Never in a million years did I ever think these words would have anything to do with me or my path in life. Never.
But then, last summer, I had an extraordinary conversation with my friend, mentor and now manager/producer, Frank Eakin, of Eakin Films and Publishing. “Jenn,” he said with his usual infectious enthusiasm, “what do you think about us doing a live stage show and film to introduce your book to the world?”
My book, “Come to the Garden,” is a fictional novel based on true events. In the story, a mysterious angel takes me on a journey, revealing God’s presence throughout my life’s experiences.
“Cool idea,” I answered. “Who would play the roles of me and my angel Margaret … Julia Roberts and Betty White?” I wasn’t kidding. But Frank’s reply left me stunned.
“Why, no, Jenn, this is your story. It would be a one-woman show … you … on stage along with animated characters and themes from your book, created by someone I know who works with groundbreaking projection technology.” (insert sound of crickets chirping) ME?
“Frank!” I exclaimed, incredulous. “I’m not an actress … the only time I have been on a stage was when I played a rooster in my Brownie Scout troop when I was about 8-years-old. My only line was ‘cock-a-doodle-doo!’ Somehow I don’t think that qualifies me to do a one-woman-stage show in front of a live audience …”
Today, I sit here in astonishment, realizing that, in about three weeks, on May 3, 2016, the film of my live, one-woman stage show with groundbreaking projection technology will be shown in select movie theaters across the U.S. as a Fathom Event …"Come to the Garden-On Stage!"
What in the world just happened? I’ll tell you what happened. God happened. He opened doors and provided just the right people who would help me step through them. Let me fill you in.
Frank Eakin has this amazing gift of discerning what someone is capable of, even when they haven’t yet realized it themselves. His response to me after my ‘rooster excuse’ was that that my story was unique, authentic and came from within me. His mantra became, “Just be yourself, Jenn. You can do this.”
My first task was to write a screenplay, something I thought was impossible for me to accomplish. But Frank paired me with a wonderful woman named Casey Kelly, an experienced screenwriter.
For four solid months we brainstormed and wrote and revised and laughed and cried as the script for the show was conceived and born. And in the midst of all that, we met with Wayne Wagner of Wagner Media and Jack Hattingh of PointCloud Media … the men who would take this stage production to a whole new level with the groundbreaking technology that Frank had told me about. These talented men have worked around the world with the likes of Bon Jovi and Sting.
It was great fun to sit with them with script in hand to discuss our collective visions for animations in the show. One hilarious conversation about angels possibly sporting a resemblance to the character of Thor from "The Avengers" comes to mind!
As exciting as all this was, it was also extremely hard work. For months, I spent six to seven days a week, writing, revising and rehearsing.
To my initial dismay, I had an hour-long script of lines to memorize, and I was concerned that my fifty-five plus year old brain might not be up to the task.
My daily prayers centered upon the promises of Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things though him who strengthens me,” and Luke 1:37, “For nothing will be impossible with God.”
And God is always faithful. When the time came for me to step onto the stage to begin full rehearsals, I was thrilled to discover that I was indeed remembering my lines, and that I was actually enjoying being on stage! I never saw that coming.
Another thing I didn’t see coming was that, through what could only have been a God-appointed encounter at Christmas-time in Nashville, Frank met award winning producer/director Ken Carpenter.
Ken, upon hearing about our project and the plan to turn it into a film, read my book and immediately wanted to become involved. Suddenly, I was taking direction on stage by this gifted man of faith who has worked with Amy Grant, Steven Curtis Chapman and Michael W. Smith. And speaking of Michael W. Smith, Ken and Frank brought Michael’s talented son, Tyler, on board to compose the musical score for our production.
Before I knew it, the week of the filming and live show event arrived. This Texas homemaker-turned-author-now-turned-actress was totally immersed in the fascinating, thrilling and intense world of cameras, lights, technology, sound, and … action. And for me, the most precious aspect of this adventure was that it took place on the sanctuary stage of my church—The Woodlands United Methodist Church —the place that has nourished me, strengthened me, and encouraged me throughout this amazing journey.
I could not have felt more at home … on my church’s stage among a wonderful crew of people that I had come to cherish.
And so, with the release of “Come to the Garden On Stage” as a Fathom Event on May 3, a new chapter of my life begins.
What happens next? I have no idea … but I do know this … God will happen.