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Laughter is Sacred Space

The Not-So-Typical Journey of a Mennonite Actor
Laughter is Sacred Space

By author: Ted Swartz
Product Code: 9559
ISBN: 9780836195590
Binding Information: Hardback
Size: 8.50 x 5.50 inches

Publication Date: 9/14/2012

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Ted Swartz and his Ted & Company TheaterWorks team are known for blending Bible stories with comedy and poignancy, and pushing the envelope on issues of faith and social justice. But who is Ted Swartz?

Follow along in this engaging memoir as Swartz finds his way as a middle child in an eastern Pennsylvania traditional Mennonite home to his early work in the family butcher shop. Journey with Ted through the decision of uprooting his young family to attend seminary and then embracing life as a writer and actor. Get a glimpse into the friendship that led to the formation of the popular acting duo Ted & Lee.

This uniquely honest backstage tour of an artist's life and mind combines side-splitting reminiscences, heart-rending accounts of loss, and touching stories of restored faith and love. Swartz's engaging humor blends with his own stories of triumph and tragedy, and helps readers understand their own sense of place and how they're shaped by those around them.

Read the forward by Bryan Mclaren under the "Excerpt" tab and see what is already being said about the book under the "Quotes" tab!


"Laughter Is Sacred Space is even funnier than Mennonite in a Little Black Dress—an authentic and profound snapshot of what it means to grow up and live Mennonite."
—Howard Zehr, professor of restorative justice, Eastern Mennonite University

"Ted Swartz is a gift. He unveils some of the most tragic pain and injustice of our world . . . but he knows that if we can't laugh then the devil has already won. Laughter reminds us that we know the end of the story—and in the end we see life conquer death and love triumph over hatred."
—Shane Claiborne, author, activist, and lover of Jesus

About the author
Purchase Ted and Company scripts and DVDs

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Laughter Is Sacred Space


Foreword by Brian McLaren
Wait, Who's Talking Now?! A Guide to the Layout of the Book


Scene 1 Beginning in the Middle: A Pivotal Decision
Scene 2 A Leap Forward in Time: Hints of the Crisis in Act 3
Scene 3 A Leap Back in Time: Critical Elements that Will Affect Later Decisions
Scene 4 A Critical Character Reintroduced: The Tall One, the Funny One

Act 1—Exposition

Scene 1 Family, Church, and Baseball: The Value of Inadvertent Theater Training
Scene 2 Elementary School: Isolation, Commonality, and a Moment of Triumph in a Dog Food Bag
Scene 3 Calling and Clowning
Scene 4 A Sad Tale of Unrequited Love as Understood in the Eighth Grade Sense
Scene 5 Love, Acne, and the Art of Being Funny
Scene 6 Knives, Blood, Beer, Cigarettes, and Hair
Scene 7 Marriage and Failure

Act 2—Rising Action

Scene 1 Hearing a Call . . . But Which One?
Scene 2 Laughter and the Bible: Comedic Exegesis Does Not Bring Fire Down from Heaven
Scene 3 Starting a Theater
Scene 4 Ideas: Where Do They Come From?
Scene 5 Ted & Lee Live: The Armadillo Tour
Scene 6 A Large, Bloodied, Exhausting Step Forward
Scene 7 Fish-Eyes
Scene 8 DoveTale: Writing a Christmas Show in which Rehearsals Look and Smell Better
Scene 9 The Not-So-Romantic Life of the Touring Artist
Scene 10 Do You Take this Acting Partner, for Better or for Worse, to Have and to Hold . . .?
Scene 11 Adventures with the Actors' Favorite Members of Society: The Audience
Scene 12 The Artist: Selfishness and Selflessness
Scene 13 What Are You Doing Here?
Scene 14 Negotiating the Real Marriages
Scene 15 Ted & Lee: Reaching Cruising Altitude

Act 3—Climax

Scene 1 The Comedy Dies

Act 4—Falling Action

Scene 1 Scrambling for a Foothold
Scene 2 The Protagonist Loses His A** and Most of His Mind

Act 5—Dénouement

A Path Back
The Final Story

Timeline: Ted & Lee and Ted & Company
The Author

"Like practically half the Christian world, I saw Ted & Lee perform and thought they were smart and hilarious. Much later, because he was so vulnerable, I got a chance to jump into Ted's head and swim around with all his jokes and jibes and doubts and fears. Because he was so honest, I learned a lot about both Ted and myself, and I ended up closer to God. In the pages of this book, Ted is vulnerable and honest again, only this time on purpose. If you jump in, I promise you'll be glad you did."
—Bart Campolo, neighborhood minister and Middle East peace activist

"This avant-garde memoir is alive with merriment and anguish, anger and tenderness, the profane . . . and the profound. From the prologue to the denouement, I laughed out loud and wept . . . sometimes simultaneously, which is the hallmark of a truly sacred story."
—Karla Yaconelli, philanthropist and founding board member of the Wild Goose Festival

"Ted erases the line between the profane and the sacred. Hilariously holy!"
—Joseph and Suzanne Stabile, founders of Life in the Trinity Ministry

"Ted's storytelling is, as expected, beautiful, tragic, and funny. Laughter Is Sacred Space is a gift."
—Tony Jones , theologian and author of The New Christians

"Told with humor and heart and an absence of sentimentality, Laughter is as delightful as it is moving. Highly recommended."
—Steve Pederson, retired director of drama, Willow Creek Community Church

"Dramatic gift is native to Ted Swartz and he has made good on it in the service of truth-by-humor. This combination of gift and experience makes for a powerful, compelling story."
—George R. Brunk III, emeritus dean and professor of New Testament, Eastern Mennonite Seminary

"In writing about his own life's drama, Ted Swartz has opened up his heart and allowed us in to a sacred, healing space—his and, ultimately, ours."
—Crystal Zinkiewicz, senior editor, Abingdon Youth

Download FREE sample chapter here!

by Brian McLaren

Thousands of us have seen Ted Swartz perform—solo, with his colleague Lee, or with others.

We’ve laughed, gasped, winced, and maybe even cried as he ushered us from the sublime, promptly and unceremoniously, to the ridiculous. Or vice versa.

When we’ve seen actors and comedians onstage (not to mention preachers in-pulpit) we’ve all wondered what their lives were really like offstage. Is their private persona anything like their public one? (As Ted says, “You cannot fall into the habit of believing in your own public persona, because—believe me—your wife sure doesn’t.”) So we wonder, when the spotlight flicks off, do the actors transform from clowns to grouches? From exhibitionists to recluses? From beauties to beasts, or artists to jerks?

Tabloids and TV shows sometimes try to raid the privacy of public personas and steal a peak into their personal lives. The result is that public people guard their privacy even more carefully.

Only rarely does an actor or other public figure step off the stage and simply open up as a fellow human being. That’s why the book you have in front of you right now is so valuable, so important.

For many years I was a fan of Ted’s, sitting in the back row (my favorite place when I’m not on stage myself ), smiling and laughing, admiring from a distance. Then some years ago, I had the privilege of getting to know Ted as a friend.

As I read his story, I felt Ted’s friendliness shining through. The person I’ve gotten to know offstage is honestly reflected in these pages.

Ted’s honesty is the kind that requires courage. You’ll uncover some frank and hard stuff here, much of it left floating in between the lines so you can feel it if you want to, or avoid it if you don’t. In that space, there’s loss and conflict, and dry spells and sadness. There’s depression and death and grief and loss.

And it’s all sandwiched between thick slices of whole-wheat laughter. Sometimes it’s highbrow, witty laughter. Sometimes . . . let’s just say that Ted isn’t above getting a laugh from slapstick, malapropisms, and old-fashioned silliness—down to the level of passing gas or spilling coffee on a sensitive body part.

Somewhere in there, between the sublime and ridiculous, there’s “a whole ’nother thing”: the profound and poignant. And if you’re reading with any degree of consciousness, you’ll find a strong dose of that. For example, you’ll encounter a hug—an onstage hug that becomes immeasurably significant a few days later, along with the line that precedes it.

And you’ll feel moments of anger and hope and downright resilience, too.

If you’ve got some unhealed wounds, ungrieved losses, or even uncounted blessings (and who doesn’t?), reading these pages will be like a good night at the theater. Turning the last page will be like walking across the parking lot after the final curtain and getting in your car.

You won’t want to start the car or turn on the radio. You’ll just want to sit for a while and let what you’ve experienced settle in.

A theologian friend recently hit me with a wild proposition: the secular is the domain of the Holy Spirit. "The Spirit was hovering over the surface of the waters in creation," he said, "long before there were any religions or temples or denominations. That’s why all of creation—what we call ‘the secular’—isn’t profane. It’s sacred."

Ted knows that. The sacred secular of laughter, tears, joy, pain, tragedy, comedy . . . it’s all the stage on which the Spirit plays.

And where we do, too.

—Brian McLaren,
Author of Naked Spirituality and A New Kind of Christianity

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