped as a God, which is the height of hypocrisy since she considers herself a “Christian.” And while she enjoyed procuring me like a piece of meat for John Ortberg to use because I was worthless in her eyes (because Nancy, my dear, you might want to make sure the bathrooms are empty when you go on a tirade about how much you hate people of color to your white evangelical spies at Willow Creek). She has single handily has gone out of her way time and again to get her friends to accuse Hybels of misconduct. And they are always her friends or friends of her friends. Nancy is an Evangelical disease that has no place in Willow Creek. She and other like her have infected that Church for over 20 years and should be thrown out. Clearly, any person that knowingly puts a child in the hands of a molester should not be in a position of power. And should not be believed when it comes to accusing others. Nancy Beach has no empathy and no compassion. What kind of monster knowingly undresses a child in the office of a man and then slaps her later on because she is broken and bruised? After 9/11, Nancy, in front of a few witnesses, slapped me and pushed me to the ground and started kicking me because I was wearing a Salwaar over my jeans. She called me a terrorist. She said I was “un-American” and was “disrespectful”. Now, I don’t know if she recognized me as the child she brought to John Ortberg a few years back. Maybe she did, maybe she didn’t. Whose to say. All I know is that she attacked me and the only people that made her stop were other people of color. Three Black men and two Black Ladies defended me. The handful of other witnesses, all of whom were white, didn’t do anything. The two white people who were closest where the Dyers-Vonda was actually cheering Nancy on.

As for the Dyers, anything they say should be taken with a heavy grain of salt. For the two and a half years I attended Harper College, I was in the choir for a good share of it. But when I wished to audition and participate for Willow Creek, I was told by the Dyers that I was “unfuckable.” Vonda and her husband, Steve, told me that if the men in the audience didn’t wish to fuck me, then I couldn’t be on stage. And clearly, I wasn’t good looking enough according to them.  For them, having a decent voice wasn’t top priority. Women on stage should inspire Lust in the men in the audience. If the men in the audience didn’t want to fuck you, then you weren’t worth putting on stage. Though Vonda should be aware that her husband, Steve, offered me a way via a “casting couch”, of which I refused. In June 2002, the choir sang at Carnegie Hall. I took the program and showed it to the Dyers. My intent being that since I was clearly good enough for Carnegie Hall, that should be good enough for Willow Creek. Nancy Beach was present and she agreed with the Dyers that I simply was “unfuckable”. But Nancy went even further. She took down my name and ensured that I could never volunteer or audition for anything at Willow Creek. So, a person with a background in Theatre & Costume Design has been unofficially blacklisted from volunteering at a church simply because of one woman’s vengeance. Or because she wants to make sure I am silenced and am never in contact with those that need to hear my tale. Or Willow Creek is just really, really bad at getting back to people who wish to volunteer. Which is the most logical explanation? Considering that they are always seeking volunteers for the the entertainment side of Willow Creek, I’m going to make a scientific guess that it’s because my name is on some sort of list.

As for Bill Hybels, I’ve been alone with him only a few times. I was 19 and I sought some reassurance that I was evil nor sinful because of the molestation. I told him some of what occurred, but not all. I regret that I never told him about John Ortberg. I felt ashamed about it. Bill was everything John was not. He listened, he never judged, he offered kleenex, water, always silent, always patient, always kind. He asked permission to touch my shoulder. Asked. Let me stress the importance of this. He asked my permission to touch my shoulder to offer me comfort. He asked my permission to hold my hand. Again. This man asked my permission knowing how vital it was that I feel comfortable. We were alone in his office and I felt completely safe. This man asked permission to pray aloud for me. Every single step of the way, Bill was nothing but courteous. He never, ever did anything to make me feel uncomfortable. He reassured me that not only was that other pastor completely wrong, but it was those me who were the sinners, not me. So please forgive me if I don’t believe it when the likes of Vonda Dyer, who stated that I was unfuckable, claims Bill touched her 20 years ago when the man asks permission to hold my hand before saying a prayer.

My second encounter with Bill is pretty pleasant. He baptized me on stage. There are thousands of witnesses. He did recognize me, as he called me “kiddo”. We’d sometimes run into each other passing into Michigan-a extremely rare occasion that happened maybe four times in all.  Sometimes after those Michigan sightings, he’d wave if he saw me in the Church audience. It was more of a “Hey, you” kind of thing. The sort of things like when you run into your teacher at the grocery store. When he was done on stage, I did ask him for something he dreads-a hug. It is a well known fact that Bill Hybels does not like hugging people nor does he like receiving them. There are thousands of witnesses that can attest that he patted me on the head and his hands were in plain sight. Nothing inappropriate every occurred.

The third time should not be that much of a surprise, but may surprise the Dyers. After their refusal in June 2002 (and yet another “casting couch” offer from Steve), I went and complained to Bill Hybels. Now, at this time, Vonda was pregnant with her daughter, who was born in December 2002. Vonda claims Bill fired her right after her daughter was born. I remember them leaving the church sometime Fall/Winter 2003. Sure doesn’t sound like it happened right away. Unless by right away, you mean practically a year. Vonda also claims that this firing occurred due to numerous complaints Bill received regarding her behavior. Well, I can attest she and Steve received at least one-mine. And if how they treated me was any indication, I’m sure there were many complaints. Per a September 1, 2008 article in the Church Executive, the Dyers both state that they were both wanting to leave Willow Creek for years and were just looking for the right opportunity. So, either they were fired by Bill Hybels per Vonda circa 2018, or they parted ways per Vonda circa 2008. Considering both of the Dyers are full of themselves, they probably wanted to leave because they weren’t being treated like Rockstars and all the complaints, eventually, just caught up.

This doesn’t mean that the abuse magically ended. When I attended University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, my Advisor & Head of the Costume Program, Helene, told me on a weekly basis to kill myself. She escalated from a weekly to a daily basis at some point during that first semester and actually boasted to my psychiatrist (on campus) that she could do whatever she wanted. Helene, I should point out, is a White South African and was raised during Apartheid. Helene would call me a Paki, a whore, a colored slut, shit for brains, and other such descriptions. She’d call me before Friday classes to tell me that things had changed and to not bring certain art supplies to class just so I would arrive and not have them. She’d them berate me in front of all the other students. After class, we’d go to her office. She’d call in Kathy (from the Costume Shop) and they’d both take turns telling me what a waste of space I was. How ugly I was and that I didn’t deserve to exist. Helene spread rumors among the faculty that I slept with a member of faculty or someone higher up to gain admittance to the program. She insinuated to the other grads that I was sleeping with the Theatre History professor and that’s why I was doing so well in that class (and not because I almost triple majored for my BA degree in English, Theatre & History). Helene told people I was Autistic, which I don’t know why she’d do that. I had an undergrad threaten to kill me with a knife. She had a knife pressed up against my jugular because she was on wardrobe crew and I wanted her to just show up on time. She didn’t get punished. I was forced to clean Helene’s office on my hands and knees one weekend using a toothbrush. Because I cried and crying was a sign of weakness. When we first met, she liked one of my designs and photocopied it. She used it as the basis of her design that she got paid for that year in Chicago. She stole my design and passed it off as her own.  Helene got my file from the Theatre Department and destroyed my letters of recommendation. The Graduate School says they received them. They have it on record that they arrived. But the Theatre Department doesn’t have them. And yes, she told me that she did that. She had my name removed from the website from all the productions I worked on because she is that petty. Helene drove me almost to the point of suicide. Almost. It was very close. The Graduate School refused to removed me from the program and they fought to get me reinstated. The Theatre Head didn’t give a shit. I tried to get into the Theatre History program instead, since I clearly enjoyed it. The program head at that time, told me that I wasn’t the right kind of Asian. She also didn’t trust me because Helene told her that I was sleeping with PD, the other teacher and that’s why he liked me. It couldn’t possibly be because I enjoyed his class and took it seriously? And I wasn’t sleeping with him. I wasn’t sleeping with anyone except my two cats. As for PD, I told him what Helene was doing. I, in tears after class, told him and the TA what was going on. I was almost at that breaking point. The TA was horrified and hugged me and didn’t let go. I think he thought I would break if he did. PD did nothing. He never spoke to the Department Head. He never spoke to anyone at the Graduate College. He never confronted Helene. It’s like he just didn’t care and I lost quite a bit of respect for him that day. I still think he’s a good teacher and I still took 2 more classes with him. But I realized that he didn’t care what happened to me because it had no effect on his person. I told another person-another teacher. He was head of the Lighting Program. He was very angry. And he was going to do something about it. He caught me trying to kill myself one night in Krannert. He died unexpectedly the following week. So, PD did nothing. Guy that was going to do something, died. But he stopped me from ending it all.  Considering my experience with me, does it seem feasible I would be comfortable with men sexually? Any man who likes me in that fashion is going to have to be extremely patient, kind and compassionate and I’ve yet to met such a man. The head of the Theatre History program also didn’t want me in her program because she said I didn’t seem the kind that took it seriously because I received a “C” in the basic class. I received that grade because of Helene. I explained to her that at the time I was dealing with an advisor who was telling me on a daily basis to kill myself, that the other grads in the program hated me because I was doing better in this class than they did and they were extremely jealous and if I wanted them to like me, I needed to drop the “A+” I was getting to a “C” or Helene would have no choice but to kick me out of the program since the other grads hated me and kept telling her that they wanted me gone. And this wasn’t the first time I purposefully got lower grades so other students would feel better about themselves. I’ve done it all my life and have been told to do so by almost every teacher I’ve had. And I’ve hated it. So that grade kept me from the Theatre History program and I still ended up losing my assistantship and being isolated from practically everyone in the Theatre Dept. The only ones who didn’t leave me were the Dancers, the Musicians, the Theatre History students, and the people at MPAL.

So I left and went to Kansas State University. At that point, I decided to not hide my intelligence anymore. Because it was stupid and it was unfair to me. My advisor & head of the program, Dana, was pleasant but didn’t give two shits about me. Her costume shop manager, Melissa, hated me. She’d constantly tell me that I was too old, too fat, too blind. I wasn’t blind, I couldn’t afford the nice thin Nikon lenses, so had to live with the thick, cheaper ones. They were thick because I have astigmatism in both eyes. Not because I’m blind. But I survived, I thrived and made friends. Doesn’t mean there still wasn’t abuse. Melissa and Dana were abusive in their own ways. Since I didn’t have an assistantship, I needed to work and was promised 20 hrs a week. I barely got 5. So I got 2 off campus jobs. One was with a company that does graduation announcements. Another was bartending around Ft Riley. I also did some sewing on the side since there were a lot of military folk living in the apt complex I lived in. Dana’s abuse was subtle. She often compared me to others and complained that I wasn’t good enough at everything. I was there for Costume Design yet she didn’t want me designing. She flat out stole one of my designs for Hamlet. Which I couldn’t believe she’d be that blatant about it. But it was little things like me making a hat for the Music man, but not giving me the fabric for it until dress rehearsal and then yelling at me for not having it done in under 2 hours. Or same hat, and not being allowed by Melissa to work on it during class time (using the machines or the iron), but have to come in after hours, but also can’t come in after hours because she didn’t want me there while she was working on stuff for the Music Man. Basically, setting me up to fail. So I used the machine at home. It worked better anyways. As to sewing, Melissa found fault with everything. Though the jokes on her because half of the petticoat ruffles for Music Man were done by me. As a teaching lesson to the undergrads there, when the other grad, Melissa, Dana, and this one undergrad who was a bit of a snitch were out for 30-45 minutes, I sewed the ruffles on 6 petticoats. I was taking a break from being on my hands and knees scraping gunk off the floor with a razor blade (which Melissa deemed to be the most suitable job for me). I then handed them to the girls to remove the pins. They all passed muster with Melissa. But when I tried to get her to approve of a test ruffle earlier-she said it was shit. In front of everyone. Life lesson was learned by those girls. Stuff sewn by me but passed off as being by them was considered perfection. Stuff sewn by me and knowing it’s by me was never good enough. And to me, that was abusive behavior. I had to come in, after hours, for another student’s show, undo all the hand sewing the one tattletale undergrad did (because she really couldn’t sew to be honest with you) and do it all by hand. I did it, without pay (Melissa refused to pay me 90% of the time so most of the time, my paychecks were for 5-6 hours, when they should have been for 18-20 and she claimed it was because they had to stick to their budget even though I got approved for Work Study as a Graduate-let that sink in). And the undergrad got all the credit and all the praise. Which hurt, I won’t lie. I would have liked to be praised for the work I did. They didn’t even praise me for the one show I did design.

At Kansas I believe I had my first real crush, which surprised me. Yet I don’t think it was the normal, physically attractive kind of thing because I don’t think I’m like that. I was drawn to his intelligence. Truly, that is what I found most attractive about “Kyle.” He was very smart, artistic, and someone I really thought I could talk to about things like Shakespeare, or photography, or even costuming and he’d reciprocate. I know it sounds truly pathetic and boring, but Kyle clearly didn’t feel that way about me. The one and only time we were at a party together, and really the only time I was even at a Theatre Party (normally I was bartending, which I never told them; and I, being dull, was only drinking water), Kyle was very, very drunk. He must have thought I was someone else because he was hitting on me. And then Kyle began to confide in me that there was this girl he knew that really confused him because she was “so freakin’ smart” and he was attracted to her because of it, and he didn’t like that. He didn’t like that because, in his personal opinion, she’d have to wear 3-4 bags over her head before he could fuck her since she was so ugly. And no one could pay him enough money to spend 20 minutes alone with her. Then he told me her name-it was me. Of course it was. How utterly devastating to find out from the man you think would be amazing to have an intellectual conversation with, thinks intellectually, you’re attractive, but physically, you’re so ugly and repulsive he can’t stand to look at you.  He hit on me for a few more minutes before leaving to grab another drink. I took that opportunity to leave. A few years back, I wrote him, telling him how much that hurt me (even though I stated that I heard it from his friend. I guess I didn’t want to humiliate him by informing him that he told me himself because I wanted to be kinder to him than he ever was to me). I also wanted to know why, when he saw the abusive behavior of Dana & Melissa, he did nothing. He could have called them out on it. He could have talked to me. He could have asked me if I was OK. He did nothing. The irony is that his drunk statement about no amount of money could induce him to spend time with me ended up backfiring on him.

Kyle takes headshots. I paid him to take mine. I believe it took about an hour to an hour and a half. So, you see, he could be induced to take money to spend time with me alone. And I forced him to. I was angry at him for what he said at that party. I was angry because I had respected him as a person, as an fellow Costume Designer, and as an intellectual. And to find out he thought me that repulsive, I thought no finer punishment in the world could there be than for him to be forced to look upon my face for an hour. The soldiers in the apt complex all said I looked like a lady. They were always kind. Kyle accepted the money and took the headshots. I even received a hug, which was unexpected. Did I ever receive the headshots? No. And I expect that they have never existed. Kyle is very vainglorious when it comes to his photography and every headshot he has taken, he has posted on his website. He never posted mine. That’s why I knew they never existed. You might say the joke is on me, but I never expected headshots to begin with. I wanted to teach him a lesson. I wanted him to look at me. I wanted him to see me. I wanted Kyle to look in my eyes and see the pain in my soul. And then to walk away and never look back at him or for him. I am well aware that it still hurts to know that I am not pretty enough to be acknowledged on his website. But then, it shows who he really is as a person. He claims to be a photographer but doesn’t see any beauty in me. Then he isn’t much of a photographer if all he focuses on is the outer shell. And what kind of man decides that looks are more important than intellect. His attraction to my intellect scared him. Frankly, I don’t care anymore. I proved my point. I paid him to spend time with me and made his drunken boast a lie.

This has been my tale. These have been the darkest moments of my life. They have not been pleasant. They have been filled with pain, tears, fear, and regret. They have made me fear intimacy. I have no confidence when it comes being attractive or even the possibility of dating. Even though I thought I’d be a mother myself at this point and married, I’ve yet to go on an actual date and I’m 37.  Because I’m terrified. My brother’s friends, I’m scared at every little party he has that they are going to be there. My 20 year High School Reunion is coming up and Mike will be there and I’m frightened. I want to go and I don’t want to go alone. I’m also scared because what if Dan shows up? I’m scared because I know Nancy Beach and John Ortberg will say I am lying. Because they will use their White Privilege to say I am a whore. It’s pretty hard to be a whore when one is still a Virgin. I’m sick to my stomach because I didn’t change all the names because I’m tired to hiding. I’m exhausted of having to cry out silently and having no one understand. I’m sickened of people like Ortberg and Beach trying to act like Christians when they are abusers. The only reason I have any faith, any trust in men whatsoever is because of men like my Uncle Joe and good male friends.

Update: August 14, 2018

I has commented on a post regarding the most recent scandal to hit Willow Creek Church (it seems they have yet more women coming forward and people abusing disabled children). I cannot say that I am surprised nor shocked. I was approached by a woman named Brandy McLysaght via Facebook who stated she was working with Manya Brachear of the Chicago Tribune and had been in contact with a few of John Ortberg victims and wanted to know if I was willing to connect on messenger. I am a trusting sort and naive. I said yes and we connected. I disclosed more information that I have given here on this post. I did give names of other people at the Church who were well aware of the abuse that I did not name in this post. She then accused me of being in “love” with Bill Hybels because my blog post sounded so enthusiastically in support of him. I guess it does come across that way. In hindsight, I was livid that those that were accusing Hybels were, in fact, abusers themselves and I found it to be hypocritical. I only used my encounters with Hybels to point out that the one man the Tribune focused on was the one man who didn’t do anything to me. Though I must confess on an error I made in my encounters with Bill Hybels.

The first took place in High School, so I was probably around 16 or 17 and had not yet graduated. It was only a twenty minute meeting and this was a fluke meeting. I had not been meant to meet with him. I had been meant to meet with another teaching pastor and I cannot recall his name as it has been a long time. I believe the only reason I met with Hybels was no one else was available and the person I was to meet was ill. The door to the office was left half open. So I, in fact, was never alone with him. I was also a child. Regardless of what he has done, which I cannot excuse and personally find repugnant, I do not think Hybels would have touched a child in full view of everyone.

Regarding Vonda and her behavior towards me, that meeting was meant to be with a team leader. Instead, I was routed to Bill’s office where I stated my purpose in coming. Notes were taken and I was there approximately five minutes. There were also 2 others in attendance, possibly the team leader I was set to meet. It was a very brief encounter and I was treated politely. Again, I used the encounter to show that I was one who reported on the Dyer’s behavior, which promoted their removal from the Church. Vonda has always held to the lie that Bill fired her when she was pregnant when I have clearly shown she was dismissed months later after her child was born because of the behavior of both her and her husband at that point in time.

I was also contacted by Bryna Schmidt Williamson at the same time. I was then informed by Brandy that Bryna was Betty Schmidt’s daughter. That’s when my heckles went up on my neck. It seemed unusual for two ladies who are friends on Facebook to be contacting the same person. Also weird that while I sent Brandy a link to my blog, Bryna then sent me a message that she read it and I needed to take it down as it was all lies. I never sent Bryna the link to my blog. My Facebook profile is private. She didn’t know my Twitter profile. How then did she get access to my blog post? Through Brandy, of course. It’s clear these two women are conspiring to contact women who’ve been abused by John Ortberg and then telling them that they are liars. Brandy sent me a link to a website telling me that I had false memories. Basically, that I made this entire thing up. She said my timing is all too coincidental and I purposefully picked on those who were smearing Hybels. No. I purposefully showed how those pointing fingers should first examine their own past. In terms of this being all a lie, that’s just on par with an Alex Jones conspiracy theory. Extremely hard to do as there is an actual paper trail regarding the molestation of the next door neighbor. And other people at the community church can back up Dan’s behavior towards girls at Church and High School. And clearly, Willow Creek has an issue with sexual abuse. For example, AXIS at Willow Creek was basically a dating pool. As was Single Parent’s. Both programs were rife with sex and abuse. We were warned at Bible Study to never, ever be alone with Dr. B under any circumstances by the adults running it. No explanation ever given. So it’s not like I’m only picking on the select chosen few here. I’m only pointing out the ones I’ve dealt with, and I haven’t mentioned one or two because of threats.

Why would I lie? In all honesty, why? No one would ever want to admit to any of this. Ever. I wish none of it happened to me or to anyone. What kind of sick person decides that they need to tell victims that they are lying? Apparently women who need to protect the reputations of Vonda, Nancy, and Betty. Bryna is Betty Schmidt’s daughter. She informed me that John Ortberg never counseled anyone. Except per Brandy, John counseled many other women and she has heard similar tales of encounters such as mine. So, which is it ladies? Either I am lying about this, or you are trying to hurt actual victims. I’ve contacted both Manya Brachear and the Tribune regarding this because if these women are getting names this way, hurting victims, they can be brought to court. I refuse to be silenced.

I acknowledge that people who know Vonda state she isn’t like this. She may not be like this NOW, but she was like that THEN. It’s been close to twenty years. People do change and I do hope she has changed her attitude. That doesn’t excuse her behavior at that time  nor her husband’s. Instead of smearing me and attacking me on Facebook, and Twitter like her friends have been doing, all she had to do is apologize. I would freely accept an apology Vonda. And I would freely forgive you in return. As with Nancy, I would just like to know why. Was she pressured into it by Ortberg? How many times did she do it before she said no? Why go after Hybels but keep quite on Ortberg? As a woman, I want to know why another woman would do such things. That’s all. Same with Betty Schmidt. Why? Why did you turn a blind eye to abuse from certain people for so long? And why only reveal it from one or two but hide the rest? I think we can all agree women like Betty and Nancy should explain themselves in this instance.

And as for my commentary regarding Nancy and her hatred of Bill Hybels, that was clearly meant to show her utter hypocrisy of being a White Feminist (Faux Feminist) and Christian. She would bash him, openly and privately, but would knowingly help Ortberg molest me? Bryana states that Ortberg never counseled anyone and only teaching pastors did. Bryna, back in 1994, when he was hired, he WAS a teaching pastor. That’s when this was taking place. Nancy was also a teaching pastor at this time.

When I posted this in May, I did receive a call from Willow Creek. The woman did not give her name. She, instead, informed me that I needed to keep this abuse private and she highly recommend that I take this post down. Basically, delete it. She said I had to do it for the good of the Church. Oddly enough, she stated that I was not the first to be abused by John Ortberg, but was one of the earliest that they are aware of at Willow Creek. And they knew of the others and did not want us finding each other. I do wonder if Brandy or Bryna were that woman. Or if they know her. If so, Willow Creek, that is a breach of privacy. And I refuse to delete this.

 

The Folly of Letter Writing & A Few Poems

As someone who loves Austen, one knows that all correspondence during this period was done by letter writing (unless done by visiting in person). Now in the electronic age that we reside in, letter writing seems a very quaint and old fashioned way of communication. One that I still feel deserves some revival and some credit in a way. After all, does not one’s pulse quicken when Elizabeth Bennett reads Darcy’s letter that day at Rosing Park? Or feel one’s heart break when Marianne Dashwood writes letter upon letter to John Willoughby and receives nary a reply? I confess that when I am feeling low, I turn to Captain Frederick Wentworth’s letter of his love to Anne Elliot in Persuasion. That, I have always felt, to be the epitome of romantic confession at it’s finest in Austen’s writings. And I confess that I, in turn, have used letter writing myself, much to great disappointment and heartbreak.

In today’s age of the dating scene, many meet on-line or in clubs or bars. Dining out seems to be the norm for any social interaction these days and quite frankly, I must confess that I’m not that kind of woman. I’m afraid that while most of my sex are fine with the social conventions of the day, I’d rather be much happier with a man who’d be willing to take me to a museum. I know it seems rather odd and a bit strange, but when you think really hard about it, it doesn’t seem very strange at all. To me, the modern social dating scene is very much like the Theatre-a lot of dressing up, a lot of acting and hidden meaning. I don’t want to go out to put on a mask and be surrounded by players in the pseudo fancy dress party we call the social scene (yes, yes, I am well aware of Shakespeare’s “All the World’s a Stage” quote). To me, how can this lead to any meaningful relationship (and I have given this much thought since I’ve done nothing but think about this over the years). While I enjoy dressing up and acting a part on the stage, I don’t wish to play a part all the time and I do feel that our modern society demands that we constantly portray a version of ourselves that is false and not our true selves. Perhaps we do this for protection. Perhaps because Society, in general, has become so superficial and jaded that we can no longer recognize truth and only appreciate falseness.

To counter this false reality, I want to be not only honest with myself, but also honest with any man that I am interested in. Yes, I am sure that I would enjoy going out to a fancy restaurant and dressing up. I’m not too unusual in that regard that I would not enjoy some sort of romantic dining experience. But I don’t think that should be the only basis of a relationship. Nor should bar hopping or clubbing (neither of which I find particularly interesting). Yes, I would rather go to a museum or for a stroll in a park or even fishing (yes, some girls do fish).  I am also too set in my ways (and too old at this point) to demand attention all the time. I enjoy having time to myself and would think that any man I chose to be with would also appreciate alone time as well.

As to how this ties in to letter writing, I have written two such letters in my life that expressed very personal and deep emotions to two very different men.  One I did seeking answers (and also closure) which I never received and probably never will. Did this person hurt me? Yes, absolutely and he did so either intentionally or unintentionally (perhaps a mixture of both). But I have long since forgiven him and have never demanded an answer or explanation from him. Life is too short and too precious to waste time on someone who clearly didn’t care enough to even say he was sorry. The second I wrote very recently to someone I very much care for basically telling him that I do like him but I, being the nerdy person that I am, would much rather go to something like a museum than a fancy restaurant. I should also mention that said letter was four typed pages long and I tried very hard to be extremely witty but feel that I failed at it. For by my reckoning, this man has had said letter for over 24 hrs and is either shocked and still digesting said letter or will now hate the very sight of me. I am well aware of my shortcomings in the looks department, but considering that I am very kind and very smart, I am hoping that he would at least be kind enough to see that an outing to a museum is pretty tame in comparison to what he normally does.

So was this a smart move on my behalf? I am not sure. It was pure folly to be sure, but born out of frustration as well. This man in question would be upset at any other single gentleman paying any sort of attention to me. And it boils down to if he doesn’t wish other men paying call to me, then there’s clearly only one logical solution-become the suitor. If you do not wish me to have other suitors, then you must woo me. Considering that I do not want fancy dinners nor late nights out drinking, and would be more content with a trip to a bookstore or renting a film, I’d say I was fairly easy going sort of woman. Not that a fancy dinner or two wouldn’t be warranted-I’d like some modern taste of romance thank you very much. But if I had to chose between spending time in a boat on a lake fishing or going to a club, I’d chose the boat each and every time. Even though this would mean I’d be wearing very casual clothing, no jewelry, no makeup (except sunscreen), and most likely be wearing a hat with my hair in a ponytail. Basically, dressed for practicality, not to be cute or sexy.

Now, I did give this man my blog address and I do hope that he reads this post, if only to understand me a little bit more. But to also see that this is who I am-I am a writer. Now, I’ve been busy working of late which has prevented much writing, but I plan on doing some writing to make up for that. Both on this blog and on my novel. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t wish to spend some time with him because I really do. I really fancy him even though he drives me insane, is unlike anyone I’ve ever met, makes me laugh, and tells me that I am beautiful. That in itself is very seductive to any female.

The Poems:

What do you want of me?

I am more than a friend but less than a lover.

I have no clue why you compliment my eyes to others

Yet tease me so mercilessly. I do not know what you want of me.

You talk to me, confide in me.

Yet I have no loving sighs, no sweet kisses to sustain me.

You have the general nickname for all the girls

And yet a few special ones for me.

But you have nicknames for others as well. I wish you’d tell me

What  you want of me.

I grow frustratedly bothered at inconvenient times.

You stare-and I stare back. A game of who looks away first.

Sometimes it’s me and at others you.

Again, what do you want of me?

 

 

I slept ill, legs constantly moving

Refusing to remain still while cruel images

Filtered through my mind’s playback.

Comparisons made-cruel things those.

I can never compare to others.

They are far more lovely, more thin than I.

Yes, my clothes are loose fitting, yet always neat and tidy.

Still, you made allusions to a preference-a more skin tight appearance.

How cruel you are lately!

So very cruel and mean! No longer kind and caring.

Gone is the man I feel for.

Where is the sweet love that worried about my wellbeing?

Now there is a vain, pompous man in his place

That cares more about his looks and how he is seen than how

He treats others. His jests have gone from airy lightness to sharp pains.

I need to fall out of love

It must be so. Your actions have made is easier

For you treat me so badly with your cruel teasing that

My heart is breaking.

My soul is wounded and cut very deeply.

I am bleeding rivulets of tears.

What’s up with the Gin, Sam? A Tale of Samuel Taylor Coleridge and Edmund Kean

As someone with a love of Theatre History, I have often heard (and read) that Edmund Kean’s acting was like “flashes of lightening.” In fact, this was projected, via Powerpoint, in an American Theatre History Class I took during Graduate School. The professor then, snickering, changed the slide to show a shot glass (presumably of gin) on fire. He, of course, was inferring that Kean was an alcoholic and that this glorification of the man’s acting skills was no more than a witty way of poking fun at the man. Now, the quote in question, that you may or may not have heard is “seeing him act was like reading Shakespeare by flashes of lightening” (Coleridge stated this to his son-on-law on April 27, 1823). However, I feel that this really doesn’t tell us anything about Kean or Coleridge’s link to this man in any way shape or form. So we shall have to start at some sort of beginning to do this tale justice.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge (21 October 1772 to 25 July 1834) is most famous for being a poet. Kubla Khan and Rime of the Ancient Mariner are among his most famous works (and personal favorites of mine as well). He also had a deep friendship with fellow poet William Wordsworth and a long standing addiction to Opium. Like many people in modern society , Coleridge was given opium (also called laudanum) for pain management and became addicted and was known to be an addict the rest of his life. I am not giving out this information to besmirch the man, but just to put this out there as this may have relevance later on in this tale.

Edmund Kean (4 November 1787 to 15 May 1833) is not well known today as he was back in his lifetime. Other than those of us who are History buffs (or Theatre buffs), a majority of people do not know his name, which is a great pity. He was the Laurence Olivier (or Leonardo DiCaprio for those who are younger) of his day. From all accounts that I have read of him, he grew up in the Theatre, taking on small roles as a child and slowly progressed to larger roles before his breakout role as Shylock in 1814. Mrs. Siddons (a very famous actress at this time) did not like the look of Kean and herself had retired  from the stage in 1812. And yes, his looks apparently are important if we are to discuss Kean. He was not overly handsome, short by the standards of the day, but his voice was said to have a mesmerizing effect on the audience (particularity those of the female sex). I have always thought that perhaps Henry Crawford from Mansfield Park may have been based on Edmund Kean because of the similarities in how Austen describes their looks and their voice. Granted, Mansfield Park was first published in 1814, but do recall that while Edmund Kean was not famous when Austen first wrote this (and she seemed to have a pattern of writing these novels anywhere from 7 to 10 years prior to publication), Kean was an actor and traveled with troops during his youth. I would not find it surprising to find that Austen may have seen a performance of Kean before he was famous and subconsciously used him as a blueprint for Henry Crawford. Of course, this is my own personal fancy and this is a major digression to this tale.

Kean’s role of Shylock was his breakout role for one major reason: he portrayed Shylock as a human being. This breakout occurred on January 26, 1814. Prior to this, Shylock was always a caricature-an evil Jew, but never a human being. This went against all conventions and while most praised Kean for portraying Shylock with dignity and humanity, one critic did not like Kean’s performance and I have yet to find a kind criticism by this critic of Edmund Kean. This critic in question is William Hazlitt. While some could say that this proves that Kean really wasn’t all that good (based on this one critic’s opinion), please note that in February 1815, William Hazlitt published an article stating that women were more like parrots than any other creature because women did nothing but mimic men and “create difficulties out of nothing.” I don’t feel that anyone can really take Hazlitt seriously regarding any of his criticisms other than the inane sproutings of a small mind. As a woman, I still take offense to this because he then believes that nothing any woman has done, including Mrs. Siddons, Jane Austen, or Ann Radcliffe, is just elaborate mimicry. And who can take such a man seriously?

So, let us look at other critics of Edmund Kean. Richard Henry Dana, American Theatre Critic, stated that there was a simple, natural “sincerity of his acting” that made one forget that the play on stage was a work of fiction as it “bore me away with the power of reality and truth.” Dr. Francis, writing for Blackwood’s Magazine, wrote that Kean’s performance of King Lear was “the most genuine of all his performances of Shakespeare. It is most purely unaffected and untheatrical.” I, of course, cannot read my writing and cannot tell you the exact year or month that quote was stated, but that it was stated is important. For if we are to believe that Kean was not any good, then why was he paid 50 pounds sterling in 1814 (after his performance as Shylock) to take the role of Richard III for Drury Lane. Now, 50 pounds sterling doesn’t seem like much, but be aware that during this same time frame, a country curate would earn that much in a year. Kean’s performance would be for a month or two. In 1814, I found that a singer, for two performances at the Opera House, was paid 30 guineas. That was more than a majority of the working class saw in a month (in May 1811, a quart of fresh green peas, in London, cost anywhere from 3 to 8 guineas, depending on the quality). Always be aware that for that time, Kean was starting to make serious money right away. A clear sign that Kean wasn’t a bad investment for Drury Lane.

Now, about that reference to gin. Flashes of Lightening is cant for gin or strong spirits, this is true (see 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue). But so are the phrases blue ruin (which I think would be a fantastic name brand), diddle, drain, frog’s wine (again, fantastic branding opportunity lost), stark naked and many, many others. I tried, whenever I could, to cross reference any of these slang terms for gin and criticisms of Edmund Kean and you would be shocked as to what I found: nothing. I widened my search to the following phrases: a ball of fire (brandy), kill priest (port), and heavy wet (stout, malt liquor). Again, I was unable to find anything linking alcohol to Edmund Kean. Which makes me wonder where Coleridge got this idea that Kean was a drunkard.

Kean in 1820 went to America and had success on stage. He also had some trouble with the press and left for England in 1821. On the 17 January 1825, Kean was sued by Mr. Cox for adultery as he’d been having a sexual affair with Mr. Cox’s wife Charlotte. Mr. Cox was a London City Alderman and Kean was fined 800 pounds sterling. Because of this case, Kean’s wife left him-as in divorce. He tried to get back on stage, because clearly he needed the money (he did have a son with his ex-wife) and was booed (and pelted by rotten fruit). He almost retired completely, but instead decided to come back to America, hoping to restart his career. Unfortunately, his reputation did proceed him and not in a good way. Kean was persecuted by groups like the Boston Debating Society. He found some favor in Quebec City and his final appearance was in New York as Richard III on December 6, 1826. He returned to England dependent on stimulants. Note that there is no indication he was using stimulants prior to his second tour of America after his divorce. These stimulants being alcohol because the other preferred method for treating depression at this time was opium. I think Kean chose what he felt was the better of the two options at this time. Kean returned to England and eventually regained favor. He was to appear on stage in Paris but couldn’t because he was too drunk. Kean’s last appearance was at Covent Garden as Othello (his son, Charles Kean, was portraying Iago) on March 15, 1833. In Act 3, Scene 3, he collapsed and stating to his son (and the audience) that he was dying. They took him offstage where he died later in his son’s arms. As someone who not only has a degree in Theatre, but has acted as well, that fact always makes me cry. He literally died for his art, for his audience.

So know let us bring this tale back around to Coleridge. Considering I can find no other critic combining slang of gin with Kean’s acting, I do question if and when Coleridge saw Kean act. Now, before anyone suggests I am going to persecute Coleridge, the entire quote his son-in-law recorded should be read:

Kean is original but he copies from himself. His rapid descents from hyper-tragic to the infra-colloquial, though sometimes productive of great effort, are often unreasonable. To see him act, is like reading Shakespeare by flashes of lightening. I do not think him through-bred gentleman enough to play Othello.

Once you read the entire opinion Coleridge had on Edmund Kean, and not just pick and choose to either show how brilliant Kean was or what a drunkard he was, we can now focus on Coleridge properly. When exactly did Coleridge see Kean perform? Considering that he mentions that he doesn’t think the man capable of portraying Othello based on his ill-breeding, we know that this predates Kean’s last performance. I should mention that while this tidbit was written down in 1823, it wasn’t published until 1835 and many modern critics date this criticism of Kean to be of his last performance, which is clearly wrong and shows that they never bothered to do proper research.

Now, Kean had his breakout in 1814 and Coleridge, at this time , was under the care of Doctor Daniel (which some people say lived in Bristol, some say London) because in 1808, due to his minimum 2 quarts of laudanum addiction per week, he separated from his wife Sara. Coleridge was also no longer speaking to Wordsworth by 1810 because of this addiction. By April 1816, Coleridge’s addiction was much worse (he had been living off and on in London sometime around 1810) and was now living with another physician, James Gillman. Gillman was able to control the addiction enough to allow Coleridge to start writing and publishing again. Coleridge lived with the Gillmans until his death and suffered from depression, bad lungs, and had heart troubles. In order to see Coleridge, people had to go to him as it seems he never left the Gillmans for the 18 years he lived with them. Which brings us back to when did Coleridge see Kean perform? The only logical answer is sometime between late 1814 to early 1816. This was also the height of Coleridge’s opium addiction (his addiction, from all accounts, worsened because of the treatment of Dr. Daniel and the numerous enemas he received). It is vital for us to remember because Coleridge’s opinion of Kean is seen through the eyes and memory of someone who under the influence of opium whereas Kean was not drinking at this stage in his life to deal with the depression that he currently didn’t have.

So, why the gin? Why the reference to gin? Well, gin and beer were the two cheapest forms of alcohol available at every pub. Both were associated with the poor because many poor people couldn’t afford a loaf of bread, but could afford enough gin to get very drunk. I believe that mentioning gin was Coleridge’s way of demeaning Kean. Remember, he did state that he didn’t think Kean was “well-bred” enough to handle the role of Othello. Clearly a well-meaning snide remark that no one seems to have caught. And I do mean no one as I’ve researched to find out of anyone else has ever connected the use of gin to the remark regarding someone’s breeding as what I feel it is-slander. Coleridge, vaguely mentioning that he saw Kean on stage during his most opium addicted phase, slanders Edmund Kean. Of course, when the remarks were published in 1835, both men were dead and both men were past caring. As to why, it could have been jealously. Remember, in 1823, Coleridge was still writing and getting published, but an invalid. Kean was at the top of his career having had a successful American tour after success in England before and after the tour (the adultery charge had not yet gone to court). Edmund Kean was, to put it bluntly, hot stuff. Coleridge wasn’t and would never be again. So, this criticism of Kean is not only slander, but also a way for Coleridge to feel better about himself. I don’t think Coleridge had any thought that his son-in-law would record these little snippets and publish them. He may have thought they were being written down for future essays or possible lectures (Coleridge did give a series of lectures on Shakespeare’s Plays). It was Coleridge’s family that decided to publish them after his death.

So, in a way, both men have been wronged-Kean by history and Coleridge by his family. To that professor, and critics, who use this quote from Coleridge to point out that Kean was a slush-stop and desist. If you continue to teach students that Kean was an alcoholic, then do them the courtesy of also teaching them that the man who said the criticism was an opium addict so they can make their own decision regarding the matter. Yes, this post is in some parts my utter frustration against a professor who basically informed us, his students, that Kean was a drunkard, and did nothing to counter this. This, I believe, should make him blush with shame for clearly, he never did his basic research into the subject for if he had, he would have given a more complete story. And he should blush with shame for not doing his research. It took me a month to research and do justice to this tale and I didn’t have the access nor the time that he (or any students of history) have. Again, I have always stated that and firmly believe that the importance of research should be done consistently and constantly.

Like Hazlitt and my unnamed Graduate Professor,  I do not think we can trust any criticism on Edmund Kean from Coleridge at this point. I have made my case clear, in this tale, that Slander (with hints of jealousy), pure and rarely simple, was the basis for that infamous quote. While I still love the poetry of Coleridge, and always will, I hope that others will start to realize that historians should always, always, look beyond the obvious. And I hope that I have restored my fellow Theatre aficionados faith in Edmund Kean.

References:

American Theatre History Class Notes Fall 2010 UIUC

http://www.aestheticrealismtheatreco.org/articles/richard-henry-dana-on-edmund-keans-acting/

http://www.richmond.gov.uk/local_history_e_kean.pdfb

http://shakespeare.edel.univ-poitiers.fr/index.php?id=838

https://www.britannica.com/biography/Edmund-Kean

https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Kean,_Edmund_(DNB00)

Coleridge, Samuel Taylor, Table Talk, 27 April 1823 in Coleridge, Samuel Taylor; Morley, Henry.

Kahan, Jeffrey (2006). The Cult of Kean.

Lynch, Jack (2007). Becoming Shakespeare: The Strange Afterlife That Turned a Provincial Playwright into the Bard.

http://www.biography.com/people/samuel-taylor-coleridge-9253238

Johnston, Kenneth R (2013).  The Hidden Wordsworth.

http://knarf.english.upenn.edu/Coleridg/bio.html

https://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/h/hazlitt/william/table-talk/complete.html