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“Life comes at you fast,” we’re told in Struck By Lightning, a bold new film from the Golden Globe Award-winning star of Glee, Chris Colfer, 21. “It hits you and tries to escape and be expressed in any way possible. In a way, it’s a lot like lightning,”
The story is based on a one-man speech and debate piece that Colfer originally wrote at age 16. It’s told in flashback, and Colfer plays Carson Phillips — a sharp, determined high school senior who, as he puts it, is involved, but not exactly popular. He’s the editor of the school newspaper and president of the Writers Club (despite it only having one other member) and he lives with his mother — a walking case study in disappointment played by Allison Janney (in an award-worthy performance).
For as long as he can remember, Carson’s only desire has been to attend Northwestern University so he could leave his small town — a place he refers to as “the corner of nothing and nowhere” — and finally get his life started. Despite his superior academic record and extracurricular activities, he’s advised to go that extra step in order to ensure his acceptance at Northwestern. He creates a student literary magazine, but troubles arise when no one else wants to contribute to it. Never underestimate the will of a young man on a mission, though, particularly once Carson begins to blackmail all the popular kids into writing for his publication.
Yep, everything seems to be going according to plan, but life seldom turns out the way you expect, and suddenly our hero meets his demise via a bolt of lightning while walking to his car in the school parking lot.
Like the character he plays here, Colfer is well-spoken, and he’s enthusiastic about this venture, which he has held near to his heart since back in those school days. Besides being the film’s writer and star, Colfer is its co-producer and driving force. Speaking with him, one is immediately taken by his maturity and centeredness.
Stressing that this is not at all an autobiographical piece, he does grant that many parts of it were loosely inspired by actual places and events (“but my mom and dad are happily married!” he interjects).
He says that although he may have been very ambitious even then, he was not nearly as outspoken.
“Carson was definitely someone I wish I was in high school,” he says. “I was very shy and internalized everything, whereas Carson does not let himself become a victim. He really wears his guts on his sleeve and he vocalizes his opinion right there in
Sarah Hyland of TV’s Modern Family costars as Claire — the school’s head cheerleader, resident mean girl, and one of the popular crowd whom Carson pressures into contributing to his magazine.
Hyland herself is a sweet-natured young person who isn’t a bit fazed by the high-stakes fame game surrounding her – she is delightfully unlike the self-centered character she portrays. Having attended a performing arts high school, Hyland observes that she never actually had to deal with the whole “cheerleader aspect” there.
Yet there‘s more to Claire than simply your average bitchy cheerleader, she cautions: “Claire has to make the most of high school! She knows she’s not the nicest, but she’s put herself in that top spot and she has to remain that way to keep her power.”
Given that there seems to be a “Claire” everywhere you turn these days, how does she deal with such less-than-agreeable individuals in her own life?
“I got some really great advice from my mother when I was younger in dealing with a ‘Claire,’” Sarah reveals. “It’s just to give them enough rope to hang themselves. As long as you don’t say anything bad about them and remain the classy one, eventually their true colors will come out.”
A book based on the film is also being released this month. Colfer says this is one case where the film came first, then the novelization.
“I always wanted to do the movie and I never even thought it would make a good book,” he says with a chuckle. Colfer was already a published author — his children’s book, The Land of Stories: The Wishing Spell, came out in July. He says that upon seeing the film during its official premier at the Tribeca Film Festival, his publishers immediately asked him to consider adapting Struck By Lightning into a novel.
He ultimately decided to fashion the novel as the main character’s private diary.
“It’s a very intimate version of the story, rather than the movie, which is told from an outside perspective,” he says.
The book also features a copy of Carson’s magazine — including all the poems and essays that his contributors have supplied. The final pages are devoted to an obituary from the local newspaper bearing the fateful headline “CHS Student Killed: Struck By Lightning.”
With Struck By Lightning, Colfer easily joins the ranks of Matthew Broderick, Justin Long and other leading men who made their names in classic screen teen comedies. In opting to shoot his film independently rather than pitch it to a big studio, he demonstrated his wisdom and business savvy.
“Certainly, there were many options in the beginning of going with a big studio,” he allows, “but I knew that if I’d gone that route, the movie then certainly wouldn’t be what it is today. I really wanted it to be about ambitions and dreams and goals — not sex, drugs and popularity. With a studio, it’d probably be about Carson losing his virginity, and I would not be in it!”
Colfer didn’t make Carson specifically gay. In fact, he doesn’t really make him much of anything sexually. While those who know can content themselves in interpreting the signs, those who can’t, won’t. In playing it this way, he doesn’t raise any potential walls between his audience and the potent statement that he’s trying to make. True, Carson does blackmail two closeted gay kids -- but he blackmails everybody, regardless of who they are and what they may be into. By the same token, even in forcibly acquiescing to his demands that they write about themselves, they in turn gain greater self-awareness and esteem.
At Carson’s funeral, these same gay kids sit proudly beside one another — both a little more confident for having been coerced into being a part of his project.
“I hope this inspires aspirations,” he says, emphasizing that one of his biggest motivations to do it was the many fans of Glee he’d connected with.
“I’ve met so many kids across the country with all these hopes and dreams, who were saying ‘I really wish I could do this, but such-and-such,’ when in reality, everyone has a ‘such-and-such.’ It’s knowing you can get over it that gives you the drive to go out there and fulfill your dreams!”
Colfer urges: “Don’t let your imagination be discouraged by the lack of it in others!”
Worldwide opera star Renée Fleming will perform in Kansas City on Thursday night, November 18, but the day before, she'll be part of a panel discussion for "Music and the Mind" — a conversation about how music affects the brain, cognitive development, healing and quality of life.
WHAT: Music and the Mind with Renée Fleming
WHEN: Wednesday, Nov 17, 2021
TIME: 4:00-5:30 PM
WHERE: The 1900 Building, 1900 Shawnee Mission Parkway, Mission Woods, KS, 66205
Music has a profound impact and the ability to shape 86 billion neurons in the brain for cognitive development, healing, and therapy. Science research has clearly shown that music therapy interventions can improve quality of life across nearly all neurological disorders. And there is tremendous public-interest in applying music to creative aging, childhood development, and community wellness.
But scientists want to know more.
Join soprano Renée Fleming and a distinguished panel of local Kansas City experts in neurology, music therapy, music and healing, and more for this cutting-edge discussion. Audience members will be able to participate in a Q&A following the panel discussion.
*Please note this Music and the Mind Event is not a musical performance*
As Artistic Advisor at Large to the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Renée Fleming has spearheaded a collaboration with the National Institutes of Health, with the participation of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). The Sound Health initiative explores and brings attention to research and practice at the intersection of music, health, and neuroscience. This collaboration has led to workshops at the NIH, and events and performances at the Kennedy Center. This initiative has also led the NIH to recently award $20 million dollars in funding for music and neuroscience research over five years.
As part of her advocacy, Fleming is also advisor to the recently launched NEA/UCSF Sound Health Network and co-chair of the Aspen Institute/Johns Hopkins NeuroArts Blueprint, both working to advance the field of arts and health.
This event is free and open to the public, but seating is limited. Please call the Harriman-Jewell Series at 816-415-5025 to reserve your seat.
WHAT: Renée Fleming, soprano in recital
WHEN: Thursday, Nov 18, 2021
TIME: 7:00 PM
WHERE: Helzberg Hall, Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts
COST: Tickets from $25.00 *discounts available for students, educators, first responders, active duty military and veterans with valid I.D.
Pair a glorious voice with a winning personality and you have a diva for the ages. Renée Fleming is a longstanding Harriman-Jewell Series favorite. With her many television and Broadway appearances, Fleming has been embraced by music lovers of all genres.
Whether singing at the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony, the Olympics, or Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee, Renée Fleming represents opera to the world. In addition to her numerous operatic performances, Fleming often works classic show tunes and the Great American Songbook into her recitals. Fleming’s trademark rapport with audiences will give her Kansas City performance a warmth that is personal and sincere.
Rob Ainsley is pianist for the recital. His diverse career as a musician, conductor, educator, and administrator has taken him to top organizations and colleges from coast to coast. He now serves as Director of the Washington National Opera’s Cafritz Young Artists and American Opera Initiative. Ainsley performed with Renée Fleming in The Metropolitan Opera’s August 2020 “Met Stars Live in Concert” that was streamed worldwide.
ABOUT THE HARRIMAN-JEWELL SERIES
Renée Fleming's recital will mark the 977th performance since the Series was founded in 1965. From free education events that allow interaction with musicians and dancers, to our free Discovery Concerts that are open to the community, the Harriman-Jewell Series continues to offer life-enriching opportunities for its community's youth and lifelong learners.
Whether you're spreading truth, information, or love, traveling abroad for humanitarian reasons can have risks. Detained American journalist in Myanmar, Danny Fenster, is to be released from jail, and to fly home soon. But it doesn't always end well for every foreign national attempting to do good in a foreign country.
The missionaries consisting of sixteen Americans and one Canadian kidnapped by the Haitian “400 Mawozo” gang on October 16, is extremely scary. The gang has threatened to kill the humanitarian Christians if a million dollar per person ransom is not fulfilled. The group consists of men, women, children and an eight-month-old baby.
These missionaries have sacrificed their time and paid their own way to go to the poorest place in the Western hemisphere to try to spread God’s love and save some souls. In turn, the missionaries are experiencing a nightmare like they’ve never imagined. They’re imprisoned and being threatened with a bullet in the head.
Most of us will never get over seeing journalists being beheaded and tortured in Syria and Iraq by the barbaric Islamic extremist group called ISIL. Burning people alive and beheading others were too graphic and gruesome to ever be forgotten.
Years ago, I traveled to a third world country on a “missionary trip” with others thinking it would be a nice break. I’ve never worked so hard in my life.
Sadly, the 17 missionaries in Haiti are undergoing a cruel experience that may end with the cost of their very lives. What are they thinking now? What is going through the minds of the little children who traveled to a world to help others and spread God’s love?
Haiti has been the site of years of humanitarian efforts. The United States and other countries have given billions of dollars to help Haiti. Sadly, hurricanes, political unrest, underdevelopment and extreme poverty have all made for a sad scenario.
How much money would the world have to give to Haiti to make life better for this nation? This is a question no one can answer because usually aid is a short-term solution. We spent a trillion dollars in Afghanistan and they aren’t any better off today.
Good missionary people went to Haiti with good hearts for helping others in the name of God’s love. They went to share a message they hoped would bring about change and better lives. They may now lose their lives.
Christians point to Jesus as the model for such missionary efforts. He came preaching and teaching in an effort to demonstrate and spread God’s love and it cost him plenty – his life, executed in public on a cross.
There are some Christians today who, like Jesus, are willing to risk their lives for the sake of others. Did these men and women literally go to Haiti taking their children with them truly believe they could be killed? Would they purposefully do this to their children? Who convinced these people that such a trip with small children was a good idea?
My goal here is to simply say, think about such trips to places like Haiti. Afghanistan, Iraq, Northern Nigeria and numerous others countries are not vacation spots. Foreign travel may sound exotic and adventurous but consider the possible cost.
Many missionaries and Christian workers have paid the ultimate price in order to spread the gospel of Christ. Only eternity will reveal what their selfless sacrifice has meant to those whose lives they impacted.
By chance, if you decide such an international trip is not for you, don’t feel bad. Consider helping in an American inner city, Appalachia or maybe your own neighborhood. Service at home is needed across America.
Let’s pray for the safety of these missionaries and for those negotiating their release. May God help them and all who may consider such endeavors.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Dr. Glenn Mollette is a graduate of numerous schools including Georgetown College, Southern and Lexington Seminaries in Kentucky. He is the author of 13 books including Uncommon Sense, Grandpa's Store, Minister's Guidebook: insights from a fellow minister. His column is published weekly in over 600 publications in all 50 states. Glenn Mollette has been on numerous International humanitarian and missionary group trips. Hear Glenn Mollette every weekday morning EST at 8:56 on XM radio 131. Editor-If you need to tweak or do a small edit for you paper or website that is okay. Please respond to this email if you need a picture for this column. Scroll down for additional biographical info. Buy his latest recording titled "Black Coffee" on iTunes. Learn more at www.glennmollette.com
The Black Trans Fund, incubated at Groundswell Fund, and Grantmakers for Girls of Color launched the Holding a Sister Initiative, the first-ever national fund explicitly dedicated to transgender girls and gender-expansive youth of color.
Dr. Monique W. Morris, president and CEO of Grantmakers for Girls of Color, and Bré Rivera, program director of the Black Trans Fund are together spearheading the Holding a Sister Initiative to bring attention and resources to organizations supporting trans girls of color, normalize concern and investment in their success, and create learning opportunities for cis and trans girls of color to move in deeper community with one another.
The initiative will award $1 million in grants in the first year, and will ultimately engage trans girls and gender-expansive youth of color in the decision-making process for selecting grantees on an ongoing basis.
While there has been an increase in donor attention to work led by people of color, it has yet to translate into significant gains in funding for trans and gender-expansive youth of color.
According to recent regional studies in Detroit, South Florida and New Orleans, trans women of color face higher levels of hunger, homelessness, unemployment, incarceration and discrimination. At the same time, the majority of this year's record-breaking anti-trans legislation are targeted to affect youth, including bills that prevent transgender athletes from playing in school sports and the "Save Adolescents from Experimentation (SAFE) Act." Research has show sharp rises in suicide attempts among trans youth during 2020 and 2021.
"The reality is transgender and gender-expansive youth of color require more attention, and resources to interrupt the staggering intersections of trauma and crises they experience," said Bré Rivera.
The initiative joins existing funding intermediaries who have been leading the work to resource trans communities and engage trans people in the direction and distribution of resources, including the Third Wave Fund, the Black Trans Travel Fund, and Fund for Trans Generations. As funding partners, the Black Trans Fund and Grantmakers for Girls of Color aim to expand and transform philanthropy's investments in trans and gender-nonconforming youth. The initiative will move resources to organizations serving and led by trans girls and young women of color. It will also amplify narratives that elevate the humanity, dignity and leadership of trans and gender-expansive youth of color, as well as the ways their experiences and contributions have been overlooked, minimized and targeted by oppositional and systemic forces, and larger social justice movements.
The Holding a Sister Initiative will be led by a manager, who will steward culture change through grantmaking, capacity building, narrative shifting and philanthropic organizing. The position is currently open for applicants.
About Grantmakers for Girls of Color
Fiscally-sponsored by Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, Grantmakers for Girls of Color (G4GC) works to mobilize resources and amplify transformative organizing work to dismantle systems of oppression led by girls and gender-expansive youth of color. Grantmakers for Girls of Color openly invites partners and stakeholders to co-create an inclusive space in support of girls, young women, and gender-expansive youth of color across programmatic issues and geographic areas. Learn more by visiting Grantmakers for Girls of Color.
About the Black Trans Fund
The Black Trans Fund is a groundbreaking endeavor: the first national fund in the country dedicated to uplifting and resourcing Black trans social justice leaders. BTF seeks to address the lack of funding for Black trans communities in the U.S. through direct grantmaking, capacity building support, and funder organizing to transform philanthropy. Learn more by visiting Black Trans Fund.