I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!

CAN YOU BELIEVE IT when God does something, however big or small, in the ordinary events of life and out of pure love for you or others?

I mean, really believe it?

I was faced with just this question yesterday in my latest theatrical adventure, presenting Mark’s Gospel word for word on a sweltering Saturday afternoon in Watford High Street.

A little way into the performance my attention was drawn to a young couple right in front of me in Cafe Nero, alongside an older man a few tables away.

They were just ordinary people – not churchgoers or anything, just everyday folk enjoying a quiet cup of coffee. But they were so attentive. I mean, really drinking the words in, their faces betraying strong emotions of empathy and peace. They were even laughing (well, smiling wryly!) at my silly accents and occasional jokes (yes there are a few in I AM MARK). 😂🤣

I couldn’t believe the effect the words were having. ‘This is what I’m doing this for,’ I told myself, as I went through my theatrical paces in the blazing sunshine. ‘This is why I’m here.’

At the end of the performance (so I’m told) they were given a copy of the ‘script’ and some other stuff about the church which sponsored me, and off they went. I’ll probably never see them again, I thought.

Once I had taken my applause and packed a few things away, I returned to my ‘green room’ (actually the church vestry). A lady called Jane was there and, amazingly, she’d been praying – praying for me and the performance, while I was out in the baking sun.

She asked me how it went and I was just about to regale her with the story about the couple and the old man when she interrupted me. “Three people were really touched by what happened, weren’t they?”

How did she know? Spooky or what?

Now comes the believing part. Does one marvel at such an eventuality and see the kindness of God in it, an answer to prayer and an awesome demonstration of his winsome power? Or does one (somewhere in the depths of one’s being) secretly put it down to coincidence, and ‘It couldn’t possibly happen to me’?

That little poser reminds me of my protagonists, the original disciples, just after their mind-blowing feeding of 5000 people with 5 loaves and 2 fish. Check it out in Mark Chapter 6.

There they are in a boat and the wind comes up and they’re really struggling to stay afloat. But this time there’s no Jesus in the boat with them to calm the storm. They’d left him by himself on land so he can pray…

Here Mark takes up the story:

Later that night, the boat was in the middle of the lake, and he was alone on land. He saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them. Shortly before dawn he went out to them, walking on the lake. He was about to pass by them, but when they saw him walking on the lake, they thought he was a ghost. They cried out, because they all saw him and were terrified. Immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” Then he climbed into the boat with them, and the wind died down. They were completely amazed, [52] for they had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened. (Mark 6:47-52 NIV. My emphasis)

Do you see what Mark did there? They didn’t believe Jesus. I mean, really believe in him. Not even after his walking on the water. Nor even after his calming of another storm. Nor even after the miraculous provision of loaves and fishes. Something in their hearts was hardened, it just wouldn’t give way.

Oh children of the earth! How long will you be hard of heart? (Teresa of Avila, Collected Works, vol. I, 445)

What was your reaction to my story? Disbelief? Half-belief? The full Monty?

I know what mine was, as is so often the case when God does something miraculous and kind.

We’ve all found ourselves there, my fellow hardened-of-hearters. Let’s pray for softened ones now.

“I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24 NIV)

Stefan Smart will be appearing in I AM MARK @scottishstorytellingcentre, Edinburgh Festival Fringe 13-17 August 2019. Book tickets here: geni.us/iammark. View trailer here: https://youtu.be/YeGJEtwKIvc

http://www.iam-mark.com

#edfringe #fringe #fringecast #MakeYourFringe #scottishstorytellingcentre #marksgospel #theatre #education #faith #love #god #hope #story #believe #life #peace #pray #actor #onemanshow #bible #church #jesus

We Love Scotland

Listen up. Calling anyone who lives north of the Border or who has friends and family over there! How do you fancy helping me get bums on seats at the EdFringe by sharing I AM MARK’s latest promotional video on FB or Instagram? This one’s particularly aimed at Scottish church goers. Drop me a line if you think you might be able to help. Even if it’s just one person you have in mind…Thanks. Love, Stef

I AM MARK will be showing @scottishstorytellingcentre, Edinburgh Festival Fringe 13-17 August 2019. Book tickets here: geni.us/iammark. View trailer here: https://youtu.be/YeGJEtwKIvc

http://www.iam-mark.com

#edfringe #fringe #fringecast #MakeYourFringe #scottishstorytellingcentre #marksgospel #theatre #education #faith #love #god #hope #story #believe #life #peace #pray #actor #onemanshow #bible #church #jesus

Edinburgh Promo Video Goes Live

This, my first ever promotional video, took blood, sweat and tears but I think it was worth it! Enjoy.

I AM MARK will be showing @scottishstorytellingcentre, Edinburgh Festival Fringe 13-17 August 2019. Book tickets here: geni.us/iammark. View trailer here: https://youtu.be/YeGJEtwKIvc

http://www.iam-mark.com

#edfringe #fringe #fringecast #MakeYourFringe #scottishstorytellingcentre #marksgospel #theatre #education #faith #love #god #hope #story #believe #life #peace #pray #actor #onemanshow #bible #church #jesus

Press Release Written At Last

PRESS RELEASE

For Immediate Release10 June 2019

 

Recreation of Ancient Storytelling Experience Reignites Humanity and Hope 

 

Stefan Smart will be bringing his widely acclaimed one-man play, I AM MARK, back to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe on August 13-17, 2019, offering the opportunity to experience Mark’s Gospel live as intended, rather than confined to the pages of scripture.  

 

The premiere presentation of this landmark production drew rave reviews from audiences at the 2018 Fringe and continues to draw enthusiastic crowds at performances throughout the UKSmart’s ground-breaking solo piece is an audacious word-for-word dramatisation of The Gospel According to Mark, as Smart explains:

 

The Bible is the best-selling book in the world; there have been nearly 5 billion copies of the book distributed worldwide. And yet most people haven’t read it and most of us are not aware of the dramatic and compelling narrative offered in the Gospels.

 

Mark’s Gospel has got to be the most exciting book in the whole Bible. It’s action-packed, fast-paced, intriguing, entertaining, moving and disturbing by turns. Most of all, Mark’s portrait of his enigmatic hero, and his radical life of welcome and inclusivity, continues to fascinate people everywhere, regardless of whether they are religious or not. 

 

Of course, this story is not a new one. But part of the reason for putting on this production was to recreate the powerful feelings of hope and spiritual transformation it evoked when it was first told all those centuries ago by roving storytellers like myself. In the largely oral culture of the 1st Century, Mark’s message spread like wildfire, challenging and even usurping the prevailing religious and political system. Experience tells me that Mark’s ‘script’ has lost none of its capacity to inspire and unsettle its audiences, despite its ancient origins. 

 

If you’re just looking for a great evening’s entertainment, St Mark’s got it all – a completely captivating eyewitness account of love, hate, murder and self-sacrifice. But it also packs a powerful revolutionary message, one that has truly lasted the test of time.

 

The very first incarnations of the play were performed in open air settings, like public parks or festivals, as Mark himself might have done. But as Smart’s performance has matured, so have the venues, with the biblical saga now staged in more theatrical settings. His performances at the 2018 Fringe were eye-opening for Smart, as he states:

 

The reactions from the audiences at the Fringe – spellbound and deeply touched – helped me to see that we really had something here, as it highlighted that even people who are not familiar with the Bible and have no interest in religion can still see the humanity and hope that this story offers.” 

 

Smart went to work bringing in additional help to make the play even more stage worthy. After consulting with a US theatrical producer and bringing in a UK director and a new marketing team, this year’s production will present a new and upgraded version of the 2000-year old story, as Director, Lisa Gilmour states: 

 

This new ‘Mark’ is more nuanced, cleaner, theatrically thoughtful and altogether more contemplative and profound. You can ‘see’ the characters in the Bible coming to life before your eyes, you can feel the wind and smell the salt air, even so far as to sense yourself becoming part of the action. I am sure audiences will enjoy the experience and continue to treasure it long after the event.

 

Praise for I Am Mark:

• “If you think you already know the story… think again. Captivating drama. Mesmerising storytelling. Undeniable Truth.” (Dan Angus, Solent Mind)
• “As a person who is sceptical and likes to keep an open mind, I AM MARK is very different to typical preaching. It’s so impressive to watch someone who has honed the skilled craft of memorising and relaying an entire book of the Bible. Go. You don’t have to be religious to appreciate this.” (Sarah Angus, Learning Disabilities Support Worker
• “Respect! Stefan’s performance was very strong.” (BBC Songs of Praise
• “Enthralling! Letting go of intellectual engagement, I got immersed in a dynamic, moment by moment encounter with the Living Jesus. It made all other public reading of Scripture dull and second-hand in comparison.” (Canon Marion Syms, Portsmouth Cathedral)

 

I AM MARK will be performed daily at 5.30pm from 13-17 Augustat theScottish Storytelling Centre (Venue 30), 43-45 High Street, EH1 1SR

Tickets can be purchased through any Edinburgh Fringe Festival ticket outlet and more information can be found at www.iam-mark.com

 

ADDENDA 

• Tickets are also on sale via the Fringe Box Office 0131 226 0000 | www.edfringe.com  

For further information, high res images and interviews contact: 
Mr Stefan Smart 07767 983 831 smartstefan7@gmail.com 
Or
Lindsay Corr | 0131 652 3272 lindsay@scottishstorytellingcentre.com

Stefan Smart was a full-time teacher of English and Drama for 30 years before becoming an actor and storyteller, staging various productions of St. Mark’s Gospel in church events, cathedrals, festivals and youth camps throughout England and abroad, as well as performing on Songs of Praise in 2016. www.iam-mark.com

 

Scottish Storytelling Centre is an award-winning venue in the heart of Scotland’s capital showcasing stories in all their forms, praised for its welcoming spirit, inclusive nature and unique approach to collaboration. www.scottishstorytellingcentre.com

 

The Edinburgh Festival Fringe Society is a charity established by artists to act as the custodian of the Fringe, which exists to support and encourage everyone who wants to participate in the Fringe; to provide information and assistance to audiences; and to promote the Fringe and what it stands for all over the world. www.edfringe.com

It’s Arrived!

So EXCITED 😂My Fringe programme arrived today and look what’s on Page 301! Do come if you can and / or tell all your Scottish friends 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿😊

“A man, a chair and a compelling story that has survived the test of time. Stefan delivers a mesmerizing retelling of a story of love, friendship, courage and sacrifice.” (Mark Hopkins Pastor, The King’s Church, Arnold)

You can see I AM MARK Scottish Storytelling Centre 13-17 August 2019. Tickets on sale here: geni.us/iammark

View trailer here: https://youtu.be/YeGJEtwKIvc

http://www.iam-mark.com

#edfringe #fringe #fringecast #MakeYourFringe #scottishstorytellingcentre #wildfires #storyteller #onemanperformance #drama #iammark #markEd2019 #marksgospel #theatre #education #faith #love #god #hope #story #believe #life #peace #pray #actor #onemanshow #bible #church #jesus #christian #Gospel #holyspirit

‘They found things just as Jesus told them.’ (Mark 14:16) is

Curious passage, this. (Check it out in Mark 14: 12-16). Jesus giving precise orders to two of his disciples as to where to make preparations for them all to eat the Passover. “Follow this man carrying a jar of water (in those days only women carried water, so that bit’s weird in itself!), go up this street, pass through this door, use these words and Hey Presto! you’ve found the specially prepared room I’m going to eat my last dinner in.” So they go, and as the Good Book says, they find things ‘just as Jesus told them.’ How did he know? Had Jesus secretly sussed our the territory beforehand? Organised everything in advance on the sly? Cloak and dagger-like because he knew the Priests were plotting to kill him? Possibly. Or did he have supernatural knowledge of what his two messengers would find? This seems more likely given the emphasis of some of the words.

Ok, but why the big fanfare? If he was going to show off his divine powers, couldn’t he think of something a little bit more well, miraculous than demonstrating foreknowledge about where he was going to eat dinner? Unless it’s Mark reiterating the fact that Jesus was completely in control of events; that the crucifixion (and all that led up to it) wasn’t a fluke or a freak, but had been planned in advance by God and had been entered into willingly and knowingly by his Son ‘according to the Scriptures’ for the sake of us all.

I was reminded of this recently when a couple of days before appearing in I AM MARK at a Christian Festival in the UK, a praying friend of mine wrote to me to tell me that she thought it highly likely that this particular performance would impact the lives of fellow artists in the audience. So, imagine my astonishment when not one but two young actors, obviously much moved, approached me independently at the end of the show, to tell me that they had been confirmed in their calling as artists by watching me perform.

Obviously this was nothing like as grand as Jesus preparing his accommodation for eating his last meal, but for me – and those two actors – it was no less awe inspiring as a mark of God’s foreknowledge and kindness.

You can see Stefan in I AM MARK @scottishstorytellingcentre, Edinburgh Festival Fringe 13-17 August 2019.

Tickets are available from the SSC Box Office on 0131 556 9579 and https://www.scottishstorytellingcentre.com/event-post/eventid/20012-i-am-mark/

Tickets are also on sale via the Fringe Box Office 0131 226 0000 | www.edfringe.com

View trailer here: https://youtu.be/YeGJEtwKIvc

http://www.iam-mark.com

#edfringe #fringe #fringecast #MakeYourFringe #scottishstorytellingcentre #wildfires #storyteller #onemanperformance #drama #iammark #markEd2019 #marksgospel #theatre #education #faith #love #god #hope #story #believe #life #peace #pray #actor #onemanshow #bible #church #jesus #christian #Gospel #holyspirit

Today’s Lesson: How to Play Jesus

The way to engage a crowd as Jesus did is to love each member of it, individually and unconditionally – with the offer of complete forgiveness for those who can’t handle that. Even if one of them throws a bottle of Fanta ‘on stage’ mid-crucifixion and then scurries off in apparent shame; or if another, possibly disturbed by a phrase that comes too close to home, starts shouting at you for being ‘an angry person.’ Look them in their faces, each face, with as much love as you can download from God. Never remonstrate, or criticise or judge, even by implication. Love them all, each and every one: those who stay and watch, or those who simply ‘pass by on the other side’. Love the children, the elderly, the lame, the blind, the gay, the straight. And yes, let your Jesus love each of the characters in the story. Even the Pharisees. Even ‘your’ killers. And very soon you’ll notice that your audience can’t keep your eyes off you, don’t want to you to stop, are clinging on to each and every word. Because for a couple of hours of a Saturday afternoon on Watford High Street they believe the almost unbelievable: that they are acceptable to God – just because they are.

Should have realised of course. Jesus is Love. No wonder.

You can see Stefan in I AM MARK @wildfiresfestival 28 May 2019 and @scottishstorytellingcentre, Edinburgh Festival Fringe 13-17 August 2019. Tickets on sale from 16/5/19. View trailer here: https://youtu.be/YeGJEtwKIvc

http://www.iam-mark.com

#edfringe #fringe #fringecast #MakeYourFringe #scottishstorytellingcentre #wildfires #storyteller #onemanperformance #drama #iammark #markEd2019 #marksgospel #theatre #education #faith #love #god #hope #story #believe #life #peace #pray #actor #onemanshow #bible #church #jesus #christian #Gospel #holyspirit