Triumphant Lutheran Church in Garden Ridge, Texas (physically), and New Hope Lutheran Church, Agoura Hills, Calif. (online)
Filmmaker/activist/professor/founder of Theatre For Change
I pray for my marriage and my children’s safety and joy every single day. I pray for the courage to stand in my truth.
My favorite part of being an associate professor of dramatic media at Texas Lutheran University (TLU) is my students! My students are the coolest bunch of people I know. Watching them grow and wildly create keeps me young and sharp. I’m also deeply grateful to my TLU community. Creating films and exposing systemic social injustice can be quite controversial and uncomfortable. Not once has TLU ever waivered in its support for our department, Theatre For Change, my art or me.
To me, church is a place where the broken go to heal and where joy rattles out of its cage.
I was motivated to found Theatre For Change because I live in a community in the midst of a significant humanitarian crisis, where arts funding must come secondary to providing services for hunger, homelessness, refugee resettlement, domestic violence, abuse and neglect. After decades in the entertainment industry, I know story compels people to action. God has given me (and my team) the gift of storytelling. I have no choice but to follow the call. I’ve never been more terrified or inspired in my life.
Learning about the foster care system in my region for my TV pilot script “Region 8” nearly broke me. To properly write “Region 8,” I interviewed foster children, biological families, foster/adoptive families, legislators, Child Protection Service workers, judges, abusers, human traffickers and victims. I lost faith in people for quite some time. It took the victory of finally adopting our own two children out of the system to restore my faith and remind me that good always prevails. It has to.
To me, grace means something so sacred, and I fear my words fall short. Grace means God plucking me out of the ashes (many times) and gifting me with the audacity of voice and story. Grace means watching my single mother raise three babies. Grace means God lifting me above false prophesies (many times) and giving me an iron will for justice. Grace means God trusting me to guide my three precious babies. Grace means God sowing seeds of failure so that grit will grow. Grit is needed in this life. Grit and grace are one and the same.
It’s important to me to be involved in my congregation because they make sandwiches for my sweet dad’s funeral and teach my children kindness, patience and service when I can’t do even one more thing.
One of the most important stories I’ve told through Theatre For Change is … honestly, they have all been important to the communities we’ve served. Our stories have changed legislation, bolstered volunteers, given voice to the voiceless and raised hundreds of thousands of dollars at galas. However, personally, my favorite has been telling the story of my great-grandmother, Ruth, who died of an unregulated abortion in 1938. Memorializing her life through our short film Ruth and standing on the front line of the women’s health care debate has been one of the greatest honors of my life.
A new project I’m excited about is whichever one God decides to fund. We never really know which of our films he’s chosen next until someone says “yes” to funding. He’s tricky like that.
People are surprised that I curse like a sailor. My TLU professor-buddy, Dr. Scott Baily, recently told me I am a synesthete, which means my senses get cross-wired. So I find curse words delicious, colorful, shapely and disarming. I can’t imagine living a life without the freedom to use all of life’s weirdo words.
I share my faith by listening and then making movies.
I believe storytelling has the power to effect social change because lectures, pamphlets and marketing materials can only go so far. When filmmakers do our job correctly, story motivates the parts of the soul that demand action. Creating film deep inside life’s trigger warnings inspires people to donate, volunteer and serve.
I believe in humankind’s ability to always choose good over evil. I believe God loves me even though I suck sometimes.
I live out my baptismal promise to strive for justice and peace in all the earth by saying “yes” every time God places a person in need or a story in my path—or an animal, much to my husband’s chagrin. I push past my exhaustion, my lack of funding, my fear, my insecurities and I say “yes” and just get to work. Sometimes it’s a box of chicken for a homeless belly dancer on NYC’s subway; sometimes it’s a horror movie about human trafficking; sometimes it’s a pair of baby ducks who stink up our backyard for months on end.
I’m a Lutheran because we prioritize grace over greed, service over self-righteousness and community over congregation.