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Rock Star of the Month:
December 2009: Gary Richardson
Show us how you enjoy life

Meet Gary
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Gary Richardson has worn a lot of hats: husband, father, teacher, broadcaster, author, consultant, administrator, pastor. But one skill he uses everywhere — regardless of his job title — has been storytelling.

“Storytelling is every teacher’s trick,” he says. “If I were to stand in front of a classroom and recite a lot of facts, that would be incredibly boring. But tell a story and you’ve got everyone’s attention. It’s a universal art form.”

Gary says he first learned the art of storytelling from his grandfather, a former principal at the Overbrook School for the Blind in Philadelphia: “he would keep us grandkids enthralled with stories from a lifetime of teaching the blind — including Helen Keller.”

And for the past 12 years, Gary has been turning his love of storytelling into a unique kind of musical theater. “It’s not your typical Broadway show,” he says.

Gary’s shows draw on the oldest theatrical traditions: Greek poets, bards, wandering minstrels. He begins to tell a story, on stage, which is supplemented and interspersed with the original songs of his co-creator Danny Hamilton (performed by an acoustic band and professional singers).

“Our shows are like Garrison Keillor meets MTV Unplugged,” he says. “We don’t use costumes, and our sets are limited. But that allows us to harness the power of the audience’s imagination — to create a set a thousand times better than anything we could build.”

“The subject matter is stories from the Bible — which, when you think about it, is the foundation for all Western literature. But I think whether or not you’re a believer, these stories are surprising, thrilling, and captivating.”

Gary and Danny’s fourth show, The Child, opened December 11 to an audience of 2,500.

Does playwriting get easier over time? “Certain things get easier,” Gary says. “Mostly the production side of things. We’ve got a group of phenomenal musicians working with us. The acting gets easier. But the puzzle of how to tell a story and how to get that story written? That’s a new challenge every time.”