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Creating a 'Godspell' Community

On the first day of rehearsal, how many actors, techies, and directors can imagine the journey in which they will take part over the weeks or months until their show opens? This school year has been a great journey for the St. Stephen's & St. Agnes Stage One Players. They opened the fall season with a production of "Stage Door;" this was Stage One's first production in the school's new Chapel/Performing Arts Center. The shift from the old Black Box Theater was a big one, but the Stage One Players tackled the new challenges of the larger theater and upon conclusion of the fall show began looking toward the next challenge: "Godspell."

"Godspell," written by John-Michael Tebelak, with music by Steven Schwartz, is the story of the Gospel of St. Matthew expressed through unconventional scenes and powerful songs; the high-energy show takes the audience from goofy telling of the Parables to the intense betrayal and crucifixion of Jesus. The cast was excited, yet a little hesitant in starting "Godspell;" the show demanded an enormous cast connection and dedication, with everyone onstage for the entire production, save a brief moment in the second act.

COMPARED TO St. Stephen's fall show, "Godspell" had a small cast of only 14 people: Bill Andrews, Scarlett Bermingham, Maudie Braswell, Daniel Butenas, Kat Connors, Michael Dziuban, Sarah Goodrum, Annabelle Killmer, Amanda Roberts, Emily Russell, Carey Sauls, Julian Wamble, Alison Yates, and Alice Zimmermann. There are usually no named parts, aside from that of Jesus, John the Baptist, and Judas; in most productions the roles of John and Judas are combined and played by one actor, but St. Stephen's & St. Agnes director, Jim Marvin, chose to have the roles played by two actors, seniors Michael Dziuban and Daniel Butenas. Mr. Marvin added another twist to the show: the role of Jesus was played by a female actress, junior Kat Connors. No character names were listed in the program for this production and cast members referred to one another onstage by their first names. This allowed each cast member to integrate his or her personality into the production and truly make the character his or her own, a task that could have been quite difficult, but one that the cast embraced with considerable enthusiasm.

STAGE ONE'S production of "Godspell" ran for the first two weekends of March, a total of three full shows in addition to the three preview shows for the St. Stephen's & St. Agnes School community. The final production could not have come together without the dedication of the techies and musicians. The perfect blend of music, lights, and sound brought the atmosphere of the production together. From the subtle background music to the eye-catching rainbow lights the techies and musicians were essential members of the Stage One community. The show generated an animated response from the school as well as from outside communities. In the program Jim Marvin said that "I believe that building unity is one of the highest goals of theater. As artists we come together to connect with our audience. My hope is that tonight we may all share 'a release of one's spirit into the larger heart of mankind' (Steven Schwartz)." In "Godspell," the cast, crew, and audience of St. Stephen's & St. Agnes found this unity and joined together to listen to Godspell's message of goodness and hope.

After a tearful closing night the Stage One Players are now anticipating their annual One Act Festival due to take place on April 30 and May 1. For information regarding this event, call 703-212-2788.