(Reading on Facebook?  Please, please, please click here to see it as it ought to look!  https://www.xanga.com/serenitymine)

It’s been…a marathon.  A six-month marathon involving more people than have ever been involved in Candlelight Dinner before.  Rough calculations?

    Set-up and tear-down:  25
    Waiters:  30
    Hosts and hostesses:  17
    Servers:  5
Buffet staff:  24
    Food services:  10
    Artists:  9
    Builders:  8
    Painters and putter-togethers:  30
    Singers, dancers and musicians:  93
    Costumes:  118
    Guests:  900

And the grand total is… [drum roll, please]…this:

Like most great adventures, it began with scraps…

…with bits and pieces of ideas that we stacked and mixed and matched and juggled and molded and pressed and cajoled…
…using hard work and sleepless nights and tea-saturated brain-storming sessions…
…to achieve a four-hour-long extended metaphor for life and faith and the sovereignty of God.

Diane Farmer’s Time Machine was the centerpiece of this year’s program.  It stood well over six feet tall and was a mishmash of all the recycled trash its creator has collected for the past few years!  It just goes to prove that other people’s junk is a true Artist’s treasure.

While some worked hard (in the pic above, Heidi and Alec–a fabulous father-daughter team), others worked…at a more leisurely pace.  Hanky-panky, even among “olderweds,” has a way of slowing down labor! 

How does a team of dedicated artists transform a high school cafeteria into the Victorian lobby of a Mad Scientist’s manor?  With pure genius, in my opinion!  Here are a few “before and after” pictures to prove my point:

Before and after:  Cafeteria entrance.

Before and after:  canteen corner.

Before and after: ugly blue doors!

Before and after:  lobby area.

Nine local artists were “hired” to create paintings of the places to which we traveled on this magical evening.  They were stunning!  I am so, so touched to say that this first one (below) was given to me by its creator.  It made me burst into tears the first time I saw it, so I’m planning on stocking up on Kleenex now that it has found a home in my apartment…

(Vienna: by Jim Meyer)

(Berlin: by Heidi Foreman)

Even the youngest of our guests were fascinated by so many details and authentic Victorian touches.

We recruited Doc Parson’s help in coming up with some believable chemical (ie. cryptic) inscriptions for our Scientist’s blackboard.


With the tables set, the whimsical centerpieces in place…

…our cozy parlor candlelit…

…our students in their designated places…

…our waiters at attention and our Victorian era hosts (below) ready to greet our German guests…

…we opened our doors for two consecutive evenings of dinner-theater.

While our German friends and neighbors began their meal, the performers (93 of them!) overflowed the green-room and climbed onto the student lockers in the hallway.  I didn’t ask why they were sitting way up there when I arrived.  Sometimes, the best option is to keep one’s mouth shut and snap a couple pictures!

Our Berlin ladies (above) and an exuberant monk (below)…

The amazing Dorothy Parent was on hand for final adjustments of the 89 costumes she created for the event.

It’s highly unlikely that I’ll ever share a hood with a monk again…

The program began with Doctor Jenkins (assistant to Professor Puddle-Higgins) informing the audience that the Time Machine had developed a malfunction.  The Professor was lost in another time and place, prone to sudden changes of location and decade at the Machine’s demented whim.  With each leap through time and space, the audience had to guess where we were headed next.  They had Powerpoint slides and random facts about the countries to guide their guesses.

Our first destination was England in the 1960s.  Above are two of the four Beatles who took us for a ride on their Yellow Submarine. 

Then it was off to Berlin, where a group of Swing Kids danced to the melody of “Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen,” sung by three sultry ladies.  It was a highlight of the show.

Meanwhile, back in Victorian England, Jenkins discovered that there was a password which, when entered into the Time Machine, would allow the Professor to return to his home.  Unfortunately, scatter-brained and motor-mouthed Rosie (Stephanie Miller) was the keeper of the password…and she had no recollection of ever having known it.  The rest of the evening would be a mad race to get Puddle-Higgins back…with only three password attempts allowed before the Machine was rendered completely useless.

Our next stop was Korea.  There is a large contingent of Korean students at BFA, and 15 of them performed a stunning and moving fan dance for our awed guests.  I’m not sure why it made so many of us emotional to witness their act.  Perhaps it was the simplicity of seeing them fully embracing their cultural heritage in this place that is supposed to be home, but somehow really isn’t.

Change of era and location:  We were off to Kentucky for a knee-slapping, father-daughter rendition of “Kentucky Borderline.”  The Germans LOVE country music and they clapped along with this fun and twangy number!

From prohibition-era Kentucky, we took off for 16th century Rome.  Six “monks” sang a Gregorian arrangement of a Bee Gee’s hit (go figure!), while another six of them danced with candles.  It was a complete change of pace from the preceding numbers!

Back to Italy (more precisely, Venice) for an “O Sole Mio” the audience isn’t about to forget!  As he often did during the evening, our Professor Puddle-Higgins (Hans Shaffer) appeared for a cameo, this time as a gondolier.  What’s a Candlelight Dinner without our favorite comic relief provider?  He’s a dedicated participant and has been for years…I’m grateful for that kind of encouragement and support!

Note to Hans:  if the Chaplain’s Assistant position falls through, you may have a future on the canals of Venice! 

The act above caused some premature graying!  Our HBR (dorm) boys reenacted a scene from the movie “300.”  They looked WONDERFUL in the costumes Maribeth created for them.  But they liked their wooden weapons just  little too much.  During our dress rehearsal, they damaged most of them and put a bit of a gash in Jackson’s skull.  During our first real performance, as Mike was doing the backflip pictured above, he didn’t quite finish his rotation and landed on his head with a resounding thud.  The audience’s applause were, shall we say, tentative…  Injuries aside, it was a memorable part of the evening, particularly when we added a strobe light to follow the action.

Off to Peru for a xylophone arrangement of “El Condor Pasa,” a melody made famous by Simon and Garfunkel.  The band played along on this soothing and familiar tune.

Welcome to Egypt!  These three talented ladies performed a wild version of “Walk Like an Egyptian”…  It kept the band on their toes too!  Dorothy outdid herself with the costumes for this piece.

“La Bamba” marked our passage through Mexico.  A fun song with which our audience sang along!  Great fun…

Vienna, the birthplace of the waltz.  It was Sara Meyer’s second participation in Candlelight Dinner, and this time she brought her husband, Jim, along as a dance partner.  BFA’s String Thing played the Blossom Waltz.  Beautiful.

Meanwhile, Rosie and Jenkins tried to remember the password that would bring the Professor back to them.  Rosie’s…uhm…blondness made it a difficult task.


They even attempted hypnosis to jar Rosie’s atrophied synapses, but aside from regressing to infancy, she remembere
d nothing of value.

The Professor’s last “leap” was to Paris, at the time of French Revolution.  Fifteen students participated in this medley from “Les Miserables”…and since I directed it, it was one of my very favorite moments of the evening.  Will you allow me to post more pictures of this act than of the others?  I’m hoping the answer is “yes”…!

Fantine and Cosette singing “Castle on a Cloud”…

“I Dreamed a Dream” – Michelle Young.

“But the tiger comes at night…”

“Do you hear the people sing…”

“…when tomorrow comes!”

The Professor finally made it back!  Rosie remembered the password (it was, ironically, “Rosie”) and he appeared bearing souvenirs for his friends.  Jenkins received a baguette of stale French bread (imported from revolutionary Paris) and Rosie received…


…her very own Greek warrior, imported from the “300” battlefield.  She was…smitten (as were most of the women in the audience).

Christian ended the evening with a moving word to our audience.  He spoke of his grandmother, who had passed away just a week before and whose life had been a testament to God’s constant presence despite the vagaries of life.  He gently encouraged our German guests to consider how unpredictable their lives are and how comforting it would be to know a God whose presence never changes.  Susi Hagen, a talented local vocalist and pianist, ended the evening with a meaningful song written for the occasion by Danny Plett, in which she urged our friends to see each day as a miracle and each moment of life as an opportunity.

I don’t know what I would have done, for the past two years, without the band I’ve started to call The Dream Team.  Guided by Mike Hill (staff member and worship leader), these three students of extraordinary talent did what few (even experienced) adults could have done.  They didn’t have much time to prepare, but no one would have suspected it.  They are simply astounding, and it is an honor and a joy to work with each of them.


Not the best picture of Mike, but the only one I have!

The other Dream Team–the one that plans and plots and crafts and strategizes.  This is the “Core Group” of Candlelight Dinner.  Cy and Jan lead our collaborative efforts, Rick, Mary Beth, Diane and Heidi head up the decorations/sets department, and I run the program.  Couldn’t imagine a more complementary bunch of people to work with!

The Soundbooth.  I ran the show from there, using a walkie-talkie to communicate with stage hands and greenroom managers.  Dave (right) ran our lights and Powerpoint and Brian (left) was our fearless soundman.  Both had quite a job this year–a
nd they managed it with patience and professionalism.

The evening ended with dessert and conversation…some guests stayed until late indeed!  But we think that’s a very good sign.  After all, Candlelight Dinner is all about relationship, and it’s thrilling to see members of the American community here taking the time (and making the effort) to communicate with their landlords, shop owners and neighbors.

This was Christian’s last Candlelight Dinner as he’s moving to the States .  He will be sorely missed.

And now?  It’s over.  For all of us involved, the conclusion of our two evenings comes as a relief and as a sad ending.  This year was not easy for me.  From the first, I found it hard to conceive and write the program.  Its progress was further impeded by logistical problems and health issues (MAC, bronchitis, and now something else!).  On Friday evening, I keenly felt the Enemy’s attack.  It came on several fronts: physical, technical, emotional and “political.”  In the midst of it all, I kept reminding myself of the Eternal purpose of this event and of God’s power to work despite the best strategies used against us.  It is with an exhausted body but a defiant spirit that I look back at this week of Candlelight Mayhem with the certainty that people were touched, that our efforts will bear fruit and that there is nothing the Prince of Darkness can do to hinder Love from reaching the unsaved when it is channeled through devoted, though flawed, followers of Christ.

This has been a year of learning and a year of overcoming (see previous posts).  The challenge of Candlelight Dinner further pushed me to consider my highest purposes and my most urgent spiritual desires.  Though the journey was arduous and fatiguing, it was, ultimately, a blessing.  My heartfelt thanks to all who contributed.  And now…

A decongestant, a hot water bottle, and maybe a week or two of utter rest.  Oh wait—I have to teach again tomorrow! 

I can’t help myself:  If you’re new to this blog (perhaps directed here by other participants in Candlelight Dinner), would you also take a look at https://www.michelephoenix.com?  Besides being a teacher at BFA and a writer/producer for Candlelight Dinner, I’m also an author devoted to creating engaging and stimulating fiction on subjects that are close to my heart.  You can see reviews of my novels and purchase them on my website!



  1. Uh. . .I got chills just looking at the pictures. I’m not kidding. This was, hands-down, the best Candlelight Dinner ever. Well, done, Mich.

  2. wow… looked amaazing… wish i was there. thanks

  3. I will be sending people to your link. Great write-up!! Hope you can find time to recoup.

  4. All I can say is, wow. I’m sure I can comment a lot more but I think that sums it all. WOW.
    And I want to know what the “something else” is… hehe

  5. An amazing post. Thanks so much for taking the time and effort to do it.

  6. Thanks for the pictures. We sure do appreciate all of your (and everyone’s) hard work. To God be the glory!

  7. the pictures look absolutely breathtaking, along with the whole set. great job on all of it.

  8. i love how i took more than half those up there…

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