Monday, March 18, 2013

Laughter is Sacred Space by Ted Swartz - Reviewed

About the Book: (from Herald Press)

Ted Swartz and his Ted & Company TheaterWorks team are known for blending Bible stories with comedy and poignancy, and pushing the envelope on issues of faith and social justice. But who is Ted Swartz?

Follow along in this engaging memoir as Swartz finds his way as a middle child in an eastern Pennsylvania traditional Mennonite home to his early work in the family butcher shop. Journey with Ted through the decision of uprooting his young family to attend seminary and then embracing life as a writer and actor. Get a glimpse into the friendship that led to the formation of the popular acting duo Ted & Lee.

This uniquely honest backstage tour of an artist's life and mind combines side-splitting reminiscences, heart-rending accounts of loss, and touching stories of restored faith and love. Swartz's engaging humor blends with his own stories of triumph and tragedy, and helps readers understand their own sense of place and how they're shaped by those around them.

My Thoughts:

Sometimes the best kind of God-work happens when you don’t know what you’re doing.” (p. 35)

The best God moments – when we are not aware of what we are doing.”  (p.232)

I don’t think it is coincidence that Ted Swartz states this fact at the beginning and the end of his memoir. He is a Mennonite man who became an actor by trade.  Unusual and interesting, don’t you think?  I do! I wanted to know how his faith embraced his talent as an actor.  His journey is fascinating to say the least. Both times he makes the observation that God was moving behind the scenes he was grieving the most significant loss in his entire life.  I daresay that Ted Swartz life has gained a depth and meaning that he never expected through this loss.  His journey out of that loss is pretty amazing.

I laughed and cried as I read this book.  Swartz is indeed very funny, and he takes some very normal life events and makes them extremely entertaining!  His life has not been one long, hilarious series of events.  Swartz is transparent about the painful and difficult moments of his life as well.  He is honest about where he struggles with faith, family and friends. He is someone I could relate to. Now, I feel like I could sit down and enjoy a cup of coffee with him any day and would feel very glad to be in his company.

I’d never heard of Ted Swartz before I read his book, and now, I don’t think I’ll forget him. I am happy to recommend this book to readers everywhere.

About the Author:
Ted Swartz is a playwright and actor who has been mucking around in the worlds of the sacred and profane for more than 20 years. Ted fell in love with acting and theater on his way to a traditional pastorate in the Mennonite church, a denomination not usually thought of as a hotbed of theatrical opportunities.
Coupling theater and seminary education, Ted became a theologian of a different sort. He discovered that at the intersection of humor and biblical story we often find new or different under¬standings of scripture.
Ted's love of acting, comedy, and collaboration with creative partner Lee Eshleman took him to performances in 45 states in the U.S., Canada, as well as shows in Kenya and Japan. Ted & Lee became known for a quirky and gently askew view of life, building a loyal following.
Despite the tragic loss of Lee to suicide in 2007, Ted continued the search for the intersection of comedy and faith, grief and loss, deepening that exploration.
He is the creator or co-creator of over a dozen plays, and continues to perform and write across the U.S. and abroad. Born in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, Ted is a 1989 graduate of Eastern Mennonite University and 1992 grad of Eastern Mennonite Seminary.
Ted now lives in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. Along with writing and acting, his loves include his wife, Sue; three sons, Eliot, Ian, and Derek; daughters-in-law, Katrina, Hannah, and Chelsea; and newest addition, granddaughter Mona Quinn.
He and Sue are members of Community Mennonite Church in Harrisonburg, Virginia.

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