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Arts and Entertainment

"Godspell" In-the-Round at Drury University

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(Photo courtesy Drury University Theatre)
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Drury University Theatre's second production of the 2018-19 season is the musical "Godspell," directed by Josh Inmon, performed in Sunderland Studio Theatre in Drury's O'Bannon Hall—the intimate “black box theater” designed by former Drury Theatre faculty member, the late Dr. Robin Schraft, according to Inmon.  Performances are Nov. 7-10 and the 13th through the 17th all at 7:30pm.  Josh Inman visited KSMU to discuss the “Godspell” production on “Arts News” along with two of the show’s 11 actors: Jordan Mouser and Mitch Johnson.

Inmon says one of the major factors influencing the department’s choice for a musical-theater production this year was that “we wanted to focus on the community aspect.  We’re a pretty small department at Drury—but we’re a strong department. So we really wanted a musical that reflected those themes. “Godspell” is based on the Gospel According to Matthew—that’s the vehicle the story is told through. But it’s really about community and coming together.  And it’s really been a fun process to put it together with these eleven actors.”

Jordan Mouser is cast in the role of Jesus.  “As Josh said, the show is really about community: taking a group of people who don’t have much of a connection, and really making them a very close community. And Jesus is the driving force behind that.  He’s the one that comes in and takes all these people who are kind of separate from one another and brings them all close together through teaching lessons and playing games, stuff like that.”

Mitch Johnson is one of the ten ensemble players.  “We are like Jesus’s ragtag group of ‘actors.’ We participate in these stories he’s telling us and his teachings.” They aren’t “apostles” or “disciples” per se; as we just said, there only ten of them.  “We each play different characters, but yet we are of them and ourselves.  And we help him tell his stories and teachings throughout the entirety of the show.  We are onstage the entire time, acting, showing the story.”

And singing—“Godspell” is, of course, a musical, with music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz.  Director Josh Inmon characterizes it as “a lot of really fun numbers, but it all ties into that community theme.”

Inmon has created an in-the-round production. “The really neat thing about that black-box theater is, every show is different” because the space can be easily adapted to various production styles and configurations. “So this is actually in the round, the first time we’ve done something like that in that space.” What challenges are created by this kind of staging? “In some aspects,” says Inmon, “it’s been easier to stage, because there’s people everywhere. But also, we’ve had to be really careful about being so close to the audience as well.  Spoiler alert: there’s a crucifixion scene, and that’s right there in the audience. So we had to be careful how we stage that.  But I think it makes for a really interesting piece of theater.  We’re kind of setting it—it’s a very music-festival vibe, kind of a bar vibe. So it’s definitely updated—it’s more ‘modern.’”

They’ll be able to seat about 70 patrons at each performance, and they’ll give a total of nine performances. “With limited seating, 70 seats, and you know it’s a popular title, so we wanted to make sure everyone gets to see it who wants to.”

Accompanying the performers will be a three-piece instrumental ensemble—“right there in the space,” says Josh Inmon. “They’re part of the action as well.”

Tickets for “Godspell” range from $3-$14 and are available at the Drury box office in the Wilhoit Theatre lobby. It's open Mon-Fri 1-5pm and an hour before curtain on show days.  Or call 873-7255. For information visit http://www.drury.edu/theatre.