edited.Godspell_WillRotsch_MarkCooleyedited.Godspell_MarkCooleyBy Julia Clifton

Elm Staff Writer

Washington College’s production of “Godspell” began with a bare stage and the overlapping voices of the cast as they recited the words of great philosophers.

Their voices were silenced with the entrance of Jesus, played by sophomore Will Rotsch, as he announced, “My name is Known: God and King.”

Presented by the Department of Music, “Godspell” was performed on March 1 and 2 in Hotchkiss Recital Hall. The cast performed to a sold-out auditorium on both nights.

The script for the musical “Godspell” began as John-Michael Tebelak’s master’s degree thesis project in 1970, with music written by Stephen Schwartz in 1971.

Though seemingly disjointed upon first glance, the musical’s plot revolves around the teachings of Jesus, with the cast acting out a series of parables for the audience.

Although a number of cast members had the opportunity to solo in classical musical numbers—such as junior Abbey Kostecki in “Day by Day,” sophomore Destiny Smith in “Bless the Lord,” and sophomore Will Reid in “We Beseech Thee”—the show focuses on the figure of Jesus.

“It’s not about the whole Christianity movement, it’s more about one person being able to make a large amount of change,” senior Jimmy Turley, who portrayed Judas, said.

As Jesus imparts his teaching upon his followers, their relationship develops and changes throughout the course of the production.

“In the first act, he [Jesus] is just trying to teach them himself but then he realizes if [he has them] try to teach others then they themselves can learn it. It ends up being a lot more effective. It goes from him doing an entire parable by himself in the beginning to at the end of act one, an entire parable is all someone else,” he said,” Rotsch said.

Although the parables are Biblical, ranging from the Parable of the Sower from Mark 4:3-9 to the stories of the Good Samaritan and the Prodigal Son in Luke, the soundtrack has a classic rock sound.

The cast was able to exercise some creative license when brainstorming how to modernize the show, including setting the show in the 1980s.

“I am excited for the parables because they bring a sense of modernism with how they are performed and interpreted onstage. I think the main challenge is interpreting the parables correctly and being able to convey them to the audience correctly,” Turley said.

“The thing I really like about the show is how much you can make it your own and how much we have. There’s a lot of jokes in the script that are way out of date…so we updated it a little bit,” Rotsch said.

While the show was directed by Ernie Green, lecturer in music and chorus director, a number of students in the cast also contributed to the technical aspects of the production.

Senior Anna Mayes worked as the assistant director, junior Emily Kreider was the choreographer, and junior Jilly Horaneck managed costume design and assisted with the show’s recording, among others.

“I play one of Jesus’ disciples and designed the costumes, hair, and makeup as well as helped with recording and mixing for the show with Dr. Schweitzer,” Horaneck said.

A number of students also played in the pit band, including sophomores Danny Palamatary and Jake DiPaola on bass, Annie Javitt on keyboard, and junior Ben Lammers on drums.

Though many aspects of the show can be manipulated, the final scene of Jesus’s crucifixion remains fixed.

“Jesus dying at the end is sad, but it is not the takeaway from the show. This show is about hope. Hope that is spread and can inspire people to be better to each other and do good in the world. Even in dark times, there will always be light at the end of the tunnel, and if there is no light at the end then you have yet to reach the end,” Horaneck said.

Mayes concurred, saying, “Universal love and compassion is a message that everyone needs to hear. We want everyone to hear that message no matter what their background is.” In his director’s note, Green selected a passage from act one that best encapsulated the theme of the show, when Jesus says, “So be devoted to one another…and rejoice in hope. Give with simplicity, show mercy with cheerfulness, and do not be overcome by evil, but be overcome with love.”

The collaboration between cast and crew allowed for many students to contribute to “Godspell.”

“I think as cast and crew we have all been working together, and we all try to contribute to the interpretation as much as possible, so it can feel like a great performance we all had a significant part in,” Turley said.

The Elm

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