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Working on the Inside

The Spiritual Life Through the Eyes of Actors

Retta Blaney

Stage and screen actors form unique relationships with their audiences. Through their work, they challenge, teach, and inspire us by shedding light in all corners of life and connecting with us through our senses and emotions. Working on the Inside goes backstage into the inner lives of respected actors like Liam Neeson, Vanessa Williams, Phylicia Rashad, Edward Herrmann, Kristin Chenoweth and many others to reveal the deep spirituality each one relies on in their lives and work. The result is a book like no other that draws ten key elements of the universal spiritual life from the perspective of actors whose work it is to tap into the essence of life, tell stories, and reveal life's truths.

Retta Blaney, an award-winning journalist now specializing in theatre and religion, was inspired to write this book by the spiritual wisdom actors conveyed in their interviews with her over the years. She dared to ask actors questions few ever do—How does your spirituality influence your life and work? How do you pray? What do you pray for? How do you stay centered in a career with so much uncertainty? And they answered her, readily sharing experiences of faith, being in the moment, listening, silence, prayer, self-knowledge, community, hospitality, ritual and transformation. The result is a book that takes readers into the private thoughts of some of their favorite actors for inspiring tips on how they, too, can begin working on the inside.
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Sheed & Ward
Pages: 160Size: 5 3/8 x 8 1/2
978-0-7425-3319-6 • Paperback • June 2003 • $22.00 • (£14.95)
Retta Blaney is a theatre and religion writer in Manhattan. Her work has appeared in the Washington Post, New York Newsday, National Catholic Reporter, The Jewish Week, The Living Church, American Theatre, Back Stage, and other publications.
Chapter 1 Faith: Jeanne Beauvais * Dudu Fisher * Michael McElroy * Kristin Chenoweth * Larry Collis * Rabbi Richard Steinberg * The Rev. Paul S. Schmiege
Chapter 2 In the Moment:Vanessa Williams * Casey Groves * Kristin Chenoweth * Richard Costa * Rabbi David Woznica * The Rev. Robert E. Kennedy, S.J.
Chapter 3 Listening: Kristin Chenoweth * Edward Herrmann * Rabbi Laurie Katz Braun * Peter W. Culman
Chapter 4 Silence: Phylicia Rashad * Edward Herrmann * Liam Neeson * Matt Mitler * Rabbi James L. Mirel * Sr. Mary Elizabeth Earley, S.C.
Chapter 5 Prayer: Liam Neeson * Vanessa Williams * Michael McElroy * Bertilla Baker * Kristin Chenoweth * Rabbi David Baron * The Rev. George Drance, S.J.
Chapter 6 Self-Knowledge: Vanessa Williams * Edward Herrmann * Ann Dowd * Amanda Blair Ellis * Heather Tamar Feffer * The Rev. Mitties DeChamplain
Chapter 7 Community: Michael McElroy * Liam Neeson * Amanda Blair Ellis * Rabbi Irving "Yitz" Greenberg * The Rt. Rev. Catherine S. Roskam
Chapter 8 Hospitality: Kristin Chenoweth * Lesley Birchall Collis * Larry Collis * Matt Mitler * Carol-Jean Lewis * Rabbi Allen A. Secher * The Rev. Erno Diaz
Chapter 9 Ritual: Carol-Jean Lewis * Merwin Goldsmith * Matt Mitler * Rabbi Noach Valley * The Rev. Canon Jay Wegman
Chapter 10 Transformation: Kristin Chenoweth * Casey Groves * Lesley Collis * Shoshana Bean * Rabbi Richard Jacobs * The Rev. William A. Doubleday
I look forward so much to buying the book and reading slowly through what promises to be truly worth reading.
Vanessa Redgrave

The author has managed to consult an impressive array of marquee names . . . She has also interviewed interesting personalities outside the mainstream. . . Blaney is adept at conveying the disparate voices of her interview subjects and she lets them speak with a minumum of authorial mediation. . . Blaney is the founder of Broadway Blessing . . . In that capacity and in her book, she displays a keen appreciation for the value that religious groups and individuals place on community life and activity.

I am completely taken with Working on the Inside. I've tried to resist reading it straight through, since it is so rich with anecdote, good theological writing, and spiritual insight-like a box of chocolates-but I am already half way through. It's the best book on spirituality I've read since Alan Jones' Living the Truth.
The Rev. Canon Thomas P. Miller, Canon for Liturgy and the Arts, Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine

Blaney digs deeply into the lives of actors in this engagingly written book.
Publishers Weekly

Blaney breaks new ground, offering almost a how-to guide to working spirituality into one's work, or vice versa. . . . compelling reading.
The Jewish Week

. . . creative and soulful paperback . . . Once you read this book, you will have a greater appreciation of the spiritual practices that can animate your performances on your daily stage.
Spirituality and Health

. . . eye-opening, thought-provoking and even inspiring.

Working on the Inside is thoughtful and thought provoking as it explores our common humanity and spirituality that cuts across religious lines. . . The book is a brilliant concept—well executed—that reads easily, but raises thoughts and ideas that linger in the reader's mind long after putting down. It is a work that will be revisited over and over again.
The Liberal Minyan Of Hell's Kitchen and Chelsea

As a media studies professor interested in the character development of people who will be working in the media and entertainment industry, I found this book to be of utmost value. The author has done a marvelous job of selecting credible people in the entertainment field, interviewing them, and communicating their private thoughts about their personal spiritual journeys. . . It was Pascal who said that in the heart of every man is a God-shaped vacuum that only God can fill. This book really helps to explain how people sense that "God-shaped vacuum" and how they search for a relationship with a living God.
Dr. Geri Forsberg, Adjunct Professor of Communication, Trinity Western University; Affiliate Staff Member with Christian Leadership Ministries, the

If you (or someone you know) want to learn about the spiritual life, but don't get much out of traditional sources, Working on the Inside provides an alternative. For the celebrity-mad among us it might be a gateway to a whole new way of looking at the world.
Clergy Journal

If you want to know what celebs like Liam Neeson, Kristin Chenoweth and others really think about God, this book is an inspiring read. Author and journalist Retta Blaney does an amazing job of discussing the spiritual significance of mixing faith and art in some intriguing discussions with some A-list stars.

Insightful and entertaining, this book goes well beyond 'Inside the Actors Studio' fare, offering revealing glimpses of the soul of the performer.
The Living Church