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Prepare ye the way of … ‘Godspell’ in a pandemic

When Assistant Professor Wayne Matthews (Fine Arts) selected “Godspell” for the spring musical several months ago, he could not have imagined that North Central University would still be operating under strict health and safety protocols amidst a global pandemic. But COVID-19 has lingered. Instead of performing several nights before a full house, the play will be performed during chapel and made available via streaming services.

“We are presenting the musical in the main sanctuary during NCU chapel services the week leading up to Easter,” Matthews said. “Due to the time constraints of our chapel services, we will present the show two times in two segments: the first half on March 29 and 31, and the second half on March 30 and April 1.” A person will need to attend two chapel services to see the whole show. Current campus COVID restrictions do not allow guests on campus so there will not be live performances open to the public, but Matthews said they will be making a streamed viewing available.

To allow for more students to see the play while practicing socially distanced seating, the show will take place in Lindquist Sanctuary instead of the smaller space in the Anderson Chapel.

The streamed performances are April 9 and 10 at 7 p.m. Interested theatre-goers may complete this form to request notification when tickets ($10) are available.

Musical stands the test of time

Godspell” opened Off-Broadway 50 years ago this May, and has been produced professionally and at colleges and universities, community theatres, and high schools in the decades since. Matthews is excited to bring the play, with its timeless message, back to the NCU stage. “Godspell is a pretty unique musical in that it doesn’t follow the usual plot structure of most plays and musicals,” he said. “It moves from one unrelated story or parable to another without a seemingly connected plotline. Although it based on the Gospels, the show weaves playfulness throughout the story, as well as the more deeply spiritual and serious moments.”

Matthews noted this particular show calls for a lot of creative choices on the part of the director and cast as to how the show and content will be handled. “We have decided to set ours in the present, in a city, at the site of a burned-down building,” he said. “The character types and names have been selected by the director and cast. They are a group of people who are at the site of the building and whose lives are represented by the damaged building. John the Baptist comes to get the characters prepared to meet the One who meets them at the place of their brokenness and brings them hope.”

Pandemic calls for creativity

Throughout the year, theatre students have been adapting to college life under a variety of COVID-related protocols. “Earlier in the school year we presented a series of sketches that explored dating and love during the pandemic,” Matthews explained. “We began with a humorous look at the challenges of dating—with masks and on the internet—and moved toward the fact that God’s love never lets us down.”

Matthews acknowledges the dramatic impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the arts. “Theatre, as well as many of the performing arts, have been challenged during the pandemic,” he reflected. “Theatre doesn’t feel the same when it is not live. However, our students have found ways to still express the craft. We have a student who has written a play and has cast it and is rehearsing and workshopping the script for a final virtual staged reading of the play. Some students have met the challenges of this time by watching recorded performances, doing scenes online, writing and discussing scripts virtually to keep the creative juices flowing.”

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