Teen actors examine faith in Village Theatre’s ‘Godspell’

January 3, 2012

By Warren Kagarise

Regan Morris (front row, third from the left), featured in ‘Turn Back O Man,’ sings during rehearsal with the ensemble in the Kidstage production of ‘Godspell.’ By Jean Johnson/Village Theatre

Months after professional actors re-imagined “Jesus Christ Superstar” on the Village Theatre Mainstage, teenage performers plan to raise the curtain soon on “Godspell” — a similar musical from the same era.

Both shows opened in 1971 and offered a contemporary — critics said blasphemous — perspective on the Gospels. In the years since, “Jesus Christ Superstar” and “Godspell” became rooted in pop culture.

“Jesus Christ Superstar” depicts the last days in Christ’s life. “Godspell” is structured as a series of parables.

“In theater, in general, it requires metaphorical thinking, as opposed to direct and linear thinking,” director Makaela Pollock said in a statement. “It asks you to engage with reality and the imaginative and learn how they fit together. They fit together through story, through passion, through intuition.”

The material in “Godspell” remains fresh after 40 years.

“Some of it holds up absolutely and holds that place of comedy and that sense of universal humanity that you want it to have,” Pollock said in a later interview.

The performers in the show come from Village Theatre KIDSTAGE Institute, a respected education program for young actors. The program is a customized school-year curriculum for students to study, train and perform at a more complex level. Professional directors, choreographers, composers and others educate the member students.

If you go

‘Godspell’

  • Village Theatre — First Stage Theatre
  • 120 Front St. N.
  • Jan. 7-22
  • Show times vary
  • $14 to $16
  • 392-2202 or www.villagetheatre.org

The cast of “Godspell” features 16 students ranging in age from 13 to 18 years old from the Seattle area.

The cast members’ ages and modern-day themes influenced the staging. “Godspell” opens at the First Stage Theatre on Jan. 7.

“So we’ve worked to find a terrain for this play, where we both acknowledge the fictional setting — which is this group of kids who have something to say,” Pollock said.

Stephen Schwartz and John-Michael Tebelak created “Godspell” long before they wrote “Wicked” — a mega-musical about the Wicked Witch of the West. Musical styles in the show dabble in gospel, jazz and R&B.

In “Godspell” performers examine parables of a community in a time of uncertainty. The characters test the values of brotherhood and friendship.

The audience should expect a show similar in mood and texture to the recent “Jesus Christ Superstar” staging. “Godspell” pulls themes from current events and the political climate.

“As we started rehearsals, Occupy Wall Street was happening,” Pollock said. “We decided to think of this as an occupation of protest of injustice and hypocrisy in the world. What kind of group of high schoolers would gather and battle with the question, ‘What do we believe in?’”

The setting for the show is a derelict theater. The audience is meant to experience a squatters’ haven as the performers take over the space.

Similarly, “Jesus Christ Superstar” relocated the setting from ancient to modern, and re-envisioned Jerusalem as a decaying metropolis. Alex Berry, the designer behind “Jesus Christ Superstar,” also did the lighting and scenic design for “Godspell.”

Warren Kagarise: 392-6434, ext. 234, or wkagarise@isspress.com. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.

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