Rethink the Cool

Hello friend! 

So, this blog post should probably be a part of my Feature Fridays feature (remember that?) but I didn’t want to wait until Friday to post about it.  Feature Fridays is where I talk about an artist I like, or has influenced my work.

The artist in today’s feature certainly qualifies.  In fact, I don’t think I’m overstating it when I say that Rob is by far, the most driven and creative person I’ve ever known.  I first met Rob Priestley in 2004, when I had an interest in doing video work.  I had done analog video editing while in High School, but had never really done much with digital, so I was encouraged to knock on Rob’s door.  Rob was friendly and generous, allowing me access to his own computer editing unit just to mess around and work on little projects here and there.  

From there I got involved with his stage drama projects (along with the great Chantelle Kurtz) and found our writing styles meshed very well.  It also helped that Rob shared my habit/virtue of waiting until inspiration took hold to really let a project take shape.  Through Rob I learned the valuable lesson that working an early, unformed idea can often be worse than simply waiting for a better idea to come along (plus you’ve lost all that time and effort trying to make a less workable idea take shape).  We rely, on faith, that the project will come together, even when it seems like there isn’t enough time for everything to work out.  And so far, it always has* come together, often in more inventive and inspiring ways than we might have expected. 

However, once an idea did take form, Rob is the most dedicated and hardest working people I have ever seen.  Rob is involved in every aspect of a production, from music, to sets, right down to the poster.  I can’t remember a time I worked on a play with Rob when he didn’t at least once work all the way through the night completing a set, or configuring a lighting set-up.   

Besides his all-in approach to these projects, the thing I have enjoyed the most about Rob is the way he approaches the culture head-on. Rob’s projects never look away from the brokenness of the world, but instead, try to engage hopelessness and cynicism directly.  And in doing so, some of the oldest stories and wisdom of mankind become brand new in the eyes of the audience.  They are able to experience these concepts anew, and see where and how ideas like grace can fit into their lives.  

Importantly, the truth of the work is never diminished or watered down by the way it engages the culture around us. The faith dimension in Rob and Chantelle’s Church productions is never glib or shallow—even the most basic assumptions about a life of faith are tested.  But it is through the honest acknowledgement of these challenges and tests that the strength of the work is proven.   

There is no compromise or “winking” in Rob’s direction, or teaching.  Instead the opposite is true—the assumptions of the world are the first thing challenged with an upside-down worldview.  When it’s really working well, what emerges from Rob’s project is most often wonder, not facile disillusionment. Discovery, and surprise, but never cheap shock.

And for my part, it is always exciting to contribute, even in my small way.  

—And I haven’t even mentioned his musicianship, unwavering friendship or his skills with floral tableaux (whenever people talk about our wedding, they mention the incredible backdrop he created for us at the Church). I consider myself lucky to have a friend like Rob. 

And since no post on here is complete without some artwork, here are some creations I made for various Rob Priestley productions.

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More stuff coming soon.  Thanks for reading, I love you.

  (*aside from the time that a lead actor never committed enough to learn all the words to “Alas For You” and mumbled his way through a bar or two)