# The Sparks Fly Upward

Friends to be proud of

Last night I attended the world premiere of “The Sparks Fly Upward,” a musical drama that “follows three German families in Berlin, two Jewish and one Christian, through the Holocaust.” I cannot express how powerful and moving this performance was. I am so proud of the author and composer Cathy Lesser Mansfield, a professor at Drake Law School who took a sabbatical year a few years ago to complete a project she had started 25 years earlier. She had written a musical based on the Book of Job while still in high school.

After her twins, Megan and Sarah, were born in 1994, Mansfield revived “Job” and set out to formally score her high-school composition. The idea to embed Job in a Holocaust story came from the twins’ Baptist nanny. The families in “Sparks” try to comfort themselves by re-enacting the story of Job during Kristallnacht, the infamous “Night of Broken Glass” when Jewish synagogues and businesses were destroyed and lives were lost. The Job thread continues as some family members live in hiding while others are arrested, deported, and led to the crematorium at Auschwitz.

I noticed this information about public lectures on The Sparks Fly Upward website:

Composer/Librettist Cathy Lesser Mansfield lectures about Berlin before and during the Nazi Regime and other more recent genocides. The lecture uses several hundred photographs from the photo archives of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC, to show Jewish life before the Nazi regime, and the chronology of events leading up to the Holocaust. The lecture also uses music from Sparks, and a DVD entitled Defying Genocide: Choices That Saved Lives, which focuses on both the Holocaust and the Rwandan Genocide of 1994.

There is a link you can click for contact information, if you would like to invite her to give this presentation to a group. For more information about the opera and the research Mansfield did while writing it, click here or here.

Another friend I’m proud of is Sara Janssen, whom I met through moms’ groups in the Des Moines area. The New York Times recently profiled her family in this story about the “Green RV”:

OVER the last few years, Sara and Matt Janssen have been downsizing their life. First, they moved from a 1,600-square-foot home to a small apartment in Montana. Then, wanting to tour the country without harming the planet, they took up residence in a recreational vehicle fueled by used vegetable oil.

They now travel with their 4-year-old daughter, Bella, spreading the word about the sustainable life.

Recreational vehicles, which get about 8 miles a gallon, are often considered the antithesis of low-impact living. But it doesn’t have to be that way, said Ms. Janssen, speaking by phone from her home, a 36-foot, 1998 Western Alpine Coach, when it was parked in Des Moines recently.

Their motor home has a hot water capacity of only six gallons, “so I know how long my showers are,” said Ms. Janssen, a 31-year old photographer who also works for her father, a developer of franchises for Cold Stone Creamery. The RV’s limited space also means “we can’t buy anything because it won’t fit,” she said.

Add to that a comprehensive remodeling, including nontoxic paints, bamboo floors and the waste-grease fueling system, and the Janssen mobile home “is a self-contained lifestyle,” Ms. Janssen said.

Sara is a talented photographer and has several blogs:

Walk Slowly, Live Wildly

The Live Lightly Tour

Happy Foody

This is an open thread about friends doing something meaningful with their lives.

While taking my son to Sunday school this morning, I saw a great bumper sticker on an activist friend’s car:


The folks who brought you the weekend

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