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Bethel College sponsors play on 500 years of crisis and reconciliation

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NORTH NEWTON, KAN. – Bethel College will host an unusual three-person drama depicting the interactions between Native Americans, Africans and Europeans and the resulting cultural crises over more than 500 years.

Three Innocents and a Spirit will be performed on the stage of Krehbiel Auditorium in the Fine Arts Center at Bethel, Monday, Sept. 24, at 7 p.m. Admission is free. A freewill offering will be taken to support the ongoing work of education and reconciliation being done in Haiti by the N a Sonje Foundation, producers of the drama (“n a sonje” is Haitian Creole for “We will remember”).

Two Haitian men, Djaloki Dessables and Ari Nicolas, represent the Native American and African cultures, with Carla Bluntschli, who worked with Mennonite Central Committee in Haiti in the mid-’80s and early ’90s, representing European culture.

Dressed in era costumes, the three actors weave together mime, interactive participation, authentic historical texts and music to demonstrate the progression and effect of historical events.

The play exposes the destruction and acculturation of Native Americans and the enslavement of Africans, which resulted in a transfer of wealth and natural resources to Europe. During the drama, the three characters realize their physical and spiritual losses as well as their mutual need for one another and offer each other gestures of compassion and forgiveness, ultimately recognizing the need for healing and reconciliation.

Three Innocents and a Spirit is highly stylized, portraying in simple form the lives of the native peoples of three continents and their mutual history, with the intention of reconnecting audiences to events and their lasting results rather than defining or describing any one particular culture, tradition, historical event or date in precise detail.

“Our desire is that through mime, music and limited resources, a moment of deep reflection about our collective histories can be used to dream of a future of peace,” says the statement on the “Three Innocents” Web site. “Most of the colonial depiction is taken from a Haitian historical perspective rather than a broader U.S.-based perspective, but embraces the same spirit of revolt against domination felt everywhere.”

Following the performance of Three Innocents and a Spirit, the cast will be available for an audience discussion.

Play sponsors include the Bethel College Department of Teacher Education, Bethel College Students for Social Change, Bethel College’s International Club, Multicultural Club and history club CLIO, Bethel’s Damascus Road anti-racism team, the Kansas Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution (KIPCOR) at Bethel College, MCC Central States and several individuals.

Bethel College is a four-year liberal arts college affiliated with Mennonite Church USA. Founded in 1887, it is the oldest Mennonite college in North America. Bethel is known for its academic excellence and was the highest ranked Kansas college in the national liberal arts category of U.S. News & World Report’s listing of “America’s Best Colleges” for 2008. For more information, see the Bethel Web site at

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