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Doubt: A Return to Nineveh

Doubt: A Return to Nineveh

Doubt: A Return to Nineveh

by Bobbie Jeffrey

     Massa. “A burning in the bones.” This is what the Old Testament prophets experienced, a Hebrew word defined as a burden, a load, a lifting, an uplifting, the lifting of the soul itself, something carried or brought or borne, an utterance, or an oracle. Massa has the connotation of something that is being pulled up and outalmost something extracted or excised. It was given by God, and the prophets to whom it was given had very little choice as to whether to bear it. Think Jonah and his reticence to go to Nineveh; he didn’t get very far in the other direction, right? And he had a very tough time of it for three days.

We know the language of the prophets was the language of visions, symbols, parables, and metaphors. More than foretelling, it was forthtelling: a call to repentance and a mission to speak in ways that recaptured the imagination. If we believe the arts are often prophetic in the culture, then this production is CU Theatre’s call to Nineveh.

Doubt, intriguingly subtitled “a Parable” by John Patrick Shanley, is Calvary’s fall production and our massa. This award-winning play easily contains the most challenging content Calvary Theatre has ever presented. For those of you who might be unfamiliar with the script, it touches on the following: sexual and physical abuse, same sex attraction, racism, and doubt. Not certainty. Not faith. Doubt. We’re heading into groundbreaking territory by addressing some of the subjects that are rarely openly or evenly spoken of on our campus. We anticipate there might be some waves. So why produce this play? Why take this kind of risk?

There has been a burden for years in our Theatre Department to produce this show. I first saw Shanley’s script come to life in 2005 on Broadway with the original cast. That’s fourteen years of burning.

The play is one of the tightest little pieces of dramatic literature I’ve come across in over forty years of my life in theatre. A shorter play performed without intermission, it reverberates across the stage like echoes in a cathedral. Structurally, conceptually, and in the crafting of its words and images, it’s nearly perfect. It became my go-to choice to use every other year in acting class for an assignment in text analysis and it never failed to engage my students in dynamic ways.

So, what will you find when you join us on this journey to Nineveh? The burden we bear is not just for the 700 evangelicals in the Southern Baptist denomination who were sexually abused by clerics or laity over the past twenty years, not just for the 11,000 children referenced in the John Jay Report who were sexually abused by Catholic priests, not just for all the women represented by the #MeToo Movement, but for the loss of innocence of victims by predators formed and twisted by abuse, first perpetrated on them by individuals equally as damaged. This is a hardened cycle.

These crimes are heinous, and their consequences far-reaching. Their ripple effects rock all those within their circumference, and it often takes a lifetime to recover. The suicide rate for those who have experienced sexual abuse is beyond comprehension. Yet victims and perpetrators in these most intimate, most violating of crimes are not beyond the reach of the God we serve. There is a great, existential sadness at the foundation of this play which is not beyond the realm of the Christian experience. Many of us know exactly what this is, and we are privileged to also know and extend the hope and redemption that pulls us back from the edge of the abyss. It is with that promise and its light that we approach the themes of this play.

This play is not about sexual abuse. The abuse is part of the context of our story, but the play itself is, as the title suggests, about doubt—a different consequence. This play is not about right or wrong, not about the certainty of the black and white of a nun’s habit or a priest’s collar and cassock; it’s about doubt.

When you come with us on our journey to Nineveh, we ask you to remember how Jesus used parables. His parables were stories illustrating a moral or spiritual lesson. We ask you to listen carefully to the words of the play and think deeply about its title. In his forward, our playwright says the beginning of change is the moment of doubt. What lesson does this modern parable hold for us?

The play asks many questions. Christians don’t shy away from the hard questions. We can ask them, too. We have all experienced crises of faith. Is it wrong to doubt? How do we handle uncertainty? Is there a difference between doubt and unbelief? Does doubt have a purpose in our faith journey? Where do we go when assaulted by doubt? How do we learn to hope again?

We invite you to bear our massa with us as we return to Nineveh, where hope and forgiveness were given in a damnable place and compassion was born under a worm-eaten tree.


For now we see in a mirror dimly,
But then face to face;

Now I know in part, but then I will know fully
just as I also have been fully known.
I Corinthians 13:12 (NASB)

Due to the sensitive subject matter, we recommend this production to an audience of those twelve and up.

Pre-show talks focusing on the context of the play and its potentially triggering subject of sexual abuse will be held at the times listed below during all performances. Licensed practical therapists, biblical counselors, and literature will be available along with dramaturgical context as we discuss these important issues. The focus during the talkbacks following each performance will touch on the themes of the play. These talks will involve director, cast, crew, dramaturgs, theologians, faculty, and counselors during what we hope will be an animated discussion. We would welcome you to join us for a sensitive examination of the themes of this production.

Thursday, 10/24
–  10:20 a.m.-10:50 a.m. Pre-show talk
–  12:30 p.m.-1:00 p.m. Talkback
Friday 10/25 and Saturday 10/26
–  6: 50 p.m.-7:20 p.m. Pre-show talk
–  9:00 p.m.-9:30 p.m. Talkback
Sunday 10/27
–  1:20 p.m.-1:50 p.m. Pre-show talk
–  3:30 p.m.-4:00 p.m. Talkback

Matinee performances on October 24 at 11:00 a.m. and October 27 at 2:00 p.m.
Evening performances on October 25 and 26 at 7:30 p.m.

Tickets now on sale!  Please click here to visit our Box Office.

Introducing… Doubt!

Introducing… Doubt!

Coming to Calvary University this fall—the most controversial, challenging, and thought-provoking play in the history of CU Theatre Arts. Doubt, by John Patrick Shanley, is a play with only four characters, but each is integrally linked to the power of this parable, providing our cast and audience with some of the best substance contemporary dramatic literature has to offer.

The year is 1964; the action of the play: St. Nicholas Catholic school and parish in the Bronx. Here you’ll become acquainted with neophyte 8th grade teacher Sister James whose love for children and teaching is about to encounter the heat of a moral crucible. Meet Father Flynn, the charismatic, well-loved, and progressive parish priest whose calling to shepherd his flock will be called into question so fiercely he may lose both his career and his freedom. Enter Sister Aloysius, Father Flynn’s nemesis and the tenaciously fierce, rigid, and tormented principal of St. Nicholas School. And finally, we introduce Mrs. Muller, the mother of the first African American boy to integrate St. Nicholas as she is confronted with the possibility that her son is being sexually abused by its priest. Written in 2004, this production continues to speak to our culture. In the fifteen years since this production began asking the questions it probes, sexual abuse continues to be rampant not only in Catholic schools, but in the entertainment industry, news casting, Evangelical Christian universities, and in our homes and families. What do we do when faced with issues of uncertainty, betrayal, and trust? 

The beginning of change is the moment of doubt. It is that crucial moment when I renew my humanity or become a lie.

-John Patrick Shanley, playwright

In 2005, Doubt won all the coveted playwriting accolades: the Tony, the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, the Drama Desk Award, the Lucille Lortel Award, the Obie Award, the New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award, and the Outer Critics Circle Award. It also won Tonys for Best Direction, Best Performance by a Leading Actress, Best Performance by a Featured Actress, along with four other Tony nominations. In 2008 when Shanley wrote the screenplay, he was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay, and the entire cast was nominated for Academy Awards in acting categories. Doubt is indisputably one of the best pieces of dramatic literature of our century.

We rest our case! We invite you to experience this production with us and become a part of the solution! Preshow talks and talkbacks will be held before and after each performance. Licensed practical therapists, Biblical counselors, and theology profs will join our cast and crew for discussion. We welcome you to join us for a sensitive examination of the themes of this production.

Due to the sensitive subject matter, we recommend this production to an audience of those twelve and up.

 Matinee performances on October 24 at 11:00 a.m. and October 27 at 2:00 p.m.
Evening performances on October 25 and 26 at 7:30 p.m.

 Tickets go on sale as of 9/24. For ticket information, please click here to visit our Box Office.

“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:


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: 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: