“Godspell” immerses audiences in the life of Christ

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Photo courtesy of Bethel College Department of Theatre
Photo courtesy of Bethel College Department of Theatre
Have you ever desired to see a play that mischievously balanced creativity and controversy? Bethel College student Alex Price stepped on this balance beam as he directed the 2011 revival version of the musical “Godspell,” which focuses on the life and teaching of Jesus. “Godspell” was immersive from the moment that the audience walked in the door to the point where they left their seats. Upon entering the front doors, the audience was stopped by several mock protestors shouting such things such as “God is dead," "people need more common sense" and other quotes from different philosophers throughout history. This prompted a variety of reactions from the audience, from fear to excitement, due to its realism. “(Rachel Kennedy) thought that the actor’s ‘protesting’ were actual protestors,” said Trina Uzlik, house manager for the show, “and she called Campus Safety to help with the ‘situation’ that she thought was happening.” Some audience members were stunned by the mock protestors’ authenticity. “When the protesters made their rounds raising shenanigans, I first caught myself thinking; ‘What is this blasphemy!’” said Austin Burton. “However, my second thought tamed me with ‘Don't be foolish, they are playing their part!’. After coming to terms with myself as to what was actually going on, I was happy to realize that I was being immersed into not only the theatrical ‘Godspell,’ but the life that encompassed ‘Godspell.’” While Burton felt anger at first, Alanna Walsh felt confusion, and Makayla Reimer felt fear. “We were so confused,” said Walsh. “I thought it was a good way to introduce the introduction.” “I was scared,” said Reimer. “I don’t like getting yelled at. I just didn’t know what was going on.” From the very beginning, the play made the audience feel like they were in a real situation. The show’s setting was the site of a terrorist attack, and the show’s staff worked to create that audience from the beginning. The protestors were only the attention grabber for before the show, and as the play continued, so did its immersive tone. “(The immersive aspect) did a good job of making sure we feel included without putting the pressure to do it,” said Danny Hunter. “They struck a balance really well.” Burton agreed, saying, “I had found myself highly entertained with being immersed into ‘Godspell.’ The communion was a clever way to have an intermission, and the reenactment (if you can call it that) of Leonardo da Vinci's ‘The Last Supper’ was a fun way to portray the Lord's Supper/the First Communion.” After the Last Supper, Judas betrays Jesus, but in this rendition, Judas reenters the fold of the disciples. Abigail Erklens said that “it brought a different side of Judas instead of seeing him as a villain… he was God’s tool.” Kaylyn Fannon said that “It was actually what I would have imagined Judas like. I do not feel that the character of Judas could have been with Jesus’ all that time and not have had some semblance of godly character. It was strange to see him return to the group at Jesus’ resurrection, biblically that was not what happened. Not that I had my heart set on a play that followed the biblical accounts of Jesus’ ministry to a T.” Fannon said the play brought her to tears at multiple, had wonderful musical diversity and the cast/crew were such an amazing and talented group of people. “’Prepare Ye’ was without a doubt my favorite song in the entire play, and I would not be surprised to hear the same admission from many more who attended,” she said. “Godspell” seems to be a departure from the norm for theatre at Bethel, and those who attended had varied reactions. Depending on who you ask, you’ll get a different way the show impacted them. But that’s what good theatre does.
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