One peek at that famous Hollywood sign sends some reeling with images of entertainment grandeur. Arguably the world’s entertainment icon, the city has for generations been a hub to artists, actors, playwrights, directors, musicians, those aspiring to be and—of course—many others.
The 20th century revolutionized entertainment. World Wars I and II, the Great Depression and technological innovation all served as catalysts in the entertainment evolution. With war and hardship came the desire to find something to appreciate, to escape to or get lost in.
Storytelling is, of course, one of humanity’s great loves, and with advances in transportation, communication and media (thanks in large part to the earlier Industrial Revolution), “story” through venues such as music, radio and film had its own cultural petri dish.
One woman who knew well the power of story and entertainment was Foursquare’s founder, Aimee Semple McPherson. Fiercely passionate about the gospel message, Sister Aimee used dramatic productions, radio and many profound gifts to draw people in, captivating audiences—reportedly drawing “bigger crowds than those of P. T. Barnum, Harry Houdini, or Teddy Roosevelt,” as noted on pbs.org.
Sister Aimee settled in Los Angeles in 1921 and, by 1923, had constructed Angelus Temple in historic Echo Park, an area called home by several entertainment studios in the decades prior. Today, The Foursquare Church is still reaching into the entertainment world and shining a light for Christ. Recently, we were fortunate enough to catch up with three people who are using their talents in entertainment.
Taking Aimee to the Stage
Known by millions for her work as a talk show host, Kathie Lee Gifford has been working long and hard on a project particularly close to her heart about a woman likewise close to ours. Unbeknown to some, Kathie Lee has been a long-time admirer of Sister Aimee. It was while attending Oral Roberts University in the 1970s that she first heard of the famed evangelist’s work.
“I remember being amazed by the stories I’d heard about her, and that turned into a lifetime fascination,” Kathie Lee tells Foursquare.org in an exclusive interview.
This lifetime passion propelled Kathie Lee to dedicate the past 10 years to a project she considers a part of her life’s purpose. Saving Aimee, for which Kathie Lee wrote the book, the lyrics and some of the music, is a musical about the life of iconic Hollywood evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson.
“I hope every person will realize that God has a purpose for them,” says Kathie Lee when asked about her hope for the musical, “that He loves them with an unfailing love and will strengthen them for the purpose He has given them.”
Her hope seems to transcend entertainment accolade, reaching to inspire others with a message that was formative for Kathie Lee and that, perhaps, will also be for many others.
Movies and Music
Amick Byram, two-time Grammy nominee and himself an Oral Roberts University alumnus, works, he says, to “[bring] authenticity to projects that are attempting to have God’s imprint on them,” valuing that as one way Christians can have influence in show business.
Fans may recognize Amick as the singing voice of Moses in The Prince of Egypt (DreamWorks), and thousands have seen him in one of his many Broadway or L.A. theatre performances of Phantom of the Opera, Les Miserables or Sunset Boulevard, to name a few. The son of a minister, Amick gave his life to Christ as a child in his father’s church office, and from early childhood dreamt of working in entertainment.
“It was the only thing I could picture myself doing for a career,” Amick recalls. “I have to believe that God was in charge of that.”
After graduating from college, Amick made his way to Los Angeles to pursue his longtime career aspirations, utilizing his musical training to land work as a session singer, then a professional actor. He has been a part of many musical productions, albums and more—and has dedicated much time to communicating biblical stories and ideas through his work. A member of The Church On The Way (Van Nuys Foursquare Church) in California for over two decades, Amick is passionate about his church community and about representing the gospel message authentically.
Television and Comedy
Dan Rupple, an associate pastor at The Bridge (Rancho Santa Margarita South Foursquare Church) in California, has a heart for people and is leading the charge in creatively using comedy to communicate positive truths. With 35 years of experience—including 10 years as supervising producer for The Price Is Right—Dan has long been working bi-vocationally as a ministry and entertainment leader, and believes in the power of humor and story.
Though a founding member of the formative sketch comedy group Isaac Air Freight, Dan often finds himself behind the scenes. And whether it’s teaching, training or mentoring members of his staff or congregation, he works diligently to remain on the cusp of cultural trends while studying the currents of the past. Capitalizing on his gifts in leadership and comedy, he pours into the local and global audience reached by his work.
His current venture, Seriously Funny Entertainment, is championing faith-based comedy in the digital age with a goal, Dan says, to “encourage, uplift and celebrate our God-given innate value.” He is passionate about knowing culture and using his time, talent and resources to lead others into deeper relationship with God.
Entertainment has changed dramatically in recent years, but one thing is certain: It is sure to remain. Though its evolutions may be difficult to predict, there are Foursquare leaders, pastors, members and friends who are challenging and contributing to the current industry—and the stories are sure to continue coming.
Editor’s note: The musical “Saving Aimee” is now titled “Scandalous: The Life and Trials of Aimee Semple McPherson”
By: Ashley Wolpert Miller, a freelance writer living in Long Beach, Calif., who has served internationally as a writer and English educator