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“Newsies” and the Arc of the Moral Universe

“Newsies” and the Arc of the Moral Universe

"Newsies" and the Arc of the Moral Universe

When the Christian Bale version of Newsies first came out in 1992, it was a box office failure, and reviews were mixed. It cost $15 million to make and grossed $3 million in ticket sales. When Disney hired Christian Bale to play the role of Jack Kelly, they didn’t even tell him it was a musical. When it didn’t yield the expected dividend, they put the reel on the shelf and forgot about it. Yet I loved it, so much so that I naively wrote to the Disney Company and asked if they’d allow me to write a stage version of the movie. I was convinced it was perfect for the stage! Apparently, so did many other theatre groups, as unauthorized and illegal stage versions kept cropping up all over the country. Newsies was gaining steam. 

Well, just like you can’t keep a good newsie down, I guess you can’t keep a good story down! Disney finally decided that if there was a populist movement behind this story, maybe they should take another look. In 2011, the stage musical premiered at the New Jersey regional theatre, Paper Mill Playhouse, to popular acclaim, and it went on to Broadway in 2012 for a three-year run. It cost $5 million to stage, which was recouped in seven months, and became the fastest Disney musical on Broadway to make a profit. Walt, you should’ve listened to me…feels so good to be right! 

Pushing personal validation aside, the larger question remains. What is so appealing about this story? Why are we drawn to it? Why did audiences come to their feet multiple times in the middle of scenes during Broadway performances? What are those toe-tapping newsies fighting for that makes their story so compelling? It’s a question I always ask my casts, so I asked them. What do the newsies want? “Justice.” “A chance at a better life.” “To be respected.” “To not feel powerless.” “To have some control over their own destiny.” “To love.” “To be loved.” “A community.” “A family.” “A home.” 

And so, the question comes to you: what do all those answers have in common? We live in an age where we see not only young, mostly white and uniformly beautiful people dancing across a stage at Calvary University with these same needs, we see these desires in all colors and all ethnic groups across this globe. Refugee camps in Syria. Human trafficking in China. Detainment camps at the Mexican border. Clandestine schools for girls in Afghanistan. The corners of intersections outside your local Walmart. Marginalized, impoverished, powerless people are everywhere, all dreaming the same dream: Santa Fe. 

Where does it say ya gotta live and die here? Where does it say a guy can’t catch a break? 

Why should you only take what you’re given? Why should you spend your whole life livin’ 

Trapped where there ain’t no future, even at seventeen, Breakin’ your back for someone else’s sake? 

If the life don’t seem to suit ya, how ‘bout a change of scene, 

Far from the lousy headlines and the deadlines in between? 

Santa Fe! My old friend, I can’t spend my whole life dreamin’ 

Though I know that’s all I seem inclined to do. I ain’t getting’ any younger, 

And I wanna start brand new. I need space. And fresh air. 

Let ‘em laugh in my face, I don’t care–save my place, I’ll be there… 

Just be real is all I’m askin’, not some painting in my head 

Cause I’m dead if I can’t count on you today. 

I got nuthin’ if I ain’t got Santa Fe! 

 Jack personifies his dream of Santa Fe in Act One’s final defining moments, “Just be real is all I’m askin.’” So, what is it that fuels our dreams and weaves the common, connecting human thread? Hope. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” This is our hope: God is not only just, He bends the arc. Newsies is a story about the bending power of hope. 

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 

Through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; 

And we exult in hope of the glory of God. 

And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; 

And perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; 

And hope does not disappoint… 

Romans 5:1-5a

Newsies opens March 7 with an 11:00 a.m. matinee and continues on March 8, 9, 15, and 16 at 7:30 p.m. and March 10 and 17 at 2:00 p.m. For tickets, go to our box office: https://www.calvary.edu/theatre-box-office/

 

It’s Go Time for “Newsies” Tickets!

It’s Go Time for “Newsies” Tickets!

It's Go Time for "Newsies" Tickets!

 

 

 

 

 

 Meet the cast and crew of Newsies! They not only sell papes, they sell tickets! These thirty-nine cast members can’t wait to welcome you to the Disney Broadway hit, Newsies. 

Next weekend we load all the disparate elements of the set into Liberty Chapel. Tech Director Kaleb Krahn and student designer Christy Stone, along with many cast, crew, and friends, have been working like maniacs to build a set for this energy-filled production. Come and see how we fit this larger-than-life story, based on the actual Newsboy strike of 1899, smack dab into the middle of our Calvary campus. 

Choreographer Beckie Lucas brings her most creative work to date to our stage as she works with many of our students who have trained for years to bring this show to life.  You don’t want to miss it, coming March 7, 8, 9, 10, 15, 16, and 17!

Get your tickets NOW: https://www.calvary.edu/theatre-box-office/ To access all the information, click here: Newsie’s Information

Calvary Profs Collaborate around the Themes in “All My Sons”

Calvary Profs Collaborate around the Themes in “All My Sons”

Mrs. Rose Henness, Mr. Norm Baker, Dr. Luther Smith, and Ms Ana Sharp during the talkback

It is always an honor for Calvary’s Theatre Department to host interdisciplinary collaboration with our faculty around the themes of our productions. This year’s fall production, All My Sons, by 20th century American playwright Arthur Miller, is incredibly rich in content and even wealthier in its themes. Chapel on Wednesday, October 3, provided students and faculty with the opportunity of diving in! Following a scene from the play performed during the assembly, Calvary faculty, including Mrs. Rose Henness (Director of Institutional Effectiveness), Mr. Norm Baker (Bible and Theology), and Dr. Luther Smith (Biblical Counseling), joined senior Ana Sharp (dramaturg), director Bobbie Jeffrey, and the cast of CU Theatre’s All My Sons for a talk back.

 

 

 

Vincent Matteson as Chris Keller, Jon Van Pelt as Jim Bayliss, and Mallory Pihl as Ann Deever in a scene from “All My Sons”

Discussion was filled with the following highlights:

  • Dr. Smith, Mrs. Henness, and Mr. Baker all recommended students attend the play. The literature was new to all of them and had them turning its pages at a rapid rate!
  • Mrs. Henness spoke about the dysfunction of family secrets and how destructive they are.
  • Dr. Smith mentioned that theatre is often a vehicle for truth that reaches people other methods cannot.
  • Bobbie Jeffrey, Theatre Arts Department Chair, spoke to the tragic elements in All My Sons and why studying tragedy as a literary genre is important
  • Ana Sharp not only shared information about WWII survivors’ battle on the homefront with what is now known as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but connected it to the U.S. Government’s decision to hide its effects rom the public.

 

Levi Bennett as Frank Lubey and Mallory Pihl as Ann Deever

Students tweeted in questions which were moderated by John Oglesby, our assembly spokesperson. One of the favorite interactions of the talkback had to do with a section of dialogue from the play referring to drunkenness. A question was asked about the Christian stance on this subject. Dr. Smith immediately raised his hand for the mic: “Alcohol good; drunkenness bad,” to which Mr. Baker added, “Ditto.”

 

 

Vincent Matteson and Corey Ruehling as Joe Keller

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The discussion was animated and lively, and was an example of what academic theatre does best. Join us this weekend to get even more! Optional talkbacks with select faculty, director, cast, and crew will be held after every performance, and it would be our honor to have you join us. Tickets are now on sale: https://www.calvary.edu/theatre-box-office/

“All My Sons” Moves in!

“All My Sons” Moves in!

Callie Weeks, Student Set Designer

Callie Weeks, student set designer for All My Sons, couldn’t have been happier as she watched the disparate pieces of her set come together last Saturday during what is known in the theatrical world as “load-in.”

Everything that had been painstakingly built and painted at our set construction site in the Special Events Building was loaded up and driven over to the loading dock outside the back of the Chapel on Friday afternoon. Friday night the lighting instruments were hung, and Saturday, staggered crews came in to assemble the set. The backyard of the Keller home slowly began to take shape over the course of the day. You can see pictures of the metamorphosis below.

We have a week of rehearsals left, followed by technical rehearsals on Saturday. Then we have three dress rehearsals to implement all our technical cues plus costuming, hair, and makeup. Once that’s done, it’s curtain up October 11-14.

We hope to see you there! Tickets are available online here: https://www.calvary.edu/theatre-box-office/

Rebekkah McIntosh contemplating the universe on the Keller’s back porch.

Zeb Johnson attacks Christy Stone with a Shop Vac, but Christy is armed with a router, and she knows how to use it!

Sedayn Bennett, Rebekkah McIntosh, Esther McRae, John Harms, and Mallory Pihl take a break while Callie’s still slaving away at the window…

Levi Bennett, Jon Van Pelt, and Adam Weeks as Charlie’s Angels.

Exegesis and Hermeneutics for Theatre: Dramaturgy!

Exegesis and Hermeneutics for Theatre: Dramaturgy!

Ana Sharp, Dramaturg for “All My Sons”

It’s a crazy idea, right? Exegesis and hermeneutics in theatre? Well, yes! The same principles apply and are almost as rich in the study of theatre and production of plays as they are in the study of the Bible and the story of our lives! Our fall production, All My Sons, by Arthur Miller, has been rich in something known as dramaturgy. What better way to share with you the principles of dramaturgy than to introduce you to Ana Sharp, our own exegetical and hermeneutical dramaturg.

Here are Ana’s responses to my interview questions:

  • How do the terms exegesis and hermeneutics apply to theatre?
In theatre, as in the Christian walk, we are faced with the task of making choices based on a text we may not fully understand. Dramaturgy, like theology, is a field built around a premise of high respect for a text and its author. Dramaturgs and other theatre artists strive for an accurate exegesis (interpretation of the text), and with every play we need to choose the right hermeneutic (strategic approach). 
 
All My Sons requires a historical-literal hermeneutic much like we would use for the gospels. The more we know about the historical events, culture, and world surrounding the events of the story, the better we understand what the author wanted to communicate and, by extension, the better we can communicate the author’s intent to the audience.
  • How does good dramaturgy help cast, crew, and director of a production?
The historical setting, moral themes, and story structure combine to form what we call “the world of the play.” Every design choice, every directing choice, and every acting choice is informed by the world of the play.  All My Sons takes place in a world where honesty matters, and every choice has far-reaching consequences, beginning with one’s closest relationships and extending to people one has never met. It also takes place at a specific time (August of 1946) in a specific place (Ohio, USA), and in a neighborhood of a certain income level. 
 
Dramaturgy is digging into every detail the playwright gives us in order to firmly establish the world of the play in the minds of the artists creating it onstage. Good dramaturgy contributes toward solid acting choices, informed directing decisions, and a unified storytelling effort on the part of the design team.
  • Why is excellent dramaturgy particularly important to this year’s fall production, All My Sons?

Arthur Miller, playwright

First and foremost, this play deals with a war that really happened, and pain that millions felt. Arthur Miller wrote with compassion and sensitivity to the humans wounded physically or emotionally by World War II. They were his first audience. We have the honor of telling this story in the 21st century, and the least we can do to honor the sacrifices of that generation is to put the world they lived in on stage as accurately and respectfully as possible.

 

 

 

 

The P-40 Warhawk, a WWII plane at the nexus of the conflict of “All My Sons”

All My Sons is a story that was very pointedly written for its time. Its message is timeless and forever relevant, but its setting requires some translation. The show was set in the “present day” when it first opened in 1947. Its first audiences would have needed no introduction to the social and political climate of the time—they were living it! 71 years later, however, the events and sentiments surrounding the story of the play are more obscure to us. Themes of integrity and honesty will  always resonate, but what are Post Toasties?  Who are the Gumps? Dramaturgy for this show is heavily focused on helping the cast and crew understand the world of 1946, so they can deliver every nuance of the story to the audience.

 

 

 

  • Could you share with us All My Sons dramaturgical connection to Greek tragedies?
Absolutely! Without revealing too many spoilers, All My Sons conforms to the structure of antique tragedies such as Oedipus Rex or Antigone. A tragic hero with a fatal flaw makes a single huge mistake and eventually has to face the consequences of that choice and do their best to right it and bring their world back into balance. All My Sons even conforms to Aristotle’s “three unities” of time, place, and action. The events of the play take place within a 24-hour period (unity of time) in one location (unity of place), and everything that happens on stage feeds into the eventual crisis and climax of the play (unity of action). 
  • What’s your favorite dramaturgical tidbit from researching All My Sons?

Aside from absolutely geeking out over the classical tragedy parallels mentioned above, I’ve immensely enjoyed reading the old comic strip “The Gumps” which is mentioned in the show. The style of humor is fun to compare to modern meme culture. The more things change, the more they stay the same!

Join us for an exegetical, hermeneutical, incredibly moving experience! Tickets are on sale now!