NGU News

‘Godspell’ tells the Story of Jesus

Posted on: March 17, 2022
By LaVerne Howell,

The North Greenville University (NGU) School of Theatre presents "Godspell," a musical that tells about the life of Jesus Christ using a wide variety of games, storytelling techniques, and hefty doses of comic timing.Tigerville, SC (March 17, 2022) The North Greenville University (NGU) School of Theatre presents “Godspell,” a musical that tells about the life of Jesus Christ using a wide variety of games, storytelling techniques, and hefty doses of comic timing.

Amy Dunlap, associate dean for the School of the Arts and show director, chose this musical because it incorporates the story of Jesus with theatre. 

“The theatre is where we come to tell stories, hear stories, grow, and be healed. The theatre is where truth is revealed through illusion – through shadows, stories, and song.  The theatre is where we discover our true identity by trying on other identities. The theatre is where we have the opportunity to emulate Christ – to “incarnate” by taking the playwright’s words and putting flesh on them,” said Dunlap. “The theatre is where we find community, build community, challenge the community – just as Christ came here to do.  The theatre is where we are present – with the Presence, the audience, and ourselves. The theatre is where we become vulnerable, where we can listen, receive, become new.” 

Dunlap said this show allows the use of elements of theatre (song, storytelling, light, costumes) to draw us closer to Jesus and show how we can only become who we are meant to be when we allow ourselves to be marked by Him.

“Godspell” loosely recounts the book of Matthew, from the gathering of the disciples, through Jesus’ ministry through parables, the betrayal of Judas, and Jesus’ death on the cross and resurrection.  We are reintroduced to the joy and fellowship of walking with Christ through musical numbers, numerous storytelling techniques, and modern interpretations of the parables.

Cast members include Alyse Barrett from Greer; Jaylan Brinson from Mills River, NC; Sarah Delanuez from Greenville; Rainey Dinkins from Columbia; Abigail Dover from Easley; Meghan Frady from Summerville; Joshua Gasdia from Lexington; Jacob Jones from Travelers Rest; Lydia Kytle from Monroe, GA; Katherine Liederbach from Youngsville, NC; Collin McCarter from Greenville; Kale Morse from Ninety-Six; Logan Stewart from Landrum; JP Waynick from Taylors; and Arianna Wilson from Wellford.

Waynick, a junior music major, minoring in theatre, is playing the role of Jesus.

“I like that all my lines come straight out of scripture. When Jesus talks, there’s incredible power and truth in the words that he says,” said Waynick.

Waynick was cast in the role in late October 2021 and began preparing the next day by listening to the show’s music.

“I love that this musical can be molded to fit whatever setting or theme the director intends. There’s no set time or place with ‘Godspell,’ so the director is given liberty to make it however they want,” he said.

Waynick asks that everyone come and support your local live theatre.

“We love to put on shows, and we love it, even more, when we have people that we can tell our stories to,” he said.

He said that this show while being based on the book of Matthew, is not a traditional telling of scripture. There is humor, sadness, and grief, but in the end, it’s a good depiction of the way that God cares for all people and how His love surrounds us.

Since the spring semester, the cast has rehearsed choreography in the Dance for Musical Theatre class and music in Music Theatre Workshop.  The full cast rehearsals started on Feb. 21.

“Through our staging choices, we are working to include the audience in new and powerful ways.  They are a part of our theatre community, and we want to honor the experience for them fully,” said Dunlap. “I think those who attend this show will have the opportunity for a heart-opening and spiritually blessed experience.”

Dunlap wants to point out that some people may be tangentially familiar with the images from previous productions of Godspell, including the image of the actor playing Jesus wearing a Superman shirt and clown make-up.  She said to some that may seem disrespectful or mocking.  Disrespect was not at all the intention behind those choices. 

“Although we are not including that particular imagery in our production, it may be helpful to explain them.”

For those unfamiliar with the musical’s origins, the following excerpt from the Article “Inside Godspell” by Scott Miller may be helpful.  

“John-Michael Tebelek wrote ‘Godspell’ in order to give people a ‘way in’ to religion in general and the teachings of Christ specifically. The physical production must work toward that end as well, through the sets, costumes, staging, and acting style. The show’s original concept was based on Harvey Cox’s 1969 ‘Feast of Fools,’ which argued that for religion to once again reach the people, it had to reclaim its festivity and fantasy. Much of organized religion had become so somber, so serious, that the joy had gone out of it. From this concept, Tebelek seized upon the idea of using clowns to recapture that lost feeling of celebration and revelry. The cast put on clown make-up and wild colorful costumes after being drawn together by Jesus. This concept was based not only on Cox’s work, but also on the joy and freedom of the youth movement of the 1960s and early 1970s. The cast as ordinary people becoming clowns illustrated a dramatic change, a very visible kind of conversion.” 

The show runs March 31, April 1-2 and April 7-9, beginning at 7:30 p.m. in the Billingsley Theatre. Tickets are available for purchase online or by contacting the Billingsley Theatre Box Office at 864.977.7085.

Are you interested in studying theatre at NGU? Check out the degree offerings in musical theatre, theatre, and theatre design.  

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