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Coming to U.S. movie theaters on September 7th for a special one-night event, Extraordinary tells the trust story of the acclaimed ultra-marathoner David Horton. The film follows Horton and his dream of tackling a nearly 3,000-mile run, which takes a toll on not only his body, but his marriage.

Although proud of David’s incredible athletic accomplishments and the impact he has on his students as a college professor, the Horton family pays a high price for his years of competitive running. Following his open-heart surgery and irreparable damage to his knees, wife Nancy Horton is ready for Dave to put away his racing shoes for good and instead focus on his home-life. Instead, feeling called by God to “inspire people one last time,” Dave sets off for a race across America.

Created and produced by the department of Cinematic Arts at Liberty University, Extraordinary will become the first feature film in history to be released in movie theaters nationwide.

Extraordinary will encourage couples to go the distance in their marriages and is a wonderful opportunity to start a dialogue about honoring your family, persevering, and finishing well,” said Liberty University President Jerry Falwell. “Daily, we challenge our students and faculty to engage the world through Christian media and Extraordinary does that in a big way. This movie truly is a labor of love for Liberty University’s film school.”

Fathom events teamed up with Liberty University to bring the film to the masses.

“Family plays an important role in our society,” Fathom Events CEO John Rubey said. “This redemptive story brings to light some of the sacrifices of marriage but will inspire audiences to appreciate, support and treasure their loved ones.”

The faith-based movie discusses topics of family, redemption, marriage and personal relationships with the Lord. Following the premier of the movie, a special panel discussion will be held by Fathom Events that includes filmmakers, Extraordinary cast members, and marriage experts to to discuss the importance of maintaining a healthy marriage, along with practical ways to improve relationships. As Horton’s marriage was tested during his grueling run, the panel will explore the impact that following your dreams can have on those closest to you.

The film features stars such as Leland Klassen (Alter Egos), Shari Rigby (October Baby), Kirk Cameron (Fireproof), and Karen Abercrombie (War Room).

A list of theaters showcasing the movie and options to buy tickets can be found on the movies website.

 

 

“Hearing is Believing” is a heartwarming film on Rachel Flowers, a young musical prodigy who was born 15 weeks premature and lost her eyesight due to Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP) shortly after birth. At the age of two, she began picking up melodies from her musician parents and was soon playing every song she heard by ear, including Bach fugues. Starting her musical education at the age of 4, Rachel spent 10 years studying at the Southern California Conservatory of Music and the Academy of Music for the Blind.

The film covers two years in the life of the tight-knit Flowers family, a single mom and her two kids, living paycheck to paycheck, with Rachel’s stunning music as the soundtrack. Among the great musicians appearing with Rachel in the film are Grammy winners Stevie Wonder, Dweezil Zappa, Arturo Sandoval, two-time Grammy nominated jazz pianist, Taylor Eigsti, Progressive Rock icon Keith Emerson and 50 members of the Santa Barbara Youth Symphony!

Rachel is the recipient of many awards, distinctions, and scholarships, including a Stanford University Jazz Residency, Los Angeles Music Center Spotlight Awards, winner of the Ventura County Student Jazz Competition and private instruction in advanced improvisation through the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz.

The film will be released in select theaters on June 16th and will be available on VOD on June 20th.

 

 

Kassandro/ Wikimedia Commons

Kassandro/ Wikimedia Commons

A town’s admirable effort for hope during dark times may have produced one of the most notable passion plays of all time.  The play has a rich history including a long kept promise and a town that maintains to show its faith to this day.

In 1633, during the Thirty Years’ War, the town of Oberammergau in Germany was suffering and dying from the bubonic plague. Claiming the lives of thousands of townspeople, the remaining citizens were desperate for any relief from the sickness.  They prayed and made a promise, out of appreciation, to produce and perform a play honoring Christ through his journey of life through suffering, death, and the resurrection if they could be relived of the curse known as the plague.

Maintaining hope and continuing prayer, it seemed that the villagers’ prayers had finally been answered. The adult death rate slowly subsided over the course of several months until there were none from the sickness.  The thankful townspeople, remembering their oath, began writing and implementing their efforts towards the production.

The play follows the final period of the life of Christ from his visit to Jerusalem to his execution by crucifixion.   It includes dramatic text and dialogue, musical and choral complements, as well as scenes that are represented by motionless actors guided with a verbal description, or also called tableaux vivants.   These are scenes from the Old Testament and are the foundation of the connection between the Old and the New Testament.

The first play was performed in 1634.  When determining where the production would be held, the town took into account that Oberammergau’s primal community church would be too small. It was eventually decided to hold the play in the graveyard of the church, which hosted the graves of the villagers who had died of the plague that once terrorized the town.

The performance remained at the location of the graves until 1820 when a stage was built at the location of where the current Passion Play Theatre resides. Over the years, accommodations have been made to update the site. Stages were built and structures that withheld the stages were modernized again and again to meet different needs based off of previous years of performances. Through all of the renovations the stage has always maintained an “open-air” concept to ensure that the sky and mountains maintain as the natural backdrop.  The overall updates made the transformation from the conventional rows of benches to comfortably cushioned seating occupying around 4,700 guests being covered by an awning. The theater was also accommodated with wheelchair accessibility and top safety precaution plans.

In 2020, plans are made for the Oberammergau passion play to debut once more. Being right on schedule, the play follows a rule of performing every ten years.  The next performance will make for the 42nd time that it will be executed in a 380 year time span with minimal interruption. The play is performed consecutively for a total of five months.  It will go on from May to October.

A lot of planning and preparation goes into a performance of this capacity. What truly makes this production prominent is that The Oberammergau Passion Play is the world’s largest amateur dramatic performance. It involves some 2,000 performers, musicians, and stage technicians. All participants of the production are residents of Oberammergau.  The participant must have either been born there or lived there for at least 20 years. They manage to make their distinguishable mark on the world of the arts by using extraordinary costumes to assist the dramatic scenes and musical numbers. Also aiding the musical numbers there is an orchestra consisting of around 60 members as well as a choir.   

The production is expecting to occupy around 500,000 guests throughout its next session. Over half of their guests are known to be international.  The play is performed in German but there is said to not be any issue with being able to understand what is going on throughout the performance. There are packaged tours that individuals often go through and over 38 different itineraries are offered by the production for different groups. The play runs for a total of five to five and a half hours. It starts at 2:30 p.m. and ends around 10:30 p.m. with a three hour intermission.  Food is served during the intermission in the theatre. It also runs once a day, every day except for Monday and Wednesday.

The level of tradition that the individuals of Oberammergau put into practice is commendable. It’s reassuring that an entire town has the ability to practice and perform their faith in such a way that people from around the entire world are seeking to travel numerous amounts of miles to share it with them. The most generous part of it all is that Oberammergau is willing to share its love and appreciation for Christ with all of their visitors and have been doing so for over 300 years.

tony-awards-cbs-roses-billboard-1548The 71st annual Tony Awards aired live from Radio City Music Hall in New York last night to celebrate this year’s elite class of Broadway talent. The night was full of musical performances and a huge range of celebrities, both accepting and presenting awards.

This year’s host was “House of Cards” star Kevin Spacey. His opening number was a hit with audiences, paying respects to many of the nominated musicals. Spacey started by singing onstage, impersonating Ben Platt in the nominated musical “Dear Evan Hansen,” before being joined by Stephen Colbert who was disguised as a groundhog to pay homage to the nominated musical “Groundhog Day The Musical.” Other stars joined in to surprise the audience, including Whoopi Goldberg, Billy Crystal, and the Radio City Rocketts.

The cast of “Bandstand” took the stage to perform “Nobody.” Jill Biden, who received a standing ovation from the audience, introduced the the musical performance. The musical earned a Tony for best choreography on Sunday night and also was nominated for best orchestrations.

One musical though, took over the Tony Awards. “Dear Evan Hansen” won the most awards of the evening, taking home six Tonys total, including best musical. Ben Platt who stars in the show, performed “Waving Through a Window” and later in the night happily accepted the Tony for best lead actor in a musical.

Another star from “Dear Evan Hansen” was Rachel Bay Jones, who took home the award for best performance by an actress in a featured role. This was her first Tony. Jones gave a heartfelt acceptance speech where she thanked her daughter for sacrificing many bedtime stories so that she could star in the musical. Jones also thanked her grandmother for selling her engagement ring so she could start her career as an actress.

The Tony Awards also featured a performance of “Welcome to the Rock” from the cast of “Come From Away.” The musical had been in a tight battle with “Dear Evan Hansen,” but came up short. The musical was nominated for seven Tonys, and Christopher Ashley took one home for directing the musical.

Bette Midler, to the surprise of absolutely no one, won the Tony for her performance in the smash revival of “Hello, Dolly!” In a hilarious moment, Midler shouted down to the orchestra when it tried to curtail her acceptance speech. “Shut that crap off,” Midler snapped. The orchestra went silent as she went on to acknowledge everyone who had something to do with “Hello, Dolly!” — from composer Jerry Herman to Carol Channing, the original Dolly, to Pearl Bailey, who famously led an all-black cast in 1967.

Scott Rudin, the producer of “Hello, Dolly!,” also broke the rules. A recent Tony rule said that no more than six producers of a show could appear on stage to accept an award. When “Dolly!” won for Best Revival of Musical, Rudin brought the entire “Dolly” team onstage.

Shut out completely was “Groundhog Day The Musical,” which didn’t take home a single award. The show struggled at the box office, so the fate of the musical remains up in the air.

Overall, the night featured many great performances and entertained audiences. Many of the stars who won had never taken a Tony home before, which showcased the great amount of young talent that is currently in theater.