i’ll miss ingrid

with 3 comments

This may just wear some of you out. But I have to say it.

I love going to the Willow Creek Arts Conference. I love to get away, go to Chicago (great city), be a part of worship and art that I had nothing to do with planning or executing. It’s like a spa visit for my soul.

It also revs up my mind and heart – we get to go to classes on…acting! and directing! and writing! What could be better?

I have really come to love the people that teach those classes (yes, love…no, I don’t really know them but I’m sure if we met we would all be best friends). Rod Armentrout, Mark Demel, Jeff Berryman, Steve Pederson – wonderful, gifted artists. I know, you don’t know them – but you did notice, I’m sure, that they are all men?

Now, I don’t tend to think that I have this big men vs. women issue, a chip on my shoulder or anything. But, it was wonderful, a couple of years ago, when a woman named Ingrid DeSanctis joined their staff. Ingrid is a playwright who seems to come at life like a poet and a tornado all at the same time. She’s a small, beautiful person with long hair and hippie-ish clothes. She writes great parts for women – we’ve used her stuff a lot.

And she’s a great actress, and director, and teacher. The way the conference is scheduled means that I’d already seen her perform several pieces before I took a class from her. And she was fabulous, really strong in the parts she played, so I was excited to take her classes. And I have learned SO MUCH from her…about monologues and directing and fearlessness and movement and cheering each other on. Most of all, I loved watching her work with “her actors” – the gentleness and genuineness she had with them – the care she took with them even as she pushed them, spoke so much to me about the need to treat the people I work with as people, and precious – not as means to an end.

But (and there always has to be a but, doesn’t there?) it was always pretty evident that there was a tension in her about working at a church, even one as great as Willow Creek. She has baggage about church, the institution, and she was quick to say that her first love will always be the theater. I have no idea why or how she left; all I know is that when I went to sign up for classes, she wasn’t teaching any. I found her here (scroll down), listing Willow as her former job.

I know, so much about someone you don’t know. Let me sum her up…

Two years ago, at the end of all the drama workshops, all the drama people met together for one last time. By this point, all the Willow staff there had performed in numerous pieces for the whole conference for two days, and then taught classes for another two. They were exhausted.

After that last session, for some reason I felt I had to go talk to her. I wanted to thank her for helping me feel that I wasn’t alone out there on the lunatic fringe – in fact, that there were people in the world who were farther out there than me – and that was great! Everyone should be way out here! And to tell her, that for people like me, who have not had a lifetime of acting lessons, or week long workshops in New York – to let her know that for me, the arts conference is the chance I get to do that, and that those of us in the church who are striving to carry out this great art form authentically and at the same time tell about the truth and love of Jesus – well, that we need that time with people who can teach and ground and excite us and send us back out once again.

Did I say any of that when I walked up to her?

No. I stood there and cried. And cried. It was embarrassing. Really.

I think I finally got out “Thank you.” And then – she hugged me. Really hugged me. And then she took my shoulders firmly, and looked me right in the eyes, smiling. I tried to apologize, and she said, “No. It’s okay. It’s really important for you to have this time. Thank you for coming here and talking to me.”

Looking at the words on the page, that doesn’t seem like much. But I’ve been in her position before – the one being thanked by someone who is emotional about something I’ve done, and I tend to say thanks, maybe pat them, maybe change the subject or talk about how great the writer is or whatever whatever whatever I can do to slide through the moment and get to a place where I feel comfortable again.

Rarely do I really enter into that. Hear the person. Look them in the eyes and take in what they are trying, desperately, to say.

She did that, for me, that day. Someone she hadn’t ever met and wouldn’t ever see again.

I’ll miss her.


Written by Sarabeth :: the dramatic

April 17, 2007 at 9:29 pm

Posted in writing

3 Responses

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  1. SBJ-why have I never heard that story? It made me cry and miss her too! But I want you to know that you are just as good as Ingrid.


    April 18, 2007 at 2:14 pm

  2. Kalynn was there with me – watching me fall apart like a total nerd. Then we went outside and laid on the grass and talked. It was a wonderful day.

    I try not to tell all the stories where I come off looking like a geek…


    April 18, 2007 at 10:25 pm

  3. i have no doubt you would have been her BFF. there’s still a chance.


    April 19, 2007 at 7:49 am

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