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Of Joan of Ark and Potty Training

It’s 3:41 AM, and I can’t sleep. So I did the logical thing and watched Carl Theodor Dreyer’s 1928 silent film: The Passion of Joan of Arc. While a bit too slow for even me (and I love slow movies), it was a beautiful piece. Here was an inquisition of self-righteous, old men, deluded by religious dogma, absolutely nothing like the master whose name they professed. In their midst was a girl whose heart-felt conviction transcended all the fear-mongering tactics of this grim, narrow-minded world.

I hate to admit it, but I identified myself with the grand inquisitor. In Joan’s place was my two-year-old daughter Aspen. “Just sit on the potty,” I say, and all your crimes will be forgiven. But little Aspen is unbreakable. “Just sit on the potty,” I say, “and I’ll give you a treat.” – “I don’t want one,” she says. – “Sit on the potty, and I’ll give you ten treats.” – “I don’t want them,” she says. I’ve closed the door on the bathroom, saying she can’t come out until she goes potty. To my shame, I’ve even gotten medieval and turned off the light. But she never gives in. Never. As those who have exercised unrighteous dominion since the beginning of time have failed to realize, conviction cannot be suppressed by force.

How could I not love such a girl?

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Role-playing ideas

During the road trip to AZ in November, Teresa, my friend Nefi, and I played a plethora of brilliant role-playing games, which I’ve been meaning to write down (almost all of my novels, plays, and screenplays start out as role-plays, so to me it’s important to record these things down). So here goes:

By Nefi: I found myself in a bright, happy, green field, surrounded by puffy clouds and rainbows. Sitting at a small table were little girls in dresses, who invited me to attend their tea party. When I acted ungirlishly, they banished me to “Meanie Island,” the barbaric hell-hole inhabited by bows with grenades, broken bottles, and the like. I tried to get to this wondrous place, but all I found was another bright and happy world where boys, dressed effeminately, were begrudgingly holding a tea party of their own. It turned out that the girls were controlling this world with their dark magic and that when anyone tried to act ungirlishly, bad things happened.

By Nefi: Teresa and I were in a romantic comedy, set in our high school days, in which Nefi played the evil villain, using his power as my “men brother” to forbid me from associating with Teresa, telling Teresa lies about me, and creating misunderstandings that prevented the confession of our love. It was masterfully done.

By Teresa: I was a snail, and Nefi was a potato bug. The ants were trying to kill me, and Nefi, being an opportunist, tried to strike up a deal with me in order to qualify for the defending services of him and his fellow potato bugs. I being hopelessly stubborn, refused the offer and was eaten alive by ants.

There were more, but my memory escapes me. On the night of Dave’s bachelor party, it was joyous to climb a mountain and have the city lights all around us, down below. There were many toasts, much feasting, and much hot-tubbing. On the way home, we took Teresa to the Las Vegas strip for the first time … just as sleazy as I left it.

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The Gashler Family in 2013 – I guess this is our Christmas News Letter

And now to catch up on the happy memories of the year in no particular order:

    1. The Powdered Wig Ball

      Teresa and I (with help from my brother Eric) built six 8’×4′ black platforms, which we painted black. When pieced together, they make a dance floor. We invited friends and threw a lovely ball. There was only one expectation: everyone had to wear a powdered wig. But what am I gabbing for? The videos says it all:

    2. Theatre

      Hello Dolly

      1016675_10100953069263529_94936509_nAfter taking a several year hiatus from theater, playing across from my dear, my darling wife at the SCERA theater was a splendor. There’s something about the low-lighting of backstage that’s extra romantic. In my opinion, community theater in general is as close to Zion as we get. The volunteer nature, the dedication, the sense of community and camaraderie, the love of art … Zion.

The Scarlet Pimpernel

13Scera PimpernelB prod 1128Who wouldn’t want to play the swashbuckling hero in front of adoring crowds? The best part was that I got to experience the sensation of being guillotined, night after night. The show played at both the SCERA shell and the Dejong Concert Hall at BYU. Between Hello Dolly and The Scarlet Pimpernel, Teresa and I made many unforgettable friends. When, in October, the composer of The Scarlet Pimpernel, Frank Wildhorn, came to visit BYU, I tried to arrange a lunch with him (as a little known fact about me is that my ultimate career ambition is to write musicals). Unfortunately, it turned out that my having played Percy didn’t get me any special ins.

Aida

aidaTeresa made a smashing slave girl in a production of Aida at the American Fork amphitheater.

  1. Storytelling and Puppetry Performances

    stephen-gashler-the-bardTeresa and I told scary stories at the Timpanogos Storytelling Hauntings Contest. I told the African-American folktale “Mr. Walker’s Liver,” and Teresa told an original story with original music called “Wish Upon a Grave.” Yes, I’m biased, but hers was the most enchanting. I won the “Audience Choice Award,” though I didn’t place with the judges. I guess I’d rather be a crowd pleaser than a judge pleaser. We heard from the management that Teresa had the second-highest popular vote. Thus, if they acknowledge it, she would have won the 2nd place Audience Choice Award. The bottom line is, we were the best.

    Inspired by my friend Enoch’s retelling of the story, I studied the french poet Chretien de Troyes’s story “The Knight of the Cart” and told a half hour story at the Utah Valley Renaissance Faire and a forty-five minute story at the Orem Library.

    I was a featured teller at the Weber State Storytelling Festival, in which I also told Celtic fairy tales.

    I performed a show at the Provo Library in which I told Celtic Fairy Tales and my cross-dressing story. All of these storytelling experiences were well-attended and well-received. I feel that I’m getting closer to my goal of making storytelling my career.

    chezwickAs far as puppet shows, Teresa and I performed a Doctor Seuss show at the Spanish Fork Library, an Irish show at the Scera Center for the Arts, Teresa performed a solo show at the Brigham City Puppets in the Park, we did a review of some of our old shows at the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival, we performed “folktales from around the world” at Columbia Elementary School, and we did a Christmas show at the Davis County South Branch Library.

  2. Family Events

    The Ariah Show

    The-Ariah-ShowMy five-year-old daughter Ariah has had so many wonderful pictures to draw and stories to tell that I decided she needed her own TV Show. We created three tiny, little episodes of her show and hope to make more. Click here to watch The Ariah Show. Lately, our two-year-old Aspen has been telling us that we need to make an Aspen Show.

    Other Family Events

    One Sunday afternoon in the early Spring, I was feeling depressed at the lack of adventure in our lives, so I took my family up Spanish Fork Canyon, where we slept on top of a mountain. It was one of the coldest experiences of our lives.

    I took Ariah to the BYU Museum of Fine Art for a “daddy-daughter date.” There was a trippy exhibit featuring a video about the forsaken Super Mario, who lives inside of an aging NES cartridge, and the psychedelic disintegration of his 8-bit world. It was moving.

    Ariah took ice skating lessons. She passed level 1 and failed level 2 :-). For Aspen’s second birthday, we went to the Hogle Zoo. For Ariah’s fifth birthday party, we threw an epic space simulation in our living room. I dressed up as an android and led the kids on a treasure hunt throughout the solar system.

  3. Valentines Concert

    avatars-000033552050-2g3hqp-t500x500Teresa and I were invited to perform our music at a Valentines dance at the “Life, the Universe, and Everything” Science Fiction and Fantasy symposium, which was hosted at the Marriott Courtyard. This was the motivation I needed to pull together many of the unfinished recordings that had been sitting on my computer for years and create a bona fide album. I also created the website http://thegashlers.com to showcase Teresa and I as artists. Joining us at the concert were my friend Berin on the saxophone and my brother Brian on the guitar. It wasn’t the most breathtaking event, but for our first full-length concert, it wasn’t bad.

  4. Prisoner of the Molepeople

    POTMP-cover-blueI finished my novel I’d been working on for several years in the early Spring. In December, I finally got around to doing something with it, designing a cover and self-publishing it for eBooks and print. Check it out at Amazon.com. The launch party is scheduled for December 21st. All are welcome!

  5. Entrepreneurial Pursuits

    Untitled-1When I got laid off, back in June, I knew that I could have easily taken another job in the corporate world, but I had no interest in doing so. Instead, Teresa and I busied ourselves (for the rest of the year) in starting several businesses. One of them was to market ourselves as puppeteers to schools. We got a couple of gigs out of it. Another was 25dollarportraits.com, a low-cost photography studio in our basement.

    deadly-parties-screenshotAnother business was deadlyparties.com, an online store for murder mystery party games written by Teresa and I. We’ve had a great time with friends testing out the games on Saturday nights. If you’re into games like these (and why wouldn’t you be? they’re a blast), then you won’t find better deals. We created yet another business, but I won’t bore you with the details.

  6. Trip to Arizona

    For my friend Dave’s wedding, Teresa, my friend Nefi, and I drove to Mesa Arizona. The best part about the trip was when we showed up at Teresa’s Uncle’s house at midnight, their house was totally dark, and it turned out that they had no idea we were coming. So we spent the night bumming around Mesa, Teresa’s initiation into the magical world of bumming.

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DeadlyParties.com

deadlyparties.comTeresa and I have started a new business selling murder mystery party games (similar to the How to Host a Murderâ„¢ series. We wrote the games and built the store. We’ve tested a few of them out with friends and have gotten a really positive reception so far. If you’ve never played games like these, you don’t know what you’re missing. Check it out: http://deadlyparties.com

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3 Principles the Best Storytellers Use

Last night marked the completion of another wonderful Timpanogos Storytelling Festival. I hadn’t laughed so hard in a long time. Three of the tellers gave big compliments to Utah Valley, such as how refreshing it was to be in a place where one could refer to Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and have the audience understand, how great it was to be able to refer to bishops, and to not only have the audience understand, but to know that there was probably a handful of bishops in the audience, and that the reason the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival is the biggest and best of its kind in the nation has everything to do with the fact that our community simply supports great things. Amen.

As I predicted to my wife several days before the festival, I ended up being so inspired by it all that I renewed my desire to become a full time storyteller. I’m not sure what I mean by full time, exactly, but I do know that storytelling is at least a significant chunk of my calling in life, and it’s time to stop putting off my dreams.

In thinking about what (in my opinion) the best storytellers at the festival did and didn’t do, I came up with the following three principles that I hope to follow in the future:

  1. Don’t smile. Don’t be cute. Don’t kill the suspense of your story by giving away from your demeanor that everything’s going to work out just fine. The gripping storytellers are absolutely serious about what they’re saying, whether or not it’s funny, whereas those who are in the habit of being smiley and cute almost immediately lose attention. To compensate, whether they realize it or not, they end up having to use exaggerated gestures and voice, though these antics are no substitute for real intrigue and suspense.
  2. Tell first person stories. Third person stories are natural handicaps that also must be compensated for with significant energy in order to retain audience attention. There’s already a huge gap between the storyteller and the audience. The fact that they’re choosing to give their undivided attention to a talking head is remarkable in itself. To have to not only pay attention to that talking head but imagine another person lengthens the gap. First person stories have the advantage of commanding respect as the audience wonders, “Really? This happened to you?” First person stories innately give you authority over what you’re saying, which translates into power over the audience.
  3. Lie. Lie through your teeth. Don’t feel a need to exaggerate with ridiculous tall tales, just lie your story into perfection. Mix it with truth (hopefully a lot of truth), but hold no loyalties to the truth. Reality is too often bizarre and unfulfilling. If there’s anything that will make your story better, no matter how fabricated, add it.
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Both Angel and Crook

I don’t know who wrote the following poem (I’m guessing a relative of Teresa). I found it on an old piece of paper in feminine-looking, cursive ink. In trying to de-clutter my house, I didn’t have the heart to throw it away without first transcribing.

“Believe and be saved, and rise from the dead.
Through grace we are saved from sin and from hell.
So, simply believe and all will be well.”

The minister continued to read from the book
How all could be saved, both angel and crook.
When all was said the church recessed.
The money collected and everyone blessed.

The minister retired to his spacious home,
In his humble Mercedes, everything in chrome.
He went to his study, his thoughts running deep.
He dozed for a moment and died in his sleep.

He ran to St. Peter, wearing a grin.
“I believe in the Savior, so please let me in.”
“Oh no, not another,” said Peter with a sigh.
“Statan’s sure working, the toll’s runnig high.”

The minister looked puzzled for a moment,
Then saw in a flash
The plan of Salvation,
From beginning to last.

Believing is nothing if nothing is done.
In getting to heaven you must follow the Son.
To follow a leader, you must do what is said.
Faith without works is nothing but dead.

Satan knows Jesus, believes in Him too.
So what is the difference between Satan and you?
Believe in the Savior, but always recall:
Faith is Important but sure isn’t all.