Tuesday, March 27, 2012

From pastor to playwright - Kristine Holmgren's plays ask, "Is it ever too late to start again?"

Where did these ashes come from? See PAPER DADDY!
As a pastor — especially as a woman pastor — Kristine Holmgren has always found a comfort zone in the public eye.

In addition to thirteen years of weekly preaching from her country-church pulpit in Hager City, Wisconsin,  Holmgren reached people across the country through the informally syndicated column she wrote for the (Minneapolis) Star Tribune and her frequent commentary for National Public Radio's All Things Considered.  

That exposure has perhaps helped prepare her for her newest venture as a playwright. 

In 2008, after working for a for-profit Minneapolis-based online university, Holmgren hit the wall.

 "It was soul-killing work; my first time outside faith-based communities. " Holmgren said. "I wasn't used to the 'dog-eat-dog' atmosphere. I didn't want to get used to it."

At age 59 - at the stormy genesis of the Great Recession, Holmgren did the unthinkable.  She quit her job. 

"I needed time," she said.  "We clergy folks call it, 'a period of discernment.  I needed to recover my spirit.'" she said.

It was during this time Holmgren wrote her first play, “Paper Daddy,” which will premiere April 13 at the Northfield Arts Guild Theater in Minnesota

PAPER DADDY is the story of Charlie, a woman who survives the Great Recession by renting rooms to a variety of colorful characters. She is the newly widowed ex-wife of a former college dean whom she has not seen in years and is now faced with the responsibility of taking care of his ashes.

The play explores the many meanings of forgiveness and the difficult role of fatherhood.  Paper Daddy asks the question, "Is it ever too late to start again?"

Her first play was followed by three more.

Her comedy SWEET TRUTH, premieres at the Berlin Theatre in Columbia,  Missouri in summer, 2013.

Her third, THE GOD GIRL, is in development with the  Minnesota History Theatre.

And her fourth, GROWING UP GOODRICH, is still in process.

“All my plays are all about redemption,” Holmgren said. “When I sit down to write, I'm amazed at the the characters who come to me, demanding I help them find their way back to a life of meaning. Writing is my vehicle to share my hope for my community and my world.”

 THE GOD GIRL is based on her experiences as a student at Princeton Theological Seminary, from which she graduated in 1979.

“It was the classic battlefield against women’s rights. So that’s what I wrote about,” Holmgren said.

The Minnesota History Theatre will offer a public reading of Holmgren's play in May, 2012.  Holmgren's play focuses on the pressure for the seminary to see the damage of patriarchy while telling the stories of women who feel assaulted rather than nourished.

Physical attacks, humiliation, sexual harassment and inappropriate use of power are a few of the realities Holmgren and her classmates experienced and which are portrayed in the play.
Holmgren’s was the first class at Princeton to have a large number of women — about one-third of the class. Administrators, faculty members and male students weren’t used to having so many bright, independent women on campus, she said.

Telling such a story in public isn’t nerve-racking for Holmgren, who sent the script to former Princeton classmates and her advisor. They all love it, she said.

She expects a wide audience for her plays.  Paper Daddy is selling out quickly.  Her play “The God Girl,” has a broad appeal as well.   The majority of theater-goers are female and want to see more stories about women and their gifts, Holmgren said.

Holmgren knew she wanted to be a pastor since she was seven years old, and a lifelong interest in writing helped fuel that calling. Her experiences as a pastor are now providing insight and ideas for her plays.

“I've been a pioneer all my life," she said.  "I hope my plays advance my reputation as a woman who stands up for what she believes.”

In writing plays, Holmgren has learned that her training in ministry and wide exposure to people have given her “the resources I need to be that kind of person in every venue I pursue in life.”

 A "talk back" to the cast and playwright is scheduled following Paper Daddy on Friday, April 20.

Holmgren will be present.

For tickets to see Paper Daddy, contact the Northfield Arts Guild Theatre in Northfield.

Monday, March 26, 2012

God, Jesus, the Republicans and Minnesota

If we believe our national leaders, God is partial to the Presidents of the United States.

Jimmy Carter claimed a personal relationship with the Big Fella. So did Ronald Reagan.

Dubya was a praying man, who claimed that God alone (with a little help from Laura) kept him off the bottle and walking the straight path to global supremacy.  Under his administration, the United States instituted a way to pay tax dollars to the churches doing the work they should do without the money.

Dubya created a whole new branch of government, and called it good. The Center for Faith-Based and Community Initiatives has a clergy man at the helm, and billions of dollars in its coffers.

They fund everything.   I mean everything.   They fund the presence of religious groups in federal prisons with the clear and certain purpose of converting offenders to the love of Jesus Christ. They fund health initiatives, for heaven's sake - claiming faith-based groups can assist in a pandemic.

Our own dear, darling, blessed Mr. Obama is a faith-based initiative fan as well.  Makes sense.  He's ordained President of the United States.  He sitteth at the right hand. 

So, let me put the record straight, right here and now.

Before I start my rant, remember;  I'm an ordained Presbyterian Pastor.  And clergy around the nation know who and what the church is.

Granted, it is many things. It is not, however, a social service agency. Sunday-Go-To-Meeting protestants are not trained, nor are they equipped to negotiate housing, jobs, child custody and parole for convicted and released sex offenders.

Here in Minnesota, our legislature sends your hard-earned tax dollars down that hole, however. For many years the Department of Corrections has held a contract with Inner Freedom Initiative, a faith-based program instigated by Chuck Colson, former Watergate conspirator.

The program cherry picks offenders from the prison population, isolates them in tax funded facilities, teaches them Christian principles and when they are fully "disciplined," gives them special privileges while they are incarcerated and promises special benefits when they are released.

One of these freedoms apparently, is the freedom to form a prison "gang;"  a group of righteous offenders, roaming the prison grounds together, professing eternal truths that other offenders may not access because they are not "chosen" into the IFI program.

Other freedoms as well - freedom to access housing in your neighborhood when released. A "mentor" on the outside, and a job.

None of this is available, mind you, if the offender is a Presbyterian, Methodist, Roman Catholic or Jew who refused the indoctrination of the program.

In the real world, the Salvation Army offers resources to poor people. Food, shelter, clothing - but first they must submit to a sermon and a little moralizing.

A little tough for some poor folks to take, but they have a choice. If they want the free food, they'll listen to the free message. The Army raises charity funds for these services - there are no other strings attached.

In the prisons, that ain't the case.

Imagine yourself incarcerated for ten years. Your family abandons you - your church ignores you - your life, it seems, is over.

But if you confess Jesus Christ as Lord and savior, give yourself over to the gang of religious thugs running the IFI program, submit to their tenants and relinquish your will, your life will be easier on the "inside."

You learn also that life on the outside will be easier as well. 

So, what do you do? 

Do you give up your Catholicism?  Do you turn your back on your Lutheran upbringing? 

You're all ready in prison - why not throw it all away and become a frickin' Evangelical?

I'll tell you why. 

Because faith is not for sale. 

No matter how many tax dollars they throw at it.  No matter what the Department of Corrections says. 

Kristine - are you nervous to see your play on stage?


Not even for a moment.

In fact, I'm so excited about the success of my new play, I'm obnoxious.

But who can blame me?  At age 59 I started an entire life.  When I walked away from my soul-killing job at (Shall Remain Nameless) University, I stumbled into the thrilling, entertaining, exhaustively fabulous life of a playwright.

Writing plays for you is one of the most enjoyable experiences of my life. 

And PAPER DADDY is my first to reach production. The others are not far behind.   In 2013, my comedy SWEET TRUTH will be produced by Talking Horse, Berlin Theatre, Columbia Missouri.  (One of the oldest equity stages in the nation is negotiating with me for SWEET TRUTH as well.  Stay tuned!  You'll be the first to know!) And my drama/comedy GOD GIRL will have a staged reading in May, 2012 at the History Theatre in St. Paul, Minnesota.

But, first things first - right?  We're talking PAPER DADDY here, kids.

PAPER DADDY  has its world premiere at the Northfield Arts Guild Theatre in Northfield Minnesota on Friday, April 13th.

Truth be told, the story has been alive since 2008, when I first set pen to paper to tell the cryptic, humorous story of Charlie (Charlotte) Pomeroy.

Charlie is one of the rare, lucky women who marries a man she loves - one who can never lose his job - a tenured member of the faculty of an elite, liberal arts college, somewhere in the Midwest.

(Read - "Carleton College.")

Her husband Franklin was, in his prime, the Dean of the Faculty.  He had it all.  The right house on the right side of town.  A beautiful, adoring spouse.  A lovely little girl.

(Read-"Ideal Life.")

And one day, thirty-something years ago, Franklin woke up, called the whole thing "boring" and walked out.

 (Read - "Ass hole.")

His desertion left his loving wife Charlie with unanswered questions and a sick,  growing bitterness.

Paper Daddy asks the question, "Is it ever too late to start again?"  Can dead relationships lead to new hope?  Can a man do the right thing, when the right thing means keeping promises to a woman he no longer loves?

In these uncertain, frightening times, is it possible to live by faith?  To believe and build and dream?

Gosh, I sure hope so. 

You decide.


Tell me what you think.

After all - I wrote it for you! 

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Beautiful, forgiving universe

If I told you there are no mistakes,

If I said I understand every decision you make,

and that the challenges you face are not unique - they are, instead, faced by us all -  would you listen?

If I told you that you are never alone,
that you are surrounded by forgiveness and refreshment -

If I assured you that I couldn't possibly be any more proud of you
than I already am, would you believe me?

If I promised you that everything  - every little thing -  is okay, would you stop worrying?

Would you?  Would you?

Would everything be easier for you if, once in a while, I pull your leg, made you blush,
and wink between the lines?

Then I shall do so.

Stay tuned.  Never give up.  And remember -  I love you so.

The Universe

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Dump Rush Limbaugh! (For his sake and ours.)


Sure, conservative radio has a place.  I don't contest that.

But hate speech is what hate speech does;  divides us, hurts us, and distracts us from important, positive work we all need to be doing.

Wherever you are, whoever you are - write to the station in your community sponsoring this miscreant. 

For his sake and for the common good, let's get this poor thing off the air so he can get some help. 

Here's suggested language. 

"We all know RUSH is an "entertainer."  But hate speech is not entertainment.  SLUT is not funny.  Asking anyone to post themselves having SEX is pornographic content.  Get rid of this guy. If you do not do so, I'll contact all your sponsors - not only the ones who support Limbaugh - and initiate a boycott.  Limbaugh is not funny.  He's serious - and so am I. "

Good grief.