Category: Kate O’Hare

Family Theater Productions Partners on NEXT LEVEL, Featuring Teen Social Stars

Family Theater Productions serves a youth audience with our Catholic Central online series, and now we’re moving out to an even wider swath of teens with Next Level, a new film described as “‘Fame’ meets ‘High School Musical.'”

Currently filming in Los Angeles, Next Level features several young performers with sizable social followings. Lauren Orlando (@laurenorlando on Twitter; @laurenorlando88 on Instagram) and Emily Skinner (“Andi Mack”) star as two teen girls competing for the final top spot at an intensive summer performing arts program.

Entertainment-news site noticed, writing:

Dance Moms alum Chloe Lukasiak, social media star Lauren Orlando, and Emily Skinner (Andi Mack) are set to star in YA dance feature, Next Level, along with Chloe East, Brooke Butler, Hayden Summerall, Will Simmon, and Ellarose Kaylor. The film is being directed by Ilyssa Goodman, producer of A Cinderella Story film series.

The script was written by Byron Kavanagh (Disney’s Gamer’s Guide to Pretty Much Everything and Nickelodeon’s Kickin” It). Kristi Kaylor and Lisa McGuire of The Loft Entertainment are producing the pic with exec producers Family Theater Productions and Beverly Hills Teddy Bear.

 Family Theater Productions’ upcoming, new and vintage productions as well as our Hollywood Outreach Programs; and, of course, you’ll find us on Facebook. Visit our YouTube and Ustream Channels for our contemporary and classic productions.

Katy Perry and Pope Francis: ‘My mom has prayed for me my entire life, hoping I’d come back to God’

Katy Perry met the pope, and she liked it.

In an interview published yesterday in the Australian version of Vogue, pop star Katy Perry — who’s currently a judge on ABC’s revival of “American Idol” — talked about going to the Vatican and meeting Pope Francis.

Perry was raised in California by two Pentecostal pastors, but apparently her mother, Mary Hudson, was raised a Catholic. Perry has drifted far from her faith and the gospel music of her youth, and her mother has drifted far from her Catholic roots — but a trip to the Vatican in late April proved enlightening for both.

From Vogue:

“It started when we were on the Asia leg of the tour and I went to mass with my mom,” Katy tells me. “She hadn’t sung those songs in 40 years and watching her made me cry. It’s so beautiful and humbling to re-centre in a place where it’s not about anything else but reconnecting with the divine.”

Hudson wasn’t thrilled about all of her daughter’s music, especially one of her hit songs.

Unsurprisingly, her first megahit, 2008’s I Kissed a Girl, didn’t go platinum around the family dinner table. “My mom has prayed for me my entire life, hoping I’d come back to God. I never left Him, I was just a little bit secular, I was more materialistic and more career-driven. But now that I’m in my 30s, it’s more about spirituality and heart wholeness.”

Perry, 33, boyfriend Orlando Bloom (Legolas from “The Lord of the Rings” and “The Hobbit” movies) and Hudson, traveled to Rome so Perry could speak at a health-centered Vatican conference, on the subject of meditation.

Then came the moment they met the pope (more pictures here).

Vatican Media Foto/Handout/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock

“I’m such a big fan of Pope Francis. It’s a combination of compassion, humility, sternness and refusal. He is rebel – a rebel for Jesus.” Katy lists some papal facts, including that he named himself after Francis of Assisi, her favourite saint, and that he sticks to his vow of poverty despite the lavish surroundings of the Vatican. “He is bringing the Church back to humility and connecting with people. He’s very humble and not frivolous.” He’s also a lover of animals and is often depicted surrounded by wooded creatures, which reminds her of her favourite Disney character, Snow White.

You can read the whole story here.

Back in California, Perry intersected with the Archdiocese of Los Angeles when, in 2014, she tried to buy an eight-acre complex that was the convent home for the Sisters of the Most Holy and Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the upscale Los Feliz neighborhood.

Founded in California, the Immaculate Heart Sisters, as they were known, specialized in educating young women. But an encounter with alternative psychology in the 1960s largely led to the dissolution of the order as a Catholic entity. By the time Perry wanted to buy the former convent, there were only a handful of sisters left, and those were advanced in years.

Perry offered $14.5M in cash for the hilltop property, which Archbishop Jose Gomez approved. But, but two of the remaining sisters — who had vacated the property in 2011 — argued that it wasn’t the Archdiocese’s to sell. They objected to the sale — preferring a different buyer – leading to a five-year legal battle with Perry (click here for a full rundown from Billboard). In 2017, a judge ruled in favor of the sale to Perry.

In March 2018, one of the sisters died during a court appearance.

As of the time Perry visited the Vatican, the pope needed to approve Archbishop Gomez’s original contract to sell to Perry. There’s no word whether the two discussed it during their meeting. Reportedly, Perry wants to share the property with her mother and grandmother.

According to the most recent press reports, as of March, the sale was still on hold.

As for the future, we can only hope that Perry’s mother keeps praying — because we all know the power of a mother’s intercession.

Images: Wikimedia Commons; Vatican Media Foto/Handout/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock

 Family Theater Productions’ upcoming, new and vintage productions as well as our Hollywood Outreach Programs; and, of course, you’ll find us on Facebook. Visit our YouTube and Ustream Channels for our contemporary and classic productions.

‘Masterpiece’: ‘Les Miserables,’ Jane Austen and Big-Screen ‘Downton Abbey’

Long a TV haven for beautifully produced drama — frequently, but not universally, suitable for middle-schoolers and up — PBS “Masterpiece” has more great literature and family drama in the pipeline.

Just don’t expect any of these to appear soon.

Let’s take a look …

“Les Miserables” (currently in production to air in 2019)

Victor Hugo’s classic novel has already been adapted into a hit musical, which also became a hit movie — both of which maintained the Catholic core of the 1862 story, which culminates in the 1832 anti-monarchist June Rebellion in Paris (not the French Revolution, that was from 1789-1799).

The six-part BBC/”Masterpiece” production stars Dominic West (“The Wire”) as Jean Valjean, whose minor misdeed runs him afoul of the authorities — especially the relentless policeman Javert (David Oyelowo). But the kindness of a bishop, which the desperate Valjean repays by stealing from him, sets Valjean on a winding path that ultimately leads to his transformation and redemption.

Also starring are Lily Collins as Fantine, whose child Valjean later adopts.

The writer is Andrew Davies, who has adapted many classic novels for the screen, including the BBC’s acclaimed 1995 version of Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice.”

The BBC has released some pictures. In order: Collins, West and Oyelowo.

Lily Collins as Fantine. Credit: BBC


Dominic West as Jean Valjean. Credit: BBC


David Oyelowo as Javert. Credit: BBC

“Sanditon” (begins filming in Spring 2019)

Andrew Davies is also adopting Jane Austen’s “Sanditon,” left unfinished at her death at the age of 41. He’s expanding the 11-chapter fragment into eight 60-minute episodes, produced by “Masterpiece” in partnership with ITV, and distributed by BBC Studios.

From PBS:

Written only months before Austen’s death in 1817, Sanditon tells the story of the joyously impulsive, spirited and unconventional Charlotte Heywood and her spiky relationship with the humorous, charming (and slightly wild!) Sidney Parker. When a chance accident transports her from her rural hometown of Willingden to the would-be coastal resort of the eponymous title, it exposes Charlotte to the intrigues and dalliances of a seaside town on the make, and the characters whose fortunes depend on its commercial success. The twists and turns of the plot, which take viewers from the West Indies to the rotting alleys of London, expose the hidden agendas of each character and sees Charlotte discover herself… and ultimately find love.

ITV’s Head of Drama, Polly Hill commented: “It’s a rich, romantic, family saga built upon the foundations Jane Austen laid. There is no one better to adapt her unfinished novel than Andrew who has an incredible track record for bold and original adaptations. We’re delighted to commission Sanditon from Belinda Campbell and her team at Red Planet Pictures.”

And, said Davies on assuming the task of channeling Austen:

Jane Austen managed to write only a fragment of her last novel before she died – but what a fragment! Sanditon tells the story of the transformation of a sleepy fishing village into a fashionable seaside resort, with a spirited young heroine, a couple of entrepreneurial brothers, some dodgy financial dealings, a West Indian heiress, and quite a bit of nude bathing. It’s been a privilege and a thrill for me to develop Sanditon into a TV drama for a modern audience.

“Downton Abbey” (feature-film sequel planned; not in production yet)

All the major stars from “Masterpiece’s” megahit “Downton Abbey” are returning for the planned feature-film version, including Maggie Smith (Violet Crawley, Dowager Countess of Grantham) — just confirmed by People on July 16; Michelle Dockery (Lady Mary Crawley); Laura Carmichael (Lady Edith Crawley); Joanne Froggatt (Anna Bates); Hugh Bonneville (Robert Crawley, Earl of Grantham); and Elizabeth McGovern (Cora Crawley, Countess of Grantham).

Directing is Brian Percival, who directed the series’ pilot; plot details are unknown. The writer is British Catholic Julian Fellowes, who’s also writing a 10-part series for NBC called “The Gilded Age.” Set in 1880s New York City, it follows the conflict as the city’s old-money families have to deal with a sudden influx of social-climbing nouveau riche.

Said Fellowes in the U.K. Guardian:

To write The Gilded Age is the fulfilment of a personal dream.

I have been fascinated by this period of American history for many years, and now NBC has given me the chance to bring it to a modern audience. I could not be more excited and thrilled.

The truth is, America is a wonderful country with a rich and varied history, and nothing could give me more pleasure than to be the person to bring that compelling history to the screen.

We’ll have to wait and see how many of these productions will be suitable for the whole family, but at least we know they’ll be intelligently written — and these days, that’s something.

Image: PBS/BBC

Learn more about Family Theater Productions’ upcoming, new and vintage productions as well as our Hollywood Outreach Programs; and, of course, you’ll find us on Facebook. Visit our YouTube and Ustream Channels for our contemporary and classic productions.

‘God Bless the Broken Road’: Catholic Screenwriter Jennifer Dornbush’s Movie Releases a Trailer

This September, “God Bless the Broken Road” hits theaters, telling the faith-based story of a young wife struggling with her husband’s death in Afghanistan.

From The Hollywood Reporter:

In the film, a young mother (True Blood and Hatfields and McCoys‘ Lindsay Pulsipher) struggles to hold onto her faith as she raises her daughter (Steve Jobs‘ Makenzie Moss) in the wake of her husband’s death in Afghanistan.

In the preview, her character is heard saying, “I tried putting my faith in God. I don’t understand why he would do that to us. If he wants me, he knows where to find me.”

Meanwhile, her daughter is convinced a mustard seed she planted in Sunday school will grow and she meets one of the men who served alongside her husband (played by Arthur Cartwright), who tells her that her husband’s faith “gave him the courage to do the impossible.”

The cast also includes former NFL star LaDainian Tomlinson, Jordin Sparks and Andrew W. Walker.

Here’s the official trailer:

Director Harold Cronk (“God’s Not Dead”) is listed as one of the screenwriters, along with Catholic screenwriter, author and forensic specialist Jennifer Dornbursh.

Last year, Dornbush spoke at Family Theater Productions, and beforehand took a few minutes to sit down with us for an interview. Take a look:

Image: Courtesy 10 West Studios/A Really Good Home Pictures

Learn more about Family Theater Productions’ upcoming, new and vintage productions as well as our Hollywood Outreach Programs; and, of course, you’ll find us on Facebook. Visit our YouTube and Ustream Channels for our contemporary and classic productions.

‘Last Man Standing’: Tim Allen Returns to America’s TVs on Sept. 28

Tim Allen returns to TV this fall — it’s ABC’s loss, and Fox’s (and America’s) gain.

TV networks are slowly realizing that if they want to be broadcasters — appealing to a broad audience — in an increasingly crowded marketplace of niche-programming suppliers, they’ll have to learn how to speak more to the middle of the country (or at least all those bits that aren’t major cities and university towns).

CBS has always kept a focus on that, but it’s been more of a challenge in recent years for the other three networks, who have worked harder appealing to young, hip and urban viewers.

With its cancellations of “The Middle” and its reboot of “Roseanne” (which is being reconfigured without its controversial star; we’ll see how that goes), ABC is having a particularly tough time. It didn’t help that the network also canceled Tim Allen’s popular comedy “Last Man Standing,” which ran from 2011 to 2017, despite high ratings.

The fall of the ax shocked Allen and his many loyal fans, who began with him in ABC’s “Home Improvement,” and came back to see him play Mike Baxter, a traditional man with conservative views, who works at a Denver sporting-goods store, and has a wife and three daughters at home.

The cancellation happened in part because the show is a production of Twentieth Century Fox Television, instead of one of ABC’s affiliated studios. But, Fox Broadcasting Company stepped in and picked up its sister studio’s show, which returns to the airwaves on Friday, Sept. 28, at 8 p.m. ET/PT.

Here’s how Allen reacted in a statement back in May:

“Excited? Team LMS was in the sixth inning, ahead by four runs, stands were packed, and then for no reason, they call off the game. It leaves you sitting in the dugout, holding a bat and puzzled. Now we get the news from Fox that it’s time to get back out on that diamond — hell yes, I’m excited!

When I heard the offer to create more episodes of Last Man Standing, I did a fist pump so hard I threw my back out. It’s the fans! I could not be more grateful for the fans who wrote petitions and kept up the passion and incredible support for the show. And a fist pump, ouch, for [Fox Television Group CEOs] Dana Walden and Gary Newman at Fox for not only listening to the fans, but for making the bold move to bring Last Man Standing back.

I’m sure audiences will be curious to see what we look like after all these years. Oh, has it only been one year? Well, just goes to show you — a lot can happen in a year.”

There will be some changes. Molly Ephraim and Flynn Morrison, who played Mike’s middle daughter Mandy and grandson Boyd, respectively, opted not to return. Both roles are being recast, but no word yet on the replacements (since production usually begins for the fall in July, they’d better hop to it).

The rest of the core cast is back, lead by Nancy Travis as Mike’s wife. Also on board is Hector Elizondo, whose competing pilot, “Guess Who Died,” got a pass from NBC. Show-runner/executive producer Kevin Abbott is also back.

“Last Man Standing” reflected Allen’s own conservative views, but it was known for presenting many different viewpoints.

From Tony Rossi of Catholic organization The Christophers:

One of the strengths of “Last Man Standing” is that it manages to give valid arguments to both its liberal and conservative characters. Not each one is right all the time – and it is a comedy so laughs are paramount – but the writers ably walk the fine line of political debate that still respects the humanity of its characters. In that sense, it’s a more successful entity than the United States Congress and many online comments threads. As a viewer, I appreciate the fact that I’m not being hammered with an agenda, but rather being told an entertaining story with some implicit relevance to today’s times.

The show is also faith-friendly. Mike Baxter is a churchgoer and a man of faith, as is Allen, in his own way.

Here’s Allen, who was raised an Anglican, in the transcript of an ABC News interview, quoted in this blog last June:

Allen’s father died when he was hit by a drunk driver when Allen was just 11. The comedian says that after that, he questioned whether if he had prayed harder or had been with his father that fatal day, he could have prevented his death.

“For years, I just did not like this idea of God, church,” he said. “(I was) still a churchgoer, but constantly a cynic.”

But the cynicism didn’t last. Today, he calls God, “The Builder.”

Allen also told Parade magazine that he and his second wife, actress Jane Hajduk — with whom he has a daughter — attend church on Sundays, and added:

On a philosophical level, I’m very religious. I call myself an intellectual Christian.

Here’s a Father’s Day video from last month with Allen, in character as Mike Baxter, talking about fathers and sons …

Image: Courtesy ABC/20th Century Fox Videos

Learn more about Family Theater Productions’ upcoming, new and vintage productions as well as our Hollywood Outreach Programs; and, of course, you’ll find us on Facebook. Visit our YouTube and Ustream Channels for our contemporary and classic productions.

‘Today, Hope, Faith and Love Won’: Twitter’s Fr. Goyo on a Wedding He’ll Never Forget

Fr. Gregorio “Goyo” Hidalgo lives the life of an ordinary parish priest not far from the Reagan Presidential Library in Southern California. What makes his ordinary life extraordinary is he has a gift for sharing it on social media — even if the story he’s telling is both beautiful and tragic.

On May 12, the Spanish-born priest shared on his Twitter account (@FrGoyo) — where he currently has 11.8K followers, after only about a year — the story of Estela and Nicolas. He officiated at their wedding … in the hospital where Estela is in the last stages of a battle against cancer.

The hospital staff came together to put on a lovely event for the couple. which Father Goyo shared in a series of tweets. EWTN’s ChurchPop picked up the story, but it wasn’t the only one. Here it is on Catholic News Agency’s Spanish-language sister agency, ACI Prensa; and here it is in Hungarian.

This isn’t the only time Fr. Goyo was in the news because of Twitter. Back in January, he tweeted about going to a hospital to offer Communion to a patient, when a mix-up in room numbers allowed him to also administer the sacraments to a dying woman — which Catholic News Agency also picked up.

A couple of weeks ago, he updated the story of Estela and Nicolas:

But none of the places that picked up the original Twitter thread reported the whole story. Fr. Goyo is the vicar at St. Rose of Lima Church in Simi Valley. On a warm June day, we settle at a table and chairs outside the rectory kitchen to talk. He reveals that the couple was already civilly married and had a family.

“They had kids,” Fr. Goyo says, “and they would marry sacramentally. So, they needed what we call a convalidation, which is a sacramental marriage. They knew it. The most beautiful part about this was, both of them wanted to receive the sacrament, and they didn’t know how to do it.

“They said, ‘Father, we married civilly. We don’t know why we did it. We came to this country; we did it this way.’ … And, you know what, I’m going to say this, I admire those who know this state of life (and say), ‘I’m going to get out of it.’

“It’s not like they said, ‘Who cares? Let’s go to Communion and Mass every day. We don’t care. We are not including the eyes of God.’ They knew it, and because of knowing it, they wanted to get out of it.”

In other words, the couple had not been wed in the Church and were technically living in sin. So, before Estela died, they wanted their marriage blessed by the Church, so that they could licitly receive all the sacraments.

So, Fr. Goyo consulted a canon lawyer and made sure he did everything necessary to do the sacramental wedding properly. He’s thrilled that this couple let conscience be a guide.

“In fact,” he says, “there are people showing up to get married at parishes, who are living together, right? They’re just doing it to shut their parents up and really don’t think it’s that big a deal. Yeah, these people knew it was a big deal. They have three kids; six, five and two.”

Fr. Goyo wanted to make sure his readers knew that he was doing something by the Church’s rules, to bring Estela and Nicolas fully back into the fold.

“Even though it was a love story,” he says, “it was a sacramental story. It was a love story with God, more than themselves.”

While he’s very open on Twitter, Fr. Goyo is still feeling his way about the best use of it to describe a priest’s life and the Faith. Sometimes, a joke goes wrong, but he approaches all of it with an open heart and a sincere desire to make people love the Church.

That’s because he knows what it’s like to abandon the practice of Catholicism and embrace the secular world.

Fr. Goyo has much in common with St. Augustine. Both spent their youth seeking wealth and pleasure, while devout mothers kept praying. After a decade or so away from the Faith, Goyo Hidalgo crashed. When he picked himself back up, a childhood desire to become a priest was reawakened. (BTW, he put his full conversion and vocation story in a video on Twitter, of course.)

As I type, Fr. Goyo, who’s on vacation back in his native Toledo, Spain, just tweeted:

Power of prayer, indeed.

Image: Courtesy @FrGoyo on Twitter; Kate O’Hare

Learn more about Family Theater Productions’ upcoming, new and vintage productions as well as our Hollywood Outreach Programs; and, of course, you’ll find us on Facebook.

Visit our YouTube and Ustream Channels for our contemporary and classic productions.