Harrisonburg: Laughter and lamentation

Story by Jim Bishop

When we allow ourselves to laugh, the possibility opens up to experience and accept God’s grace.

Local actor-playwright Theodore K. (Ted) Swartz will build on this precept through “comedic exegesis” as resource person for fall spiritual life week at Eastern Mennonite University.

Swartz will introduce the theme for the week, “Laughter and Lament,” with a presentation 9:30-10:30 a.m. Tuesday, Oct. 28, in Martin Chapel of the seminary building.

At 10 a.m. Wednesday, Oct. 28, in Lehman Auditorium, Swartz will share his personal journey of laughter and profound loss that included the death of his performing partner, Lee Eshleman, in May 2007.

He will present a collection of sketches, monologues and stories that reflect his life as a performing artist for the last 20 years 7-8:30 p.m. Wednesday in Martin Chapel. Admission is free for students and by donation for community members.

The series will conclude 10 a.m. Friday, Oct. 31, in Lehman Auditorium, with Swartz illustrating through performance and sharing how God continues to surprise him, sometimes speaking through the very art which had become painful to perform. Informal conversation will follow in the Campus Center Greeting Hall.

Swartz, a 1989 EMU graduate, experimented with the intersection of humor and faith while enrolled at Eastern Mennonite Seminary – when he thought his search would lead to a pastorate. Instead, his journey led him to creating and performing dramatic plays that engage the biblical story for more than one quarter million people across the U.S. and into Canada, Kenya and Japan.

The first 20 years of this work included the creation of Ted & Lee TheaterWorks with Lee Eshleman and development of plays such as “Armadillo Shorts,” “Fish-Eyes,” “Creation Chronicles,” “Live at Jacob’s Ladder” and “DoveTale” (with Ingrid De Sanctis).

“Our student leaders in campus ministries are excited about the way Ted will hold laughter and lament together before us,” said Brian Martin Burkholder, EMU campus pastor. “We’re anticipating an invitation to be real with one another about the joys and challenges of faithful living as followers of Jesus,” he added.

All activities of spiritual life week are open to the public.

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